Last week I reviewed the new MacBook Pro. Not so much reviewed as tested battery life on it. I came away impressed. In three tests I managed to get between 5 and 8 hours of battery life out of the new 15” notebook. That’s longer than anything else at this performance/size level in my lab right now.

The previous generation MacBook Pro was good for about 3 - 5 hours. The less you do, the more you’ll find yourself closer to that 5 hour maximum. The more you do, the more you’ll find yourself at around 3 hours. Makes sense, no?

The new MacBook Pro works the same way. If you’re just typing in a window most of the time then you’ll find the new model, with integrated battery, will give you a crapton of battery life. Even using it like a productive, multitasking machine will yield close to 5 hours. Obviously your mileage may vary, but with 46% more battery capacity than the previous generation MacBook Pro you can expect at least that in battery life improvement from the new one.

A while ago, at the end of another MacBook review, I pointed out something odd. Battery life under OS X was much, much better than battery life under Vista:

  Wireless Internet Browsing DVD Playback Heavy Usage
MacBook Air (OS X) 4.98 hours 3.93 hours 2.7 hours
MacBook Air (Vista) 2.55 hours 2.05 hours 1.75 hours
Lenovo X300 (Vista) 2.82 hours 2.18 hours 1.68 hours


I attempted to create the same tests under Vista as I did under OS X and consistently found that the Mac notebooks offered much better battery life under OS X.

A few people asked how the new MacBook Pro fared under Windows. It lasted up to 8 hours under OS X, but how bad is the hit when going to Vista?

To find out I put together the same test I ran under OS X under a fresh install of Windows Vista x64 SP1. I even used Safari and iTunes for 64-bit Windows to keep the applications as similar as possible between the OSes.

I set Vista to the same brightness and power settings as OS X. I even chose the maximum power saving profile under Vista (my earlier tests used the Balanced profile). I ran the same wireless web browsing test I did for the new MacBook Pro review:

The wireless web browsing test uses the 802.11n connection to browse a series of 20 web pages varying in size, spending 20 seconds on each page (I timed how long it takes me to read a page on Digg and came up with 36 seconds; I standardized on 20 seconds for the test to make things a little more stressful). The test continues to loop all while playing MP3s in iTunes.
I only ran that test since it should give a good idea of the type of battery life degradation we can expect when going from OS X to Vista. If enough people would like to see more, I can always look at running a few more numbers but I believe this test alone should sum things up quite nicely.

Under OS X, this test yielded a battery life of 8.13 hours. The same test under 64-bit Windows Vista? Just over 6 hours:

New 15-inch MacBook Pro (73WHr battery) OS X 10.5.7 Windows Vista x64 SP1 Windows 7 RC1
Wireless Web Browsing (No Flash) Battery Life 8.13 hours 6.02 hours 5.48 hours


That’s nearly a 26% drop in battery life from OS X to Vista. When I first published these tests I spoke to a few PC OEMs to see if they had noticed any similar results. No one was willing to go on record but some OEMs did at least admit to seeing a ~20% difference between battery life in OS X and Vista.

The situation is apparently a bit better under Windows XP but not significantly. Even more depressing is the fact that Windows 7 doesn’t appear to make the situation any better. I still have a couple more hours in my Windows 7 run but I’ll update this page once I have the results. Right now it’s looking like ~6 hours for the new MacBook Pro under Windows 7 x64 RC1. Update: I finished the Windows 7 results and unfortunately it looks even worse than Vista. The even lower battery life is possibly due to earlier, unoptimized drivers for Windows 7. Either way, it doesn't look like Windows 7 is going to fix this issue.

Many have said that Sony and Lenovo are capable of offering similar battery life under Vista to what Apple can provide under OS X. We’ve been after both companies to get us hardware to help prove this point, but so far neither one has actually followed through. Needless to say, this is something we’re going to continue to investigate. I just figured you all might like to see updated results.

The SATA 3Gbps vs. 1.5Gbps Issue


View All Comments

  • mitocho - Monday, June 15, 2009 - link

    Have you though about wiring the new MBP battery to the old MBP? I'd like to see just how much of a difference the battery makes. Seems like the new MBP has some extra optimizations. Reply
  • winterspan - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    Just wanted to mention that Apple has already issued a firmware update that has corrected the SATA problem and enabled SATA/3.0Gbps functionality on all new MB Pros... Reply
  • Intelman07 - Monday, June 15, 2009 - link

    Did you get the optional 9400M + 9600M GT? I think Windows will run the discrete 9600M GT instead of the 9400M integrated card. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, June 15, 2009 - link

    This is the base $1699 model, there's no 9600M unfortunately. The results echo what I've seen in the past with OS X vs. Vista, it's just nice to have an update. Hopefully we can get a real response from Microsoft this time.

    Take care,
  • sprockkets - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    Take a look at what the .7 update to 10.5 is doing for these Mac people.">
  • Intelman07 - Monday, June 15, 2009 - link

    Wow, that is a shame. I was looking at purchasing one of these (first saving) for school. It would be nice to go ~7 hours without a charger on campus. I suspect most of the tools I use are Windows only though (I am almost certain).

    There is a real lack of good Windows PCs in the market. Nothing with battery life near as good, or a body construction out of one nice block of metal. My piece of crap Dell Inspiron 1520 is literally falling apart at this point. I have had 5 repairs on it. I suffered from the faulty 8600M GT, then my motherboard went bad, then my ram went bad, then my LCD flickered, now my casing is getting small cracks....

    What is one to do!?! I might just settle for lab computers at this point :( It would be cheaper.
  • teohhanhui - Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - link

    Isn't Inspiron in a totally different price range? Reply
  • Intelman07 - Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - link

    I paid ~1800 for my Inspiron. That is pretty much in line with the MBP. It was one of the first to have the Santa Rosa chipset.

    And yes, I would think that Apple Macbook Pros are higher quality, since they use a metal casing and not plastic. Plus innovative battery technologies. I have never owned one though, I could be wrong. They feel nice in the store.
  • Pirks - Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - link

    Are you saying that Macs are more expensive because of higher quality, and not because of the shiny logo? Reply
  • Fallen Kell - Monday, June 15, 2009 - link

    I know that on my 17" Unibody Pro Vista uses the 9600M which does chew up the battery life. Vista support isn't really that great... It took me about a week to get it really stable and even then I still have to attach a mouse to get right clicks to work properly. I didn't think the power usage was just due to the OS, but mainly from the use of the 9600M. Looks like there is even more of a battery tax for using Vista (I currently mostly use OS X, but eventually might do more). Reply

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