Last month, Apple released its new versions of its MacBook Pro line. This flagship laptop line has not been refreshed since 2012 and for fans and tech pundits alike, the refresh was long overdue. With much fanfare, they were unveiled during Apple's "Hello Again" event and the first impressions about these new portable workhorses were mostly positive.
The new laptops are touted as the thinnest and lightest MacBook Pros ever made and with the addition of significant hardware upgrades, like the OLED TouchBar and the Touch ID sensor, they are certainly the most advanced.
Earlier on, a few of Apple's design decisions, mainly the removal of the traditional USB ports in favor of Thunderbolt 3, were highly polarizing points of debate and punching bags of users complaining of "dongle hell" - the necessary use of external adapters to use older peripherals. According to fans, this betrays the portable essence of a MacBook Pro.
Dongle hell may be one compromise that MacBook Pro users will have to deal with for now but it looks like Apple has a bigger problem on their hands regarding this flagship line.
Last week, Consumer Reports failed to give the new line of MacBook Pros a "recommended" rating due to inconsistent battery life test results.
This is the first in the product line's history that it failed to achieve Consumer Reports' "recommended" rating.
User complaints about the new MacBook Pro line's inconsistent battery life have been circulating online since the laptops went on sale. Apple's spec sheet claims that these MacBook Pros' battery life should last up to 10 hours but Apple support forum users reported that their laptop's batteries ran down only after three to four hours of use.
Consumer Reports' exhaustive lab tests on the three new models of MacBook Pro prove that these reports are likely to be true. The test models' battery life fluctuated widely from more than 19 hours to a paltry four hours.
What they found
Consumer Reports state that its review team tested the three new MacBook Pros - the 13-inch and 15-inch models with the TouchBar and the entry-level 13-incher without the TouchBar. All of their units were bought straight from retail to "ensure that the models we test are identical to the ones a consumer would purchase."
Consumer Report's battery tests are performed in a highly controlled environment with an exhaustive range of tasks like sequential web browsing with the laptop screen's brightness turned up to 100 nits. All test units were updated to the latest operating system as well.
"The MacBook Pro battery life results were highly inconsistent from one trial to the next," wrote Jerry Beilinson of Consumer Reports in a blog post.
Their results showed that in a trio of consecutive tests, the 13-incher with TouchBar model ran for 16 hours on the first test, 12.75 on the second and a mere 3.75 hours on the third.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro without the TouchBar ran for 19.5 hours on one test but only managed 4.5 hours on another test. The 15-inch model's battery performance ranged from 18.5 hours to 8 hours.
"A laptop's battery life may vary from one trial to another by less than 5 percent," Beilinson said. "However, the widely disparate figures we found in the MacBook Pro tests, an average wouldn't reflect anything a consumer would be likely to experience in the real world."
He continued to explain that battery life is an important attribute for a laptop and it represents a significant portion of their overall score.
"After tallying all their test results," he added. "Consumer Reports finds that all three MacBook Pro laptops fail to meet our standards for recommended models."
According to Consumer Reports, Apple declined to comment on tests results but recommended that "Any customer who has a question about their Mac or its operation should contact AppleCare."
However, a tweet from Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, states that they are working with Consumer Reports to understand their battery tests since Apple's own lab tests and data doesn't match the results.
For their part, Consumer Reports said that they have already pulled the diagnostic files from the three test units and shared them with Apple to help them diagnose and fix any problem.
With the cooperation of the two parties, hopefully, improvements will be made and Consumer Reports will run new tests and maybe, amend the new MacBook Pro line's rating back to "recommended."