MacBook Pro fails to earn Consumer Reports recommendation for first time

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited December 2016
For the first time ever, Consumer Reports has denied Apple's MacBook Pro lineup -- all three machines -- of recommended ratings, saying battery life inconsistencies are too concerning to ignore.




In a post to the official Consumer Reports blog on Thursday, the magazine said that while the new machines earned high marks in display quality and performance, they were found lacking in terms of battery life. Specifically, the battery performance of models tested "varied dramatically" during trials.

"Complaints about MacBook Pro batteries have been popping up online since the laptops first went on sale in November," the publication says. "Apple says that these computers should operate for up to 10 hours between charges, but some consumers in Apple's support forums reported that they were only able to use their laptops for three to four hours before the battery ran down."

Consumer Reports ran a series of tests on samples of Apple's latest laptops, a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar. Battery life performance was scattered across the board for each machine.

The publication arrived at wildly different numbers for the 13-inch model with Touch Bar, finding the laptop ran for 16 hours, 12.75 hours and 3.75 hours in three consecutive tests. Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar fared only slightly better, running for 19.5 hours in one test only to die in 4.5 hours in the next. Battery life for the top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar vacillated from 18.5 hours to 8 hours.

For its tests, the publication started with a fully charged machine with screen brightness set to 100 nits, then downloaded a series of ten pre-selected web pages over Wi-Fi using Safari. The trial runs until the laptop shuts down. All machines were operating on the latest version of macOS Sierra during a first series of tests, then updated to macOS Sierra 10.2.2 in second set of evaluations, with both evaluations bearing similar results.

Apple declined to comment on Consumer Reports' findings, saying only that customers who have an issue with their new Mac should contact AppleCare.

Following the official test phase, the magazine ran each laptop through the same procedure, but swapped out Safari for Google's Chrome browser. Interestingly, Chrome achieved "consistently high" battery life scores in the two test runs.

The development comes just over a week after Apple removed Mac's time remaining battery life indicator with the release of macOS Sierra 10.2.2. AppleInsider learned the change was made in part to quell concerns of inordinately short operating uptime.

Despite Consumer Reports' assessment, a source familiar with the matter earlier this month said Apple is not seeing widespread problems that would cause excess battery drain. Indeed, AppleInsider's own tests found the battery performance of 15-inch model with Touch Bar, 13-inch model with Touch Bar and 13-inch model without Touch Bar all met Apple's advertised numbers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 164
    Looks like they ought to have gone with "Stealth Bomber" instead of "Stealth Fighter".  Unplugging my charger now, let's see how I make it.
    avon b7dysamoriaGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 2 of 164
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,032member
    With that kind of battery fluctuation I can understand their decision, but I hope they included a statement about potential software updates resolving this temporary issue. Do they follow up when an issue is resolved?
    techprod1gyGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 3 of 164
    I saw the new MacBooks in person for the first time today at an Apple store.  I gotta say... looks like a super sweet machine to me.  The only thing that I didn't fall in love with was the keyboard.  After typing on it for a little while, I got used to it... but I don't love it.  Everything else though (TouchBar, chassis, screen, etc).... WOWWW!
    thinkman@chartermi.netredgeminipacalijustadcomics
  • Reply 4 of 164
    But I thought according to some people on here Google's Chrome is a battery hog compared to Safari?
    redgeminipa
  • Reply 5 of 164
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,752member
    But I thought according to some people on here Google's Chrome is a battery hog compared to Safari?
    Safari, for me (since macOS Sierra) has been pretty buggy... so while Chrome is a hog, a bad Safari might be worse? Anyway, I agree that this is most likely a software issue, and hopefully they pointed that out. But, I think I'd wait a bit before going with any of these, or just get the 2015 model at this point. Between this and GPU issues, it's pretty much a 1.0 kind of situation, I guess.
    SpamSandwichbaconstangGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 6 of 164
    anomeanome Posts: 1,465member
    Interesting that the 15" model seems to have greatly exceeded the listed battery life at best, and come in about normal at worst. (8 hours vs 10 hours in Apple's idealised tests seems about right.)

    The 3 hour mark in the 13" is cause for concern, but I'd want more information before making a judgment. If people are genuinely seeing consistent results like that, then there's definitely something wrong. What it is requires a lot more information, and probably further testing from Apple. If you have a notebook that is consistently behaving like that, I'd get it to Apple. I've heard they will replace it so they can run tests of the faulty unit. Of course, they should anyway since you haven't had it that long.

    I'm not sure how to take Consumer Reports these days, anyway. They seem to be rather fickle, given past actions around removing recommendations for things based on what I see as rather petty complaints. (I don't class this instance as petty, but I seem to recall them pulling a recommendation they had previously given for an iPhone model for something minor.)
    jfc1138redgeminipa
  • Reply 7 of 164
    anome said:
    Interesting that the 15" model seems to have greatly exceeded the listed battery life at best, and come in about normal at worst. (8 hours vs 10 hours in Apple's idealised tests seems about right.)

    The 3 hour mark in the 13" is cause for concern, but I'd want more information before making a judgment. If people are genuinely seeing consistent results like that, then there's definitely something wrong. What it is requires a lot more information, and probably further testing from Apple. If you have a notebook that is consistently behaving like that, I'd get it to Apple. I've heard they will replace it so they can run tests of the faulty unit. Of course, they should anyway since you haven't had it that long.

    I'm not sure how to take Consumer Reports these days, anyway. They seem to be rather fickle, given past actions around removing recommendations for things based on what I see as rather petty complaints. (I don't class this instance as petty, but I seem to recall them pulling a recommendation they had previously given for an iPhone model for something minor.)
    the problem is not CR in this case..... this battery issue has been observed from day one of the release. Even Phill alluded to it when he tried to explain away the reason for 16 gig ram limit.
    edited December 2016
  • Reply 8 of 164
    I guess Apple just needs to take out more ads in Consumer Reports then. Worked for Toyota. 
    SpamSandwichsdw2001revenantbluefire1pulseimagesredgeminipa
  • Reply 9 of 164
    After testing a unit I can see there are some software optimisations needed. I.E. Some quite heavy tasks were quick and snappy, while some lighter tasks weren't as proportionally fast. Which also might play into certain power hungry reports. While I appreciate what consumer reports are doing here - if they think people buy macs based on their recommendation, then they're living in a bubble.
    pulseimagesredgeminipa
  • Reply 10 of 164
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    High price is the thing I can't ignore.
    williamlondonbluefire1tzterriGeorgeBMacpulseimagesviclauyyc
  • Reply 11 of 164
    I guess Apple just needs to take out more ads in Consumer Reports then. Worked for Toyota. 
    Consumer Reports doesn't take ads. 
    blastdoordysamoriawelshdogrepressthisjustadcomicsgatorguy
  • Reply 12 of 164
    The crucial thing this article is missing is was high performance graphics mode I.e. GPU triggered by one of the web pages? Maybe an ad unique to one test done it which would explain the 3 hour result. Once on it doesn't turn off until the app is quit.
    pulseimagesredgeminipa
  • Reply 13 of 164
    Just got my 2016 rMBP 13" and so far I'm loving it.  I'm a bit surprised how much I love the keyboard too.  It's just a solid, accurate feel even though the throw is very short.

    I'll be checking out the battery life.  What I don't understand is that they were getting 16 hours of battery life in some tests and as low as 4.5 hours in others.  Apple states "up to 10 hours of battery life" right? Then how are they wrong? If the device got 16 hours, that exceeds the expectation.  If they got 4.5 hours, perhaps they were doing something that was outside of Apple test case?  Were they using Chrome or performing a higher demand task?  I think that Apple can solve the issue with an update, but still I'm not seeing how these are performing differently than past laptops?  My Late 2013 rMBP NEVER got the expected battery life, but then again I was never doing trivial things on it so it never bothered me.

    I think this new class of laptop is a little different in that they have smaller batteries and find their efficiencies elsewhere like with the CPU, SSD and RAM.  Engineering is always finding the best blend of tradeoffs.  I think they did a pretty good job with but I'll let you know my thoughts after a few days.
    pscooter63redgeminipajustadcomics
  • Reply 14 of 164
    Well according to that Bloomberg article, Apple engineers were working on a new battery design for these machines but it wasn't ready in time for the holidays and marketing wanted something to go out so they had to revert to an older design with smaller battery.
    dysamoriaGeorgeBMacredgeminipacali
  • Reply 15 of 164
    They downloaded 10 predefined web pages then what? What did they do with those pages until the computer shuts down? Ten pages until the computer shuts down means that they downloaded the same pages again and again in a loop, kicking in everytime those js based crappy trackers and iframes, there is no other explanation... Is that a test?
    pscooter63GeorgeBMacredgeminipavolcan
  • Reply 16 of 164
    BOOM. 
    williamlondonviclauyyc
  • Reply 17 of 164
    The crucial thing this article is missing is was high performance graphics mode I.e. GPU triggered by one of the web pages? Maybe an ad unique to one test done it which would explain the 3 hour result. Once on it doesn't turn off until the app is quit.
    Agree, and is flash enabled?
    jkichlineredgeminipa
  • Reply 18 of 164
    I guess Apple just needs to take out more ads in Consumer Reports then. Worked for Toyota. 
    What are you talking about? Consumer Reports doesn't HAVE ads.
    dysamoriarepressthisavon b7aknabi
  • Reply 19 of 164
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,745member
    Consumer Reports sucks and ruined its reputation years ago.  They rate several superb products on tests that don't make sense.  It's like measuring how a fish climbs a tree with a lot of their stuff.  
    cgWerksGeorgeBMacpulseimagesredgeminipa
  • Reply 20 of 164
    sdw2001 said:
    Consumer Reports sucks and ruined its reputation years ago.  They rate several superb products on tests that don't make sense.  It's like measuring how a fish climbs a tree with a lot of their stuff.  
    That's hardly what they did in this case. If anything the test was much less demanding than what many users will do with it.
    dysamoria[Deleted User]
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