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Not All Hype

June 15, 2009 - Dave Hecei
For many years I’ve seen new laptop computers come and go. Whenever a new model is released it’s always better and faster than the previous model. Usually this is true when it comes to speed and storage space, but  not when it comes to battery life.

Over the years many laptops have claimed outrageous running times they could not deliver. It got so bad that most reviewers and even consumers grew to take a battery life claim with a grain of salt. Apple was not too innocent in this, but maybe that has changed.

Apple just recently updated the MacBook Pro line of notebooks with faster processors and a new battery technology. The new Pros have a new built-in Lithium Polymer (LP) battery – the same type used in the MacBook Air and the latest 17-inch Pro. Unfortunately these batteries are no longer removable, but most MacBook Pro owners don't carry a spare battery.

One way this new battery differs from the previous battery, the Lithium Ion (LI), is in shape. LI battery packs are made up of cylindrical cells, sort of like AA batteries. The new LP battery is rectangular in shape. This squared shape allows Apple to make a larger, and thinner, battery pack that has little wasted space. Because Apple decided to make this a non-removable battery they didn’t have to build a bulky case for it, which also wastes space. These two design features allow the new LP battery to be as large as possible, thus able to store more energy.

Apple announced the new MacBook Pro lineup at the 2009 WWDC show claiming to have up to 7 hour battery life. This is an amazing claim that from past experiences most probably didn’t believe. With a claim of 7 hours one would expect to get 5.

There is a great web site for technical computer information called AnandTech ( This site recently posted some tests on the new Pro notebooks and got an amazing result. The new 15-inch MacBook Pro ran for over 8 hours in their light usage web test. Let me repeat that for those who may have scanned that too fast – 8 HOURS.

You say, ‘Ok, light web test, that means it just sat there with the screen off on a website.’ AnandTech lists the criteria of the test as:

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.

This doesn’t tax the system hard, but they state that the screen backlight was set to half power, plenty enough to see the screen clearly. So the screen was moving, the wireless was on, the screen had power, sound was being played through the speakers, and the battery lasted for 8 hours. Apple has actually under estimated the life of a battery.


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