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Mossberg: New MacBook Pro has best battery life "ever tested"

Although they're not without their drawbacks, the new MacBook Pros have been celebrated by one veteran columnist as having the best stock battery life of any notebook seen so far — and has debunked some myths about battery use in the process.

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal wrote on Thursday that the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro updates in June have achieved record results in his own, "harsh" battery tests that involve maximum display brightness, continuous music and no energy saving settings.

The 13-inch model, which has the smallest battery of the two, still managed to last almost 5 hours under high strain. Similar conditions put against the 15-inch led it to run for 5 hours and 21 minutes. Either result by itself would be the best "ever tested" that doesn't bend the rules to get to that figure, Mossberg says, such as by using an extended capacity battery that bulges outside of normal dimensions.

He predicts that, under less strenuous conditions, the new MacBook Pro could last even longer and would likely approach Apple's official target of 7 hours, which was reached by browsing the web using Wi-Fi.

All the gain comes from using a sealed-in battery. By removing the need for a special battery bay, a latch and other mechanisms needed to remove the battery without disassembly, Apple could expand the size of the battery itself. Mossberg acknowledges that the move is controversial and not without its problems: it forces customers to visit a service location to replace a dead battery, and it prevents long-haul travelers from running the notebook without AC power.

But the newspaper writer simultaneously points out that some of the assumptions about battery use are false. The NPD Group, for example, observed that only 5 percent of notebook owners ever buy a second battery; it's unknown how many of these have needed theirs. Consequently, most notebook owners are only concerned about the runtime of the battery that comes with the system — which, in Apple's case, is far longer than for competitors.

As such, the new MacBook Pros should provide a "very good experience" for typical buyers, Mossberg explains.