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MacBook Pro fails to earn Consumer Reports recommendation for first time

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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.