The laptops did very well in measures of display quality and performance, but in terms of battery life, we found that the models varied dramatically from one trial to another.
As a result, these laptops are the first MacBooks not to receive recommended ratings from Consumer Reports.
Once our official testing was done, we experimented by conducting the same battery tests using a Chrome browser, rather than Safari. For this exercise, we ran two trials on each of the laptops, and found battery life to be consistently high on all six runs.
Lower battery life could be a hardware issue, but the variability makes me think the culprit is software. I’ve been seeing high CPU use with Safari for a while now, though I think it has historically been more efficient than Chrome. I wish Consumer Reports had done the same test on last year’s MacBook Pro running macOS 10.12.2. I wonder whether the variability in those results would have been more similar to the new MacBook Pros or to their original 2015 test.
Update (2016-12-23): John Gruber:
Either something is seriously wrong with these new MacBook Pros, or something is seriously wrong with Consumer Reports’s testing (or both).
Now, I don’t think Consumer Reports is faking news here, but I do think they’re after attention more than they are answers. Otherwise, I think they would have taken the time to figure out what happened, why, and presented something truly useful.
Working with CR to understand their battery tests. Results do not match our extensive lab tests or field data.
Update (2016-12-27): John Gruber:
Anecdotally, reports from DF readers are all over the map. Many are complaining that battery life is poor — not based on the “time remaining” estimate that Apple removed from the battery menu item in 10.12.2, but on real-world usage. Some though, are getting excellent battery life (as I did in my review, mostly using a Core i5 13-inch model with Touch Bar). Others are claiming they were getting poor battery life but it has greatly improved after upgrading to MacOS 10.12.2.
Walt Mossberg also saw unpredictable battery life, though not to the extent that Consumer Reports did:
The biggest surprise in my tests was just how inconsistent the Touch Bar Pro’s battery life was. I have tested hundreds of laptops over the years and Macs have almost always excelled at meeting or beating their promised battery lives, both in my longtime battery test regime and in typical daily use. But the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar wasn’t as reliably consistent as previous Macs.
Update (2017-01-02): Jon Gotow:
I’ve been wondering if this might actually be the source of the much-talked about Consumer Reports findings that the new MacBook Pros have very inconsistent battery life. Their results varied widely from test to test (on the same computer) – maybe one of the WebKit helper processes was just flipping out once in a while due to some underlying bug in Sierra’s interprocess communication or process management services.
While that’s just my own random speculation, the issue of processes running amok seems to be a recurring annoyance to some folks. To help you detect this sort of stuff, I’m adding an option in App Tamer to notify you if a process starts consuming excessive CPU time. If it does, it gives you the options shown in the screenshot.
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