In the past few days, Apple's new MacBook Pro has provoked heated complaints in user forums from consumers disappointed with their new laptops' battery life. The company claims the various models deliver up to 10 hours per charge, but some MacBook Pro owners report they've been clocking only three.
Some users have speculated that the thin new Touch Bar on the keyboard is somehow draining the battery.
Consumer Reports has been testing all three MacBook Pro models in our labs and we noticed a problem, too. We haven't yet identified the root cause, but in our experiments a few easy-to-do adjustments have really helped. It's possible that a software update from Apple would be able to correct the problem.
Apple has not yet addressed the complaints from users or responded to our request for a comment on the issue.
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As a primary part of our battery life tests, we repeatedly download a set of 10 website pages from a server in the lab using a WiFi connection. We test each laptop multiple times.
We saw odd results from our initial battery tests on all three of Apple's MacBook Pro models—the 13-inch models with and without the Touch Bar, and the 15-inch model, which only comes with the Touch Bar.
"Much like the older models, the laptops started off with 15- to 17-hour results," Consumer Reports tester Antonette Asedillo says. "But subsequent runs were much lower—down to six and even four hours long. So, that was a new phenomenon."
The fact that the results varied so widely prompted Asedillo to investigate further.
She dug around online, did some experiments, and cobbled together the following tactics for boosting battery life. By using a combination of these adjustments, she was able to get all three versions of the MacBook Pro to show more consistent results. And battery life got to the same ballpark figures that previous MacBooks achieved.
To be safe, back up your computer before giving any of this a try, Asedillo suggests.
NVRAM, or non-volatile random-access memory, is basically RAM that retains its information even when you turn off your computer. Did you need to know that? No. To reset it, do the following—you can find the same information buried on the Apple website.
- Shut down your MacBook Pro.
- Turn it back on.
- Press and hold the Command, Option, P and R keys while it's starting up. (It may help to locate those keys before you turn on the computer.)
- Hold the keys down for at least 20 seconds.
- Release the keys.
Check to see if the problem is resolved. No? Okay, move on to Dock Preferences.
Reset Dock Preferences
- Open up the Terminal app on your MacBook; this will be familiar if you do any programming. (Otherwise, don't be intimidated: Just search for it using Spotlight.) Type cd ~/Library/Preferences/ and press return.
- Type rm com.apple.desktop.plist and press return again.
- Type in killall Dock and press the return key.
These directions came from a 2012 article at Cult of Mac.
Next, enjoy your sense of technological sophistication. Then, wait to see if the battery problem has been resolved. If not, move on to the next step.
Reset the System Management Controller
This component, which sits on the logic board, controls power usage—for instance, it tells your computer when to go to sleep. So it's logical that it could have some impact on how long a battery charge lasts. Apple has the directions, as well.
- Shut down the MacBook Pro.
- Plug the USB-C power adapter into a power source and your laptop.
- Press Shift-Control-Option on the left side of the keyboard, while pressing the power button at the same time.
- Release all the keys, and then press the power button again to turn on your Mac.
Note: None of this is guaranteed to work, and Consumer Reports' testing of the MacBook Pros is continuing.
If a battery problem persists, take the laptop to the Apple Store. Before you leave home, though, back up the files once more and perform a fresh install of macOS Sierra. No, this isn't likely to fix the problem. But when the guy at the Genius Bar advises you to try it, you can say you already have.
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