Consumer Reports agrees to re-test MacBook Pro battery life

The 2016 MacBook Pro has caused consternation among Mac fans and racked up less-than-favorable reviews, including ours, which describes the new laptop as taking “a significant step back” in battery life. The latest comes from Consumer Reports, which refrained from recommending Apple’s newest laptop for the first time ever, in part due to the laptop’s performance on Consumer Reports’ battery life tests.

After some back-and-forth with Apple, however, Consumer Reports has agreed to re-test the MacBook Pro battery life, amid concerns that the initial results might have been skewed by an elusive bug.

According to 9to5 Mac, Consumer Reports’ decision to re-test the battery, could be the result of Apple presenting evidence that the results were caused by a bug that may have negatively impacted the initial testing.

Consumer Reports was generally positive about the 2016 MacBook Pro’s display quality and performance. The machines fell down in battery performance, however, an area that has been a complaint of numerous buyers (apparently the result of the choice of a lesser design).

According to Consumer Reports’ testing, the most significant issue with battery life wasn’t specifically how long the computers would run before shutting down but rather their inconsistency. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, for example, ran for 16 hours, 12.75 hours, and 3.75 hours on subsequent tests. The 13-inch version without Touch Bar ran for 19.5 hours and 4.5 hours in different trial runs, and the 15-inch machine showed a range from 8 to 18.5 hours.

The organization notes that laptops usually vary by less than five percent between tests; Consumer Reports said it was able to replicate the MacBook Pro’s inconsistent results via repeated testing. The reviewers requested a response from Apple and at first received a typical canned statement: “Any customer who has a question about their Mac or its operation should contact AppleCare.”

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Apple Vice President of Marketing Phil Schiller responded via Twitter Friday evening that Apple is taking things a little more seriously than that, however.

Consumer Reports cannot be faulted for its testing methodologies, which seem rigorous. The group upgraded its test machines to MacOS Sierra 10.12.2 and tested again to determine if Apple had resolved any battery issues in the latest update. The results were the same.

Apparently, similar concerns about the 2016 MacBook Air’s battery life are not without merit. While lower battery life could be expected given their smaller battery capacity versus previous MacBook Air models, the incredibly inconsistent results suggest a problem — one Apple is hopefully working to resolve.

The new test results should be in by the end of the week, and we can see once and for all, whether or not the initial tests were compromised by a bug, as Apple claims.

Updated on 1-10-2017 by Jayce Wagner; added information concerning Consumer Reports’ decision to conduct additional tests.