The Truth about MacBook Air Battery Life

by Anand Lal Shimpi on 2/7/2008 12:00 AM EST
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  • macbookair - Friday, May 09, 2008 - link

    I recently bought the macbook air- my first mac- not expecting much from it but unable to resist the ascetics.

    I've found with MY normal usage patterns, which are probably fairly standard for uni students/office workers; (taking notes/ writing and doing research- so browsing and downloading TEXTS from the internet) as well as normal email/networking activity- that the battery certainly does last 5 hours. In fact even after it has 'apparently' reached the last minute of use it continues for another 1/2 hour or so (at least that's as it's as far as I've pushed it).

    Plus it fits comfortably in my handbag and is lovely and light (so I can easily work on the bus/train and in the park). I don't really need to play DVDs etc when out of the house... so I'm not disappointed!

    It's only flaw so far, for my purposes, is that it's so damn pretty that I'm very precious about it!


    Reply
  • macbookair - Friday, May 09, 2008 - link

    ps... thats without "better battery life" switched on or dimmed screen etc...
    Goodluck!
    Reply
  • mynest - Sunday, October 24, 2010 - link

    We ran a typical battery of tests(you can go to http://laptopsbattery.co.uk/blog/ to get more infomation), including games, applications, and a couple other areas. Time constraints limited the amount of testing we could get done before the NDA lift (and it's already a few hours late), but we will be providing a follow-up article with further testing and information. That said, if there are any specific areas that you'd like to see tested, feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment. Reply
  • pink78 - Monday, April 07, 2008 - link

    But can any of us have something really beterr in such a small case? The Air's not that bad, and by the way, the battery life is not that bad, too, There are situations much worse!
    And by the way.. http://www.maconair.com/macbook_air_replace_batter...">http://www.maconair.com/macbook_air_replace_batter...
    You can actually replace the battery yourself..
    Reply
  • Phrozt - Monday, February 11, 2008 - link

    Quite honestly, those are pretty weak browsing tests. I rarely sit on one page for any extended period of time. Usually I have quite a few tabs open at any given time (9 right now).. plus I open and close more all the time; especially when I read wiki (always finding side articles to read after I finish w/my main inquiry).

    Also, I think that video is a fairly large part of browsing nowadays... from youtube to all the crap people load on their MySpace page, to CNN, there are videos in almost all web browsing (save for strict office spaces... but then you'd have a workstation anyway, so this would not be for that scenario).

    Then you can add in high performance pages, such as WoW sites/fansites and/or other gaming sites. Since most of the world is broadband, gone are the days where most sites focus on bandwidth conservation, and therefore have no problem providing massive amounts of high res pictures, good design which may come at the cost of extra background images, and then the ever present blinking/flashing/interactive ads.

    I do not mean to poke at the tests set up by anand; they were good and consistent browsing test. However, I feel that the average user would be doing much more system intensive browsing than that outlined in this test, and therefore could probably expect much less available time in real world scenarios.
    Reply
  • mynest - Sunday, October 24, 2010 - link

    We ran a typical battery of tests(you can go to <a href="http://laptopsbattery.co.uk/blog/">noteboo... battery reviews</a> to get more infomation), including games, applications, and a couple other areas. Time constraints limited the amount of testing we could get done before the NDA lift (and it's already a few hours late), but we will be providing a follow-up article with further testing and information. That said, if there are any specific areas that you'd like to see tested, feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment. Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, February 11, 2008 - link

    http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/macbook-ai...">http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/macbook-ai... - HDD
    http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/macbook-ai...">http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/macbook-ai... - SSD
    Reply
  • jim8151 - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    I didn't read all the comments, so don't know if this was mentioned, but what about the cross-country flight scenario? Wi-fi and Bluetooth could be disabled, and typical activities on the plane might be watch a movie, draft e-mails or other texts, work on presentations or spreadsheets, play chess, etc. It'd be interesting to see if turning the radios off gets you closer to the 5 hours.

    The other thing is battery conditioning: might this not help to extend the battery life?
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    I agree on doing an even more target usage case, I'll see if I can manage to whip one together. The problem is making something repeatable, I don't want to sacrifice repeatability/reliability to hit a different workload. I don't give up easily though, if I can manage something I will.

    The battery was run down completely twice before any of these tests were run. I don't believe battery conditioning has any real impact on the results though.
    Reply
  • goinginstyle - Friday, February 08, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the first "real" battery tests I have seen on this notebook. I was starting to think "wtf" is Apple up to with the 5 hour statement and the first reviews showing two hour rates. Waiting on your review before I buy one now. Reply
  • JKT - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Quote: "It's a notebook for a writer, for someone taking notes in class; it's a second notebook, or a third system. As such, the typical usage model can be very different than your standard notebook."

    Given that this is the intended market sector, is there any chance you could actually test the optimal battery life you can obtain under these conditions? That is, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off, doing text entry/word processing only. I'd also like to see if its possible to get longer than the "5 hour" Wi-Fi claim for someone who would like to actually work on their MBA rather than play on it.

    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    That's a tough one to script but I'll see if there's anything I can do. If anyone has any suggestions let me know :) Reply
  • mmntech - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    From my own experience, I think you should get 5hrs under optimum conditions. My 2005 iBook G4 gets about 4.5 to 5hrs with Wifi/Bluetooth off, CPU on reduced, and brightness turned to minimum. I find Leopard draws more power than Tiger did since it uses the GPU more. I used to get 5.5 to 6hrs under Tiger. I use mine mostly for not taking.

    I can't speak for the Air but I find that Apple is usually pretty truthful in what they say when it comes to battery life. It's the primary reason I bought a Mac laptop rather than a PC one. At the time, PC ones were usually 3-4 hours so getting 6hrs was a big deal. If you're interested in a Mac laptop though, I'd get the vanilla MacBook instead of the Air since it costs less but has more/better features.
    Reply
  • JKT - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Oops, that's "writer" test not "wrtier" test :( Reply
  • matt321 - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Just a question but was Bluetooth enabled? It shouldn't impact the numbers too much but it gives me a few extra minutes on my regular macbook Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Bluetooth was enabled on all tests. Reply
  • DarkDTSHD - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Thanks for doing th test. 4 and some odd hours doing wireless internet surfing isn't bad. I suppose doing word porcessing and some light photo editing would get you rougly 4 hours as well. Much better than the time I get with my Toshiba Qosmio G30. Where the average time is 2 hours and 20 minutes. But it is a power hungry beast.

    I wonder what the battery life is on the MacBook Pro 15" laptops. Is 4 hours reasonable to expect doing general tasks? (e.g. web browsing, e-mailing, word processing...etc.).

    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Wait for the review and you'll see a comparison to the 2.0GHz 15" MacBook Pro I reviewed when it was released :) Reply
  • Doormat - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Did the DVD test have WiFi on or off? I guess I'm interested in an "airplane" test where you watch movies with all wireless turned off. If the DVD test was that then cool. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    WiFi was enabled, but the impact shouldn't be too great. At least this way you have a minimum battery life value :)

    -A
    Reply
  • FishTankX - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    I don't see why the tone of the article seems to be to cry foul at apple. Apple said you should be able to get 5 hours of battery life wirelessly browsing the web. They didn't make any other promises about battery life that I can see on their website.

    In good lighting conditions and a lighter load, I'm sure the mac book air could achieve this in ideal conditions. If I'm reading the graphs correctly, under 20 second page view conditions, the macbook air achieved 89% of it's advertised battery life, and surely beats the pants off of your average E1420, E1520, and E1720 with standard batteries.

    So what gives? Bashing it for being 11% off it's full advertised battery life seems petty to me. Why not also cry foul about the iPod, because it doesn't meet it's advertised battery life if you switch albums every half hour?

    The claim, exactly as per the Apple website, is:
    The MacBook Air battery is our thinnest ever, yet it doesn’t compromise power. You can access the web wirelessly for five full hours.
    Battery life depends on configuration and use. See www.apple.com/batteries for more information.

    And it seems to meet those claims.

    You can't necessarily slam them for not meeting battery life figures in usage patterns outside of that.

    I mean, if I wanted, I could claim that the XPS notebooks don't get anywhere NEAR their specified battery life in gaming, which is what they were really built for. But that's not what they provide battery life specs for either.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    My apologies, it wasn't supposed to come off as an attack on Apple. I was just shocked at how many were surprised when the first results came out and the MBA was hitting around half of its advertised battery life.

    No notebook manufacturer accurately portrays battery life; while it's always possible to hit the promised battery life it's never in a remotely realistic fashion. Apple was honestly closer than I expected.


    Reply
  • Tommyguns - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Dell e1705 here. 7900gs,2gbram, T7200, 9cell battery. $1200 shipped.

    Fits in my LL Bean backpack, goes to class with me, lets me do everything i want like playing source in boring lectures. Sturdy and strong. Battery lasts 2 or so hours. Then when it dies, i either plug it in, or i just drop in MY SPARE BATTERY!!! And when that dies, i am to where i was going and can charge it, or i go outside! If ya got 2k to blow on the handicapped Air, then i am sure you can afford car chargers, wall chargers, spare external battery pack chargers...

    Cool that the air is light and all, but its way to much $! just like everything apple makes.

    My laptop is probably the heavyset monster around. At 8.2 pounds its a little heavy. But by no means excessive. Get in shape people.
    Reply
  • fyleow - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    I am just curious Anand but are you still using a Mac as your daily system? I remember way back in the Mac Pro review you seem to have some favorable thoughts about it. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Yep, I'm still using the same Mac Pro actually :)

    -A
    Reply
  • vincentn - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    I don't have the exact numbers when using either of those two modems but they seem to draw much more battery than the integrated WiFi. So in a real world situation, the battery will drain much quicker if you're connecting via one of those external modem. Reply
  • MacTheSpoon - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Oh, one more request; if Anandtech gets an SSD review model, could you please run these battery tests on it, too? Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Absolutely :)

    -A
    Reply
  • MacTheSpoon - Friday, February 08, 2008 - link

    Cool - thanks!! :) Reply
  • MacTheSpoon - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Thanks for these tests, they are really great! Just wondering, did you condition the battery first, per Apple's instructions? Or is this with an unconditioned battery?

    By the way, for comparison it would be interesting to see what the battery life results would be on a MacBook and/or MacBook Pro, too. Please run the tests on them, too, if you have enough time.
    Reply
  • AndyKH - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Conditioning is a thing of the past, it only applies to NiCd and NiMH, but not Lithium chemistries. Unfortunately many manufaturers of cell phones, laptops and consumer electronics haven't communicated that to their technical writers.
    One thing you have to do with lithium batteries is resetting the battery gauge once in a while, but it shouldn't be necessary just after purchase, as the battery should have the rated capacity unless it's been in storage for some time before being sold.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    If by "conditioning" you mean running the battery dead and fully charging it... well, I can say for sure that at least two of the tests are done with a conditioned battery. :) Reply
  • darely0s - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    The battery life actaully seems pretty decent for such a small battery. However, I believe most DVD movie playback battery tests involve playing the DVD from a built in optical drive and I'm guessing that power consumption of the optical drive will be a bit higher than a hard drive. Not to mention the fact that playing a DVD from an optical drive doesn't necessarily mean the hard drive can spin down or stay that way for the duration of the movie. The difference may only be a few minutes of battery life, but I think it would be helpful to perform a battery life test on a notebook with an optical drive using both methods (playback via DVD or from HD) Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    I agree. I'm sure the 1.8" iPod drive sucks far less power than any optical drive. Reply
  • soydios - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    I have a Lenovo X61t, and I'm able to get the same battery life as in the Browsing&MP3 test with the 9-cell extended battery under Vista Business 32-bit, and my tablet can do a helluva lot more than the Air.
    Even though my X61t obviously doesn't have an optical drive either, I don't miss it. The only times I ever need to use an optical disc are when I'm at my desktop in my dorm room.
    Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Yay I love my X61. I get about 3 hours on the standard 6-cell battery of mixed use. If I'm just surfing the web it's a little more than 3 hours though.

    However, I've never been unable to finish a full DVD movie I ripped to the hard disk, including Zodiac which I just recently watched on it start to finish (2 hours 40 mins) on my last flight.
    Reply
  • Verdant - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    i get about 4.5 hours on mine, though it is the larger battery: that is with light wireless usage and the battery profile screen brightness is down two levels, sometimes i plug in a portable hd that is powered by usb power.

    with the base with the extra battery it does over 7 hours.

    What amazes me is the battery life when i use the optical drive, i would have thought it would dig deeper into the battery, but even with the dvd drive fairly active it lasts over 3 hours.
    Reply
  • strafejumper - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    i remember last time i saw a review of laptop battery life here on anandtech none of the $2000+ laptops could get through a whole dvd. Glad to see one that you can actually watch a 2 hr movie on. Reply
  • brianb - Friday, February 08, 2008 - link

    Sorry here's the exact link of the Air Migration post:

    http://www.maccomplainer.com/macbook-complaints/wi...">http://www.maccomplainer.com/macbook-co...nts/wire...
    Reply
  • Pirks - Friday, February 08, 2008 - link

    Yeah, some braindead moron didn't realize that he can use high-speed transfer through USB instead of slow Wi-Fi. So what? How is this particular case of not working human brain related to Macbook Air? Reply
  • brianb - Friday, February 08, 2008 - link

    USB is only slightly faster. How fast is your USB anyway? Reply
  • Pirks - Friday, February 08, 2008 - link

    480 mbit, is yours slower? Reply
  • BladeVenom - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    If you want battery life, check out some of Panasonic's laptops, 8-12 hour battery life on several of them. Reply
  • BladeVenom - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    They are also lighter than the Macbook Air. Reply
  • Pirks - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Sure they are lighter and work longer on a battery - 'cause their screen is smaller and their CPU is lousy Reply
  • skiboysteve - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    im using a dell latitude d830 with 4gb of ram, core 2 duo T7300 (2ghz 4mb cache), and nvidia quatro 135M.

    i got it with the 95WHr battery and the thing can last six hours if you are not using the internet and your screen brightness is controlled by the ambient light sensor.

    Obviously, a movie playing will bring that down, but my point is... not just the macbook air has this battery life. even my much more powerful laptop has comparable or better battery life
    Reply
  • brianb - Friday, February 08, 2008 - link

    We had some people complaining about the lack of firewire and very very excruciating wireless migration

    http://www.maccomplainer.com/">http://www.maccomplainer.com/

    I wonder how many people have already bought an Air?
    Reply
  • Pirks - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Now just compare size and weight of your fat and heavy brick of d830 with razor thin and light mb air and think about it a little. You may start understanding some interesting and pretty obvious things about notebooks, just use your brain, will you? Reply
  • pauldovi - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Great, so you can have you light weight brick? Sounds like something I want to carry around with me. Maybe I can use it to do magic tricks?

    Macian "Hey look, I can pull my laptop out of a folder."

    Dell Guy "Hey my laptop still works, and I only payed 1/2 as much!"
    Reply
  • Pirks - Thursday, February 07, 2008 - link

    Dell Guy: "My laptop still works and my back still hurts (and my lap too!), time to get a lighter and thinner laptop, like the Macbook Air" Reply
  • DASQ - Friday, February 08, 2008 - link

    If your lap hurts, you've got problems.

    'lighter and thinner', but replacing many notebooks out there? I doubt it.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Friday, February 08, 2008 - link

    Since when Macs were designed to replace _MANY_ computers out there? They were and always will be a niche product, like exotic Italian cars, you know Reply
  • JoshS - Friday, January 27, 2012 - link

    I know this article is about macbook battery life reviews, but I wanted to let you know that there is an app called low battery saver that makes sure your Mac sleeps before the battery completely runs out and let's you set a warning to alert you that the computer is about to sleep. (http://www.lowbatterysaver.com/). It won't fix your battery problems but at least you won't lose your work, have to restart your computer etc. Reply

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