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​How to get your MacBook Pro battery to last a whole day

Your 2016 MacBook Pro may not get all the way to Apple's 10-hour benchmark, but these tips can improve the odds -- and maybe even do better.

The 2016 MacBook Pro Touch Bar lets you dim the laptop's screen to save power.

James Martin/CNET

After buying a 15-inch 2016 MacBook Pro in December with initially disappointing battery life, I became one of the skeptics. But I've been running tests and talking to Apple techs -- read the details here -- and I've extended my useful battery life dramatically. In one day's test, mostly using a browser with a dim screen, I made it beyond 12 hours.

You'll notice a theme here with the tips: they can crimp your style.

Sorry about that, but laptop design is an exercise in compromise. Apple's 10-hour benchmarks -- for surfing the web over a wireless network connection and for watching iTunes video -- use relatively little power. The more you're revving your processor by editing videos, downloading huge files and playing graphically intense games, the more you'll fall short of that 10 hours.

Dim the screen

At the same time as making the screen brighter, Apple shrank the battery size from 95.5 watt-hours of capacity for the 2015-inch MacBook Pro to 76 watt-hours for the 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro. Even though the new Mac's screen is 30 percent more power efficient, it also can go 67 percent brighter when you max it out. You may find a setting of three-quarters brightness or less is fine most of the time.

Beware USB devices

Plugging anything in wakes up a computer communication system that otherwise can snooze in a low-power state. Even external drives with their own power supplies wake up the system.

Use Safari

Rivals are working to improve their efficiency, but Apple's browser often does better on battery life. Part of the reason: It won't let the MacBook Pro use its high-performance but power-hungry AMD graphics processor. The built-in Intel GPU isn't as powerful, so sites like Google Maps may not be as smooth, but it uses a lot less energy.

Quit apps and close browser tabs if you're not using them

Even apps and tabs idling in the background consume power. It's even more a problem if -- like Adobe Acrobat, Lightroom and Photoshop, or like Google Maps in Chrome -- they demand the Mac's high-performance graphics chip. This could improve later: Adobe plans Photoshop and Lightroom updates to let them use the lower-power graphics chip, and Chrome is working on GPU power improvements, too, but it's not clear when those will arrive.

Unplug dongles

The MacBook Pro's new USB-C ports are great if you have the right cables and peripherals, but until then you might need dongles that need a chip to convert video data to HDMI or let you plug an older Thunderbolt 2 device into the Mac's Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Watch video in full-screen mode and turn off closed captioning

That can extend your battery life by 45 to 60 minutes.

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