Apple's new MacBook Pro and Air both score high marks in battery tests

For the MacBook Air, 10 hours of battery life was expected. But for the new quad-core Pro, it's a nice surprise.

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Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read
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Update, Nov. 13, 2019: Apple has introduced a new 16-inch MacBook Pro with a larger screen and improved keyboard. It completely replaces the previous 15-inch model. 

When Apple announced updates to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in early July, most of the attention was paid to easy-to-spot differences: The lower price on the Air, the always-there Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro , and the Pro's entry-level jump from dual-core to quad-core processors. 

We already know the updates have paid off for the $1,299 MacBook Pro -- our initial testing shows a nice speed jump over the older dual-core, entry-level Pro, but what about battery life?

It's an especially important question, given that Apple's laptops were once the undisputed kings of laptop battery life. These days, the competition has more than caught up, with laptops like the LG Gram and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon passing 13 hours of online streaming video time

At the same time, Apple just squeaks into our battery-life Top 15 with the current 15-inch MacBook Pro, thanks to a big body that has room for a big battery that runs for a very respectable 11.5 hours on the same test. 


Every MacBook now has the butterfly keyboard.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Naturally, the first thing we did with the new MacBook Air (now $100 cheaper!) and the new MacBook Pro is to run down each of the batteries multiple times in our streaming video battery test. Here are the results, plus battery results for previous MacBooks and a sample high-end 13-inch Windows laptop, the excellent Dell XPS 13. 

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019) 16,949Dell XPS 13 (2019) 13,833Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017) 9,032Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2019) 8,002Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 7,870
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Dell XPS 13 (2019) 738Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019) 647Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017) 381Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2019) 260Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 253
Note: Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

As we saw in our initial performance testing, now expanded, the quad-core Pro and the similarly configured XPS 13 are the speedier systems, and the jump in CPU options for the MacBook Pro is probably the biggest story here. You may not care about getting a Touch Bar added on (or losing your physical function keys), but this is clearly a big leap in value for the same $1,299 entry price. 

Video playback battery-drain test (streaming minutes)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 646Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2019) 639Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019) 632Dell XPS 13 (2019) 509Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017) 430
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

The slimmer Air, with its less-power-hungry (and less powerful) Y-series Intel processor, is the battery leader in this roundup. It's the same processor as the 2018 version, and the 2018 Air/2019 Air battery life scores were just seven minutes apart, so it's essentially unchanged at  10:39 for the new 2019 model. Slipping in right below is the new U-series quad-core MacBook Pro, at 10:32, so again, very little daylight between them. 

It is, however, a nice jump over the last dual-core, no-Touch-Bar MacBook Pro we've tested, back in 2017. Since then, we've only tested higher-end Touch Bar models. The takeaway is, if you're trying to decide between a new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, they both get around 10.5 hours of streaming video battery life, so you won't have to choose battery life at the expense of  power, price, features or design. We'll be posting our full reviews of the new MacBooks in the coming days. 

Laptops with the best battery life: See the top laptops and 2-in-1 PCs with the longest battery life. 

Fastest gaming laptops, ranked: All the most-powerful gaming laptops tested in the CNET Labs. 

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