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Why Apple's OLED Touch Bar won't destroy the Mac's battery life

The secondary screen in the new MacBook Pro shouldn't consume that much power.

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You're probably wondering if the new MacBook Pro's fancy new secondary screen will eat away at the laptop's battery life.

We are, too. But I wouldn't worry -- it's an OLED screen, and OLED screen technology can be surprisingly efficient under the right circumstances.

The Touch Bar secondary screen on the new MacBook Pro.

Apple/Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET

Unlike LCD screens, whose individual pixels require a backlight that's always consuming power unless the screen is completely off, OLED pixels each produce their own light. Portion of an OLED screen that stay black don't consume any power at all, even if the drive circuitry might use a tiny bit.

When the screen's totally black, it's even more efficient. "Since the OS knows when the OLED screen is black, it can also shut down all of the support and drive circuitry for the panel, so the power would be effectively zero," DisplayMate Technologies head Raymond Soneira tells CNET.

You might have noticed Apple's Touch Bar has a black background. That's no accident, folks.

(For the same reason, if you've got a Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel or other OLED phone, you should really try the dark reading mode in Amazon's Kindle app, or Twitter's night mode.)

Plus, it could have a special chip that would make the Apple OLED bar more efficient still, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has an excellent track record for Apple rumors.

Of course, we don't know for sure how much of a drain the Magic Toolbar might use when it's lit up with special new buttons for your apps, particularly if they're animated or bright, but we doubt it'll be a lot.

Update: According to Apple's website, all of the new MacBook Pro models will get roughly 10 hours of battery life on a charge. That's just as much as last year's 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, and an hour more than last year's 15-inch model. Unless there's a typo, it sounds like that secondary screen won't be an issue at all.

Check out all of today's Apple news here.