Consumer Reports has some bad news for anyone who bought a new MacBook Pro this holiday season: It is not giving the new Apple laptops its coveted seal of approval. These are the first MacBooks to not get a recommendation from them, the product-testing magazine said.
The review cited battery-life problems with the 13- and 15-inch MacBooks that have the new Touch Bar control strip, and the 13-inch model without the Touch Bar. During testing, the review said, the laptops threw up wildly inconsistent battery times: In some trials, the laptops showed battery life readings that exceeded Apple's own 10-hour estimate. In other trials, the battery life readings were less than half of what Apple promises; in one case, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar ran on battery for a paltry 3.45 hours.
The overall battery life average seemed in line with Apple's 10-hour estimate, Consumer Reports's results showed, but that would be cold comfort to someone whose laptop dies on the first leg of a cross-country flight. So, the publication decided to rate the laptops using their shortest battery life times, which dragged down the computers' overall scores.
Although the laptops "did very well in measures of display quality and performance," wrote Consumer Reports's Jerry Beilinson, those positives weren't enough to outweigh the battery issues.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
So what should people who've already bought (and maybe wrapped) a MacBook Pro do? Consumer Reports offers a tip: Try using a browser other than Apple's own Safari.
When the testers ran their trials using Google's Chrome browser, they found that the laptops had "consistently high" battery life. Unfortunately for Apple, those Chrome tests don't count in the product's overall score. Consumer Reports uses only the default browser to score a device.
That finding flips the conventional wisdom on browsers and Mac battery life -- using Safari instead of Chrome is often recommended to improve battery life. It's not clear why that may have changed with these models.
Switching browsers may help in the short term; it may at least give Apple users who've already paid big money for the new models a way to save some battery juice. But the browser issue doesn't explain why the consumer magazine found the laptop batteries so inconsistent in its official tests. There may be a larger underlying problem.
The Consumer Reports review follows on the heels of complaints by MacBook Pro users who have had similar battery issues with Apple's newest laptops since they hit shelves in October. I haven't experienced battery life problems on the laptop (without the Touch Bar) that Apple provided me. But in a test trial on the 13-inch Touch Bar model, 9to5Mac found a battery life of eight hours and reported a six-hour battery life for the 15-inch model.
Apple responded -- sort of -- to user complaints by removing the part of the battery indicator that shows the "time remaining" in a laptop's charge, saying that those estimates can be inaccurate. But the company said there was no issue with the laptops' battery life in general.
Meanwhile, Apple is running a limited replacement program for short-lived batteries on some iPhones.