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Retina Display MacBook Pro Q&A - Updated March 13, 2013

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What is the "real-world" battery life of the "Late 2012" and "Early 2013" 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro? How does the battery life compare to the 15-Inch Retina Display and 13-Inch "Mid-2012" non-Retina Display MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models?

Please note that all notebooks mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. However, this Q&A is up-to-date and can be quite useful for anyone buying or selling one of these models on the used market.

The "Late 2012" and "Early 2013" 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models (A1425) officially provide "up to seven hours" of runtime in "wireless web" use according to Apple provided test results.

Apple formally estimates the same seven hours of runtime for the "Mid-2012" and "Early 2013" 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro and 13-Inch "regular" Mid-2012 MacBook Pro models.

These 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models both use the same integrated and glued "74-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery." Likewise, these 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models also have an integrated and glued "95-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery."

By contrast, the "regular" Mid-2012 13-Inch MacBook Pro has an integrated, but not glued, 63.5-watt-hour battery and the "Mid-2012" 13-Inch MacBook Air also has an integrated, but not glued, 50-watt-hour battery.

Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro)

Official Battery Life Testing Criteria

In small print, Apple notes that battery life estimates originally were made using a preproduction version of the 2.5 GHz "Core i5" 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro and updated in January 2013 with a preproduction 2.6 GHz "Core i5" MacBook Pro system. Apple further explains that the "wireless web test measures battery life by wirelessly browsing 25 popular websites with display brightness set to 50%" and that "battery life varies by use and configuration."

Apple's official battery life numbers have been reasonable in recent years -- but tests from third-parties still may be of interest.

Third-Party Battery Life Test Results

In particular, independent testing methodologies differ and can be useful for a well-rounded perspective of the battery life in different scenarios.

In its review, newcomer The Verge posted numbers similar to Apple's when not doing taxing work:

Battery life was surprisingly decent on the 13-inch Pro, clocking in at 6 hours and 18 minutes on the Verge battery test, which cycles through a series of websites over Wi-Fi at 65 percent brightness. In more general use, I routinely got around 5.5 hours just going about my daily routine without regard for battery life. That compares favorably to the Air, which gets close to 7 hours on our test and usually runs for about 5.5 to 6 hours in daily use, and it's much better than the 15-inch Retina Pro, which only ran for 5 hours in our test.

In a "harsh" usage scenario that "involves playing a video in a continuous loop until the battery is drained," the old school Macworld had considerably different results:

The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro had the shortest battery life of all the current Apple laptops. It averaged 4 hours and 40 minutes, 67 minutes shorter than the 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro with the same 2.5 GHz Core i5 processor, and 44 minutes shorter than the 13-inch MacBook Air.

Finally, AnandTech evaluated the 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro using custom "light, medium, and heavy workload" battery tests and reported nearly seven and a half hours in light usage, nearly five and a half hours in medium usage, and a little over three and a half hours in heavy usage. Perhaps most interestingly, in heavy usage, the site found:

The 13-inch rMBP sets a new record for our new suite, outlasting the 13-inch MBA by 15% (despite having a 48% larger battery). Worst case battery life is much better on the smaller rMBP compared to the 15-inch model thanks to its use of a dual-core processor with no discrete GPU. Performance obviously suffers, but if all you care about is battery life the 13-inch rMBP will do better on a single charge.

Battery Life Summary

Ultimately, Apple's battery life numbers for these 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models are a realistic estimate of what one can expect in the "real-world" for light web use. However, use the notebook for more than reading websites and typing documents and battery life can drop quite a bit as the tests above certainly demonstrate.

Also see: How do you replace the battery in the 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro? Is it more or less difficult than the 15-Inch Retina Display models? Is it possible?

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