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What is the "real-world" battery life of the "Mid-2010" 13-Inch, 15-Inch, and 17-Inch MacBook Pro models? How does the battery life of each compare to the model each replaced?
Please note that the "Mid-2010" MacBook Pro line has been discontinued. It was replaced by the "Early 2011" MacBook Pro line on February 24, 2011.
All "Mid-2009" and "Mid-2010" MacBook Pro models have a built-in non-swappable battery design.
When compared to the "Mid-2009" models, Apple reports that the "Mid-2010" line offers longer runtimes -- 10 hours (up from 7 hours), 8-9 hours (up from 7 hours), and 8-9 hours (up from 8 hours), for the 13-Inch, 15-Inch, and 17-Inch models, respectively, while performing a "wireless productivity" test.
Apple defines this test as "wirelessly browsing various websites and editing text in a word processing document with display brightness set to 50%."
Part of the improvement in battery life is due to batteries that provide more watt hours. The "Mid-2010" 13-Inch models use 63.5 W/Hr batteries (up from 58 W/Hr) and the 15-Inch use 77.5 W/Hr batteries (up from 73 W/Hr), but the 17-Inch models each use 95 W/Hr batteries. Improvement also is due to autoswitching graphics technology (on the 15-Inch and 17-Inch models), which automatically selects the best graphics processor for the task.
For example, if one is typing a document or listening to music, then a 15-Inch or 17-Inch MacBook Pro system uses the Intel HD Graphics to conserve battery life and it only kicks the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M dedicated graphics card into gear when it is needed for graphics intensive tasks such as gaming or 3D animation (any application that uses OpenGL or Core Graphics among other technologies).
Third-Party Test Results
Although recent battery life estimates from Apple have been considerably less "aggressive" than in years past, it nevertheless is important to see how the systems perform in objective "real-world" battery life trials.
[The "Mid-2010" 13-Inch models] showed a life of 4 hours and 19 minutes for the 2.4 GHz model and 4 hours and 33 minutes for the 2.66 GHz model. Those compare favorably to the 2009 13-inch 2.26 GHz (3 hours and 30 minutes) and 2.53 GHz (3 hours and 38 minutes) models.
The three ["Mid-2010" 15-Inch] laptops lasted on average 4 hours, 35 minutes, an improvement between 10 and 25 percent [compared to the "Mid-2009" models].
We were pleased that the previous 13-inch MacBook Pro saw 6 hours and 13 minutes on our LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing via Wi-Fi), so we were more than happy to see the newest version reach 7:48 on the same test.
We never expect stellar battery life out of 15-inch notebooks, yet that's where the MacBook Pro really stands out. On our LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi) the notebook lasted 7 hours and 54 minutes, more than double the category average (3:40), and akin to endurance you'd see on an ultraportable or thin-and-light.
Battery life fell short of Apple's 10hr prediction [for the 13-Inch models], which presumes nothing but light web browsing and text editing with the screen brightness set to half (still a reasonably viewable setting, to be fair). With more typical use, throwing some music and video into the mixture, we managed between roughly 7-8hrs of wireless use, which is impressive. Loading up a DVD or gaming obviously had an impact on that figure, as did video editing, pulling it down to more like 4-5hrs.
Used for basic browsing, some music playback and editing text, we managed to squeeze just under seven hours of runtime from the [15-Inch] notebook; as soon as we tried to do an arguably more real-world representative test, adding in some basic video editing, viewing a little SD and HD content and carrying out some Photoshop editing, however, that figure plummeted to around four hours. That’s always going to be the flip side to a fast processor and capable discrete GPU, of course.
Finally, in a detailed series of tests -- covering both Core i5 and Core i7-powered 15-Inch MacBook Pro models -- AnandTech squeezed out as much as 8 hours and 18 minutes on a "light web browsing test" with other tests showing the variation in battery life in different test scenarios.
Battery Life Summary
Ultimately, it appears that Apple's battery life numbers for the "Mid-2010" MacBook Pro models are rather realistic for light use in line with the tasks performed by the "wireless productivity" test. However, as Apple notes as well, battery life may vary depending on "configuration and use" and this is demonstrated in the variety of real-world tests performed.