Consumer Reports changes its verdict on new MacBook Pros

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Custom keys for Photoshop.
Software update sorts out battery issues, says the consumer watchdog.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Consumer Reports has revised its earlier rating for the new MacBook Pro lineup and now recommends the laptops, after a software update fixed battery problems found in testing.

The respected consumer watchdog previously cited the new laptops’ “highly inconsistent” battery life as the reason it couldn’t give out one of its coveted recommendations — the first time an Apple laptop had failed to make the grade.

This understandably caused shockwaves in the tech world. With battery life a key factor in the usefulness of a laptop, the poor results almost certainly put some potential customers off buying a new MacBook Pro.

Fortunately, with the updated software, the three MacBook Pros tested all passed with flying colors — with one model running an astonishing 18.75 hours on a single charge. In Consumer Reports’ previous testing, battery life results varied wildly, with one MacBook Pro running out of juice in just 3.75 hours.

The bizarre inconsistency — and the fact that the laptops scored better running the Chrome browser rather than Safari — made the possibility of a software fix seem likely.

Apple worked with Consumer Reports to find and fix the problem, and then the organization retested the MacBook Pros.

The results were much better and more consistent, according to Consumer Reports:

“The process we followed with Apple is the same process we follow with any manufacturer when we discover a significant problem. We shared our test results with the company so it could better understand our findings and deliver a fix to consumers. Since Apple made a fix, we retested the laptops.

Now that we’ve factored in the new battery-life measurements, the laptops’ overall scores have risen, and all three machines now fall well within the recommended range in Consumer Reports ratings.”

The models tested included two 13-inch MacBook Pros, one with Apple’s new Touch Bar and one without, and a 15-inch model with Touch Bar. Average battery life for the three models was, respectively, 15.75 hours, 18.75 hours and 17.25 hours.

The updated software is currently available through the Apple Beta Software Program. The fix will be rolled out in a full macOS software update in coming weeks.

According to Apple, the poor battery life was the result of a bug in Safari. Working with Consumer Reports helped Apple identify and squash the bug.

“When testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache,” Apple said in a statement earlier this week. “This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test. This is the best pro notebook we’ve ever made, we respect Consumer Reports and we’re glad they decided to revisit their findings on the MacBook Pro.”

Source: Consumer Reports