New MacBook Pro can’t be recommended says consumer watchdog

Apple’s new MacBook Pros have had something of a rocky road since they first went on sale, and indeed the company has just been jarred by hitting another big pothole thanks to a consumer watchdog criticizing the laptops on the battery front.

In fact, Consumer Reports over in the US found the battery performance to be so inconsistent that the new MacBook Pro became the first ever of Apple’s notebooks to miss out on a ‘recommended’ seal of approval from the nonprofit organization.

Which, if not a statement of no-confidence, is certainly not one that will fill would-be purchasers with the stuff.

Consumer Reports tested the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and two variants of the new 13-inch notebook – the base version without the Touch Bar, and one model with the Touch Bar – and found that battery life test results were ‘highly inconsistent’ from one test to the next.

For example, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar ran for a sterling 16 hours in the first test, but dipped to 12.75 hours in the second, and plummeted to a startling 3.75 hours when the third test was run.

This sort of 3-4 hour battery life is what we’ve already heard reported by some users across various online forums in past weeks, and obviously getting that sort of longevity is quite a crippling negative. As we saw earlier this month, other folks are reporting the likes of a 6 hour battery life with only light usage like simple web browsing.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro didn’t come off as badly, but still suffered from a real lack of consistency with Consumer Reports’ test results ranging from a high of 18.5 hours, down to less than half of that figure at 8 hours.

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Battered results

It wasn’t all bad news, as Consumer Reports said that the notebooks did ‘very well’ when it came to performance tests and display quality, but the battery issues were a huge fly in the ointment.

Because the battery test results varied so widely, the organization said the usual average of the results it takes wouldn’t be a true reflection of what the customer might experience with a real-world purchase of MacBook Pro. Therefore Consumer Reports said it was using the lowest battery life result when it came to calculating its overall score for the notebook.

The organization stated: “Battery life is an important attribute for a laptop, and it represents a significant portion of our overall score. After factoring together our complete test results, Consumer Reports finds that all three MacBook Pro laptops fail to meet our standards for recommended models.”

Apple claims an up to 10 hour battery life for the new MacBook Pro, but by all accounts, it seems like a bit of a lottery as to whether you’ll get that or not.

Earlier this week, we also heard a report that Apple was planning on using a higher-capacity battery for the MacBook Pro, but had to switch back to an older design after this new battery failed a key test.

Basically, the suggestion was Apple decided to play things safe rather than push for more battery capacity and longevity – although things don’t appear to have turned out so well on the safe-rather-than-sorry front, after all.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).