Snow Leopard Battery Life Issues with Flash: Fixed

Snow Leopard brought forth 64-bit versions of many Apple applications. Finder, TextEdit and Safari (among others) could now run in x86-64 mode. However, last year I found that browsing websites that used Flash with 64-bit Safari dropped battery life by over 40% in Snow Leopard compared to 32-bit Safari in Leopard. To fix the problem you had to force Safari to launch in 32-bit mode.

While Apple never recognized the problem nor discussed why it happened to begin with, it appears that it’s since been addressed in OS X 10.6.3. The results below tell all:

Snow Leopard Battery Life Improvement
Flash Web Browsing Battery Life OS X 10.6.1 OS X 10.6.3
15-inch MacBook Pro (Mid 2009) - Core 2 Duo 2.53GHz 277 minutes 344 minutes

Flash web browsing battery life improved tremendously from the original release of Snow Leopard. While it's still not as high as in Leopard, it's a definite improvement.

Windows 7 Battery Life

A handful of users asked that I look at battery life under Windows 7. Being your humble servant, I of course obliged. I attempted to recreate my OS X benchmarks under Windows 7 as best as possible, using Chrome and Windows Media Player in place of Safari and iTunes of course. You can’t draw any conclusions about OS X vs. Windows 7 battery life from these numbers however. As I mentioned in the original review, under Windows 7 the MacBook Pro keeps the discrete GPU enabled 100% of the time. There’s no way to shut it off. Battery life will inevitably be lower than OS X.

Windows 7 Battery Life
  Light Web Browsing Flash Web Browsing XviD Playback
15-inch MacBook Pro (Mid 2010) - Core i7 2.66GHz 255 minutes 255 minutes 153 minutes

It appears that the dGPU being on all the time is the reason we can't get better browser battery life regardless of workload. The XviD playback test also takes a hit compared to OS X thanks to the discrete GPU. In our previous articles we found OS X to be roughly equal to Windows 7 in XviD battery life.

Core i5 vs. Core i7 Battery Life High Resolution, Matte Display: Tested
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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Saturday, April 24, 2010 - link

    If you're referring to the upcoming slate PCs I don't believe any of them are out yet. We've contacted HP and expressed our interested in reviewing the HP slate, so we should be good to go whenever they start shipping :)

    As far as the other Arrandale based notebooks go, we've got a lot on our list. Jarred and his team have been cranking through them but I'll see about the possibility of getting an HP Arrandale machine in there.

    Take care,
  • serkol - Saturday, April 24, 2010 - link

    I have a very old 17" macbook pro with a TN panel. I hate TN panels. All my desktop monitors are IPS.

    I assumed that Apple uses IPS panels in their new mbp. Do they also use TN panels in 17" models?
  • icrf - Saturday, April 24, 2010 - link

    I read somewhere that IPS panels consume more power than TN panels. It had something to do with the panel letting less light through so it needed brighter back lights or something. Plus, they're more expensive to produce.

    The thing most people notice about them is the increased viewing angle, and that's generally not a factor with laptops nearly as much as it is with other devices. It is much more important on mobile devices, which is why Apple chose IPS for the iPad.
  • serkol - Saturday, April 24, 2010 - link

    I think that laptops need panels with good viewing angles (IPS or at least MA panels). If a cell phone battery (and iPad battery) has enough power to light an IPS screen, a laptop battery definitely has enough power. If it's bright enough for iPad - it's bright enough for a laptop. I don;t see any technical reason to keep using cheap TN panels in expensive pro-level macbook pros. The only reason - greed.
  • Cali3350 - Saturday, April 24, 2010 - link

    Is the 1440*900 screen still of the same quality as the previous generations? I dont want the high res but heard they are now using a slightly worse panel (it does have a different model number).
  • jeffbui - Saturday, April 24, 2010 - link

    Are you guys compensating for the diminished battery capacity of the older computers in any way? The newer notebooks all have an inherent advantage with their fresh battery.
  • darkswordsman17 - Saturday, April 24, 2010 - link

    I greatly prefer glossy to matte, it just looks so much nicer. To my eyes, matte has a shimmering veil and if glare would be a problem on a glossy display it would be even worse on a matte one for me, as matte generally just blurs the glare so that you get this big blob of light instead of a reflection. That's not always true, but the glare/reflection that matte gets rid of isn't bothersome to me on glossy displays. I also get the screen door effect on matte displays, or rather it becomes noticeable to me.

    I've never agreed when people say that matte gives you an accurate image. I know that the devices used to calibrate displays can't work properly on glossy (or at least that was one of the big issues a few years back, so maybe they've improved since then?), but when it comes down to it, the matte finish isn't offering an acurate image either. At least not to my eyes.

    Unfortunately, all the quality panels get paired with matte, so you're stuck with a not very good panel to get glossy or pony up to get a good quality one with matte.

    I'd like to see them use a glossy finish, but then apply a matte/anti-glare screen protector, this way if you want matte you can leave it on, but if you want glossy you can just peel it off. Or maybe offer where you can just swap the bezel.

    One last thing, when are we going to get an OS that will let us scale what's being displayed on the fly, sort of like how we can zoom in/out on browsers on smartphones, but this would work all over. I know we can adjust DPI settings and text size, but that often doesn't work perfectly, and you have to navigate settings menus. I'd be happy with even just being able to in a browser, as there's so many sites that have large amounts of empty space. Make it so that you can hold the left click button and then scroll which would zoom in and out?
  • Computer Scooter Joe - Saturday, April 24, 2010 - link

    It sounds like you are referring to a functionality that already exists. If you hold down Ctrl + Scroll the scroll wheel, the page will zoom in and out.
  • IceBreakerG - Saturday, April 24, 2010 - link

    Hey Anand, thanks for the update on the 15" MacBook Pro. I bought mine last week from Amazon for my birthday, and so far have been pretty happy with it. Doing a lot of experimenting and testing. This is my first "real" mac, my only other experience was with osx86, and that was a different experience. Either way, I decided to go with VMware Fusion 3 because Parallels Desktop 5 did not work for me with Windows 7 in Bootcamp (and I need to be able to boot to Windows 7 natively).

    Anyway, is there anyway you can say what type of hit I'd take on battery life running Windows 7 in VMware Fusion? I'm not sure if it triggers the dGPU or not, so I don't know if it's just more cycles or something else. I'm assuming I'll most definitely suffer "worse" battery life due to more resources being used, but I'm not sure how much worse. One of the reasons I got the laptop was to be able to run Office 2010 and Visual Studio 2010 in it, but battery life was very important too. Just curious to know if you've done any battery life tests with virtualization as well. Thanks.
  • dver - Saturday, April 24, 2010 - link

    The higher resolution is a welcome option, though I'd prefer a 1080 option. The smaller pixel size the better for me. Having now used the 27" iMac screen for a couple months I can honestly say i'll never use anything but glossy now. It's a true wonder to behold. For me there's no contest...matte screens look so terrible now, I can't stand em. I can't bring myself to go TN though, so I'll be waiting and hoping for an ips option in the future.

    Great review as always!

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