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Consumer Reports’ MacBook Pro battery life test was flawed, and Apple figured out why

Apple’s newly released MacBook Pro made headlines last month for all the wrong reasons. For the first time in history, Consumer Reports did not give Apple’s latest and greatest notebook a ‘buy’ recommendation after encountering bizarrely inconsistent battery life during testing.

While testing the 13-inch MacBook Pro for example (the non-TouchBar model), Consumer Reports found that battery life fluctuated between 4.5 hours on the low-end and 19.5 hours on the high-end. Clearly, something was amiss.

Shortly thereafter, Apple said that it was working closely with Consumer Reports in an effort to figure out why CR’s battery testing results didn’t correspond to Apple’s own internal tests.

After looking into the matter, Apple earlier today relayed that it has finally identified the root of the problem. As it turns out, Consumer Reports conducted their MacBook Pro testing with a “hidden Safari setting turned on” which served to turn off Safari’s cache.

Apple’s statement on the matter, via Consumer Reports, reads:

We appreciate the opportunity to work with Consumer Reports over the holidays to understand their battery test results. We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. 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.

Why Consumer Reports opted to test Apple’s new MacBook Pros with the aforementioned setting switched on remains a point of interest, though the cynics among us might posit that CR never misses an opportunity to generate a controversial headline.

For what it’s worth, CR had this to say about its testing procedures:

We also turn off the local caching of web pages. In our tests, we want the computer to load each web page as if it were new content from the internet, rather than resurrecting the data from its local drive. This allows us to collect consistent results across the testing of many laptops, and it also puts batteries through a tougher workout.

In any event, Apple has issued a software fix via its Beta Software Program that should help any affected MacBook Pros deliver more consistent battery life.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.