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The M1 MacBook’s battery life was so impressive that Apple thought the indicator was broken

Published Jul 11th, 2021 9:02AM EDT
M1 MacBook Battery Life
Image: Apple

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Apple confirmed to the world at WWDC 2020 what reports have been saying for a few years. The iPhone chip is getting so good that versions of it could power MacBooks. Apple said that it’d take about two years, but all its Macs will get custom Apple silicon. Then Apple unveiled the M1 System-on-Chip (SoC) last November and the first Macs to run it. The late 2020 MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini received rave reviews for the performance of the M1. Battery life was a big highlight for the laptops. A new report says that the M1 MacBook battery life was actually so impressive in initial tests that Apple engineers believed the battery indicator was broken.

The M1’s arrival didn’t go unnoticed. Intel started a massive anti-M1 MacBook campaign in early 2021. For months, Intel tried to bash Apple’s massive chip achievement. The M1 MacBooks offered improved performance and battery life over the Intel-based rivals. Intel’s ad blitz was largely unsuccessful and backfired on more than one occasion. It was clear to many that the M1 was a successful upgrade for Apple.

As for Intel, the company is well behind Apple and other ARM chip makers. Intel’s 10nm and 7nm chips faced delays, and the company will need more time to release a chip that can match the 5nm M1.

Internal M1 MacBook battery life tests surprised Apple

Apple talked to Tom’s Guide about the M-series SoC development, revealing a hilarious anecdote.

The M1 MacBook Pro’s battery life lasted for 16 hours and 25 minutes in Tom’s Guide web-surfing test compared to just 10:21 for the previous Intel-based model. The M1 MacBook’s endurance almost matches Apple’s 17-hour estimate.

“When we saw that first system, and then you sat there and played with it for a few hours and the battery didn’t move, we thought ‘Oh man, that’s a bug, the battery indicator is broken,’” Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of worldwide product marketing, said. “And then Tim [Milet]’s laughing in the background, ‘Nope, that’s the way it’s supposed to be,’ and it was pretty phenomenal.” Milet is Apple’s vice president of platform architecture.

The M-series future

The M1 powers three additional since November, the two 2021 iPad Pro models and the redesigned iMac. Apple will launch an improved M1 version later this year that might equip the 2021 MacBook Pro versions. Apple has mistakenly confirmed the M1X marketing name for the chip for the new Pro laptops. Whatever Apple calls it, the M1 successor should deliver great battery life, at least as good as the M1 MacBooks.

Will the next-gen M-series also improve one of the things that Intel criticized in its anti-M1 campaigns? That’s gaming, something the Macs aren’t known for.

“Of course, you can imagine the pride of some of the GPU folks and imagining, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if it hits a broader set of those really intense gamers,’” said Milet. “It’s a natural place for us to be looking, to be working closely with our Metal team and our Developer team. We love the challenge.”

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.