M3 MacBook Pro battery life: What to expect

Apple on Monday is expected to unveil the M3 Pro and M3 Max versions of the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops, refreshing the high-end Macs for the second time in less than a year. A report from Bloomberg said that the MacBook Pros with M3 Pro and M3 Max chips are actually arriving on time, whereas their predecessors took longer than expected to ship.

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The same report details some of the M3 Pro/Max MacBook Pro configurations that Apple will offer. It also teased big performance gains for the M3 chips, as well as the efficiency improvements that come from Apple switching to the 3nm process for the Mac. The move to 3nm is a first for the laptop industry, and it’s exciting news considering the iPhone 15 Pro performance we saw from the A17 Pro earlier this year.

Separately, a regulatory filing found that Apple suppliers will use the same capacity batteries inside the late 2023 MacBook Pro as they used in Apple’s early 2023 refresh. This would indicate that battery life won’t improve significantly. But I personally hope the new MacBook Pros will deliver better battery life in real-life usage.

Battery life on the M2 MacBooks

Pick a MacBook that Apple sells right now, and you’ll usually get a battery life quote of 18 hours (M2 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air, M1 MacBook Air, and M2 Pro/Max 14-inch MacBook Pro). It goes up to 20 hours for the M2 MacBook Pro 13-inch and 22 hours for the M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pro 16-inch.

Real-life battery life will vary, however. Those looking for better performance might routinely push the Pros, so the battery life will drop in real-life use.

A LaptopMag comparison showed the M2 MacBook Pro lasting for 18 hours, the unexpected winner of the bunch. The 14-inch MacBook Pro and the M2 MacBook Air lasted between nearly 13 hours to almost 15 hours.

Separately, Tom’s Guide included the M2 15-inch MacBook Air and M2 16-inch MacBook Pro in a similar comparison. The larger Air lasted 15 hours, while the 16-inch Pro model stayed on for nearly 19 hours.

The point here is that the larger the MacBook, the better the battery life. Also, the more powerful the chip, the more energy it will consume.

What the iPhone 15 Pro tells us

Ahead of the iPhone 15 launch, I expected battery life to increase on the iPhone 15 Pro models. Yet Apple offered the same battery life estimates as last year’s iPhones. That’s despite the A17 Pro being a 3nm chip and, therefore, more efficient than its predecessor. Not only that, but the Pros are slightly thicker, so they can accommodate a larger battery, at least in theory.

Real-life battery tests showed the iPhone 15 Plus, with a larger battery but an older chip, outlasted the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

2023 MacBook Pro Keyboard2023 MacBook Pro keyboard. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The same MacBook Pro design, with one possible change

The M3 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros will have the same designs as its predecessors. Therefore, I wouldn’t expect Apple to make any internal changes. MacRumors’ finding that the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros will feature the same-capacity batteries as their predecessors is a hint of that.

But rumors say the new MacBook Pros might feature another component that helps Apple improve efficiency. The new miniLED screens will reportedly boost brightness by 10% compared to their predecessors. But they might be more efficient. In turn, this could improve battery life in real-life situations.

What I want from the M3 MacBooks

I’ve long decided the 15-inch MacBook Air would be my next Mac, and I almost made the switch a few days ago. I think this might be the perfect solution for my needs. I’m not just looking at battery life, though that’s a big factor. The overall footprint (size and weight), as well as the screen real estate, are also key factors.

But then Apple derailed my plans with the Scary Fast announcement. I have to see what the M3 chips can do before I buy, especially if amazing gaming is coming to the MacBook.

I will say that improved battery life on the 14-inch MacBook Pro could be a factor that makes me reconsider getting a Pro instead of the Air. Truthfully, given everything that has leaked and what we know from the iPhone, I’d be surprised if Apple increases battery life estimates on the M3 Macbook Pros. I’d love better battery life quotes to happen. That would mean real-life battery life would go up significantly.

What’s more likely to happen is for real-life battery tests to improve for the M3 chips compared to their predecessors. But Apple could maintain its 18-hour and 22-hour estimates for the new MacBook Pros. The estimates would make sense for devices that should also feature significant performance improvements over their predecessors.


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