Battery Life on MacBook Air (2012) is Better Than Advertised

Jun 26, 2012 - 20 Comments

MacBook AIr 2012 Battery Life

Apple advertises the MacBook Air (mid-2012) battery as lasting “up to 7 hours”, but we’re pleased to report that Apple’s marketing is understating that number by as much as an hour and a half. In our (admittedly unscientific) tests based on real-world use case scenarios, the battery life on the new MacBook Air is simply phenomenal, and we were able to get 8:25 out of the 13″ model while doing tasks that could be considered typical of an average computer user. Here are various reported samplings from the 2012 MacBook Air 13″:

  • 8:25 – screen at 40% brightness, keyboard backlighting on 50% brightness, light web browsing with Safari (no Flash plug-in installed), and text-based work in TextWrangler and Pages
  • 6:45 – screen at 70% brightness, otherwise same as above
  • 5:33 – screen at 80% brightness, keyboard backlighting on full brightness, heavy app usage
  • 4:15 – screen at 100% brightness, keyboard backlighting on full brightness, heavy app usage with tons of apps open including Chrome (with Flash) open with about 25 browser tabs, image editing in Pixelmator, using 6GB of RAM, while driving an external 22″ display
  • 3:40 – screen at 80% brightness, reasonable app usage, heavy wi-fi usage downloading 16GB sustained at 1.2mb/sec

Having a computer last over 8 hours while actually doing work is simply phenomenal, if your daily activities are mostly web or text centric – be it research, writing, web browsing, or even development – you’d do quite well in the battery department with the 2012 MacBook Air models. There is no performance sacrifice either, these are still the fastest MacBook Air models ever made.

The lowest end number deserves some notice too however, and what seems to impact battery life the most is not the brightness of the screen, but rather sustained heavy wireless internet usage. Downloading a large file over wi-fi plunged the expected battery life dramatically, even with screen brightness reduced. This is something we weren’t able to replicate as dramatically on 2010 and 2011 models, but we have experienced it on two different new models (one base model, another upgraded with 8GB RAM). As far as we can tell the wi-fi hardware is the same as the 2011 models, so this is an interesting discrepancy that is not fully understood.

In all, battery life on the new MacBook Air is as good as it gets on an ultra-portable laptop and represents a nice improvement over the previous generations. If you’ve done any independent battery testing yourself, let us know how long your MacBook Air lasts in the comments.


Related articles:

Posted by: AJ in Hardware, Mac, News


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Brandon P says:

    I have gotten fairly good battery life out of my 2012 MBA, but I don’t think I’m seeing 7 hours. I have been intrigued in the last few days to learn that some seem to get improved battery performance in one browser over another. I live in Chrome, often with Google Drive open, and some have said that Chrome is more intense on the system.

    I have found a lot of this talk on the web before 2011, but I haven’t seen much on it over the last year. I’m curious to know if people do see much of a battery difference between the newest versions of Chrome and Safari.

  2. lawrence says:

    I also have the mid-2012 macbook air 13 but i only get about 4-5hours of battery life with 70% screen brightness, itunes and safari open.

  3. Kelvin says:

    I just got the 2012 MacBook Air 13″, and I have the screen at around 45% brightness.

    I am averaging about 6-7 hours, so I really can’t complain.
    I usually just have iTunes and Safari open, with about 2-3 tabs.

    Can’t really complain.

  4. shubenmer says:

    MacBook Air1.4. Brightness is about 79% keyboard backlight is on, wi-fi is on.
    Battery life is 1.5…2 hours.
    It is just impossible to work at all, I’m afraid that I should bring my Mac to service. Or maybe it will be better to get rid of it and buy ordinary PC/laptop :(

  5. kimberly says:

    not happy with the battery life of mac air 11 inch…..this is my second one since apple genius bar could not fix the battery issue of first one in July 11…so this new mac air 11 inch June 12 …is exactly the same…the my ipad battery life is sooo much better… i love apple computers…just disappointed in the battery life of this mac air 11 inch!!

  6. Ken says:

    +1 on awful battery life. I have a 1 month old 2012 11″ MBA and I’m thrilled if I can get 3 hours out of it. Running Mountain Lion (came with machine), 8GB RAM, and a OWC 480GB SSD.

  7. Ronna says:

    I can’t fathom where you people are getting this battery life from? I have the newest Macbook Air, and I am LUCKY to get 3 hours and I mean lucky! Do you people work for Apple?

  8. Asif says:

    I have the latest macbook retina pro 1gb memory. I have just installed 10.8.1 with the following result.

    * Test 1 (1hr 45mins)
    100% brightness, 100% keyboard illumination
    Running VirtualBox (a virtual desktop)
    Very heavy usage, downloading heavily where cpu is hitting 52% and fan is constantly on

    * Test 2 (5hrs 25mins)
    100% brightness, 100% keyboard illumination
    Surfing the web listening to music

    * Test 3 (8hrs 20mins)
    50% brightness, keyboard illumination off

  9. Paul says:

    I wish!! My MBA 2012 13″ gets 5-6 hours whilst surfing with low brightness and nothing running. All because I installed Mountain Lion. Lion was fine with 7-9 hours.

  10. Eric (skeptic) says:

    Get rid of flash or, better yet, use click-to-flash.

  11. LL says:

    I just bought the Macbook Air mid 2012 13″ 128GB version. It might say more than 8 hours on the icon but when you’re timing how long the battery will last, it only last for about 4-5 hours; that is just browsing the web and using word. It is still under performing… I am terribly disappointed… I am NOT getting 7-8 hours battery life AT ALL.

    • betttergetapc says:

      turn brightness down

    • Richard says:

      Me neither. Actual battery life for me is much less. Web browsing on firefox with the screen on 50% and nothing else open I get about 4 hours. I’ve checked activity monitor and nothing else is running besides Apple processes and these are not significant.

      Very disappointing, not sure if I have a bad battery or what. I am also still on Lion because I’m hearing many Mountain Lion users are seeing huge battery drain. This is a bummer to say the least.

  12. Andy says:

    I regularly get about 4-5 hours with heavy use, MacBook Air 2010

  13. Tom Hohmann says:

    Forgot to mention the MBPro is a 15.4″ – early 2011, OS X 10.7.4 and I turn off keyboard backlighting and reduce the screen to about 80%.

  14. Tom Hohmann says:

    I have a 2011 MBPro, found that when using battery I would get better life if I logged into a separate account than my normal one which has many login items and other things that I presume consume battery. On the separate account I will get 5-7 hours (never depleted it – but that’s the calculations in the menu bar), compared to my regular account which shows 3-4 hours expected. Both have wifi enabled, but mainly running browser and Word in the separate account.

    I miss having the ability to have a spare battery to slam in when getting low, but like the higher capacity of the internal battery.

  15. dd says:

    I average about 5 hours on my 2011 MBA

    • Patz says:

      Same here, but with my early 2009 13″ MBA (w internal SDD).Medium to heavy use. And this baby still roars. Apple most definitely rocks.

  16. Wen Scott says:

    This is annecdotal, but I got about 13 hours battery powered, on my MacBook (white, mid 2010), when it was new. Screen at 30% brightness, light browsing with either Safari or Chrome, or text editing/email with MS Office or Scrivener. At the time I believe it was advertised as maximum 7-8 hours, which was one of the major factors to choose that model.

    Now, I am still getting anywhere between 6-7 hours performance, as long as I remember to turn off background apps, especially cloud/social apps that are continually updating.

  17. Brett says:

    Excellent news for those of us looking to upgrade, battery means everything these days. You are also not alone in your findings, CNET discovered that they could play a video for 7 hours on the 2012 model, and LaptopMag found 8 hours with browsing the web. I was initially skeptical of those claims because big name publications often exaggerate numbers but it now appears everyone is experiencing the same 7-8 hour battery.

Leave a Reply


Shop on and help support OSXDaily!

Subscribe to OSXDaily

Subscribe to RSS Subscribe to Twitter Feed Follow on Facebook Subscribe to eMail Updates

Tips & Tricks


iPhone / iPad



Shop on Amazon to help support this site