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The Case for Low Power Mode on MacBooks

Marco Arment has revisited MacBook Pro battery life tests that he first ran in 2015 to see how his new 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.7 GHz i7 processor and his 2015 2.2 GHz 15-inch MacBook Pro would fare under similar conditions. In 2015, Arment used an app called Turbo Boost Switcher to disable Turbo Boost on his laptop. This time around, he replicated disabling Turbo Boost on his 2015 MacBook, but on his 2018 model, he also limited the laptop’s power consumption using Volta.

Based on the results Arment concludes that:

the gain in battery life is about as large as the loss in heavy-workload performance. That’s a trade-off I’d gladly make when I need to maximize runtime.

The best bang-for-the-buck option is still to just disable Turbo Boost. Single-threaded performance hurts more than with wattage-limiting, but it’s able to maintain better multi-threaded performance and more consistent thermals, and gets a larger battery gain relative to its performance loss.

Running an app like Turbo Boost Switcher is worth considering when you have work to get done because it can mean the difference between your MacBook’s battery making it through a long flight or not. However, I’m with Arment – I’d prefer to run an iOS-like Low Power Mode for Macs that is implemented at the OS level and makes intelligent choices about what activities to stop or slow down. To get an idea of the sorts of things that might be throttled in a macOS Low Power Mode, check out the long list compiled by Arment.