Macbook Air with Scrivener - Battery Life?

Hi all,

I hope this is the right subforum for my question: I’ve been an enthusiastic user of Scrivener for academic writing for a few years. I’m currently using it on a 2009 15 inch MBP which is starting to show its age, and thinking about replacing it with something more portable. From autumn, I’ll probably be having two six-hour trips on a train every week for at least a year, and I want to be able to use that time productively. Battery life is a key issue for that reason, along with weight and size.

I’m really torn between the 11 inch and the 13 inch MBA. I love the lightness of the 11 and am specifically eyeing the MBA 11 with 2,2GHz, 8GB RAM and 256 GB SSD. I’d pretty much made up my mind that 9 hours battery life on the 11 should be enough, but have now read some reports where people reported only 4-5 hours with ‘heavy use’ - and they didn’t mean games but writing and such, though not Scrivener specifically. So I’m wondering whether to go with the 13 after all, primarily for the battery life.

If the 11 only provided 4-5 hours with me using Scrivener and perhaps editing some notes in Evernote or commenting on the occasional student paper in Word, I’d be very disappointed, so I’d be really grateful for some input on battery life from people who use the 11 or the 13 with Scrivener. How many hours of battery life do you get while mainly running Scrivener on either model? And are you on Yosemite and how does that compare to Mavericks in terms of battery life? On my MBP, I’ve stayed on Mavericks, so have no experience of Yosemite yet.

I’m not considering the 12 inch Macbook (shorter battery life and too low-powered) and I think in terms of screen size I’d be ok with the 11, but if you think the faster SSD drives or the SD card slot on the 13 might make more of a difference in practice than I think, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


I have a MBP 11" Retina since 2013, running Yosemite, i.e. not an Air, but I thought I would give a comment anyhow.
To me it appears that the real battery killer is the screen. If you have the screen on full brightness you run out of battery power in 4-5 hours, but if you turn down the brightness of the screen you can prolong the battery life several hours. You gain extra time also by exiting software you’re not using. If you open the app Activity control you can see what apps that are using up your battery.

SSD disks? Yes!! It makes everything faster, quieter, better.

The SD card slot? Yes! To be honest, I didn’t think much about it until recently. I alternate between my iPhone and a Canon camera when taking photos, and used to transfer the pics via cable (yes, I know, old fashion…). Then I realized that my MBP had a SD card slot. So now, to get access to my Canon pics I simply take the SD card from the camera, plug it in the SD card slot in my MBP, Photos starts and tells me what pics on the card I haven’t imported earlier, and ask me if I want to import them now. I click ‘yes’ and the transfer from SD to SSD is … fast, to say the least.

And talkning about the screen… The MBP has a retina screen, the MBA doesn’t, and to me that is a deal breaker. The retina screen is kind to your eyes, which is important if you will be working 5-6 hours on a train.

The Air is nice, light, and beautiful, but for serious work I prefer the Macbook Pro 13" with retina screen.

Thanks for sharing your experience with the MBP. It’s reassuring to hear battery life on the MBP has improved, I’ve never been happy with mine (late 2009) on that score, never got more than 3 1/2 to 4 hours out of it, even though Apple advertised 7 at the time. I have to say that for me that meant that though I had a near-maxed-out MBP which cost something aroung GBP 2500 at the time, with great performance I’d use only very occasionally for gaming, I was actually never really happy with the machine because the battery life was really frustrating. For the moment, therefore, I’ve ruled out getting anothe MBP. What you say about the screen matches the experience I’ve been having on my ipad mini. I’m still worried about those 4-5 hour reports, though, as the MBA would just not be right for what I need right now unless battery life is somewhere around the 9 hours advertised by Apple with Scrivener running.

On the mini, by the way, I still get about ten hours battery after more than two years of daily use, which is why I’m not even thinking about upgrading to Retina there. :smiley: The only device I have retina on is my iphone. I read on the ipad mini without retina for hours at a time, it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t think I’ll miss retina on the MBA.

Both the models I’m interested in have SSD, but the SSD on the 13 is apparently connected to the motherboard in a different way, which means that connection should be twice as fast as on the 11. Seeing that the connection is very fast on an 11 already in the 2014 and 2015 versions, by all accounts, I’m just not sure whether the even higher speed of the 13 makes any difference in practical use.

I don’t really do much with photos, but one thing that I find interesting about the SD slot on the 13 is the possibility to add storage. I’m thinking about the 256 GB SSD with a bit of trepidation given that I’ve upgraded the MBP to 1TB. But upgrading the SSD beyond 256 is just too expensive for what it is. So I’d find the possibility of using SD for storage reassuring. Then again, maybe I won’t miss the space at all, a lot of the stuff on the MBP is not essential.

So if I’m likely to really get something near 9 hours out of the MBA 11 with Scrivener, I’m almost certain I’d go for that. If it’s significantly less, I’d go for the MBA 13 in the hope that I’d get something like 9 hours out of that with my usage scenario.

Anyone who can confirm battery life with Scrivener?

I recently replaced my 2007-era 15-inch Macbook Pro (2 hours’ battery life on a good day) with a new 13-inch MB Pro, 8gb ram and 256gb SSD, and am getting maybe 10 hours on battery with Scrivener running, along with Apple Notes, Mail, and Safari. I do keep the Retina screen turned fairly low, but otherwise I’m not performing any radical battery-saving tactics.

I looked at the 13-inch Air (my wife has one), but the Retina screen made a huge difference to my aging eyes, and after upgrading to 8gb ram the Air wasn’t significantly cheaper than the pro. It’s a little heavier, but I don’t really notice it: maybe a ham-sandwich’s-difference in weight.

With Scrivener, the processor is just loafing along, and I no longer depend on it, as I did the 2007-era MB Pro, as a source of auxiliary heat in a cold room.

In addition to screen brightness, heavy wi-fi use will kill a battery fast. If you’re mostly writing, but streaming music in the background, that sucking sound you hear will be your battery life spiraling down the drain. And that’s the sort of thing people don’t think of when describing their usage.

Scrivener itself should be pretty power efficient: editing text is ridiculously easy relative to current CPUs.

I’ve been very happy with the 13" MBA, but I rarely need to run on battery for more than a couple of hours at a time. That hardly makes a dent – I can go several days without bothering to charge it – but I have no idea what kind of life I’d get with continuous use.


I have used both the 11 and 13 Air. I had the 11 used intensively for a year when I was traveling a lot. Scrivener did not drain much battery life.

I love both my 11 and 13. For text only stuff I could use the 11 all the time. That said, screen real estate is a real issue on the 11 for some folks. I’ve heard of people doing a lot of translation, e.g., and the smaller screen size of the 11 would make doing split screens challenging if done during most of the time you are in Scrivener. If you are splitting screens occasionally then the 11 should be no problem.

When I get a new computer I have to confess that I’ll probably get the 13 retina Pro. The beauty of the screen, plus I am getting older, is a great combo. But that may not be the biggest priority for you.

If you want to chose between an 11 and a 13, I don’t think Scrivener should be part of the decision-making equation. Battery life is great on both with newer models. But there are other factors that may lean you towards an 11 or a 12.

I’ve been using this 13" MBA since the end of 2010. When I first got it, I was doing 4 hours of lectures using it driving an overhead projector with an iPod touch connected by WiFi to control Keynote, followed by 7 hours of Scrivener editing, with occasional access to the Web (through OmniWeb), and would still have an hour or so’s capacity left in the battery. I had the screen turned down by about 1/3.

I generally close apps I’m not using; I don’t use Safari, which I suspect is a power-hog.

That said, I don’t know how the newer ones would stand up. I have Yosemite now, and this one with its 2MB RAM, 1.86 Core 2 Duo processor, and pretty basic graphics, and obviously newer hardware would run better, not that I have real problems. And when it comes to the screen, I’ve only had Retina on my iPhone and iPad, and I’m used to this … I haven’t been “spoiled” :wink: and am perfectly happy with it at native resolution and 100% magnification.

I also find that the tapering shape of the MBA makes it much more comfortable to type on than the rectangular format of my MBP.

I sometimes look at the 11" and think how great it would be for portability, but actually, I think the screen real-estate on this is better. But that will depend how you use Scrivener.

HTH :slight_smile:

Mr X

My issue with the 11 for your scenario is that it would be fine at first, but as the battery aged over the next couple of years, you’d be cutting it pretty close. That’s why I went with a 13" air: battery life. The new ones should last you the entire 12 hours for the first year, then slowly decrease usable battery life until the battery wears out, about 3-4 years after you started using the machine regularly.

The biggest impact that scrivener has on battery life is the constant file saving, but with SSDs, that impact is negligible.

Thank you all for your experiences and advice. I did finally get an 11 inch Macbook Air, as it sounds like the bad battery life of my last MBP from day one really was just a one-off - you seem to get more or less the battery life apple promises, and Scrivener doesn’t seem to be a big impact on battery life.

So far, I’ve been testing the MBA at home, as my commute doesn’t start till autumn, and I’m happy with it, including the battery life. I get 9-10 hours with my typical usage, which consists of writing in Scrivener and Evernote and doing research in Safari (though depending which sites I’m on, Safari is a power hog). What really is a power hog is Zotero syncing attachments with Box via WebDav, but I won’t be doing that on the train, so it isn’t an issue.

The MBA seems to be the ideal computer for what I want it to do for now. While it’s true the battery may lose performance in a couple of years, I have no idea what I’ll be doing then, I won’t be doing that particular commute at any rate, as that contract will only be for a year or so, so I decided the MBA 11 fitting well on the tray table of the train during the next year, when I know I’ll need that, was more important than any possible issues with the battery a couple of years down the line. Plus, if I’m otherwise still happy with the machine, I might just get Apple to replace the battery when it starts to flag; I was more concerned with battery runtime being as good as advertised in the first place than with battery lifetime (well, within reason - I’d like it to be ok for eighteen months from now).

I’m actually fine with using the MBA 11 screen; I’ve set up Scrivener with a vertical split and set the binder to auto-hide; both editor panes are set to 150% zoom. With these settings, I feel no need for a bigger screen. The only ergonomics issue I’m finding is that for some reason, the trackpad seems to strain my wrist more than that on my old 15 inch MBP - perhaps it’s a bit smaller and so I twist my wrist more centring my hand over it? Or maybe I’m resting my wrist on the edge of the lower case rather than on the flat bit because of the different proportions of the machine… Not sure. I’ve just ordered myself an ergonomic mouse for my desk at home, and if that works well, I’ll get another one for my office in autumn, which would mean the train would really be the only place I need to actually use the trackpad; that shouldn’t be too bad.

Seeing that my MBP really was quite heavy, I love the feeling of finally being able to take Scrivener to the cafe or to the park with me :smiley:

Congratulations on finally getting a new computer! I hope it serves you very well. It is a tricky decision, but it seems you made a very good choice based on all your key considerations. Live long and write!

Congrats on getting a MBA. I was just going to suggest getting the FruitJuce app from the AppStore. It helps you maintain your battery at optimum performance.

the Battery Health app costs less (nothing) and gives you the same information.