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A Giant Leap for Batteries…
Even though many of you would be familiar with what the Windows guys (and pretty much everyone else) calls the Apple hype machine, when Apple says that the new MacBook Pro batteries are a breakthrough in portable computer battery technology, you'd better believe them. They have the best thing going on when it comes to battery life as well as battery cycles. The old (pre-Unibody) MacBook Pros had batteries that were designed to hold their full capacity till 300 charge cycles while the new ones that have been installed in the Unibody MacBook Pros will hold their original battery charge for over a 1000 cycles. After all, this was somewhat of a necessity if Apple had to convince professional users to buy a portable computer with a 'sealed' battery which implies that users can't replace the computer's battery by themselves. If you'd like to read more about the revolutionary technology then you can head over here to Apple's official battery tech page.
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How to Increase Battery Life?
The question of increasing battery life and making sure that you can get the most battery life out of your 17 inch MacBook Pro is a staple of pretty much every Mac centered forum online. Add to that the fact that a replacement Apple MacBook battery costs about $150 makes optimizing the performance of your computer the responsible thing to do. The first thing that you should do is update all the software on your MacBook as well as use the Software Update application to make sure that you have applied all the necessary EFI/firmware updates and the like. Apple also has a couple of documents here and here that will help you get the most out of your system.
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Tune your Battery Life Settings!
Head over to the Energy Saver pane in the System Preferences application and click on the Battery tab to best optimize the setting as per your usage. The number one battery sucker when it comes to notebooks is the display and you should set it to turn off when the computer has been inactive for over a couple of minutes. After that, you should also set the display to dim when the power source is changed. You should also turn on the Auto-Adjust for the display brightness which will turn the brightness down a notch when the battery life is low using the notebook's built in ambient light sensor.
Once that is done, you need to set the hard disks to spin down when the computer is inactive for a couple of minutes. Don't worry about losing any data as the system will only power the hard drive down when the system is truly inactive. The "Put Hard Disks to Sleep When Able To" is your friend here.
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Turn the Dash Off!
You should close unused applications on your computer as well as turn off widgets that you don't use much as everything that is left open is a resource as well as a battery hog.