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Eye strain from LED backlighting in MacBook Pro

435837 Views 1,987 Replies Latest reply: Apr 21, 2014 10:40 AM by GKphone RSS Branched to a new discussion.
  • Gurm42 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jun 7, 2012 6:16 AM (in response to sholto3)

    Here's my case:


    I was fine with the 2009-model (early 2010) Macbooks. Loved my Core2Duo MBP to death. This was OBVIOUSLY an LED screen. I could surf it for hours, play games, no problems.


    As soon as I went to a late-2010 model things got terrible. I perpetually thought the screen was blurry, but it turned out to just be my eyes hating it.


    Out of that late-2010 model line, SOME of the 17's were good. We got a bunch in for work and my wife got one as well. I can use my wife's, no problem. The ones from work, which I set up - some were good and some were bad. I don't know what the difference was between the good and bad ones, other users saw no difference but I saw a clear difference, some hurt my eyes and some did not with IDENTICAL SETTINGS.


    Now I have given up on Macbooks entirely - which makes me very sad. I use a Mac Mini with a decent monitor but even that makes my brain hurt after a while, even though a PC hooked up to the same monitor has no such problems. The monitor is LED - it's hard to find CCFL ones nowadays.


    I had similar problems with new PC laptops, I am currently using a Lenovo X220 with an LED screen, and I can use it for hours without issue. A newer X220 with SUPPOSEDLY the same screen makes my eyes hurt. Other new Lenovos with LED screens make my eyes hurt.


    It's VERY hit or miss, but it's EVERY Macbook now. The Air was LESS terrible than the others, because it uses a different screen.


    I know my iPad2 isn't a retina display - and it's fine. No problems. My iPhone 4s is ... ok, but if I play a game on it for an hour straight my eyes WILL hurt. I don't know in the case of the iPhone whether it's the display or the size and distance from my face, as it is really in the "should I take my glasses off for this or not" range so it's hard to tell.


    I haven't had a chance to play with an iPad3 yet. But I suspect it won't be pleasant.


    I don't know what is going on with these LED displays.


    I can use my monitor - an HP LED-backlit one - all day without trouble if I am running it from my PC. If I plug the Mac Mini into it, it quickly becomes intolerable.


    I am beginning to wonder if we aren't seeing a COMBINATION of causes - the LED technology PLUS what is driving it? Is there a 50hz/60hz issue happening? Is there some combination of how many hz the video card is pushing plus how bad the LED backlight is that causes the problems?


    Unclear. But very very frustrating.

  • sholto3 Calculating status...
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    Jun 7, 2012 7:09 AM (in response to Gurm42)

    thanks gurm42. very interesting and, as you say, very, very frustrating...the absolute killer is your evidence of different experiences from the same machines... looks like tracking down some old brick with ccfl is the only safe option...

  • MisterMojo Calculating status...
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    Jun 7, 2012 9:34 AM (in response to Gurm42)

    The LED problem is hit or miss...


    I cannot stand the 11" MBA display but my 13" MBP is OK these days. At first it gave me problems but not as bad as the MBA. Calibrating it using suggestions in this thread improved things a lot.  I added a Power Support anti-glare film to get rid of glare and reflections.


    As far as CCFL external displays go, NEC has 28 models starting at $300 MSRP.  I am using an NEC2490WUXi2 (discontinued earlier this year) that causes me zero problems.  It is built like a tank and comes with a four year warranty.

   This link hopefullly shows just the CCFL backlit displays. If not, use the links on the left side of the webpage to find CCFL displays.

  • surfingonsinewaves Calculating status...
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    Jun 7, 2012 9:45 AM (in response to MisterMojo)

    Just to thrown in here I followed mister mojos advice and got an amazing deal on an NECwuxi second hand. Beautiful monitor and no eyestrain. Still get it off my iPad and MacBook but just limit usage.. Thx and good luck to everyone.

  • CoreLinker Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jun 7, 2012 12:32 PM (in response to Gurm42)

    Wow Gurm42, just... WOW. I really don't know what to make of that. :\

  • MisterMojo Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jun 7, 2012 1:31 PM (in response to Gurm42)

    Gurm42 wrote:


    I can use my monitor - an HP LED-backlit one - all day without trouble if I am running it from my PC. If I plug the Mac Mini into it, it quickly becomes intolerable.




         Now THAT is very interesting! And the difference in how you experience different displays that have identical settings is also a perplexing piece of the puzzle...


         Gurm42's post may offer some clues to why LED display sensitivity varies from person to person and model to model/different samples of the same display model. (Like Gurm42, my early 2008 LED-backlit 15" MBP didn't cause me any problems.)


          I wish that I could think of someone that we could forward these details to who might have the technological background to put it all together.  TFT Central comes to mind; I wonder if someone following this thread can suggest someone else?

  • Eric Leung1 Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
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    Jun 8, 2012 8:16 PM (in response to MisterMojo)

    I could think of one possible reason why the HP LED monitor feels more comfortable when connected to the PC than the Mac.


    The way how PC (Windows) and Mac renders texts are different. Windows tends to renders the texts sharply but with rougher edges. Mac renders texts in a smoothed way, but that tends to make them feel a little bit blurred sometimes.


    The funny thing is, I found that OSX smooths the texts differently on different displays. While it could smooth the texts in a nice crisp way on an Apple display, it sometimes smooth the texts too much on other displays brand that made them hard to read! The effect will be more apparent if the screen has a lower dpi.


    The eyes may not feel the difference immediately, but may eventually tired out (and thus cause the discomfort) as they are trying hard to focus and read the blurred texts.


    Here's a link with instructions on how to change the font smoothing in OSX:

  • Pixel Eater Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Windows 8 takes font smoothing to a new level, it's really good. I always found Apple's sexy though.. in my mind it's the most sincere approach to typography. For what it's worth, Windows almost certainly didn't adjust ClearType differently for each monitor. No matter, text was definitly not central to the complications I ran into. Eye focus through a mirror finish and moreover some impossible to specify variance between LED lighting solutions are still main factors I'd have to implicate. I really do think if the Cinema Display was matte, the problem would persist. I did have a chance to use OS X through both, which didn't really change things.

  • rohanzsta Calculating status...
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    Jun 11, 2012 12:07 PM (in response to RMartin111)

    Apple just released an update stating that MacBook Pros will get the retina display: splay-macbook-air-also-updated-with-ivy-bridge/


    Thoughts on whether this will have a positive impact on our LED-problem?

  • LovesDogs0415 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jun 11, 2012 12:22 PM (in response to rohanzsta)

    I would love to hear what people think.  For my money, I think it will make it worse.  I think the latest iPod Touch has that and I couldn't use it for more than 10-15 minutes without problem.

  • Pixel Eater Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jun 11, 2012 12:58 PM (in response to rohanzsta)

    As far as I know the array required to penetrate the density of a retina display more than doubles the amount of LEDs, so I can only hypothesize with this comes more of whatever our eyes are incompatible with. The thought always crosses my mind about what's just on the other side of a screen really, and what it would be like to stare at it directly. We are looking at that, just filtered through a special panel. There is always the possibility that there are different qualities of LEDs and more than two ways of driving them and I would really like to believe the kind that have worked for me can find their way into other products. Naturally product development could see new solutions inbound. Maybe, even if it's just a consequence of some engineering requirement, some agreeable LEDs will find their way in. Speculation won't do much for us of course. Let's get around to seeing these.

  • Slunce Calculating status...
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    Jun 12, 2012 1:12 PM (in response to RMartin111)



    I have come across something I haven't considered before. Normally, there is no way of changing the refresh rate in Snow Leopard and I guess on later systems. Check out the below - I am not sure if it would help but I've just changed the refresh rate on my wife's macbook to 70hz and I am waiting to see if it has any impact. After staring at it for like an hour I suppose my eyes have had enough of LED for today but I thought I would post this for you guys to try out.



    Please post your experience back here so we can conclude if it has any effect at all!




  • Pixel Eater Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 12, 2012 2:26 PM (in response to Slunce)

    That would matter if we were dealing with CRTs. In that case the rate at which the light fires is altered resulting in an absolute change in what you'll be seeing, comfort and all that. Worth noting, many CRTs can be pushed, but it can quickly become detrimental to their electronics, picture and lifespan. A few, like the Sony FW900 manage a true, but unadvertised 100Hz at decent (not 100% optimal) resolutions. With liquid crystal displays you're not changing anything to do with the LED backlights, you're simply changing how rapidly the liquid crystal through which it shines is updated. 70Hz probably isn't supported or possible. Sure you put in the number, but unless the capability is there (it often isn't) nothing has changed. This would have virtually no benefits, even if it did work. The only interesting rate is 120Hz, but that's only because it's divisible by 24, which is desirable for witnessing true movie framrates (again, with no likely health benefits). That would require a display which boasts this feature.

  • Slunce Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jun 12, 2012 2:42 PM (in response to Pixel Eater)

    I suppose what you say makes sense. I probably have got carried too far. So far however I have percieved the display a bit less irritating, but I have my doubts it's been more of a wish than reality. As we've got nothing to loose I wouldn't hesitate to experiment. The software seems to measure and report the refresh rate (if that's at all possible) and mine now says 69.something instead of 61.



  • Skribilo22 Calculating status...
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    Jun 13, 2012 8:42 PM (in response to RMartin111)

    I am intrigued to see whether this new retina display Macbook Pro will be better or worse (or the same).  It certainly looks like a beautiful machine, but I'm actually afraid that it will be more uncomfortable to look at.  I'm planning on going to my nearby Apple store later in the week to check it out.  If anyone else gets a chance to take a look at the new Pros could you please post in here and tell us if the retina display seems better? I'm planning on ordering a new Pro sometime this month, and at this point I figure that I'll just get an external monitor.  It would be interesting to know what percentage of Mac users get headaches and eyestrain from the LED Macbooks.  I guess it really doesn't bother some people.

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