MacBook Pro 15 Display

I wrote out a few comments about the MacBook Pro display in my initial post, but I wanted to go into just little bit more detail and add a few updates. Before getting the MacBook Pro, I was using an early 2005 15" PowerBook G4. The MacBook Pro display is probably closer to that of the late 2005 PowerBook, but I haven't compared specs.


The MacBook Pro display is almost blindingly bright. Sitting inside a moderately-lighted room, I need to turn the brightness down three or four notches from the maximum to make it comfortable to look at.

This may seem like simple overkill on the surface, but the PowerBook display is actually difficult to see in daylight. I've heard one report that says this isn't the case with the MacBook Pro, which would justify the fact that it can be seen from space.

This brightness also comes in handy when looking at something other than black text on a white background, such as DVDs or QuickTime content. Movie trailers look absolutely stunning, for example.

Uniformity and Angle

Extreme brightness seems to come at the cost of uniformity in this case. To me, the MacBook Pro display seems darker at the top and sides than in the middle and bottom. I'm not alone in noticing this (page 1 and page 2), but I don't exactly seem to be in the majority. It also seems that the viewing angle isn't as broad as the PowerBook I own.

Neither of these attributes are unique to Apple's laptops. I had similar issues with a number of ViewSonic displays I evaluated last year. The support staff at ViewSonic really had no idea what I was talking about, which suggests that maybe I'm just really picky about this stuff.

"As Bright As" != The Same

To do a real-world test, I went in to the Apple Store to compare the MacBooks to the newest PowerBooks as well as the desktop Cinema Displays. The 17" PowerBook was less balanced than the 15" MacBook Pro, which I suspect has something to do with the basic size of the thing.

I also confirmed that the Cinema Displays and even the iMac displays are not just bright, but have excellent viewing angles and uniform distribution. So while the MacBook Pro display might be "as bright" as a Cinema Display on paper, there's just no replacement for the real deal.

Bottom Line

The difference in display technology was jarring at first, but after looking at the screen for a day, it's actually nice. I didn't realize how dark the PowerBook display was. While not perfect, it's a fantastic overall.

I stronly recommend calibrating the display using SuperCal, though. The default color profile is washed out and too reddish. Apple's built-in calibrator can leave you with a better profile, but SuperCal seems to produce the best results. Most importantly, it allows to to refine an existing profile instead of starting from scratch each time.
Design Element
MacBook Pro 15 Display
Posted Mar 25, 2006 — 6 comments below


Daniel Ekelund — Mar 25, 06 978

"To me, the MacBook Pro display seems darker at the top and sides than in the middle and bottom."

Can it be that the Apple logo takes in the light from the backside?

Wolfgang Ante — Mar 25, 06 979

It is incredible bright, yes! One thing I noticed is that it is less bright when running on battery.

It is still very bright running on battery, but not as "ah-this-is-blinding-me" bright. :-)

I had a 1GHz 12 inch PB before. The displays are 1000:1! I am very happy with this (an the rest of the MacBook Pro).

Andy Lee — Mar 25, 06 980


It may be that when you switch to battery power your Energy Saver settings are lowering the brightness for you. That's what happens on my PowerBook, anyway. I actually manually lower the brightness even more when I'm on battery, because that adds significantly to battery life.

Scott Stevenson — Mar 25, 06 981 Scotty the Leopard

Can it be that the Apple logo takes in the light from the backside?

Points for thinking out of the box, but no, it's definitely an attribute of the display itself. The effect is subtle. Most people don't seem to notice it.

Zac White — Mar 26, 06 983

Thanks for mentioning SuperCal. I had never heard of it and just tried it out. The colors are much better on my PowerBook hi-res 15". When I switch back to the old calibration, everything is so yellowed. Thanks!

Gustavo — Apr 11, 06 1098

Can you upload your calibrated profile somewhere? Im having lots of trouble calibrating my MBPro. The reddish color of the default calibration is awful!


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