The Best Laptop Screen available on the market is on a MacBook Pro “Santa Rosa” (named that for their use of the Intel Core 2 Duo chips using the “Santa Rosa” line, i.e. 2.2Ghz and 2.4Ghz speeds). Alright, that’s a bit of a strong statement. The Best Brightness on a Laptop Screen… is found on a Macbook Pro 15.4″ Santa Rosa model. The 17″ MacBook Pro’s still do not feature the LED backlit screen.
UPDATE 080519: MacBook Pro LED color gamut review.
UPDATE: 1920×1200 LED backlit display MacBook Pro 17″ models are now available.
Why is the MacBook pro backlit LED laptop screen so good?
Instant Screen brightness control
Instant changes to the brightness of the screen, brighter or darker, which is perfect for those who use their laptop on batteries often and thus have a relatively short “sleep display” time. For example if you don’t do anything on your laptop for 1 minute, the screen will go black due to the lamp inside the screen turning off to save battery power. Inside old school LCD screens is a fluorescent tube which performs the lighting of the LCD transistors which are creating colored pixels. The problems or drawbacks with fluorescent backlit LCD screens is that the tubes need time to warm up before reaching their full stable luminosity or brightness. Thus, each time the lamp turns off and cools, and then is relit, there will be a period of time where the brightness of the screen is constantly growing as the tube reaches full temperature. LED’s, Light Emitting Diodes, don’t suffer from this problem and reach maximum stable brightness, instantaneously.
If Apple could fine tune their ambient light sensor control software to be more “fuzzy” and less “on/off”, the automatic screen brightness control would be useful. At the moment, the light meter is simply too jittery. Pass your hand over the sensor for an instant, and the screen’s brightness dims because it thinks the ambient lighting has changed. Quite simply, this is retarded. The lighting control software should be taking ambient light measurements and use a moving average as the target luminosity rather than try to adjust the screen brightness instantly with every flicker of light reaching the sensor. The human eye doesn’t adjust that quickly (think about waking up to someone slamming open the shutters or turning on the lights… ouch), so why try to make the MacBook Pro screen brightness change so quick?
LED backlighting uses less energy
The second reason LED backlit MacBook Pro screens are great: they use less energy. This is a simple fact of life (or physics I suppose) that LED’s use less energy than fluorescent tubes, to produce the same quantity of lumens or light power. Lower power consumption on a laptop is always a good thing since that is one a laptop’s main goals: to work on a limited power supply, for as long as possible.
Drawbacks of MacBook Pro 15.4″ LED backlit screens?
Weak Color Richness
The light produced from LEDs is “whiter” than that of fluorescent tubes. By “whiter”, I don’t mean it has less soul, but rather its higher in the color temperature scale, often measured in Kelvin. The effect is similar to that of Xenon lamps in car headlights. The inert gases used in Xenon lamps produce a light that is higher on the color temperature scale and have a bluish white cast. That bluish color is actually white, but we’re so used to old school incandescent lighting that we’re accustomed to a yellowy orange color in our light bulbs. Thus, on a MacBook Pro LED backlit LCD screen, the color appears more washed out and less rich than that of fluorescent backlit screens. For some, this will be a difficult thing to get over, especially art and design professionals for whom color is critical. For the average user, unless they are using a secondary display side by side with their MacBook Pro’s screen, they will not notice the difference. Until you have a point of reference, it is very difficult to tell that the color on a MacBook Pro is different at all. I happen to use a Samsung Syncmaster 206bw with my Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, thus, I can tell the difference in color richness, and it’s significant. Adjustments to the color on my LED backlit screen cannot bring more richness to the colors either. It’s simply a basic difference in lighting and no amount of adjustment to color balance can make LED light appear like fluorescent light.
Conclusion on LED vs. Fluorescent backlit LCD screens?
The constant instant brightness is noticeable every time I bring my screen out of sleep. The difference in color is only noticeable if I have the exact same window displayed on both of my screens simultaneously and I look back and forth between them. Thus, the good outweighs the bad, and you have to search for the bad in order to find it, whereas the benefits are always immediately visible.
I would choose the LED backlit screen again if I had to redo my order.