Why the new MacBook Pro’s screen is killing your TV


The new MacBook Pro was “unleashed” at Apple’s Mac event in October with the company’s predictable pageantry. And it does indeed appear to be a wonderful machine. But again, I’m particularly struck by the advance of Apple’s screens. By the numbers, the new MacBook Pro has a better display than most TVs produced today. Of course, it’s much smaller. But is it still important?

Here’s why the new MacBook Pro will soon be delivering better picture quality in coffee shops than most living room TVs.

Mini-LED backlight technology

The muscle behind the new MacBook Pro’s display is its mini-LED backlight technology. While this technology has been at work in some high-end TVs for a few years now, it has posed a few challenges – challenges that the MacBook Pro seems uniquely positioned to conquer in ways that TVs simply can’t. – at least not yet.

TCL introduced the first mini-LED backlit TV in 2019. Since then, other manufacturers like LG and Samsung have embraced the technology. The mini-LED’s promise is more precise backlighting, with many more control areas, better black levels, higher peak brightness for HDR highlights, and less blooming around bright objects against a dark background. Simply put: a brighter, richer, and brighter image.

Unfortunately, while reviewing dozens of TVs over the past two years, I’ve noticed that mini-LED backlighting on TVs seems to require more processing power than TVs have. There may be thousands of tiny LED lights and hundreds of control zones available, but pulling off this elaborate light show requires extreme power – TVs lack power, but the MacBook Pro seems to have a dime a dozen.

The 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro also has the benefit of being smaller, which means it has to deal with fewer mini LEDs and fewer dimming areas than a 55- or 65-inch TV, for example.

To achieve the precision offered by mini-LED backlighting and realize its net benefits, a powerful processor is needed to make lightning-fast decisions and execute them just as quickly. The MacBook Pro can do this. All that remains to be seen now is whether the MacBook Pro does – and I’d be shocked if it didn’t.

Come to think of it, I’m starting to wish these “TV made by Apple” rumors would come back.

More from the Apple event

Brightness for work, brightness for gaming

During its presentation, Apple said its new MacBook Pro displays are capable of sustained brightness of up to 1,000 nits and peak brightness of 1,600 nits. If you’re not familiar with nits as a measure of brightness, these are pretty impressive numbers. For context, only the more expensive mini-LED TVs from Samsung, TCL, and Vizio are capable of achieving similar measurements, and you have to pay dearly for that capacity – typically north of $ 2,000 depending on the size of the. screen.

Lifestyle image of a person using the new 2021 Macbook Pro.

The MacBook Pro may have a much smaller screen size, but that smaller screen will look better than its 65-inch and larger mini-LED backlit TV counterparts. Plus, at about the same price, it’s a full-fledged computer, not just a TV. Add to the fact that the percentage of content consumed on smaller screens only increases year over year, and the display performance of the new MacBook Pro looks even more impressive and engaging.

The MacBook Pro will be used in all kinds of environments, so it needs to be bright enough to be seen outdoors on a sunny day for convenience. But for sheer fun, 1600 nits will be enough peak brightness to make HDR content pop off the screen, ensuring everything from YouTube videos to Netflix and HBO Max will look stellar.

Smooth move, Apple

While contrast is the visual element most easily recognizable to the human eye, I’d bet movement isn’t far behind. When fast moving camera pans get blurry for sports, people tend to notice it. But for sports and all other fast-paced types of content, I think the MacBook Pro will look exceptional – probably way better than what we see on most TVs.

Again, treatment is the key. Since Apple’s processors are so powerful, they are able to render motion as precisely, if not more, than any other screen, TV, or whatever. The focus on adaptive refresh rate is an important clue to this end.

Color accuracy

I’ve always found it odd that color accuracy relies on a relatively low rung of the scale of importance to consumers when it comes to televisions. Instead, it looks like people just want the color to be exciting. In many cases, I’ve heard that consumers want “better than real life” colors.

I understand. Better than real life is more exciting than real life, and who doesn’t want to be turned on by their TV? But I think it’s possible to have both precision and enthusiasm when it comes to color, and that’s one area I think the new MacBook Pro is likely to excel at.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple cannot sell any computer display that does not offer a high level of precision. When building a tool of the trade – in this case the craft of visual designers – color accuracy is a primary concern. There are standards and the MacBook Pro must meet or exceed them. Precise coverage of the Adobe RGB color space is now a must. Today’s professional grade displays must be able to meet the stringent requirements of DCI P-3 and / or ITU-T Rec. Color space 2020 – aspirations that high-end TVs aim to achieve.

Again, Apple’s processing power and manufacturing tolerances should make the MacBook Pro capable of delivering both color accuracy and color excitement, coming full circle on a bunch of quality elements. image by which televisions are judged.

But it’s too small!

I’m not here to suggest to anyone to swap or replace their living room’s 55-inch or larger TV with a 14.2 or 16.2-inch screen. Frame size is indeed an important part of the immersion – there’s a reason going to a commercial theater can always be more fun than watching a movie at home, even if that home has a 100 inch projection screen.

Still, in numbers, the MacBook Pro easily outperforms most TVs in several key areas of picture quality. It’s impossible not to take a moment to marvel at how far laptops have come in recent years.

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