15" Unibody MBP - Eyestrain - seeking advice

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by vocalcity, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. vocalcity macrumors newbie

    Nov 13, 2008
    Hi everyone,

    I purchased a Macbook Pro 15" Unibody in December of last year, and I wish I could say the experience had been pleasant. Unfortunately, I've had and am still having problems with the screen.

    When using my Macbook Pro, I noticed that my eyes become irritated within a short amount of time. I'm not sure what it is about the screen that's resulting in this, but it makes using the computer for more than a few minutes at a time unpleasant. This effect seems to be more pronounced at lower brightness settings, which makes me wonder if it's something to do with way the LED backlit display is dimmed.

    It is fair to say the effect on my eyes is similar to when I used to use a CRT at a very low refresh rate. It feels like I've been staring at a screen for far longer than I actually have.

    I have a feeling there's something wrong with the screen but it's not something I can point out or demonstrate to others (no overtly obvious flicker or other problems). Looking closely at the screen I observe some slight flicker but it doesn't stand out.

    I don't have vision problems with the other three other screens I spend most of my day on.

    So, wise MacRumors readers, I'd really like to hear any suggestions and especially from those who have had similar experiences and have perhaps been to see Apple. Could this be the flickering problem I've read about?

    Unfortunately, one additional hurdle here in New Zealand is that we don't have Apple stores and I'm not sure how easy it's going to be for me to get this replaced if that's what's needed, since this isn't something I can demonstrate (although the same laptop has the 9c85 panel, which also shows pretty bad spotlighting).

    As you can imagine, I'm feeling somewhat upset by these issues and not feeling so happy to have switched to a Mac.

    Any advice/comments/suggestions are much appreciated.
  2. benlee macrumors 65816


    Mar 4, 2007
    Have someone else use the computer and see if the same happens to them.

    If you are not happy with the computer and you think something is wrong with it then connect with Apple somehow.

    It is unfortunate that you don't have an Apple Store near you. My local store is excellent. I have had nothing but excellent customer service. Even if you can't replicate the problem, just discuss the problem with them.

    However, I have had equally superb service with AppleCare on the phone. If they don't get it right, call customer relations.

    Good luck.
  3. semitry macrumors member

    Sep 25, 2008
    I had that issue too. With me it's because the brightness level needs to be set really high to overcome reflection. Switched the glossy out with a matte screen and I'm good now.
  4. iSimx macrumors 6502


    Sep 26, 2007
    I remember having eye strain using my iMac and I found it was the brightness. Now, I turn it down to around a 1/4 full, which may seem dark but you get used to it and now I can use the screen for much longer periods. Plus, saves electricity, which is a good thing. ;)
  5. DHagan4755 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    I wonder if + when Apple will offer its own matte version for the MacBook and 15-inch MacBook Pro?
  6. semitry macrumors member

    Sep 25, 2008
    The lowest setting on my 24 imac is still too bright, and i have to use shade to lower it even more.
  7. winninganthem macrumors 6502a


    Jun 10, 2008
    Are you a long time Mac user? If you are a recent switcher, I think I know the cause for your strain.

    Windows and OSX use different ways to render fonts. I first noticed this when I used my school's iMac for occasional work. Back then, I used only Windows PCs most of the time and found myself unable to work for extended periods of time on those Macs because my eyes hurt. I noticed that for some reason or other, the text seemed a bit 'different', but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Heh.

    If this is the cause for your strain, don't worry, it goes away with time, and you will become used to OSX's font rendering.

    Here is another article for extended reading if you feel like it. http://damieng.com/blog/2007/06/13/font-rendering-philosophies-of-windows-and-mac-os-x
  8. jjahshik32 macrumors 603

    Sep 4, 2006
    I think a "matte" screen is in order for you and maybe think about switching to the 17" unibody?
  9. MVApple macrumors 6502a

    Jul 18, 2008
    I'm a recent mac convert and I've found the font rendering to be difficult to adjust to as well. 3+ months later and I'm still not fully adjusted. I can go for a few hours before my eyes get tired but on my pc I could go for what seemed like forever without any eyestrain.



    If it's possible, use bootcamp on your mac. If the eyestrain doesn't happen under bootcamp then you know it's not the screen, but the way mac's render text.
  10. S-Man macrumors regular


    Feb 1, 2009
    After working all day on my new Macbook Pro (I, too am a convert, this being my first mac) my eyes felt like they had been punched and p0wn3d...
    I attributed this to the high-resolution of the screen. This renders the words very small. I'm using an external keyboard and pen tablet too, so I sit kind of far away from my screen. My eyes were so tired after that day.
    I'm assuming I was trying too hard to read the small words.

    What I did was on websites, I zoomed in on them using my Wacom pen tablet.
    It helped tremendously...
    Otherwise I try to sit closer to the screen.
    I'm going to be getting a 22" external monitor pretty soon though, so it should help.
  11. JPiper macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2009
    I noticed some eyestrain as well. I use PCs all day, then the MBP at night. I thought it might be a function of the display resolution. So I tried that and found it helpful. I generally am set up at 1024 X 768. Sometimes it's helpful to set the resolution at 800 X 600..although admittedly this sizes your page inconveniently.:eek:
  12. MACZ macrumors newbie

    Feb 25, 2009
    I'm a recent mac book pro owner (5 days) and i feel more comfortable using mac than my pc (vaio 13") I think it's because the size of the screen that's bigger.

    However, I do notice the extremely brightness of the mac when you stay behind your mac when you open it, you can see a very bright aura compare to the vaio.

    I do feel a little bit of eye strain and i think it's just because i've been working on it for too long.

    As i recall, Apple has the Anti-Glare screen protection, I think if the lowest brightness is still too bright for you, you might want to try put the this thing on. I had one for my iPhone and it definitely reduce a lot of reflection and brightness.
  13. vocalcity thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 13, 2008
    Great responses -- Thanks, I appreciate it folks.

    It sounds like my eyestrain might be less likely to be caused by a hardware problem than me having an issue with glossy screen, brightness, reflections, or font rendering. At the very least, you've given me good suggestions to rule out other possible causes.

    I'll have to experiment a bit and see if I can reduce eyestrain by playing round with some of these variables and observing if there's an improvement.

    If not, I'll try to get in touch with Apple and see what their response is. Aside from the eyestrain, I'm still not really happy with the amount of bleeding on the laptop's screen. This seems to be a widespread 'feature' though...

    To those who have had flickering problems with their Unibody MBP screens, how noticeable was it? Is it subtle flicker or overtly obvious? I'm mainly asking in case this what's causing my eyestrain but I have perhaps not diagnosed it properly.

    Thanks again to all who responded so far.
  14. jmark macrumors member

    Jan 5, 2006
    For whatever it's worth, I'm a long-time Apple user, and am now on my sixth Apple laptop...

    ...and the screen on the new 15-inch unibody I bought in late January drove me (and my eyes) absolutely nuts. Aside from the bigger size, it felt like a significant quality downgrade from the early-2008 MacBook it was purchased to replace.

    The people in the Apple store seemed completely unsurprised at my comments about it, and basically told me to wait till the 17's arrived then do an exchange/upgrade.

    Which (after more of a wait that originally expected) is what I did, and I'm now very happy with the screen on the 17.

    One thing worth doing, especially if coming from Windows: go to System Preferences/Displays/Color, and calibrate the screen for a gamma of 2.2 (or maybe even a bit more than that). The default Mac gamma often looks very washed out and weird to people used to the standard Windows gamma.
  15. crazzyeddie macrumors 68030


    Dec 7, 2002
    Florida, USA
    I found that on my MBP, the highest brightness setting can actually cause some eye strain. I set it to 1-2 bars lower than max and the strain goes away instantly.
  16. joseph87 macrumors member


    Apr 3, 2008
    I too am having the same problem with the 17" unibody. I usually have the brightness set about two to four dots. The eye strain is unbearable at time and I have to get up and take a break for awhile. For instance, I've been on it for about five or ten minutes right now and my eyes are already feeling it. I tried recalibrating the screen but no luck, still straining. I used to have a dell S2409W on medium brightness and my eyes were fine. I was wondering if this might be due to the glare from the glossy screen? If so, does anything think that the antiglare screen would help? And is it unlikely that apple would not replace it if the problem persists?
  17. nonick macrumors member

    Sep 4, 2008
    hi all,
    i had the same kind of problems and i'm not sure but i think they might be hardware or driver related, after all. If i look at my 15 UMBP screen really closely, i can notice that it flickers, similar to the old CRT monitors. However, this flickering disappears from time to time.
    I've had my MBP for 5 months now and in the beginning it was really annoying but now i feel like i got used to it so it doesn't really bother me.
    Nevertheless, i still hope that Apple will release new drivers (maybe along with snow leopard??) to adress this issue.
    the flickering gets especially annoying if i set the brightness to minimum (2-5 squares)
  18. Bill Gates macrumors 68020

    Bill Gates

    Jun 21, 2006
    Calibrate the screen using the built-in calibration tool on the "Expert Mode" setting and use a gamma of 2.2 as well. The default calibration was terrible on my iMac and terrible on my last MacBook Pro screen after a replacement. It's easy to do and will definitely yield results; even if it doesn't eliminate all the eye-strain, it may help to alleviate it to some degree.
  19. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Feb 26, 2008
    A few things:
    For me, making all the fonts bigger helped a lot. There is a Firefox extension called NoSquint that lets you easily set a bigger font size as the default. I've gotten used to the higher resolution now, and I keep everything at the default size.

    LCD monitors do flicker, but it shouldn't really be noticeable under normal conditions (though it might affect you even if you can't see it. I know that when I am reading long blocks of text on a CRT, I have to turn the refresh rate up to 85hz at the cost of some sharpness to avoid eye strain even though I can't see any flicker at 75hz). Basically, they keep inverting pixels of solid color regions to keep them from getting stuck.
  20. S-Man macrumors regular


    Feb 1, 2009
    I'm going to say this is from the high-resolution, and therefore small letters/fonts of websites/email, desktop etc.
    I had the same problem on my 15" because I was sitting to far back. I enlarged the fonts and it helped.
    Also, I just got a Dell 2209WA and there's no more eyestrain here.
  21. James Cole macrumors 6502

    Jul 15, 2007
    San Antonio, Texas
    Happen to me at first... got cured over time... dont know why... I just adapted.
  22. simonpickard macrumors regular

    Mar 1, 2009
    When was the last time you got your eyes checked?

  23. joseph87 macrumors member


    Apr 3, 2008
    If your talking to me, It's been about 4 years. :p But I never had this problem with my old white macbook? :confused: And someone mentioned that it my be because of the resolution. Well, it could be, but I believe the dell I once owned had a similar resolution 1900x1080. Is there a huge difference between 1900x1080 and 1900x1200 (which I think the 17" macbook is)? And I'll ask again, could it be the glare?
  24. simonpickard macrumors regular

    Mar 1, 2009
    I work on a computer all day and there's just no way I could use a glossy screen.

    Personally, if you're having problems I'd go for a matte screen and try to reduce the brightness to a level where it's still clear but not "burning" your eyeballs.

    At work we have all our monitors calibrated and they are so far off the full brightness levels of the 17" it makes me laugh when you hear people saying they are too Dim. Full on burning bright white might look cool and shiny but your eyes will thank you for a "Dim" matte screen 5 years from now.

  25. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Feb 26, 2008
    But you don't use those outside. Using the 17" outside in the sun, it might not be bright enough.

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