Are the retina displays as good as the pro or close?

Squirrelflight

macrumors regular
Original poster
Aug 24, 2012
112
2
So I may be considering a new MacBook soon. I’ve had a Pro since 2009 and I love my Pro but I’m so drawn to the gold MacBook Air! I love that it has Retina display. Is it really good? I care a lot about how the screen looks not only for watching movies but I do lots of art commissions and the art always looks amazing on my 2009 MacBook pro but on the MacBook Air 2013 a friend had the colours were not as vibrant but I’m assuming the Retina display airs would look way better than the old airs. I really need to go in store and see. Do the new airs match the pro or come close?
 

BLBL

macrumors 6502a
Apr 11, 2018
697
98
Good question. First of all, do not make any comparison between old Air and new with Retina display because they are completely different. I spent quite some time yesterday making decision between Pro and Air 2018 and I finally purchased Air. But I'm still not quite sure about the display. It is well bright enough for home environment use, while when comparing the two at store with bright lights where Air will look noticeable dimmer. However about colours, I'm still hesitating. Comparing Pro and Air side by side, they are noticeable deeper in Pro but Air is also very nice. I just cannot help that when using my new Air I feel sometimes that colours are somewhat lacking. Also I think that 400 nits bumb in OS update did make it somewhat less vibrant as if gamma was changed a bit.

I need to keep spending more time with my Air to see if I will keep it. I probably will since it otherwise serves my needs well as my first Mac OS device and I have no real purpose for the machine at the moment, as I mostly use still my Windows desktop with big screen. So for that I find it hard to justify myself getting Pro with touch bar that costs double the price of what I paid for my Air. Surely plain Pro without TB would be only 30% higher price but I did not like the idea that it still comes with second gen butterfly keyboard (or that's what I heard here).

Since you mentioned that you liked Macbook Pro 2009 display, you probably could like Air too because they are both sRGB displays. Newer Pro's are DCI-P3 which makes colours more vibrant.
 
Last edited:

one1

macrumors 65816
Jun 17, 2007
1,145
24
Chattanooga, TN
It’s dimmer. Apple is not going to give you an air as good as the pro screen. Simply because. I was looking at the entire lineup yesterday deciding if i would replace my 2017 air with a 2018 and decided a half arse retina is not retina...... kept my 2017. Honestly my 2015 pro is still better than the 2018 air screen. Buy that instead and get more for your money.
 

Squirrelflight

macrumors regular
Original poster
Aug 24, 2012
112
2
A Pro may be a good choice for me but I will say, if the new Airs have a better screen quality than my 2010 Macbook Pro which has a really good display I think I'd personally be happy but I really need to try it out myself. Thanks for the answers everyone!
 

BLBL

macrumors 6502a
Apr 11, 2018
697
98
It’s dimmer. Apple is not going to give you an air as good as the pro screen. Simply because. I was looking at the entire lineup yesterday deciding if i would replace my 2017 air with a 2018 and decided a half arse retina is not retina...... kept my 2017. Honestly my 2015 pro is still better than the 2018 air screen. Buy that instead and get more for your money.
Surely it is dimmer than Pro 2017/2019 but depending on place where you use it brightness might not really make much difference in reality. I mean by that, how many of you run screen at full brightness at home?
I compared display brightness of my new Air with 400 nits update between Zenbook UX430UA (300 nits panel) and iPad 2018 (500 nits). My Air was much brighter than Zenbook, at around full minus 2 or 1 clicks made them about equal (I think 1.5 clicks would be the same). My Air was of course dimmer than my iPad but difference was not huge. I had all 3 machines side by side in dimly lit room.

From what I have read from review, it looks like 2015 pro display brightness, contrast and gamut should be about the same as in Air 2018.

Gamut on Pro 2017/2019 in much wider, so you can see difference in colors side by side if you compare them to Air 2018, especially with DCI-P3 material. Comparing brightness difference in store demo conditions can be misleading, It is like buying a TV's that looks brightest in store, it often looks horrible at home with the same settings because lightning is much dimmer at home.
 
Last edited:

one1

macrumors 65816
Jun 17, 2007
1,145
24
Chattanooga, TN
Hence the problem with reading about things, you can get no more information doing so than reading my post. You have to stand in front of it like I'm doing at Simply Mac (I needed to see them again to be sure I didn't like the 2018 retina). Some sharp eyes may see that with both displays max bright the 2018 can't manage to appear any brighter in any way than the 2017 beside it. A MacBook Pro would look like the sun beside a 2017, and my 2015 Pro still makes it look bad.

......and yes everything I own (which is the 4 products apple offers that generally most people have) are always maxxed. We're not all 20 anymore.
 

Attachments

BLBL

macrumors 6502a
Apr 11, 2018
697
98
I'm not sure I got what you meant but judging by the photos, you are comparing them in store conditions and not even with full white image. Also camera makes difference but Air in your photos looks brighter and the fact that older Air has TN screen than changes a lot depending on the angle you look at it.

Anyway, for sure 2017/2019 Pro is brighter than Air 2018 and that is not very much brighter than many other middle/low range computers but my point was that how many actually keeps their brightness settings at 100%? Because if you run both new Pro models and Air at the same brightness levels the only difference between the two is colour gamut and contrast ratio (black appears darker in Pro if you have white level adjusted the same on both).
Again, if your main use conditions for the computer are outside sunny day or as bright conditions inside as in Apple Store, then you may need Pro.

Just for fun, I measured some brightness difference between my computer screens. My desktop with Dell IPS monitor measured just about 395 nits, My Zenbook IPS was about 315 or so, my iPad 2018 about 420 nits and finally my new Air 2018 about 350 nits. Slight variation in colour temperature between all of them makes each appear a bit different for naked eye. However, none of them are set anywhere near the max. brightness when I normally use them. For example my desktop Dell is at 40%, my Zenbook 40-50%, iPad round 30-40%.
 
Last edited: