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Eye strain - Returned my 2019 16" Macbook Pro

pragmaLT

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 13, 2017
25
33
The display, for whatever reason, caused so much eyestrain for me that it really made the computer unusable as a work machine. I tried to power through the discomfort on the first night. But the next morning, I literally found myself dreading opening the lid. That's when I knew it would never work out for me.

I must be in some minority group here because I know a lot of people love their new 16". But if you're a long-time user of the older generation pros (2015 and before), it might be hard to adjust, depending on your age / vision. I'm guessing it has to do with the backlight being wide gamut (GB-R instead of WLED?), as the whole screen seemed to have an extra reddish haze over it. While it certainly gave photos a real nice pop, my eyes had the hardest time focusing on text. By the end of the first night, I was rubbing my right eye incessantly from the soreness.

Another strange issue is that I got serious headaches watching YouTube videos on this thing, like there was some serious ghosting going on. I double checked that the refresh rate was set at 60Hz, and even tried other refresh rates, but nothing helped. 60fps video was bearable, but the standard 30fps videos made me feel queasy for some reason.

Being the first Macbook that I've purchased since the 2016 redesign, I also found the lack of MagSafe and USB-a ports a straight up negative. Had no way of connecting my iPhone to the machine. Nothing new here, I read all about this before, but it really is an inconvenience for what seems to me like no real benefit in the general case.

The only thing that really impressed me about the machine were the speakers, which seem to be using some kind of DSP to provide really clear bass.

I really wanted to replace my aging 2015 15" Pro and was ecstatic when I heard the butterfly keyboard was ditched, but unfortunately it seems I have to stick with the 2015 for the next two years until Apple utilizes a different screen tech than their current wide gamut LED panels.
 
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pragmaLT

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 13, 2017
25
33
Possible but unlikely. I asked my wife to look at it, and she said it looked perfectly fine, although she did agree the older 2015" looked somewhat "clearer".

The issues only came out after I used the machine for a good 20 minutes, it's not something you'd notice right away, or in a store.
 
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CRoebuck

macrumors member
May 16, 2014
74
46
The display, for whatever reason, caused so much eyestrain for me that it really made the computer unusable as a work machine. I tried to power through the discomfort on the first night. But the next morning, I literally found myself dreading opening the lid. That's when I knew it would never work out for me.

You might find this post interesting: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/8526582

and this:

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/pwm-on-new-baseline-2019-mbp.2189621/#post-27566107

I'd love to replace my 2017 13" (A034 panel) with something newer and bigger (I need more power than my dual-core machine now my job has changed) but all 2018 onwards 13" (A03E panel) machines and 15" (A040 panel) I find give me eye strain and difficulty in focusing. I wondered if the first few were faulty. I've tried over 10 now. A mixture of specs (to see if GPU affected it) and with different OS ranging from High Siera to Cataline. No joy. Wondered if it was PWM but even with brightness cranked up it still bothers me.

What I have discovered is that intel did change the dithering algorithm used in their drivers. I have a 2017 Surface Pro also that I loved the screen on, after one intel driver update earlier this year it too gave me eye strain and became unusable. Rolling back fixed it (I was also able to use a 3rd party program called ditherig to help too) unfortunately this isn't possible under Mac OS. So, for now, I'll stick with my 2017 running an old OS but fear I may have to move away from Mac OS when it finally dies.....

For me the symptoms were soreness and a sense that parts of the screen in my peripheral vision were "moving" or "flickering". Focussing on those areas would stop the flicker effect. Text would be difficult to focuss on. I'd even feel like I was going cross eyed. I got my eyes tested too !!! This sounds like classic PWM but given my Windows experience I'm sure dithering is involved somehow.
 
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leman

macrumors G5
Oct 14, 2008
12,566
7,738
I remember I had eye strain issues with first LED-backlight Macs (don’t remember the model, was it 2010?). My eyes were watering and I was very uncomfortable. But after a few days of portioned exposure, I got used to it and didn’t have any issues since then. Don’t know if this helps you though. At any rate, sorry to hear that you are having trouble with this. It always sucks :(
 
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konqerror

macrumors 68020
Dec 31, 2013
2,298
3,693
I'm guessing it has to do with the backlight being wide gamut (GB-R instead of WLED?), as the whole screen seemed to have an extra reddish haze over it.

No, PFS LED. It's a standard white LED but with a different phosphor that provides more red than conventional phosphors.

While it certainly gave photos a real nice pop, my eyes had the hardest time focusing on text.

I think you need your eyes checked or your ergonomics reviewed. Apple switched to a 5/9 default scaling factor with the 2016 models instead of the exact 1/2 scaling factor used earlier. It will be naturally blurry if you look real close, but at normal viewing conditions, it is indistinguishable. It sounds like you're trying to resolve the pixels and it causes eye strain. You may be sitting too close or using way too high brightness.

You can switch back to 1/2 by enlarging the resolution one step. It will only get worse: modern OLED displays use a variant on this, with no option to change, due to the PenTile pixel layout.
 
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pragmaLT

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 13, 2017
25
33
For me the symptoms were soreness and a sense that parts of the screen in my peripheral vision were "moving" or "flickering". Focussing on those areas would stop the flicker effect. Text would be difficult to focuss on. I'd even feel like I was going cross eyed. I got my eyes tested too !!! This sounds like classic PWM but given my Windows experience I'm sure dithering is involved somehow.

Yes this describes very well the effect that I felt! I also felt like it was messing with my binocular vision, as you mention you felt like you were going cross-eyed... interesting how the cause may not be the backlight itself but a dithering algorithm?

An interesting tidbit: Many years ago I had a very similar problem with a 2011 Macbook Pro 15" (non retina obviously) It just gave me headaches, and for the life of me I couldn't understand why because I was completely fine with a 2010 Macbook Pro 15". The backlight color temperature was quite different, so I assumed it had something to do with the panel manufacturer.
 
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matram

Contributor
Sep 18, 2011
683
314
Sweden
I'm guessing it has to do with the backlight being wide gamut (GB-R instead of WLED?), as the whole screen seemed to have an extra reddish haze over it.

This may not be an option for you but you can calibrate the whitepoint and color profile of the display. All calibrated displays should visually look the same.

Apple calibrates the display at the factory. So normally you would not need to calibrate if you are not a PRO requiring a precisely color calibrated workflow.

You can use something like the X-rite I1 Display to calibrate.

Of course the newer MBP displays are P3, which means they have a wider color gamut (=range) than older machines. But a calibrated display should still not display a color that is not in the source material. You could say that older display would "clip" a wide gamut picture or video.
 
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turbineseaplane

macrumors 604
Mar 19, 2008
6,705
9,882
After more research I do believe it could be related to the "temporal dithering"

https://ledstrain.org/d/152-temporal-dithering-sensitivity-my-solution

Surprised that there is no way to turn this off...

That is a very interesting read, thank you for sharing that link.

How do we get to the bottom of this in terms of the panels they are using here?

On a sidenote, I was relieved to see that my old LG 31MU97 does not use FRC and apparently does not use any dithering? Although I’m still a little confused about exactly which variables cause the problems.
 
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turbineseaplane

macrumors 604
Mar 19, 2008
6,705
9,882
This topic is super interesting to me as someone who's sometimes "not enjoyed" Apple displays on various devices.

Does anyone know of a definitive location online where someone has put together and tracked a list of which devices are using what panel technologies that might cause issues, like PWM and also this Temporal Dithering -- and maybe other issues?
 
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icyfire

macrumors 6502
Jan 6, 2010
285
4
Same issue. Basically used the 16 inch for 2 days with significant eye strain, everything just looked hazy, some colors were hard to discern. And this was all within minutes of using it. Now back to using my 2016 15 inch. The 16 inch is back in the box, debating whether to break it out again and give it another shot or to just make a sad drive back to the Apple Store to return, was really hoping to sell my 15 inch and get rid of the butterfly keyboard once and for all but alas I guess it was not meant to be.
 
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idktbh

macrumors member
Oct 3, 2018
74
117
I think they (not only apple) just use cheap led panels that they are already harsh to the eyes and make them look ultra shiny and colourful like a quality one via software manipulation, like color dithering, variable fresh rate (macOS is the worst in this field) , pwm (for extend battery life). I'm experiencing this issue a lot lately not only with eye strain but with headaches too. I'm certain that it is software issue because I got the same symptoms with external displays connected to apple hardware. I might stuck with my old stuff until this madness ends and I hope this issue got some serious coverage.
 
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ajaan

macrumors regular
Dec 15, 2013
132
56
I had the same issue jumping from MBA to 2015 MBP with the Retina display. The Retina display hurt my eyes.

The same problem again jumping from standard 1080p monitor to 4K monitor. Had to go back down to 1080p.

Then the same again with a 27-inch 5K iMac. Changed to a 2018 MM 1080p set up.

And, yet the same again with the 2019 13-inch MBP. I too dreaded opening the lid.

What I found is that when I jumped from MBA to 2015 rMBP and, more recently, to the 2019 MBP (the screen is different to the 2015 MBP) is that if I stuck with it for a week or so, then my eyes adjusted.

With the bigger 4K / 5K screens they did not. I believe it's something to with the screen size / resolution / retina and the eyes of some sensitive people. What that is, I do not know.
 
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spencermfi

macrumors newbie
Jun 24, 2010
19
18
Glad I found this as I thought I was crazy. Returning a 16" as well. I experience immediate eye strain and actual nausea within a few minutes. Coming from a Late 2013 15" MBP which has never caused any issues. After doing a bit of research I strongly suspect temporal dithering as well as it also affects my external display (32" 4K running natively and at 60hz). I tried both the built-in and external display for extended periods, trying to power through it, but it's just unbearable and I've happily gone back to my old machine.
 
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konqerror

macrumors 68020
Dec 31, 2013
2,298
3,693
After doing a bit of research I strongly suspect temporal dithering as well as it also affects my external display (32" 4K running natively and at 60hz).

Nearly all non-Apple displays made in the last 5 years are temporally dithered. All consumer and business class 1080 displays are now 6 bit dithered up to 8, along with 4K 8 bit dithered up to 10. Non-IPS laptop displays have been 6 bit for pretty much 20 years.
 
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spencermfi

macrumors newbie
Jun 24, 2010
19
18
Nearly all non-Apple displays made in the last 5 years are temporally dithered. All consumer and business class 1080 displays are now 6 bit dithered up to 8, along with 4K 8 bit dithered up to 10. Non-IPS laptop displays have been 6 bit for pretty much 20 years.

I mention the external display because the 16" is causing discomfort when using the built-in display or connecting it to the external display. It's the same display I use for my Late-2013 MBP 15" which doesn't cause discomfort in the built in or external display. I've tried a lot of settings and nothing seems to help.
 
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CE3

Contributor
Nov 26, 2014
1,651
2,784
I experienced some eye strain the first day I used the new display and then it went away. I’m not sure if I was just adjusting to the slight resolution change, but now the only thing that feels different from my 2018 MacBook is that it’s slightly bigger and brighter. I remember reading people reporting eye strain with the 2018 models, too.

I feel bad for those experiencing eye strain with the 16-inch models. I‘ve had similar issues with displays in the past and know how uncomfortable they can be to use.
 
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spencermfi

macrumors newbie
Jun 24, 2010
19
18
I mention the external display because the 16" is causing discomfort when using the built-in display or connecting it to the external display. It's the same display I use for my Late-2013 MBP 15" which doesn't cause discomfort in the built in or external display. I've tried a lot of settings and nothing seems to help.

I looked up my screen specs and it is 8bit +2 FRC. I wonder if a true 10-bit display would help?

I've decided to "power through" again for a few days to see if I just need time to adjust. Will report back.
 
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CRoebuck

macrumors member
May 16, 2014
74
46
As I mentioned in an earlier post. I think that it's an Intel driver change whereby they are implementing a more aggressive dithering algorithm. Every time I upgrade my Surface Windows install I find the display unusable and have to roll back the display driver and/or install Ditherig.exe

I also noticed the same on my work machine and the eye strain occurs with both internal and external monitors until I rollback.

Clearly, we don't have the option under Mac OS to install specific drivers so I'm sticking with my 2017 13" as I find 2018 onwards causes strain.
 
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spencermfi

macrumors newbie
Jun 24, 2010
19
18
I spent an hour at the Apple Store and confirmed that other 16" MBP's cause the same problem for me. The 13" also caused problems but to a lesser degree. The MacBook Air didn't cause any problems for me (but it barely outperforms my older MBP).
 
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faust

macrumors 6502
Sep 11, 2007
381
172
Los Angeles, CA
You should see an optometrist because everything looks peachy keen to me on my 16” MBP. I go from a iPad Pro 11”, iPhone 11 Pro Max, 16” MBP, Acer Predator 1440p 144Hz G-Sync monitor, 65” Sony OLED tv, 49” LG Nano LED tv, and a Thinkpad X1 Extreme Gen 2 without any issue, you might have some eye problem because this might be a health issue. I know my dad had difficulty adjusting to new displays when I’d switch them around every few years before he passed last year.
 
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spencermfi

macrumors newbie
Jun 24, 2010
19
18
Obviously this doesn't affect the vast majority of people but it's like night and day for me. I don't have any problems with various iPhones (except iPhone X which also gave me trouble - switched to XR with no problems), iPads, previous MacBook, TVs, car screens, Kindles etc etc. I am inclined to think of it as an accessibility issue - although I'm not quite sure I'd simply call it "my" problem that I need to have fixed.
 
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garrel

macrumors member
Dec 9, 2019
70
32
Every forum, same thing: You should see a doctor. No. I've seen doctors and i'm fine. We are not all the same. Sure few of us here are sensitive to this and it's not a common problem. If you guys are fine, then i'm happy for you. Some people get sick with nausea and vomit after a rollercaster ride... Me and the vast majority of people? Totally fine. That doesn't mean they don't have to warn you or that you could not experience similar symptoms in the future.
That said we don't know everything. Maybe some rare condition is yet to be discovered. Expecting some answers is the minimum. Intel even closed the topic on the argument.
 
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