Eyestrain and The MBA 11": My Experience and Feedback Requested

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Mojo1, Aug 12, 2011.

  1. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    Yesterday I finally had the opportunity to see a 2011 MBA 11” at a local Apple retailer. Unfortunately, there was not a 13” MBA demonstration model available, so I placed the MBA 11” next to a 13” MBP so I could more easily compare the displays.

    Initially I spent all my time on the MBA 11”. Fortunately, it was around dinner time so I could do my thing undisturbed. One of the store employees was helpful and knowledgeable, being a long-time user of Macs. But the store employees left me alone, so I was able to use the MBA 11” for around 1.5 hours.

    I wear reading glasses when using a computer. They are prescription glasses, optimized for the typical distance between one’s eyes and a display, between 2-3 feet. Typical reading glasses, like the readers in stores with basic diopter correction, are better between 1-2 feet, which is a normal reading distance.

    The MBA 11” was set at its native resolution of 1366 X 768, while the MBP 13” was set at its native resolution of 1280 X 800. Compared to the MBP glare on the MBA was minimal and I was able to eliminate it almost completely by slightly changing the angle of the display without affecting the color and contrast. I worked on the MBA at full brightness and -3 bars; below that it simply was too dark for my taste.

    My initial impression of the 11” was that it was difficult for me to focus on the display and type was not very clear, even though I did not find it to be too small. The MBP type was only slightly larger, but its display was easier to focus on.

    I did myriad tasks on the MBA, but spent most of my time in Safari, using Web sites that I am familiar with such as The New York Times and MacRumors. I zoomed in and out, using the multi-finger gestures for the first time. Very :cool:! (I use Leopard and Snow Leopard on my iMac and 15” pre-unibody matte screen MBP.)

    To make a long story short, within 15-30 minutes I had developed a nice little headache. :( My eyes had adjusted to the small display, but something about it was obviously causing eyestrain.

    I didn’t have the terminal prompt available to discover which display was installed in the MBA (I could not locate it on MacRumors). But I did go to http://www.techmind.org/lcd/crosstalk2.html and the the display exhibited considerable flickering. I did not see any flickering at crosstalk 1, 3 and 4. I assume that this means that I was viewing an LG display.

    I pointed out my problem to the helpful Mac user-employee and he suggested setting the MBA at 1280 X 720 to see how it worked for me. It did help with the readability of type, without reducing the display’s viewable area too much for my taste.

    I’m no stranger to small portable Mac screens: I have owned 12” G3 and G4 iBooks. The G4 iBook was my primary Mac for four years and I never had a problem with its display. I used it for many hours every day. My current MBP 15” is a great display, natch, so I have never had an issue using it. The only time that I have experienced any kind of eyestrain using a Mac was back in my CRT days when I had a very good Sony MultiSync monitor. But even then I did not develop headaches...

    So here is my dilemma: I really like the form-factor of the 11” MBA and 13” MBA, but from my experience with the 11” MBA it would appear that I am simply SOOL when it comes to that model, and from what I have read elsewhere on this forum, the 13” MBA is probably also out of the running

    Is it the relatively high resolutions of the displays that cause this problem for some people, or is there some other factor that might be somehow mitigated? Or should I simply give up on the current MBA and concentrate on the 13” MBP? (I would probably have Tech Restore install a matte display in a new MBP.) Am I likely to run into a similar problem with a 13” MBP display? I am not well-versed when it comes to the current offerings when it comes to the 13” and 15” MBPs. And I am looking for something smaller than my 15” MBP.

    Tech Restore is planning on introducing an anti-glare display replacement for the 2010/2011 MBAs, but if it is priced similar to its current MBA replacement displays ($329 for the 13” MBA), I don’t know if I could justify the cost, assuming a matte display would solve my problem. If my eyestrain is due to the small, high resolution displays in the MBA, it may not change anything…

    I would appreciate feedback from folks with more knowledge and experience with the current portable Mac displays.
  2. jamesryanbell macrumors 68020


    Mar 17, 2009
    I've owned one for the better part of a year, and I haven't regretted it for a second. Plus, you can always do that double-finger double tap to make things larger if you absolutely have to it larger.
  3. Mojo1 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    Thanks, But No Thanks...

    No offense intended, but I know that many people do not have a problem with the 11" MBA display, so I don't really need to read posts along the lines of "works for me!"

    I am hoping for responses from people who read my post and who can provide feedback about my experience and my options regarding the MBA vs. 13" MBP. There are people who frequent this forum with more experience with current displays than I have, and I would appreciate constructive suggestions from them.
  4. minnus macrumors 6502

    Aug 12, 2011
  5. gerabbi macrumors regular

    Feb 8, 2009
    I am 52 and also wear reading glasses. I do not like the super shiny glass screens on the MBP, I too, feel they give me a headache. I also tested out the 11 MBA and felt the text too small and again could feel the strain. I ended up with the 13 MBA. It doesn't have the super shiny screen and it adds just enough screen estate too be a little more comfortable for my eyes. My feelings about these could very well be "subjective" but I really think the 13 hit the sweet spot for me. It's also incredibly portable. I don't regret my decision. I know it doesn't help you too much but it's my humble experience. Good luck.
  6. jblock macrumors regular

    Jan 4, 2006
    Eyestrain is usually a combination of factors and could have to do with the lighting of the store, the air quality, and the fact that you were doing this later in the day. I have progressive lenses and the part I use for looking at my MBA 11 is the mid-distance. It's a very small sweet spot but after a day that's where my vision fall naturally. I use the MBA about 10-hours a day and have never experienced strain or a headache. I also have a MBP 13 and I can't go back to it. The text just isn't as sharp as the MBA and to be honest based on my glasses I was usually only focusing on one part of the screen, while with the MBA I can take in more of the screen real estate.

    Obviously, these are more experiences only. You may have to spend a little more time with a MBA to see if your eyes would adjust. Folks sometimes get a headache for a short period of time with new glasses so it might just be temporary. Good luck!
  7. Sounds Good macrumors 68000

    Jul 8, 2007
    Really? I too have aging eyes (sad but true) and spent some time yesterday comparing the two MBAs. Seemed to me that text size was fairly similar. I know it's not exactly the same, but similar. So... was the 13 really better for you than the 11? (might help my decision).
  8. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    Well, to be brief, I think the 13" MBA is a good improvement over the 11" MBA in terms of text size and screen resolution. I chose the 13" over the 11" after a long while at the Apple Store playing with both. I don't wear glasses for anything at all, and I'm barely in my 20s, but even so, I find the 13" more comfortable to look at than the 11". Something about the 11" screen feels really cramped and restricting.
  9. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    This may have been posted but if not here it is:

    Many people get eyestrain at first using LED verses LCD. I was one of them, and a few people I knew had the same problem. It goes away with use.

    You can also turn the brightness down a little bit as well, this often helps.

    Once your eyes get used to it it most likely won't bother you anymore.
  10. NutsNGum macrumors 68030


    Jul 30, 2010
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Agreed, I didn't find the text to be too problematic, but when I was using the 11 for any length of time my neck and back were straining because I found myself (unintentionally) hunching over it. The 13" I find far more comfortable to sit with for any length of time, particularly when it's in your lap.
  11. mrgossett macrumors 6502

    Mar 18, 2008
    I've owned a 2nd-generation 13" Macbook Air (1280 X 800 screen) for a couple of years, and just received my new 11" Air yesterday. I was pretty apprehensive about whether I would like the smaller display on the 11" because I don't live close to an Apple Store or any other store that stocks them, so I couldn't try one out. I wear progressive lenses. I'm happy to report that the 11" screen is working great for me. The native text size is indeed smaller, but the display on the 11" is also sharper, so reading smaller text is easier. It's really pretty close to iPad quality. The easy trackpad zoom feature in Lion really eliminates any problems with tiny text in apps that support it. There is also another benefit to me with the 11". I use it almost totally in my lap on an Allsop Cool Channel, which puts the keyboard at a nice angle for typing. Seeing anything clearly on the top part of the display on my 13" required me to tilt my head back uncomfortably to see out the bottoms of my lenses. The lower height of the 11" has eliminated that, and I can use the full screen mode and see everything clearly. I'm loving this little 11" Air!
  12. Fasailmac macrumors member

    Jun 20, 2009
    I get headaches from glossy displays. Happy to report that I have no issues with the 11 inch air and i spend about 8 hours a day on it.
  13. gerabbi macrumors regular

    Feb 8, 2009
    As you can see from other's posts YMMV. I happen to think, and it may totally be how my brain is programmed that the 13 offers enough screen that I strain my eyes less. I have no objective proof of that. I also dim the screen especially early in the morning. I also increase my font size, which is probably doable on the 11 as well. For me the 13 works and I'm pleased so far.
  14. Sounds Good macrumors 68000

    Jul 8, 2007
    gerabbi, which method(s) do you use to increase the font size?
  15. L0s7man macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2009
    I had an 11" MBA for a year not. I have to admit that text looks... fuzzy? Don't know why, but 13" MBA seems more crisp. This is weird since 13" MBA has lower pixel density than 11".

    Yet, I still think the text is somewhat fuzzy.

    I learned to live with it though.
  16. Typswif2fingers, Aug 13, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2011

    Typswif2fingers macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2010
    Dubai, UAE
    Have you considered getting your eyes tested. This is not a smart ass comment.. I had my eyes tested about 8 weeks ago and got the reading glasses.. These comes with some filter on the glass that takes the glare out - designed specifically for computer screens...

    I did not even know how blind I was until I started wearing them...
  17. scarred macrumors 6502a

    Jul 24, 2011
    Did you make good use of the Double Tap to Zoom in Safari? It works very well. Only annoyance I found was that you have to zoom out to gesture back a page.

    Other software, like Word, mail, etc. also have ways to make things bigger.
  18. gerabbi macrumors regular

    Feb 8, 2009
    I don't know how to do that system wide. I mean increase font sizes like in Safari, or Pages, etc.
    However, IIRC, there is a way to zoom system wide in Universal access.

    Found this thread: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=352057

    Pretty sad really:(
  19. Mojo1 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    I used the zoom feature for the first time and it worked very well.

    As far as getting my eyes tested... In July my eyes were extensively tested by an opthomologist prior to having a tiny hole in my retina patched with a laser. Everything checked out fine before the procedure and during a follow-up appointment. (Warning: don't ignore "floaters" and strange flashes of light at night; they can be the early signs of a retinal detachment!)

    I suspect that the dot pitch of the 11" is simply too much for me. Some people are bothered by the displays, while many don't seem to have any problem. The 13" may be better in this regard. I'm going to spend some time comparing the screen resolutions of various portable Macs to see how they compare with my MBP.

    I really wanted to be able to use the 11", but it looks like a 13" MBA or more likely a MBP is my destiny... computer-wise anyway.
  20. Sounds Good macrumors 68000

    Jul 8, 2007
    I really REALLY wish the TapTapZoom feature worked in everything, system wide.
  21. robby818 macrumors 6502a

    May 2, 2007
    I spend 99% of my time in the browser, so I use the NoSquint addon in Firefox set to 120% global. I do this on both a 11 and 13 MBA. This setting is perfect for me. I prefer running in native res. so just fixing the zoom level in the browser is exactly what I need. I disllike the blurriness associated with running in lower res.
  22. blairh macrumors 68040


    Dec 11, 2007
    OP, only you have a full grasp of your eyes situation (I see you had a procedure recently).

    Here's my take: I've been using a new 11" MBA all week. My last Mac notebook for the past 2 years was a 13" MBP. I wear eye glasses or contacts at all times. I have had no issues adjusting to the smaller screen. No eyestrain. Nothing.

    There have probably been 3 or 4 instances when I've increased the font size one level up within a browser (Command + '+' key). When I revisit those sites, the browser remembers that I adjusted it previously, so the text is already where I want it to be.

    One of the things that I hated about my MBP was the glossy screen. If I used it during the day and had open windows behind me there was always glare. And I loathed it. I don't plan on ever owning an edge-to-edge glass screen notebook ever again. Thankfully the MBA is perfect with respect to that.

    If you simply can't handle the 11" MBA, I'd be shocked if the 13" MBA screen wouldn't suit your needs.
  23. meistervu macrumors 65816

    Jul 24, 2008
    environment make a big difference

    I am approaching the age of reading glasses. I wear contact lenses and used to be able to have clear focus on tiny fonts 8 inches away. Not any more.

    I did notice that when I tried the 11" and 13" MBA in the store, I left with a bit of eyestrain and headache afterward. But that wasn't the case when used both the 11" and 13" at home a day each. I think the lighting, sitting (or standing) condition in the store contributed to the discomfort after a brief period.

    I returned the 11" and got the 13" because I like the larger screen, larger trackpad, and longer battery. Plus, I don't mind the size increase. Text size wise, the 13" text may be slighly bigger and a little more readable in my recollection. I recalled noticing the difference right after the switch, but not by much.

    One advantage of getting the 13" is that if you decide to run it at lower resolution to make the text bigger, you have more screen area than a 11" so you can fit more content on it than you would on the 11".

    My advice is that if you think a MBA may work, the only way to really test it it to use it in your own environment for at least a day.
  24. cityathrt macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2010
    OP, I had the exact same problem you had and posted about it two weeks ago too. I also got various responses pointing me to check my eyes -- I also wear glasses. What I found was the the screen brightness was really making a difference.

    Originally, I thought it was the smallness of the text size that was causing those nice little headaches and eyestrain problems. I went through various renditions of zooming, enlarging pages, and changing the resolution to deal with the problem. No dice. I even went so far as to purchase a 13" to see if that made the problem go away. Again, no luck there.

    Then I realized (upon switching to my HP) that there was a drastic screen brightness difference between the two. Someone also mentioned that it takes a while to get used to LED versus LCD, and I'm a firm believer of that as well. This is my first Mac, and I'm definitely not used to the super glossy and sharp screens.

    Since then I've been constantly tinkering with the screen's brightness, and that's decreased the headaches by a lot. I'm still getting used to it, and headaches do develop more quickly when I'm tired. But I stuck with my 11", and couldn't be happier.
  25. nebulos macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    for the last year or so, i've been using a 12" Thinkpad X61T SXGA, 1400x1050, 144 PPI. being a few years old, the display is not LED. i have zero issues with the display. my eyes have never bothered me, felt strange, strained, etc.

    i tried out a 2010 15" MBP antiglare for about a week and am trying out a 2011 11" MBA currently. both screens are weird to my eyes.

    clearly, resolution is not the issue.

    part of the problem for me, i think, is the LED backlighting, brightness being one issue. i read that LEDs are hard to dim, so what they would do is have them flash on and off at a high frequency, to simulate, say 50% brightness. supposedly some people are more sensitive to this and the flashing results in eyestrain, headaches, etc. however, i don't know if this method is still used, or if its used on the MBA. i do find that the LEDs can either be too bright or that the display looks too dull when they're turned down, but aside from that, they can just generally feel weird or a little harsh to my eyes. however, i've never gotten a headache from the machine.

    then again, i'm typing on the 11 MBA now, and actually it feels fine. some people have said the display bothered them at first then they got used to it. hope that will work for me.

    what i find strange is that you had no problem on the MBP, because that to me is the worst, but maybe its because you spent most of your time on the MBA.

    using non native resolution is awful. i can't believe an employee would suggest that. everything is fuzzy when you do that.

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