"Fuzzy" text, MBP 15" hi-res AG....?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by DanoD, May 5, 2012.

  1. DanoD macrumors newbie

    May 5, 2012
    Just picked up my new 15" MBP with a high-res anti-glare screen and am getting familiarized with Mac OS X....(first time Mac user) - what a sweet machine!

    One thing that has got me perplexed is what I perceive to be fuzzy text; doesn't matter which application I'm using, the text looks blurry, almost like someone took some fine-grit sandpaper and fuzzed up the font.

    I've tried playing with font size, enabling and disabling font smoothing in General Preferences, changing text colour in Firefox, and while some changes help a bit, the root problem is always there.

    I'm kinda stressed that this may be a function of the AG coating, perhaps somehow affecting contrast, I never had a chance to try the glossy in the hi-res before ordering, is that the difference? The thing that gets me is that images are crystal sharp and spectacular - it's really just text!

    Over the last 10 years I've previously used everything from 1074x768 12" to 1950x1200 15" and never had anything like this happen. It's bad enough that my eyes get tired quickly and it's starting to give me a head-ache. I noticed something intangible when I tried it in the store, but I chalked it up to my eyes being tired and the crazy bright lighting in the store....

    Now that I'm actually using it for a bit at home and my wallet is many dollars lighter I'm starting to panic....I pimped out the machine with big SSD, maxed out the RAM, etc, and really, really like everything else, but this is a real problem as I spend hours in front of the computer at a time....

    Anybody else have this experience? Anybody compared the glossy and the AG in the high-res for text readability? Is there a ClearType like text tuning utility for Mac like for Windows?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. scott.n macrumors 6502

    Dec 17, 2010
    The antiglare screens do not have any coating on them; they are simply matte LCD screens.

    In System Preferences > General, is "Use LCD font smoothing when available" (at the bottom of the menu) checked?

    Mac OS X does not support resolution independence, so while you may have used higher DPI displays previously, the text on your new MacBook Pro could still appear smaller or fuzzier. I had the same issues (headaches, eye strain) when I first purchased my 15" antiglare MacBook Pro, but they ceased after a couple of days.
  3. SDAVE macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2007
    I have no problem with my hi-res AG for the 15" MBP.

    At 1680x1050 it's a fairly high res screen for a lcd this size.

    Takes some getting used to. I've seen no fuzziness on any type.
  4. DanoD thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 5, 2012
    I've tried it with the font smoothing both enabled and disabled, and have also played with font size by zooming in Safari, no-squint in Firefox, and different fonts and sizes in Word, but I just can't get crisp text....it ends up making all the letters look like they're moving ever so slightly while I'm trying to focus on them and read...the space between my eyes and brain feels like someone is tightening a vice....

    That's encouraging that your "symptoms" got better after a few days, I have to make a call if I can live with this soon, maybe I can tough it out for a couple days.

    Did you come from a glossy screen?
  5. salmoally macrumors regular

    Jan 26, 2012
    Serious question - have you had your eyes checked recently.

    When I got my first hi-res screen I had constant headaches and everything was as you described. I went in and got my prescription checked and lo-behold I needed to update my glasses. Everything fine after that.
  6. SDAVE macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2007
    Might be astigmatism. You need lens correction for that.

    I wear glasses as well and haven't had issues with the AG...and I have very picky eyes.
  7. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    I use a 17" with no issues at all...If it's new, and from your post is is...return and get it checked....
  8. fizzwinkus, May 5, 2012
    Last edited: May 5, 2012

    fizzwinkus macrumors 6502a

    Jan 27, 2008
    Antiglare is exactly that. A matte lcd is a coating that diffuses light to spread glare so it's not as noticeable. A bare LCD is a glass screen, not an antiglare screen. Antiglare will reduce sharpness by some margin - that's it's purpose.

    it's more noticeable with text because text is all sharp lines. Images are smooth gradations.
  9. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    I also think that has to be an eye problem. If anything the higher res should be sharper.
    AG contrast differences are very small. I don't see it reduce sharpness by any margin. On a 1680x1080 15" screen you can still make out easy every pixel. It gets no sharper than that. Also AG pixels are usually easier to distinguish from each other than glossy once which kind of melt into each other.
    Contrast is slightly different but not sharpness as I understand it. I am no optometrican.

    @op if you wear contacts ask your optometrical if there are better ones. If it is glasses maybe have them checked for a prism. Apparently those are often missed by poor checkups. It is when you two eyes are slightly misaligned vertically. Your brain removes the error so you don't notice it, but if not corrected it will burn in at around 40 years, you will have big problems using varifocals when you need them.
    But most importantly contrast in your vision is greatly increased. Because the brain only sort of corrects it. It is like working with a screen with 30+% increased contrast.
  10. borisiii macrumors 6502

    Jul 4, 2010
    Don't want to sound patronising, but you are running the display at its native resolution, right?
  11. parish macrumors 65816


    Apr 14, 2009
    Wilts., UK
    That's what it sounds like to me as well - not trying to insult the OP's intelligence. I find Mac screens better than any PC laptop screens I've used.

    I wonder if it's running at standard 15" res - 1440x900?
  12. heeby macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2012
    I have a 17" antiglare and don't see any fuzziness...I also run the resolution down a couple notches normally because high res in general hurts my eyes. But as I don't like super sharp small stuff maybe my eyes aren't good enough to notice the fuzzy of which you speak.
  13. SDAVE macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2007
    I wouldn't do that. Run it at native res because you're losing quality.

    What I usually do if I need to see things up close is I enable Universal Access and just hold Control+MouseWheel (or trackpad with 2 fingers) and zoom in to the area of your choice.
  14. GoodOne macrumors regular

    May 6, 2012
    I feel the same about text reproduction on any Mac. Text looks very edgy/pixelated, well at least not sharp as on a windows machine.

    I'm currently on a Thinkpad T400s (1440 x 900) and while the display on this one is very poor (viewing angle etc), text looks waaaaay better than on my colleague's 15" high-res MPB.

    It's definately NOT the MPB's display, but the font rendering. If you into switch into a Windows VM on the very same machine, text will look sharp as usual.

    I think what you're seeing is described in this article:


    So, basically Microsoft's approach with Cleartype is a cheating, lazy quickfix while Apple's font rendering is more true to the original. But what good is that if the result seems worse?

    It's too bad. I'm currently looking to replace my T400s for either a MPB 2012 or a T430s and everytime I go check out the MBP's in an apple store I really want to get one because they just feel so great. But at the same time, every time I notice how edgy the text looks. No matter if it's a MBP 15 high res glossy or antiglare or an iMac 27".

    Judging from the the new iPad or iPhone 4(s), it seems that in order to produce sharp text with apple's font rendering, it takes retina resolution. Therefore, I hope that the MBP 2012 indeed will feature a retina display. Otherwise, I think I'll get another Thinkpad. It's not as pretty as a Mac but at least text looks nicely sharp on it. Too bad.

    Maybe you get used to the "different" text reproduction? Maybe Windows spoiled me? But on the other hand, doesn't the end result count? I don't care if the text reproduction is 98 or 100% accurate, I want it to look nice and sharp.
  15. StuLax18 macrumors 6502

    Jul 21, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Having seen a 13" run one step down in resolution from 1280x800, I know exactly what you mean by the fuzziness, compared to my 13" screen. So I would check what resolution you are running.

    I don't have one in front of me to confirm, but when I looked at the 15" AG in store, it did seem a tad off just from the AG instead of the glossy.
  16. DanoD thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 5, 2012
    So I did some more digging on this topic, and it turns our to be a very interesting topic.

    First, many thanks for taking the time to respond and the excellent suggestions, I'll address them in my next post.

    From what I've been able to gather, it looks like my issue is not a screen or vision issue, but rather may be due to the fact that microsoft and apple have two fundamentally different approaches to the way that they render fonts. I've been a lifelong windows user and I was completely naive that such a difference even existed, but apparently it has a documented history. Since no-one brought it up, I'd thought I'd try and summarize my findings.

    After sifting through a bunch of articles and blog posts, I've found a few references that eloquently explain the situation better than I ever could. If this interests you, I'd encourage you to click on the links for more information on the topic, the articles have some really interesting info:
    from: http://damieng.com/blog/2007/06/13/font-rendering-philosophies-of-windows-and-mac-os-x

    The topic is further covered in:




    The above is noteworthy for the mass of comments generated, many of which describe exactly what I'm feeling, and some of which have great info:

    A response to the above article found in http://mezzoblue.com/archives/2007/06/12/a_subpixel_s/
    Interesting points re: DPI and display resolutions given all the retina hype of late for refreshes...doesn't help my aching head much right now, but thought I'd offer up a selection of my finds....

    The writer in http://www.atpm.com/12.01/paradigm.shtml quotes a letter describing my situation exactly, albeit from a OS 9 to OS X perspective while mine is Windows->OS X:
    and himself replies:
    Before this post gets any longer, I'll leave people with this excellent article (it's outdated in regards to version of OS X, but has lots of great reference info for people like myself who had never considered the issue...):

  17. ixodes macrumors 601


    Jan 11, 2012
    Pacific Coast, USA
    I work in a multi-platform environment, as well as using both at home. So, the only point being I have thousands of hours in front of Macs & Windows machines. All top of the line computers I replace at each upgrade cycle.

    What you are seeing is perfectly normal. It's a characteristic of Macs OS X.

    In time you will become acclimated to it and it will no longer be as noticeable as it is now. People who use Macs primarily don't even notice it.

    Those who claim it's due to anti-glare, or the coating on the glass covers are wrong. It's pure speculation & guesswork.

    I have always preferred Macs, yet I do continue to notice it because I have excellent vision. That said, I'm very confident if you give yourself time, knowing there's nothing wrong with your Mac, you'll be just fine.

    Cheers... :)
  18. DanoD thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 5, 2012
    Goodone, looks like we were posting at about the same time:)

    What's even more interesting is the degree of individual subjectivity on the preference. Many comments in the above referenced article are highly impassioned on the subject; typically people like one or the other, and consider the other sacrilege. What is interesting is that people that complain about the windows rendering typically do so from a graphic design/reproductive quality "it's-not-true-typeface" stance, e.g., the text is "too thin", "not scaled right", etc. You don't hear them complaining that it hurts their eyes, just their sensibilities. On the other hand, for the people having difficulties with OS X, their grief seems very physical, complaining of eye strain, blurred vision, headaches, increased strain after longer sessions, symptoms that are very real to me in the short period I've been using the MBP and OS X.

    I think individual eyesight and the way different people's brains process things have something to do with it.

    Before more on that:

    I've tried stints of using both (smoothed and non-smoothed, with the font size default changed to different fonts, and honestly, I can't for the life of me see a difference. Perhaps it's a bit better with the smoothing turned off, but not enough to solve my problem.​

    There are never stupid suggestions, just people that sometimes overlook the basics! Thanks for the excellent point, but that was the first thing I checked when I noticed the issue, because it manifests almost the same way (blur, fuzz, etc...). However, there is no distortion, and images, icons, etc are crystal....​

    I've used a 15" 1920 x 1200 screen a lot in the past year, and at times it makes my eyes strain because of the res., but it's a very different kind of strain than what I'm experiencing now: in the 1920x1200 it's just because things are damn small in native, which sometimes requires a bit of squinting; now, while reading text, it's different, it's as if my eyes can never focus and find peace, and my brain is revolting accordingly.​

    Serious question indeed. I've always had excellent eyesight, and last had my vision checked a year ago for a commercial drivers license renewal. I was going on 4 hrs sleep a night for the week prior, and had 20/20 one eye, 18/20 the other for an overall of 20/20. HOWEVER, I've had a few crazy long stints in front of a screen for work projects since then, and will get it checked out again soon. Although I don't think the measurable quality (i.e. x/20) of my eyesight is the issue here, I think the people who mentioned the eyesight factor are definitely onto something​

    This seems to sum up a very plausible reason why some people are bothered by this (http://www.atpm.com/12.01/paradigm.shtml#27178):
    another theory, same article (or rationale for the above theory):

    The first Ron Redstone quote above sums up what I'm feeing perfectly. I really hope that ixodes's prophesy will come true:
    because I really, really like everything else about the machine, but right now I'm starting to wonder if I'm one of the few that is affected enough to find this issue terminal - I wish someone would peel my eyeballs out with a red-hot poker and stuff icecubes into the sockets right now.
  19. GoodOne, May 6, 2012
    Last edited: May 6, 2012

    GoodOne macrumors regular

    May 6, 2012
    It's the font rendering apple uses and nothing else. Plain and simple.

    Just give us that 2800x1800 resolution on the 2012 MBP 15 and the issue should be resolved once and for all.

    The iPhone 4 and new iPad are proof that apple's text rendering does look beautiful if only you have a retina-display.

    PS: I guess if get to use MacOS 100% of the time, you will eventually adapt to the different text rendering. Problem for me is that I have to use quite a lot of windows software so I would have to switch between MacOS (blurry text) and a Windows VM (crisp text) all the time. That way, it's nearly impossible to simply forget about the difference because you see it all the time. Also, I still think that at least without retina-level displays, Microsoft's approach is actually better. So in that sense, a MacOS would be a step back for me. With retina it would be a whole different story, of course.
  20. heeby macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2012
    And I wouldn't do that. I have no problems with the turned down quality and don't want to zoom constantly.
  21. DanoD, May 7, 2012
    Last edited: May 7, 2012

    DanoD thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 5, 2012

    I really have no idea if the process is similar for Mac AG screens, but interesting stuff nonetheless:


    I'm just really glad I don't have to try that :eek:, I really don't think the matte/AG is the issue for me:

    While my laptop was supposed to come with windows installed, the tech never got around to installing it, so I finally got to an Apple store just before they closed to see if they had windows running on a machine. While not apples to apples (damn I'm funny at 4 in the morning...) they had XP going as a VM on a desktop with a 21" monitor....presto, problem solved, my eyes were all: "yes, yes, sweet jesus of relief..."

    I also checked a 15" MBP with the glossy screen (not hi-res) and while a little bit better, the issue was still there....rule out AG.

    Soooooo....now I have to decide what to do. I'm leaning towards keeping the MBP, seeing if my eyes adjust, and then, if they don't, resign myself to having a very expensive windows machine (due to the hoops I had to jump through with procurement to get the thing, I'm not even sure if I'd be able to return it, and frankly, I spent so long trying to find "the right" laptop, I'm not sure what else I would get (the Sony SE with HD screen was the number #2 choice).

    A few questions (for reference: late 2011 15 MBP, i7, 8gb RAM, 512 SSD, 1gb GPU):

    I've used XP Pro for the last 10 years, and really like it, but am up for a change to Win7 if people think it's the way to go - are there any compelling reasons people can suggest for going that way? One potential problem with staying with XP is that I have the chance to upgrade to Photoshop CS5 and it needs a 64x system - does anybody have experience with XP 64x? I'll probably just keep Photoshop and lightroom in OS X and use windows for productivity stuff (office, etc..). I like the idea of installing Win7 and then having the option of using XPmode in Win7. Anybody comment on whether this is still a VM Fusion only option or have any experience with this?

    The other decision is to bootcamp or VM? I'm kind of leaning towards a bootcamp partition and then being able to boot windows or use it as a VM, -does it works well? Do VM Fusion or Parallels both work for this? Also, where would I install my windows apps so that they would be accesible to windows both under bootcamp and VM, or would I have to install two sets, one on each side of the partition? Since I likely won't be doing much heavy lifting in Windows if I keep Photoshop as OSX, would it just be best to keep everything VM?

    Thanks in advance for any insight!
  22. SDAVE macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2007
    Windows 7 if you really need it. XP is showing it's age.

    Then again, I don't use Windows anymore (Windows user since Windows 1.0). Switched to macs early 2000's. Never looked back.

Share This Page