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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Screens: MacBook vs MacBook Air

Screens: MacBook vs MacBook Air
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Gee4orce
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Oct 18, 2008, 06:46 PM
 
I had the chance to directly compare the new MacBook to the MacBook Air today, and something very obvious struck me: the screens are not the same.

Yeah, I know one of them is covered with glass now...but comparing the two screens side by side the Air is FAR superior in it's (lack of) colour shift and viewing angle. In fact, you can view the Air's screen almost side-on or top-down and it looks great.

The same cannot be said about the new Macbook. In fact, the Macbook screen looks disappointingly similar to the OLD Macbook screen.

Both screens are 'glossy' - although the Macbook's is glossy due to a panel of glass in front of it. I can't believe it's the glass that's causing this difference.

So, you'd think by the specs that one 13.3" LED backlit panel is pretty much the same as any other 13.3" LED backlit panel. Not so. I wonder why the compromise on quality here - I tell you, if that Macbook screen had looked as good as the one on the Air I would have bought it on the spot....
     
ASIMO
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Oct 18, 2008, 08:58 PM
 
The MacBook LCD truly does suck for me. Not only is the glare terrible but, yes, the viewing angle is among the worst I can remember experiencing. And don't get me started on the dismissal of FW on a line that has supported it for a while.

I'm still clinging to my ~4 year old PB 12" hoping that a ~12 inch MacBook Pro would show up by now. When I heard that the MacBook adopted the aluminum body, I got excited. Then I find out FW is MIA. Ouch. Still, 10% intrigued, so then I go to the Store and find that the glossy screen even is worse than I could imagine. Aside from these two issues, the MB seems like a winner. Unfortunately, these two weigh heavily for me.

And no, the MBP is not for me. Too big, too heavy.

Cheers.
( Last edited by ASIMO; Oct 18, 2008 at 08:59 PM. Reason: typo)
I, ASIMO.
     
iomatic
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Oct 18, 2008, 09:05 PM
 
Can we please get some more observations from others in stores around etc.? Will be doing the same tomorrow...
     
Brien
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Oct 18, 2008, 09:39 PM
 
The viewing angle IS terrible, and it's not the glass. I have the new MBP and my girlfriend has the new MB, and the MB has much worse color shift/viewing angles.
     
audvidsvs
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Oct 18, 2008, 10:02 PM
 
I was at a Best Buy yesterday and they had the New Macbook next to the Blackbook next to the New Pro.

The new Macbook looks beter than the Black one(which I have of course) but it looks like crap compared to the new Pro.
Big Crap!
It has the same basic look as the Black one but is brighter due to the LED backlight. I think it also had more of a Blue hue to it again I imagine due to the LED.

Today I was in there again and looked at the New Macbook next to an Air and sure enough the Air screen does look a whole lot better.
I can not say if it is due to the actual screen or the one less layer of anything in gfront of the Air screen but it look a whole lot more different than I would have hoped.

It reminds me of the 12" Ibook vs 12" PB screen debate which I never really understood.
Having had both I thought the PB screen simply blew away the Ibook screen.
If they were the same well......?
     
fisherKing
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Oct 18, 2008, 10:19 PM
 
Originally Posted by audvidsvs View Post
I was at a Best Buy yesterday and they had the New Macbook next to the Blackbook next to the New Pro.

The new Macbook looks beter than the Black one(which I have of course) but it looks like crap compared to the new Pro.
Big Crap!
It has the same basic look as the Black one but is brighter due to the LED backlight. I think it also had more of a Blue hue to it again I imagine due to the LED.

Today I was in there again and looked at the New Macbook next to an Air and sure enough the Air screen does look a whole lot better.
I can not say if it is due to the actual screen or the one less layer of anything in gfront of the Air screen but it look a whole lot more different than I would have hoped.

It reminds me of the 12" Ibook vs 12" PB screen debate which I never really understood.
Having had both I thought the PB screen simply blew away the Ibook screen.
If they were the same well......?
one thing for sure, the 12" powerbook screen sucked next to the 15" powerbook (i had the last-gen 12", my GF had the 15"). seems an old apple trick, lesser screens in the smaller (or cheaper) macs. shame we can't just have three macbook pros: 13", 15" 17" (which is coming). same features, just bumps in processor speed, storage, etc...(as it was in the last days of the powerbook).
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mduell
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Oct 18, 2008, 11:01 PM
 
Apple is putting the cheapest panels they can find into their low-end machines (20" iMac, MacBook). Really helps with the upsell.
     
Simon
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Oct 19, 2008, 03:50 AM
 
Originally Posted by Brien View Post
The viewing angle IS terrible, and it's not the glass. I have the new MBP and my girlfriend has the new MB, and the MB has much worse color shift/viewing angles.
This has always been the case. The iBook's screen sucked compared to the PB's. And the previous MBs have never had close to the same viewing angle as the MBP. $500 buys you a whole lot more than just 2".
     
Gee4orce  (op)
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Oct 19, 2008, 05:14 AM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
This has always been the case. The iBook's screen sucked compared to the PB's. And the previous MBs have never had close to the same viewing angle as the MBP. $500 buys you a whole lot more than just 2".
Yeah, but it should be explicitly stated in the specs - there's no way of knowing when you order online that the 13.3" in the Macbook is not the same panel that's in the Air, and it's not a small version of the one that's in the Pro
     
ctt1wbw
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Oct 19, 2008, 05:34 AM
 
Speaking of viewing angle and the Air's screen, it's the main reason I bought it over the Macbook. Here's a pic of my 6 month old Air. You can see how the viewing angle is, even with a digital camera. And sorry about the size...

     
kylef
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Oct 19, 2008, 06:22 AM
 
My brother has an Air and I have the new MacBook. The first thing I noticed was the impact of the MB's glossy screen. The Air's screen is great, but call me crazy - I prefer the MBs (subconscious "mine is better" perhaps). I've yet to try this outside, but when I'm in a conservatory or something like that I don't have that much glare at all.
     
analogika
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Oct 19, 2008, 06:43 AM
 
Originally Posted by Gee4orce View Post
I had the chance to directly compare the new MacBook to the MacBook Air today, and something very obvious struck me: the screens are not the same.

Yeah, I know one of them is covered with glass now...but comparing the two screens side by side the Air is FAR superior in it's (lack of) colour shift and viewing angle. In fact, you can view the Air's screen almost side-on or top-down and it looks great.

The same cannot be said about the new Macbook. In fact, the Macbook screen looks disappointingly similar to the OLD Macbook screen.
Yes, absolutely.

Originally Posted by Simon View Post
$500 buys you a whole lot more than just 2".
That's what she said.
     
iomatic
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Oct 19, 2008, 06:44 PM
 
Just went to the Apple Store today, and while the MacBook features are very appealing (keep in mind I'm "side-grading" from an earlier MBP to the MacBook Air), the screen really is a deal-killer. Viewed straight on, the colors are well-saturated but a tad washed out (blacks aren't very black). I looked at three of the MacBooks, and they all verify the same result: move your head a few inches in any direction, and colors shift dramatically. I daresay even severely.

I would not get this machine for that reason. The white-washed effect could probably be fixed with some calibration, but the color shifting is due to some extreme polarization effect of the screen itself.

The MacBook Air's screen however, was very bright and color shifts were unnoticeable until you were at extreme angles (a person would not want to type at that approach). Colors were consistent, saturated and rich blacks with fine details in shadows were present. I'm getting this!

The MacBook Pro screen was just plain excellent all around.
     
tie
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Oct 21, 2008, 01:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by ASIMO View Post
The MacBook LCD truly does suck for me. Not only is the glare terrible but, yes, the viewing angle is among the worst I can remember experiencing. And don't get me started on the dismissal of FW on a line that has supported it for a while.

I'm still clinging to my ~4 year old PB 12" hoping that a ~12 inch MacBook Pro would show up by now.
How do you compare the Macbook's screen to that of the PB 12"? With the new backlights, it should certainly be brighter. But is it at least marginally better in terms of viewing angle/color shifts? I couldn't tolerate anything worse than the PB 12", which is already quite bad.
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B Gallagher
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Oct 21, 2008, 02:42 AM
 
For what it's worth, the viewing angle is much better on my MBP than it ever was on my PB. I can look at the screen from close to directly side on, and the colours are still great. Was one of the first things I noticed about it.
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Gee4orce  (op)
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Oct 21, 2008, 06:42 AM
 
It's going back a bit, but I did upgrade from the PB12" to the Macbook 13.3", and I remember the screen a serious let down. That said, you do get used to it...but...why should you have to ?
     
fisherKing
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Oct 21, 2008, 10:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by Gee4orce View Post
It's going back a bit, but I did upgrade from the PB12" to the Macbook 13.3", and I remember the screen a serious let down. That said, you do get used to it...but...why should you have to ?
i've had 2 12" powerbooks, and the screen paled next to my GF's last-gen 15" powerbook.
next to the macbook, the 12" was also sad...just not bright or sharp enough.

still...i miss it. the 12" was my fave mac, and i wish apple had a 12" mbp... (or the 13" had a matte screen option...and firewire!)
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iREZ
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Oct 21, 2008, 10:53 AM
 
saw the new macbook yesterday (my buddy just picked one up) and i have to say, screen seems like its lots better than the older macbook but definitely not on par with the macbook air and certainly not the mbp.
NOW YOU SEE ME! 2.4 MBP and 2.0 MBP (running ubuntu)
     
iomatic
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Oct 21, 2008, 11:14 AM
 
^That's what I said. Though, all our opinions are just that: unverified subjectivity.
     
slpdLoad
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Oct 21, 2008, 11:23 AM
 
Yep, my MBP is worlds better in terms of viewing angle than my near-first generation AluPB. I simply cannot imagine wanting to go to anything other than this 15", matte, LCD-backlit screen, with an enormous viewing angle.
     
Skypat
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Oct 21, 2008, 11:56 AM
 
Hi!
I spent quiet some time this morning playing with the new MacBooks : MacBook Pro 2,4 Ghz, MacBook 2Ghz and the previous MacBook Air 1,6 Ghz.

I compared the same pictures and yes, I am sorry to say that the screen quality of the MB seems to be so much lower than the one of the MBP and the MBA.

The blacks are dark grey. The colors are less dense. The screen of the MBA looks so good, almost perfect compared to it. Same for the MBP. I was looking at a picture of the Earth taken from space. You could hardly tell the difference between the black border of the MBP and the black area of the sky. It was not the case on the MB.

I am sorry to say it because I wanted to buy a MacBook. So obviously, Apple is not telling everything about the screen quality they are using. Can a journalist tell us what are the facts about those pannels ?

Thanks !
S k y p a t
     
tie
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Oct 21, 2008, 12:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by fisherKing View Post
i've had 2 12" powerbooks, and the screen paled next to my GF's last-gen 15" powerbook.
next to the macbook, the 12" was also sad...just not bright or sharp enough.
This is what I wanted to hear. But given Gee4orce's impressions, I had better wait to order until I see one in person.
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iREZ
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Oct 21, 2008, 12:40 PM
 
Originally Posted by slpdLoad View Post
Yep, my MBP is worlds better in terms of viewing angle than my near-first generation AluPB. I simply cannot imagine wanting to go to anything other than this 15", matte, LED-backlit screen, with an enormous viewing angle.
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IronPen
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Oct 21, 2008, 03:29 PM
 
Did you try to adjust the color profile on these MB's? I almost always adjust the color. I have a MB now, but the 12" PB I had was awesome. I downloaded a profile I found via Google that was just stellar. In fact, I still have that color profile, but it doesn't look as impressive on the MB.

I am interested in checking them out for myself (the new MB's) to see which of the three, MB, MBP, MBA is the best. But it's great to get other opinions as well. That's why I love this forum.
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tie
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Oct 21, 2008, 04:53 PM
 
If you calibrate your monitor (and why not?) with the Eye-One hardware tools (and probably other tools), it gives you a graphical picture of the color gamut at the end. The PB 12" was absolutely terrible compared to my external Dell monitors---this could not be fixed by downloading a profile. I wish reviews would give this information. (Yes, Apple uses different versions of LCDs in the same computer models, but they are all probably of similar quality).
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iREZ
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Oct 21, 2008, 05:09 PM
 
tie is right. without proper calibration using some sort of device you're not doing anything but shifting color and adjusting contrast to your liking. which is definitely fine, just not optimally adjusted.
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iomatic
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Oct 21, 2008, 07:23 PM
 
Still, if the bar is low already, there's not a whole lot you can do to fix the inherent quality problem.
     
iREZ
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Oct 21, 2008, 08:09 PM
 
true that
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slpdLoad
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Oct 21, 2008, 08:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by iREZ View Post
fixenated
doh!
     
IronPen
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Oct 22, 2008, 08:21 AM
 
True. My 20" Mac LCD with the default Cinema profile is just awesome. I'm torn between getting a new MB for it's size and new features, a MBP due to the power and nicer display, or the MB Air with the compact form factor and even nicer display. I plan to compare them all soon before I make a decision.
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Voch
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Oct 22, 2008, 01:51 PM
 
I'm pretty disappointed in the new MacBook's screen assuming it's the same one I have in my current Rev. A MacBook. This late winter or spring I'll be weighing my options among the MacBook (screen viewing angle), MacBook Pro (heavier) and MacBook Air (slower processor and HD and no RAM increase from what I have now).

Right now a refurb MBP is the leader (assuming they're ~$1699 when I go to buy) as I'm used to hauling my 6 lb. Dell Latitude D830 to work every day so carrying a 5.5 lb. MBP when I'm not at work won't seem as bad. Good job on the potential upsell, Apple.

Voch
     
tie
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Oct 24, 2008, 02:37 AM
 
Okay, I went to see the new laptops today. The MacBook did seem to have less contrast. I couldn't compare the viewing angles because the reflections were completely overwhelming. I hadn't expected the glossy screens to be a problem, but now I don't know. I'll have to see them again before I order one.
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