TLDR: Windows 10 22H2 (19045.3570) and SPECIFICALLY ONLY non-updated Intel drivers from July 2018 COMPLETELY TRANSFORM the 2018 Retina MacBook Air screen into one that feels like four times the resolution and comfort than any macOS version. This laptop went from "a computer I literally didn't even care for with a bad screen" to my daily driver that has the best screen ever across all my modern devices and I still cannot believe it. If you can't find a good Windows 10 setup TRY THIS.
Disclaimer: All information here is only in regards to the internal display. I have not tested this with an external monitor.
I have a 2018 Retina MacBook Air (i5, UHD Graphics 615, 16GB) that was lying around for a while… I didn't really have a use for it though, since I never liked the screen compared to most of my other devices.
It's an interesting case — since it actually defaults to *only* "millions of colors" despite also including "billions of colors" in the BetterDisplay menu, only supports sRGB (Color LCD profile has same appearance as sRGB), and does not have True Tone at all, which is rare for a Mac from the T2 chip era. Newer Retina MacBook Airs actually do support P3, which makes this a really unique Mac.
But I still hated looking at the screen, tried it on Ventura, Monterey, and Mojave and all three versions just had a really smudgy look to the screen, Lots of glare, shimmery text, hard to discern individual pixels, colors looked drab and washed out, and completely dried out my eyes after 30 minutes of looking at it. Yes, the screen was on native 2560x1600 (1280x800@2x) Retina resolution and auto brightness was off. It's actually the first time I've had a disappointing experience with Mojave which was surprising. At that point, I just chalked it up to it being a cheaper LCD, probably some bad antiglare coating or whatever as it does have a relatively intense "blue IPS glow". At least, that's what I thought.
At some point, I needed some way to run a Windows-only app, so I threw Windows 10 22H2 with Boot Camp on the MacBook Air. I installed it from Mojave and it seemed to install older drivers from 2018. Immediately, I noticed something felt different about the screen. Definitely noticeably better at first impressions, but I thought maybe it was just my preference for ClearType font smoothing at this point. But I didn't have time to fully evaluate it, because a few hours in — since I learned that Apple added precision trackpad support down the line — I decided to run some driver updates through the Windows version of Apple Software Update. It installed the new trackpad driver which is awesome, but I realized I left another box checked that installed an update to "support the Studio Display".
After the Studio Display update installed, I realized it updated the Intel graphics driver all the way from the 2018 version to a 2022 version. The "Intel Graphics Settings" option on the desktop context menu vanished, and the app was replaced with the new Intel Graphics Command Center. Suddenly, the good impressions that I had with the screen on Windows at first went AWAY — and Windows 10 became just as hazy, washed out, and uncomfortable to look at as macOS had always been on here, at the same exact resolution settings. I was shocked because at this point, I was still kind of skeptical of the idea that software updates could change the way a display looked. ClearType was still enabled despite looking way worse now. Screenshots of the same apps before and after the update didn't seem to have any differences. But I just saw the screen change with my own eyes.
A few months later, I decided to mess around with this laptop again and attempt to downgrade to the old Intel drivers. They're essentially impossible to find online, so I had to use the "Download Windows Support Software" option in Boot Camp back in macOS, which took a few tries to get working and not just pop up an error message. I was eventually able to get the 2022 driver uninstalled with Display Driver Uninstaller and install the original 2018 one again, which I could tell worked because the Intel Graphics Settings shortcut reappeared.
After installing the 2018 driver, here are the only settings I changed:
Turning off the annoying "display power saving technology" (automatic contrast) in all power profiles through the graphics settings.
Disabling all triggers in the "Calibration Loader" task in Task Scheduler » Microsoft » Windows » WindowsColorSystem, which prevents any color management or color profile from being activated at login.
(The Intel driver that I am now using is 188.8.131.5222 from 7/10/2018. If it matters, my web browser is Firefox 122.0. The MacBook Air is strangely still using a Ventura recoveryOS even after downgrading to Mojave, so it probably has newer system firmware.)
This old driver has blown my mind. Immediately after installing I noticed the haziness and dry feeling I got from macOS and the newer Windows Intel driver completely vanished. The colors feel more vibrant, but in a good way that actually feels natural, not in that blown out way that's commonly associated with bad screens here. Apps in light mode don't feel like staring at the sun anymore, even at high brightness. Background colors look solid, not grainy. I can notice tiny details in the OS — like how the Desktop icon in the File Explorer sidebar has one dot at the bottom left and and a few dots at the bottom right — without trying to notice it, barely leaning towards the laptop, and without even needing my glasses.
I've been using this setup for the past week now, for hours a day, and my eyes feel amazing. It feels like I got a screen replacement — but I didn't, because if I try to boot back into macOS the same exact eye strain I used to associate this laptop with returns.
The screen DOES have PWM under 75% brightness (at a VERY high rate, 113600Hz), but I don't even care. It still looks great at low brightness with my Windows setup, and just looks even better at higher brightness.
The one thing I've noticed is that this 2018 driver seems to have no concept of temporal dithering at all. There's a noticeable amount of banding, and changing the brightness and contrast settings will cause this banding to shift. Even after installing ditherig.exe, selecting the Spatial or Temporal settings does not seem to affect the banding at all, which leads me to believe that no form of dithering at all is implemented in this driver.
(I still keep ditherig open "just in case", as I've recently noticed that on some of my other machines, the dither settings sometimes appear to not affect banding but still noticeably change some colors.)
This is in contrast to macOS, where even on an old version like Mojave, there is no banding. Adjusting color table gamma in BetterDisplay will maintain an entirely smooth image with no additional banding — a clear sign of dithering, most likely temporal.
Unfortunately, even the dither=0 boot-args trick does not affect this Mac in macOS. (I've only been able to get dither=0 to work on Macs from 2015, for what it's worth.)
But I don't mind any more because I now have the perfect Windows 10 machine — which somehow is the SAME EXACT laptop.
In summary, downgrade to macOS Mojave, install Windows 10 22H2 with 2018-era drivers, disable DPST and color management for a MASSIVE improvement in display clarity and comfort on the 2018 MacBook Air. Install the trackpad driver but DO NOT install the Studio Display driver.