I've been a Windows 7 user for the past 10 years and with it reaching it's end of life come early next year I've had to decide what OS I will be moving to. I'm not a huge fan of Windows 10 with all the telemetry it does, so I've decided what I'm going to do is move to Linux as my main everyday OS, and dual boot Windows 10 for gaming only.
I've always disabled Cleartype in Windows as I preferred the sharp single pixel width of fonts such as Arial, Verdana, etc. I do keep "font smoothing" on though which does apply some antialising to particular fonts such as the UI font (Segoe UI) and various others. Having Cleartype disabled though does affect some websites that have fonts that were definitely designed with Cleartype in mind. For example, the "New" reddit font renders really poorly without Cleartype. Luckily most websites I visit still look fine without Cleartype.
So now on to where my eye strain started.
After playing around in the various Linux distros to see which desktop environment was most comfortable for me, I ended up choosing Xubuntu and installed that. One of the first things I had to do was mess with the font settings, as I've found out I'm super sensitive to RGB subpixel rendering which seems to be enabled by default on all the distros I tried. I can see the color fringes on all small fonts and get almost immediate eyestrain with it enabled. After switching to only grayscale anti-aliasing and turning font hinting from Slight to Full I really liked how the fonts were rendering. Sharp and clean.
After a few hours though is when I started to notice eyestrain and a headache coming on. When I jumped back over to Windows the problem immediately subsided. So I decided to dig deep into the various font settings I could try in Linux.
First I calibrated my display in both Linux and Windows with my i1 Display Pro to D65, 2.2 gamma, at a monitor brightness of 120 cd/m2. This was to rule out the gamma as possibly being the culprit of the eyestrain which I know can cause it. I then installed the MS fonts to see if it's just the font type I'm more used to. I set Segoe UI as my system font and went into Firefox and set the defaults to the same as Windows (Arial, Times New Roman, Courier New). The eyestrain remained. Even setting particular fonts in fontconfig (Arial, Verdana, etc) to not use any anti-aliasing was still giving me eye strain. I went a step further and installed the Freetype Infinality patches that have "Windows like" settings. No change. Still got eyestrain. It's like there is something imperceptible going on that's causing my eyestrain.
I than started looking for other possible sources of the problem such as the highly talked about dithering. I'm not even sure what exactly it is, or if it even affects my particular issue with fonts? I tried disabling it in Nvidia X Server Settings, but the setting doesn't seem to stick. After I close and reopen Nvidia Settings, it gets set back to Enabled. So after trying everything I could think of, I decided to just stop fiddling with it, as the eyestrain was getting pretty bad at this point.
But now I'm starting to wonder if the problem is psychological. Maybe I just need to toughen up and push through the eye strain in Linux for a week and my eyes/brain will adjust. Similar to the effect when you get a new stronger prescription of eyeglasses and life sucks for a few days until you get used to them. Maybe that's all the issue is since I've been looking at the same fonts/rendering in Windows for the last decade. And if that does happen to be the case, I'm wondering if I'd get eyestrain when jumping back to Windows?
My main monitor is a 27" 1920x1080 IPS 60hz display. I've been meaning to upgrade to a 27" 1440p@144hz panel for a while now. I know that the increased DPI would improve the font rendering somewhat. Obviously jumping to 4K would be even better as far as font rendering goes. But since I game, I don't want to spend a fortune on GPU(s) that can push high framerates at 4K.
It's definitely a weird phenomenon I'm going through with this, as I've NEVER had issue with eye strain using my PC. I'm curious if anyone else has had this happen to them when switching operating systems?
Thanks for anyone taking the time to read this, and I'm happy to hear any opinions/thoughts on this issue.
EDIT: The more I read about dithering, the more I'm wondering if it IS the problem I'm having. I got to figure out why I can't seem to be able to disable it in Nvidia Settings.