Hi guys, I’m very happy that we have this forum going on to fight the headaches that modern screens are bringing to us. I’m going to have a first (and hopefully last) laptop replacement (have to switch to another model) because the current screen is not good for my eyes. At the beginning, I absolutely can not look at it for more than 10 mins. Now after some extra steps I can use it longer, but I still have mild headache and dry eyes at times. Buying a piece of tech and having to switch to another one later is really a pain in the ass, so here are my findings that may help you to avoid the problems in the future:
- The screen is the most important factor. If you ever feel eye strain, headache, nausea… while looking at any screen, take note. That is your eyes and your brain calling for your attention. From that moment, buying any tech device, you will have to carefully consider the screen first. Form-factor, power, design, battery… will all come after it, because if you can not look at its screen comfortably for a long time then it is just useless to you.
- Your eyes may be just aging, they become more sensitive. I don’t think you need to see a doctor right away unless you also have eye problems when not looking at a screen.
- A matte/anti-reflective screen is safer than glossy one. If you have sensitive eyes, it is very risky to choose a glossy screen (the kind where you can see yourself in it like in a mirror). That kind of screens seems brighter, more colorful and vibrant, but it tends to reflect lights and shapes behind you which is distracting to your eyes and make you tired very soon.
- Before buying anything, test the screen for a prolong time. Reading texts is the test to go. Keep reading black texts on white background from minimum to maximum brightness setting. If there is any sign of eye strain or discomfort when you read texts, just back off, do not buy it and save yourself the trouble. You can never "train" your eyes to get used to it.
- Look for any sign of flickering, color tint, color shift, unbalanced brightness. You can test it by displaying a white full-screen background and look at it from various angles. A good screen will give you the feeling of looking at a white paper or a white cloth, which means it looks static, solid, unified and easy on the eyes. A bad screen will make you doubt and feel discomfort because your eyes and your brain have to “try” to comprehend the image, even if it is just a plain white image. If you feel uncomfortable looking at a white screen, somehow the image is not rendered in a faithful and "healthy" way.
- PWM and temporal dithering are not everything. I have looked at a screen that is non-PWM at 100% brightness and with temporal dithering disabled but it is still hard on my eyes. What I suspect is that there are other inherent issues with the panel itself (maybe how the way pixels and the backlight are designed/operated) so it is still not entirely "correct", something very subtle is still disturbing me. Although I can not point out what it is, my eyes know it is there. By the way, to avoid PWM screens is the best. There are several review sites out there which test the devices to see if their screens utilise PWM and at which brightness/frequency (eg. notebookreview site...)
- MacType is a great app for those using Windows. You may love it or hate it, but it is worth a try because it can help reading texts easier. With MacType running, texts will look bolder and smoother - in a Mac OS way - rather than the thin, blurred, gray-ish look of Windows ClearType. I prefer the "LCD" profile, it looks great, bold enough yet not blurred.
- Try ditherig app. Disable all dithering functions.
- If there are 2 models of the same laptop series, 1 with discrete video card and 1 with Intel HD, try both and see which suits you. Your eyes may like one and dislike the other.
- You can always try Microsoft Basic Display Adapter driver when the Intel's driver is hard on your eyes (if you notice unusual color, flickering or discomfort when using Intel driver). After uninstalling the Intel UHD or HD Graphics driver in Device manager, immediately disable the following services (run services.msc) before any further shutdown/restart: Windows Updates, Device setup manager, Device install service, Intel hd graphics (2), Intel content protection (2), and you'd better find and delete Intel driver files (search for folders with "dch" in their names) in C:\Windows\system32 also. Then the Microsoft Basic Display Adapter driver will be applied. The reason for the extra steps is to prevent Windows from re-installing the Intel's driver (which means replacing the Microsoft Basic Display Adapter that you just set up). With the Microsoft Basic Display Adapter, some features may not work (brightness setting, high refresh rate...) but in return you have the basic, standard image, which you may prefer. Now I do not know WTF is going on with Intel's driver, but the moment I come back to the Intel UHD driver, my eyes are immediately tortured and I have horrible headache.