The Apple MacBook Air 2020 is 30% brighter when you use Windows

MacBook Air 2020
MacBook Air 2020
During our tests with the new 2020 Apple MacBook Air, we noticed that the display is around 30% brighter when you use Windows. But how is that possible?

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During our reviews of Apple MacBooks, we always install Windows to perform additional benchmarks and measurements. When we tried to determine the brightness for our Wi-Fi battery runtime test, we noticed a much higher maximum brightness. While we saw the expected value of little more than 400 nits in macOS, our CalMAN software showed almost 550 nits for Windows 10 (BootCamp). The results were usually very similar in the past.

CalMAN Grayscale macOS (target color space sRGB)
CalMAN Grayscale macOS (target color space sRGB)
CalMAN Grayscale Windows 10 (target color space sRGB)
CalMAN Grayscale Windows 10 (target color space sRGB)

First of all, the two measurements show that the screen is very accurate, independent of the operating system. There is no color cast and the deviations compared to the sRGB reference color space are very small. But you can clearly see the different maximum brightness (column "100", line "Y" in the lower right table). The value for macOS is 415 cd/m², but the value for Windows is 547 cd/m². We have also tried to get a higher brightness with the activated ambient light sensor in combination with a flashlight, but this did not work. In addition to the maximum brightness, the black value (Windows) is a bit worse as well, so both operating systems get pretty much the same contrast ratio of 1200:1. The color accuracy is a bit worse when you use Windows, but you cannot see the differences with the naked eye.

So why is that? Only Apple can give a definitive answer, but there are several possibilities:

  • Not all the panels reach the same maximum brightness. Apple wants to make sure that the customers get comparable products, so the manufacturer limits the brightness to the advertised value (400 nits).
  • As we have mentioned before, the color accuracy is a bit worse when you use Windows, even after our calibration. It is possible that Apple can only ensure the better results at lower brightness levels.
  • The panel of the MacBook Air can reach much higher brightness levels than the advertised 400 nits, but Apple wants to keep the distance to the more expensive MacBook Pro 13. A brighter panel is a much better sales argument for many customers than a wider P3 color gamut.

We believe the last point makes a lot of sense, especially from a marketing perspective. We will also show how the different brightness levels will affect the battery runtime. This and many more topics will be covered in our full review of the MacBook Air 2020 Core i3, which will be published in a couple of days.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 05 > The Apple MacBook Air 2020 is 30% brighter when you use Windows
Andreas Osthoff, 2020-05- 9 (Update: 2020-05-19)
Andreas Osthoff
Editor of the original article: Andreas Osthoff - Managing Editor Business Notebooks
I grew up with computers and modern consumer electronics. I am interested in the technology since I had my first computer, a Commodore C64, and started building my own PCs after that. My focus here at Notebookcheck is the business segment including mobile workstations, but I also like to test new mobile devices. It is always a great experience to review and compare new products. My free time is filled with a lot of sports, in the summer mainly on my bike.