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Apple’s True Tone Displays Don’t Matter—Until They Do

Yesterday, my company graced me with a new MacBook Pro (honestly, we just needed it for testing, but I was happy to take it as “mine”), and it offers Apple’s True Tone technology which they’ve now carried into the MacBook Pro line.

Before I unboxed the new laptop, my complement of Apple hardware included all non-True Tone devices: a new iMac, the original iPad Pro 12.9, an iPhone 7+, and an Apple Watch—fantastic devices all, but not a True Tone display in the bunch. Not having had one, I certainly didn’t see the “need” for it, but I was really looking forward to the feature.

I turned on and set-up the new MacBook Pro, ready to bask in all of its color-calibrated glory. I fired it up, waited an interminable time for the Migration Assistant to finish pulling things from my older office iMac, and finally, I got the login prompt I had been waiting for. My programs launched, and (drum roll)…hmmmm…okay? It didn’t really look any different, or richer, or more amazing like I expected it to be from the deluge of Apple’s press about it. Meh. Well, whatever. I went about my work for the rest of the night. My work iMac’s screen had gone into Night Shift mode, and so had the MacBook, so everything looked about the same.

I had to work from home today, so I brought the new laptop with me from the office and set it up next to my iMac. I started my morning on the MacBook (in relative darkness, as I had a kid sleeping on the couch in my “office” that has rapidly become their playroom), and it looked fine. Normal. Apple-great. But fine. Fifteen minutes into working, I realized I needed a file from my home iMac that was sitting next to me (and next to the MacBook), so I woke it up.

Holy eye-blinding intensity, Batman!

The iMac’s bright-blue screen seared my eyes like I looked up at the sun (which you definitely shouldn’t do). In a few seconds, my eyes settled down from their shock, but there was no doubt that there was an intense glare coming from the iMac’s 27″ panel. I glanced over at the MacBook, and my eyes felt instantly more comfortable. It was a night-and-day difference. I looked back at my iMac’s otherwise gorgeous screen—painful. I looked back at the MacBook Pro—soothing. True Tone makes a tremendous difference, but it’s so smooth and so well done that you don’t notice it during the course of a normal day, as you honestly shouldn’t. The softer yellow tones on the MacBook Pro’s screen not only matched the “reality” of the white levels in the room, they made the MacBook Pro blend into the existing environment (of a truly cluttered and messy desk). The feature is so well implemented that I didn’t notice it simply because of its perfect implementation. It did its job without fanfare, and it did it well. It’s not that I don’t love the iMac’s screen—I do—but there is a time and a place for the full bright blue tones of its flat panel, and 8:00 AM in a darkened home office isn’t it. The MacBook Pro was handily more comfortable on the eyes to use, and eyestrain, while a real problem, isn’t one I often considered or cared about.

More accurately, it wasn’t a problem I considered or cared about until I saw the True Tone display on the MacBook Pro reveal its magic, and then I understood.