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App lets you crank the new MacBook Pro’s brightness to over 1,000 nits


Vivid on a MacBook Pro and Pro Display XDR.

Developers Jordi Bruin and Ben Harraway have released an application called Vivid that allows Apple’s new MacBook Pro models and Pro Display XDR to achieve double the brightness systemwide—something that previously wasn’t possible.

For background: Apple says the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro’s MiniLED display can reach 1,600 nits of peak brightness on highlights or 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness. That’s nearly unrivaled in consumer laptop or desktop displays—it’s more in the realm of what you’d expect from a high-end television.

But while certain HDR video content will take advantage of that on highlights, the normal desktop computing experience isn’t much brighter than what you get on another monitor. macOS keeps things around 500 nits tops unless the content you’re specifically watching calls for more—and most content doesn’t.

Vivid overcomes that limitation by using “a clever mixture of different technologies. This includes Metal, Carbon, Cocoa, Swift, SwiftUI, and even some C code” to bring the overall brightness to nearly double its normal maximum when using any desktop application, according to one of the developers.

The app is not always fully baked, though. If you frequently swipes between desktop spaces, you’ll find that your display will take a moment to resolve correctly after each switch. It briefly looks washed out when you first move to a new space. Further, colors can look incorrect in certain video content.

The Vivid effect is impressive when it works, though. It’s vibrant, looks great, and can fight sunlight glare as hard as any laptop. There’s even a nice, elegant extension to macOS’s normal on-screen brightness meter that indicates whether you’re within the normal range of brightness or the newly unlocked extended range.

Vivid's extended macOS brightness meter.
Enlarge / Vivid’s extended macOS brightness meter.

Samuel Axon

A license key for the app costs about $16, but you can take it for a spin before you buy. The free version, however, only does half the screen at a time. It shows you the difference, but a screen cut in half defeats the purpose until you pay.

According to the FAQ on the application’s website citing Apple documentation, using Vivid isn’t likely to pose any risk to your hardware. And its impact on performance is relatively small. However, running your laptop at twice the usual brightness all the time will unsurprisingly have a large negative impact on battery life.

The FAQ also says that should Apple make any changes to macOS that make Vivid stop working, Vivid’s developers will strive to update the app to make it work. If the developers are unsuccessful after three months, they say, they will be open to issuing refunds.

If you’re game to roll with its limitations, you can download Vivid from its website.

Listing image by Vivid



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