Being a frequent user of Lightroom on the road, I have to use my laptop screen much more often than I’d like for color critical work. Of course, one of the secrets to effectively using Lightroom—or any other photo editing software for that matter—is to have a properly profiled display. I’m usually pretty rigorous with making sure that my displays are profiled, which means that things are predictable. But even so, the problem with doing color work on a laptop display is that they don’t have a very large color gamut. In fact, the color gamut of a laptop is significantly less than that of a Cinema display.
To put this into perspective, a Cinema Display or most modern LCD panels can pretty much display the sRGB colorspace, give or take. Laptop displays don’t even come close to this range. So, when you work on a laptop, you’re working using a limited tool. It’s just that simple. So, when Apple’s new 15″ MacBook Pro was introduced with a display with LED-backlighting, I was curious to see how it ended up performing.
After working with the new laptop and display for a few days, the short answer is that it performs quite well. In fact, I agree with Rob Galbraith’s assessment that it’s definitely a step up from any laptop display that I’ve worked with before. It’s bright enough to use in environments that were previously too bright for laptop use and it profiles well. Once profiled, it holds neutrals consistently from one side of the display to the other. In fact, the display is the most neutral laptop display I’ve ever used. My only major gripe with it is that it is more sensitive to vertical veiwing angle than I would really like.
But that’s all subjective. Let’s look at something a bit more objective. Here’s how the colorimeter says the new 15″ LED-based display performs against my older first generation 17″ MacBook Pro:
As you can see, the 15″ LED display does outperform the 17″ MacBook Pro’s display. It doesn’t have a much larger gamut, but it is an improvement. The 15″ LED display, however, still doesn’t come anywhere near a 23″ Cinema display. Here’s the comparison in gamut:
And, here’s a final plot of the 15″ LED’s screen’s gamut against the sRGB colorspace:
From these plots, and from my subjective experience with this laptop, it’s clear that the new display is good. And, it’s going to be a useful tool on the road and on location. But, whenever possible, I’m still going to prefer editing on Cinema displays. And, I’m keeping my eye on even better monitors that can display all of the AdobeRGB color space. After all, when you’re working in Lightroom or Photoshop, color is everything.
Update: Based on a reader request, here’s my most recent ICC profile made with ColorEyes Display Pro and a Gretag/MacBeth EyeOne Display 2 colorimeter.