The new generation of MacBook Pro features a terrific display. The colour depth, maximum brightness and contrast levels it can achieve are truly stunning and a huge leap over previous models of MacBook. It’s also significantly higher resolution than the 2019 16-inch, and the increased pixel density is noticeably better in terms of the visible detail of photos and videos. The extra resolution also enabled Apple to restore 2x Retina mode as the standard display setting without sacrificing on effective screen real estate. The panel’s 120 FPS refresh rate is icing on the cake, even if macOS still hasn’t quite caught up to the hardware capability (although the 12.2 beta seed is much better in this regard).
However, all display technologies have tradeoffs, and the mini-LED design seen in the MacBook Pro is no different. Blooming is often discussed as a downside of mini-LED but funnily enough, I don’t see it crop up too much in how I use my computer. It’s there if you seek it out, but you really have to hunt.
As shown in the video above, a persistent niggle for me is the vignetting effect around the edges of the display. The extreme edge of the screen is just slightly darker all the way around, and it sticks out when the rest of the screen is uniformly bright. You can observe this border pretty much all the time. It’s annoying. I’d put in the same category as the notch. In practice, because it only impacts the screen quality at the very fringes, it rarely intrudes on the content you are viewing and your brain learns to ignore the periphery imperfections.
Another more subtle artefact is the screen response time when changing between light and dark content. Basically, if you have a big dark coloured blob and then quickly change to a new screenful of content that is mostly white, it takes a few extra milliseconds for the black regions to turn white. I haven’t precisely timed it, it might even be as small as a 100 milliseconds lag, but it is noticeable to the human eye. It’s sort of like OLED jelly scrolling, but less prevalent.
Modern LCD backlights certainly don’t have the vignetting problems, and screen response time can be consistently as low as 1 millisecond. Apple clearly made the right choice to move from LCD to mini-LED though. It is simply superior in most regards. A hypothetical decision between a MacBook Pro with mini-LED and one with an OLED screen is less clear cut. OLEDs don’t exhibit the edge vignetting and have no blooming because each pixel is individually lit, but they bring their own issues like burn-in and jelly scrolling to contend with.