LED MacBook Gamut

by James Duncan Davidson

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.


Sean McCormack
2007-08-01 01:43:42
Hi James,
Interesting article. You don't by any chance have similar charts for iMac screens vs sRGB?

James Duncan Davidson
2007-08-01 05:55:36
Sean: Unfortunatly, I don't have an iMac that I've profiled in quite a while.
Jonathan Pfeiffer
2007-08-05 22:25:41
Wow! I didn't even know this was an issue. I have so much to learn about color (and I honestly don't know even where to start).
2007-08-11 09:22:07
Thank you James for this article. I calibrated my MacBook Pro LED display but I'd like very much to compare my calibration with the calibration of a professional photographer like you. Would it be possible for you to provide your calibration/color profile for download (or could you send me it by email)? That would be fantastic! Thanks again.
James Duncan Davidson
2007-08-11 21:17:12
Hi Paulo, I've posted an update above with my most recent profile. Hope that helps.
Ronald van Pijkeren
2007-08-15 04:23:45
Thanks a lot. One question: just to make sure, have you been using the matte screen (and not the glossy one) during this test?
James Duncan Davidson
2007-08-19 16:08:42
Ronald: Yes indeed, matte screen. That's a good point to make.
2007-08-29 17:56:49
I also had a question, when you calibrated, what brightness was your display set to for accurate color representation?

PS Thanks for the profile :-D

Gord Lacey
2007-09-07 00:09:18
Has anyone else noticed that their screen displays posterization in gradients? I was looking at the Photoshop color-picker and noticed the top of the gradient is a solid color, which isn't the case on my PowerBook G4, or my 20" Cinema display. I saved a screen shot here: http://www.tvshowsondvd.net/PS2.png

Does anyone else see a line that goes from the top left corner, sloping to about 1/8th of the way down on the right side? That's unacceptable for a MacBook Pro (I checked it on a MacBook and the image looked fine).

Anyone else?

2007-10-21 13:10:11
2007-10-31 05:13:21
I used the icc profile on my Macbook Pro with Led and it looked very yellowish. My ownmade profile looked alot better...
2007-10-31 05:45:05
Here is My profile I did on a 3 weeks old Macbook Pro with Led: http://www.jlw.se/foto/Johan_10-26-07_1.icc
James Duncan Davidson
2007-10-31 15:03:07
Johan: I wouldn't use the profile above for any other purpose than checking out in a viewer. After all, mapping _my_ display to yours which may or may not be from the same vendor and batch and what not is probably not going to lead to good results.
Paul M.
2007-11-02 08:30:17
Great comparison. How would you compare iMac displays to Cinema and LED MBP?
James Duncan Davidson
2007-11-02 09:39:17
Paul: Unfortunately, I don't have access to an iMac to profile and compare with. I'v been curious of the same thing. I suspect the iMacs won't have as large a gamut as the Cinema display, but that's not based on anything but my own speculation.
2007-11-12 17:22:08
Hi James, I am very interested in your article, I am also specializing in LED lamps, LED display manufacture in China, so look for if there is any business cooperation opportunity for us.

email: siwen.zeng@ledman.cn

Ângela Marx
2007-11-20 15:17:36
Hello James!

I'd like to know if this 15" Macbook Pro you tested has a Glossy or a Matte LED-backlighting Display. I'm in doubt what is the best display and I'd like to have the better for all situations, for inside and outside use.

Thank you very much,
Ângela Maria Marx

James Duncan Davidson
2007-12-08 20:47:52
My 15" LED is a Matte display. I've not been brave enough to jump into the glossy screen waters. Matte is a known quantity for me :)