Are backlit or LCD screens really bad for your eyes? Is E-ink really different?

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Offline Zfak

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Yes I know people get eye strain. I've read lots of forum posting about how e-ink is like the printed word so better and conversely read posts by IPad aficionado saying it's not true but I wanted to know if there is any science to back up either side?


Offline techmind

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I think the most likely real issue is that LCD screens are frequently set up so that the bright white background to the text is far brighter than a white piece of paper would be in the same room, therefore you may be unwittingly squinting at the screen - or at least your eyes might be having to work harder as you look back and forth between the screen and other things in the room.
I deliberately run my home-computer LCD screen with the backlight brightness turned way down for this reason.
Tip: hold a piece of white paper next to your screen in your typical room lighting, and adjust the screen brightness (for typical black text on white background) to match the paper.

Many mobile phones and laptops now have an ambient light-sensor and adjust the screen brightness to balence with the ambient. This should make the display more comfortable to use - but of course the driving reason is to maximise battery-life!

On the other hand, if I'm looking at photos or watching a DVD I'd often turn the brightness up somewhat, to make the image more lively.

Part of the problem is that Windows uses "peak white" (i.e. RGB 255/255/255) for text background whereas it'd be far better to reserve "peak white" for highlights/glints etc in photos/video and have "normal" text/background white as somewhat less than this (perhaps RGB 192/192/192). This would work well for emissive technologies (CRT, plasma, OLED) but would result in rather inefficient use of a uniformly backlit LCD. As segmented LED-backlit LCDs become more common, perhaps sense in peak-white vs normal white will prevail...?
The television industry (dating from CRT era) has long-since held distinct notions of normal white and peak-white.

Any type of reflective display cannot by definition have its background brighter than the natural level of white paper in the room... although if its "white" is only a rather poor grey, then the reduced contrast will make it harder to see/read.
« Last Edit: 01/09/2011 23:00:39 by techmind »
"It has been said that the primary function of schools is to impart enough facts to make children stop asking questions. Some, with whom the schools do not succeed, become scientists." - Schmidt-Nielsen "Memoirs of a curious scientist"


Offline CliffordK

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One of the issues that happened in the past.  I don't know if it is still an issue today.

CRT screens could generally be resized from 640x480 up to their maximum resolution, with generally good results.  And, thus the easiest way to resize the text and image on the screen was to change the screen resolution.

LCD screens, on the other hand are made up of discrete pixels, and only should be run at their maximum resolution.  Any other resolution makes them blurry.  The text and images on the screen should be resized to a comfortable size, while leaving the screen at its maximum resolution.

Windows XP, and to a lesser extent Vista had troubles dealing with screen resolutions.  I don't know about newer versions of Windows.  The latest versions of Fedora Linux seem to be fine with a fixed screen resolution.

Anyway, running your screen at a sub-optimal screen resolution will cause eye strain.  Personally, I like the highest screen resolution available (WUXGA for laptops, I think).

There has been some debate whether a glossy finish or an anti-glare finish is better on the LCD screens.  In an office setting with good lighting, the glossy finish is probably best as you will get a crisper image.  I don't know about outside or less controlled environments.