MacBook Pro backlight comparison: LED vs CCFL

Turns out our local zombie-infested Apple store was already stocking yesterday's new Santa Rosa-based LED-backlit MacBook Pro -- and so naturally we had to do our own wholly unscientific comparison. Now, for starters, please note: all side-by-sides were taken with an 8 month old 2nd gen MacBook Pro with CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent tube) backlight and matte display on the LEFT, and the 3rd gen MBP with LED backlight and matte screen on the right. Apple told us the difference would be imperceptible -- was it? Check out the pics, and read on for some thoughts.


Yes, we're aware CCFL displays eventually wear down and lose their brightness, but either there really is a huge difference in CCFL and LED, or the 8-month old MBP we tested against in the photos had really worn down. Our suspicion is that it's a bit of both.

Standing in front of the white-LED backlight on the new MBP, it's immediately apparent how crisp the whites are -- it's very noticeable after staring into CCFL LCDs all day long. But even though the whites were whiter, the screen didn't necessarily seem a lot brighter, which is probably where some amount of CCFL dimming on our test MBP came into play in creating the dramatic difference we saw. Viewing angles were very similar on both machines, but as you'll notice, at half brightness it's the LED backlit MBP that's dimmer, and the CCFL display that's actually brighter. Interesting stuff.

Note: People, seriously, the commentary about the desktop contents on the CCFL test laptop is irrelevant. We borrowed the 2nd gen CCFL MacBook Pro it to do the test, ok? (Ours is a 1st gen MBP, which was a little older and would have surely skewed the results of the screen test.) Just so you can rest easy that we're not evil bad men pirating MPAA movies you can compare the serial numbers from our MBP with the MBPs tested in this post:

The bottom one is ours, and it's clear to see that it's the first gen (MacBookPro1,1) and not the second gen (MacBookPro2,2) or third gen (MacBookPro3,1). Sheesh, feel better now?