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MacBook Air 2020 screen is reportedly a lot brighter running Windows

MacBook Air (2020)
(Image credit: Future)

Apple’s MacBook Air for 2020 has a much brighter screen when running Windows 10, according to a new report.

Notebookcheck.net was conducting benchmarks during its MacBook Air review, part of which involves using Windows for some tests, and during the process of measuring brightness for a battery benchmark, the testers discovered the screen was much brighter with Microsoft’s operating system.

In fact, the reviewer measured 547 nits when running Windows 10 (via BootCamp) compared to a brightness of 415 nits with macOS. In other words, Windows is 32% brighter, going by these findings.

So what might be going on here? Notebookcheck.net also observed that color accuracy is a little less accurate under Windows. It's not really to any noticeable extent, but one theory is that Apple may artificially limit brightness (under macOS) to ensure that color accuracy is fully maintained.

Uniform brightness?

Another theory is that this could be a hardware supply chain issue, meaning that Apple may get some panels manufactured for the MacBook Air 2020 that are capable of going brighter, but others that aren’t – so the operating system artificially limits brightness to a level that all screens are capable of, to keep a uniform performance.

Otherwise, you might have a scenario where some MacBook Air screens are brighter than others, which would leave the owners of the dimmer displays feeling short-changed.

Another possibility is Apple wanting to maintain a suitable gap between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro screens, to help with distinguishing the latter as a premium product. Or the reason could be wrapped up in battery life issues, and preventing the display being too much of a drain in that respect.

Of course, all this is just guesswork, and we further have to bear in mind that this is just a single report on the MacBook Air’s screen (albeit we have seen the odd anecdotal comment on Reddit backing up these observations). We’ve reached out to Apple for a comment on this matter and will update this story if we hear back.

There’s no doubting that the MacBook Air 2020 still boasts a quality screen, although as we observed in our review of the laptop, it does look a tad muted compared to higher-end Apple portables, lacking some of the pop of those premium products.