Currently, the screens of various devices — PCs, TVs, cell phones, notebooks, among others — use various panel technologies, each with its advantages and disadvantages. We need to carefully choose the type of panel, as well as understand the technical specifications of the product. And one of those specs is the brightness level, usually measured in nits.
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It is generally understood that the higher the brightness level achieved by a screen, the better. But we need to understand more deeply the definition of this unit of measurement, as well as its impact on the different types of screens that we use on a daily basis. That way, it will be easier to choose one product over another, or even make recommendations to third parties.
Brightness: What are the nits on a screen?
The brightness rating on a screen is the maximum amount of light the screen can emit in a given physical space. If the brightness is too low, it will be difficult for us to see the images on the screen. If it’s too high, it could be uncomfortable for our eyes. In both cases, the displayed image may suffer distortions in contrast and colors.
The unit of measurement for the brightness rate is the candela, a Spanish word that means “candle” in Portuguese.
The candela indicates the amount of luminosity produced in a space of 1 m². That’s the same amount of light as a lit candle in the physical space represented by a square box measuring one meter by one meter. The candela is the base unit of luminous intensity (lux or luminance) in the international system of units (SI), whose symbol is cd/m².
When we refer to the brightness rate of a screen, the cd/m² is commonly replaced by the Nit unit, perhaps because it is a simpler term to be written and/or spoken. Therefore, 1 cd/m² is equal to 1 nit.
Therefore, if we place a cell phone with a screen of 800 nits inside a box with a space of 1 m², this means that its screen can produce the same brightness as 800 candles in that space.
Why are brightness nits important?
The amount of nits a screen has indicates how bright it can be. Depending on the equipment, having more or less nits can make all the difference for the user. Basically, the brighter a screen can be, the more comfortable it will be for viewing images in well-lit environments. Therefore, the amount of nits may be more or less relevant depending on the device and its purpose.
Top-of-the-line equipment offers screens with higher nits. An example of this is the Galaxy S22 Ultra, which has a maximum brightness of 1,750 nits. In other words, this means that the smartphone’s screen can be comfortably viewed outdoors, even on a sunny day.
In the case of cell phones, the maximum brightness rate is very important, as we use these devices everywhere, including on the street. If the device’s screen has few nits, it will be necessary to go to a shady place so that you can see a received text message, for example.
What is the ideal amount of nits on a screen?
Generally speaking, the more nits on a screen, the better the panel performs in bright light.
From there, we can recommend a minimum rate of maximum nits offered on a screen, according to each type of product.
Smartphones – 400 nits
As cell phones are commonly used outdoors, a brightness rating of 400 nits would be the minimum recommended value. Below that, you will have difficulty seeing the device’s screen during a sunny day.
For intermediate and superior devices, the ideal is that the cell phone screen already has at least 800 nits for a more comfortable viewing during the day.
Laptops – 300 nits
On laptops, you might consider 300 nits to be enough for most users, especially if they only use the device indoors. If the user needs to use the notebook outdoors or has a large window right next to the office desk, it will be necessary to consider a brightness rate greater than 300 nits.
PC monitors – 200 nits
In the case of PC monitors, 200 nits is already a good maximum brightness ratio to consider, due to the fact that we only use desktop computers indoors. The user will only need to look for a brighter screen if the monitor is positioned facing a window.
Even so, we must remember that spending a lot of time in front of screens with very high brightness can make the eyes tired and irritated.
TVs – 500 nits
With regard to TVs, it is highly recommended that the device has brightness from 500 nits. As TVs have a very large screen, they usually reflect the light that enters through the living room window, which interferes with viewing content during the day. If your TV has brightness below 500 nits, your screen will be harder to see in bright conditions.
Another feature that helps reduce glare on screens is the anti-glare treatment, very common on monitors and laptops, but still rare on TVs.
brightness and HDR
The brightness level also influences the performance of the HDR feature, which increases image quality, especially in movies and games. The feature works as an improvement in contrast levels and also helps with color recognition. It’s a kind of filter that helps reduce the opacity of images in different situations.
Therefore, the screen needs to have adequate brightness levels, as parts of the scene are lightened when HDR is activated.