Developers Jordi Bruin and Ben Harraway have released an application called Vivid that allows Apple’s new MacBook Pro models and Pro Display XDR to achieve twice the brightness system-wide – something that wasn’t previously possible.
For background: According to Apple, the MiniLED display of the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro can achieve 1,600 nits of peak brightness during highlights or 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness. That’s almost unrivaled in a consumer laptop or desktop display – it’s more in the range of what you’d expect from a high-end TV.
But while certain HDR video content takes advantage of this on highlights, the normal desktop computing experience isn’t much brighter than what you get on a different monitor. macOS keeps things around the 500 nits peak unless the content you’re specifically watching calls for more – and most content doesn’t.
Vivid overcomes this limitation by using “a clever mix of different technologies. This includes Metal, Carbon, Cocoa, Swift, SwiftUI and even some “C code” to bring the overall brightness to almost double its normal maximum when using a desktop application, according to one of the developers.
However, the app is not always fully baked. If you frequently switch between desktop areas, you will find that your display takes a moment to resolve correctly after each switch. It briefly looks washed out when you first move into a new room. Also, colors may look wrong in certain video content.
However, the Vivid effect is impressive when it works. It’s vibrant, it looks good, and it can fight glare from sunlight as well as any laptop. There’s even a neat, elegant extension of the normal on-screen brightness meter of macOS that shows whether you’re in the normal brightness range or the newly unlocked extended range.
A license key for the app costs around $16, but you can try it before you buy it. However, the free version only takes up half of the screen at a time. It shows you the difference, but a halved screen defeats the purpose until you pay.
According to the FAQ on the application’s website, which cites Apple documentation, using Vivid probably poses no risk to your hardware. And its impact on performance is relatively small. However, running your laptop at double the brightness all the time has an unsurprisingly large negative impact on battery life.
The FAQ also states that should Apple make changes to macOS that cause Vivid to stop working, Vivid’s developers will endeavor to update the app to make it work. If the developers don’t have success after three months, they say they’re willing to issue refunds.
If you want to play with its limitations, you can download Vivid from its website.
Offer image by Vivid