Apple has been showcasing how bright these products can go, but this level of brightness has only been reserved for certain use cases such as editing videos and watching HDR movies. The maximum brightness has been 500 nits for both the MacBook Pro and Pro Display XDR for its users, with no override on the user's part to enable this higher brightness for other methods.
This is where Vivid comes in. Available to download as a free trial, alongside a one-off fee of $ 15 / £15 / AU$ 17 to remove the split-screen that shows the default brightness, and Vivid's settings.
On the day of its launch, TechRadar spoke to its two developers, Jordi Bruin and Ben Harraway, about how Vivid came to be, and whether there's any risk to leaving the brightness on for longer than needed.
We speak to Vivid's developers
Having used Vivid before its launch, we were taken aback as to how much of a difference the full brightness made, especially with games. Playing Streets of Rage 4 on macOS through Steam, or Metal Gear Solid 5 through Parallels, really showed off what the display of the MacBook Pro 14-inch is capable of.
We asked Bruin and Halloway what prompted them to create Vivid in the first place. “Back in October of last year I received my new MacBook Pro and was very surprised when I saw the brightness of HDR videos. It made it seem like the rest of my screen was becoming dimmer when in fact the video was just getting brighter.” Bruin explains.
“I like to work from different places throughout the day and often end up outside on a terrace or in a park. I tried watching some HDR videos outside and they were much more visible than the other content on the screen. After spending a few weeks working on different approaches I gave up for a few months until reaching out to Ben, who found a solution that worked great!”
Using the brightness keys on our MacBook Pro 14-inch, once you reach the maximum setting, a further option appears thanks to Vivid, where you can go even brighter, taking advantage of the display.
While there's a small hit on the battery life, it's a hit worth taking once you see how much everything pops with the extra brightness.
However, we asked Bruin and Halloway whether there was any danger to the display, in way of screen burn. “Vivid doesn’t use any hacks or low-level system calls to achieve the higher brightness. We believe that makes it really safe to use,” Halloway explains.
“We don’t make your display do anything it’s not supposed to. Vivid just enables the extra brightness usually reserved for HDR content, so it’s exactly the same as watching an HDR video.” Bruin clarifies.
“Apple claims the following: “Pro Display XDR can sustain 1000 nits of brightness across the full screen. This means that a pro can edit an HDR photograph or video with the entire frame at 1000 nits of brightness, indefinitely.”
The official word from Apple on this topic is here. macOS has built-in protections to dim the screen if it would get too hot as well. But to be clear, we are not changing anything on the display level, we are overlaying an HDR window which triggers the extended brightness mode.”
While Vivid is a simple app, it gets the job done, and the difference is night and day, especially when you're using it at night. Even though we're at the launch of the app, we wondered if there were already any features in the planning for future versions.
“We wanted to keep the first version tightly integrated with the system and easy to use, so that we could get feedback from users on what they would want to see. We have a version that includes Shortcuts and Widgets, but right now we’re not sure if those features would really add something that our customers would be looking for.” Bruin explains.
“We’ve designed Vivid in a way that you almost forget that it’s an extra app since you just use your normal brightness keys to activate it. Accessibility is important for both of us, which is why we’re using as many native components as possible. After launch, we will be searching for feedback on this front to fix any issues we might have overlooked.”
So far, Vivid is something that can make you look at your MacBook Pro or Display XDR in a different way, especially as you watch videos or play games. As the displays improve and the brightness gets brighter, it looks as though this app will be useful to many Mac users for the next few years at least.