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Eyestrain with lcd. E-ink superior for text?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
It took me a while to adjust to a lcd monitor. I almost think a crt monitor at 85 hz felt better. Also incandescent bulbs always felt better to me than a cfl or led. We have a led bulb in one of our fixtures and anything more than a glance can be painful yet are displays are lighted by them. When I use the projector I don't experience eye strain like I do sitting at the computer. Some people say reflected light is easier on the eyes and others say it doesn't matter. I've also seen some people suggest a program called f.lux as it helps control the blue light.

I've read a few articles about e-ink not being much better for eyestrain than a lcd . Maybe for some people that could be true but its not my experience so far. I finally started using the kindle that my wife bought for us and I find e-ink amazing. To me it almost looks like a printed page and its a solid image. It certainly feels different than reading on a lcd to me. I would like to have a e-ink monitor or at least a tablet with a good browser that I could do most of my basic web browsing on.

I'm fine with short sessions on a lcd monitor or sitting further back from a tv but e-ink or projected images are simply more comfortable for me.
post #2 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by JediSpork View Post

It took me a while to adjust to a lcd monitor. I almost think a crt monitor at 85 hz felt better. Also incandescent bulbs always felt better to me than a cfl or led. We have a led bulb in one of our fixtures and anything more than a glance can be painful yet are displays are lighted by them. When I use the projector I don't experience eye strain like I do sitting at the computer. Some people say reflected light is easier on the eyes and others say it doesn't matter. I've also seen some people suggest a program called f.lux as it helps control the blue light.
Do you get eyestrain with Apple or certain Eizo LCD displays?
You might be affected by the LED use of PWM (pulse width modulation -- high speed flicker to do dimming). The Apple displays (iPad's and Apple Cinema monitors) are PWM-free LCD's.

Also, check out a big post I made on HardForum about the various causes of eyestrains that a display does.

Also, do you still get eyestrain from Philips LED bulbs or the new Cree LED bulbs? (the new $12 bulbs at Home Depot -- try the warm yellow as a test). I pointed a camera capable of 1000fps high speed video (Casio Exilim EX-FC200S) at these, and found that they do not use PWM. However, I pointed it at cheap LED bulbs, and some of them flicker at AC frequency (120Hz flicker) when playing back the high speed video.

On the other hand, other causes of eyestrain can be:
- excess brightness
- motion blur
- PWM flicker
- any flicker in general (if you got headaches from CRT and plasma too)
- color spectrum; blues; etc
- near-distance focussing

If your sensitivity ends up being a flicker sensitivity (you don't need to see the flicker, but simply getting headaches from it) -- your solution can be to get a PWM-free display, dim it down, and get it calibrated (Spyder colorimeter for $150 from Amazon). That said, there many, many, many causes of headaches from a display.
post #3 of 17
I find most lcd monitors are too bright for me. Too contrasty as well. As I'm typing this, the lights in the room are on and the monitor is about 1/4 bright and 1/4 contrast. I don't watch movies on it, so I don't care that it isn't correct. I care that I get eye strain if I watch too long with the bright/contrast settings at "normal". Plus I adjust it if there is some image I want to see properly.

I also think the e-ink displays are great. I'd much prefer a display with no back light at all, just reflected. At least for casual tv watching. I do like a projector, though, for serious viewing.

One of the problems keeping e-ink out of monitors is that they are slow to turn on or off, so not really acceptable for a good quality monitor. At least that was the case when I checked over a year ago. That may have changed, but I don't know how much research is going into it.
post #4 of 17
I'm glad you're bringing up PWM, Mark, as I think I think it's a culprit in most instances of eyestrain. I wish the whole industry would move away from PWM.

If you had a list of displays that don't use PWM, that would be valuable. I know that BenQ is now making a number of PWM-free displays.

As you probably know, there are some monitors that are PWM-free through most of their brightness range, and others that are free of PWM completely.
post #5 of 17
I suffer from this with a lot of displays too - it's the PWM backlight control that gives me headaches. This was a real problem for me with CFL backlights actually, when they moved over to using PWM dimming. Any time my eyes moved across the screen, I would see bright flashes out the corner of my eyes.
I tend to get really bad headaches from watching Plasmas in a darkened room because those all work by using PWM (or similar) to control the brightness of each pixel, and I see similar effects.

I actually found CRTs to be more comfortable to watch than PWM displays - I can't explain why that is, but with a CRT I eventually stop noticing the flicker, but I always notice Plasmas or CFL LCDs flickering no matter how long I have been watching them.
I don't know if my Sony LED set (HX900) simply doesn't use PWM, or does it at a frequency I can tolerate, but I haven't had a problem with it so far at any backlight setting, and I find its backlight scanning option tolerable - but I do turn it off when I'm tired as it will give me a headache then.


Most people do have their backlight (or contrast) set too high as well, which is another cause of eyestrain when looking at displays.
I don't have any evidence other than anecdotally, but I have also noticed that people who need vision correction tend to turn up their displays very bright. (either they need glasses, or their prescription needs updating)


But the worst offender when looking at text on a display for me, is the "pixel grid" over the image that most displays have - which is something that e-ink displays lack, at any resolution.
I wouldn't even consider trying to read a book on an old iPad 1 or 2, but now they have moved to the retina display and significantly reduced the appearance of the pixel grid, I find them just as comfortable to read text on, as long as the brightness is properly controlled.

I actually prefer reading on the iPads with retina displays to Kindles. Text on the Kindles is very low resolution and "pixels" do not have sharply defined edges, making text look somewhat fuzzy.
I also had problems with e-ink simply not being bright enough unless it was directly under a bright lamp, or being viewed in daylight, and I had to turn on the option to refresh the screen with each page turn.
I found that I was straining more to read on my Kindle than the iPad most of the time, due to the low contrast page.

This is why I can't wait until 4K becomes widespread and affordable, or other high DPI computer monitors. Typical monitors are around 100 DPI which is not nearly enough for looking at text all day.
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by taichi4 View Post

I'm glad you're bringing up PWM, Mark, as I think I think it's a culprit in most instances of eyestrain. I wish the whole industry would move away from PWM.
+1 with one caveat:
Proper CRT-style flicker is required for good motion blur elimination on LCD's.

Therefore, LED-backlit LCD monitors should have two modes, easily activateable via a button.
1. PWM-free mode (flicker free brightness dimming)
2. Motion blur elimination mode like LightBoost (ONE precisely timed strobe per refresh)

I don't get PWM eyestrain, but I get can get bothered by PWM artifacts and motion blur. A few dozen people contacted me at Blur Busters to tell me they got PWM eyestrain but not LightBoost eyestrain. It's rather interesting that 120Hz PWM has less eyestrain than 360Hz PWM for some of these people, although some equally get headaches with both! My eyes have a preference for CRT or LightBoost displays.

PWM, to my eyes, is worse than (1) and (2).
That's why my LightBoost FAQ has both entries:
Q: Why does LightBoost have MORE eyestrain?
Q: Why does LightBoost have LESS eyestrain?

As a rule of thumb:
-- If you hated CRT and hate PWM-dimming, you'll usually dislike LightBoost (prefer PWM-free display)
-- If you loved CRT and hate PWM-dimming, you'll usually like LightBoost (True CRT clarity motion on LCD)
This is only a general rule of thumb that has rung true "most of the time".
Assuming you don't care about degraded TN LCD colors, of course. (That's another tradeoff, when getting a LightBoost display)
And non-retina density (Another tradeoff with LightBoost displays too, if you sit close to them).
Edited by Mark Rejhon - 6/26/13 at 6:45pm
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
I'm not sure if pwm bothers me that much. However it was very annoying on some of the led flashlights I have owned. Although I can't detect flicker on my monitor somehow I can tell the e-ink is a solid image compared to it. Thinking about it some more I'm already quite sensitive to bright light and have dry eyes so its most likely a combination of those things. Aren't a lot of led's blue or some other color with different coatings to make it white? Maybe they put out different shades at a higher brightness? I tried out a passive 3d monitor without the glasses and when I would look away it was like I could see mini blinds. Certain web pages with dark backgrounds will do similar things.

They are coming out with color e-ink as well but fwir the resolution would have to be much lower. I know its a slow display but e-ink looks the most natural to me. Some people claim they can watch video on their rooted kindles

thanks to everyone,
Maybe I should check into a new display
Edited by JediSpork - 6/27/13 at 6:56am
post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by JediSpork View Post

They are coming out with color e-ink as well but fwir the resolution would have to be much lower. I know its a slow display but e-ink looks the most natural to me. Some people claim they can watch video on their rooted kindles
I had to google for this, and I'm surprised -- yes, video on a Kindle Touch (YouTube). Actually playing at sorta usable rates. Would work fine for old cartoons and Charlie Chaplin flicks, and anything black-and-white without too many panning motions. Requires rooting the Kindle, though, and a player that plays back orthered dithered black/white to avoid the flash-updates.
post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by JediSpork View Post

Although I can't detect flicker on my monitor somehow I can tell the e-ink is a solid image compared to it.
I bet it's the pixel grid. Have you tried using one of the newer iPads or MacBooks with Retina displays? That issue largely goes away with them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JediSpork View Post

Thinking about it some more I'm already quite sensitive to bright light and have dry eyes so its most likely a combination of those things.
Most people have their LCDs set far too bright. This is normally adjustable though.
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JediSpork View Post

Thinking about it some more I'm already quite sensitive to bright light and have dry eyes so its most likely a combination of those things.
Most people have their LCDs set far too bright. This is normally adjustable though.

 

One of the things that I found very amusing was just how "crummy" real life actually looks.  If you were to hold an empty bezel up to your room, and be honest about it, you'd be hit with just how dim everything around you actually appears.  How TVs have become so cartoonish in color (and become defined by this ridiculous term "pop") is scary-stupid, but most people just do not want real life in a TV either.

post #11 of 17
Since this topic was brought up again:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post

I bet it's the pixel grid. Have you tried using one of the newer iPads or MacBooks with Retina displays? That issue largely goes away with them.
I actually ended up purchasing a 13" Retina MacBook Pro, and it really does help when you spend a lot of time reading text all day. Hopefully there will be some high quality 4K OLED displays released in the not-too-distant future which are affordable and suitable for use as a monitor, because it's difficult to go back and look at a regular display now. (and I thought it was hard after buying a retina iPad)

I find myself increasing the size of the fonts and sitting much further back from my other displays now to try and compensate for that.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post

Since this topic was brought up again:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post

I bet it's the pixel grid. Have you tried using one of the newer iPads or MacBooks with Retina displays? That issue largely goes away with them.
I actually ended up purchasing a 13" Retina MacBook Pro, and it really does help when you spend a lot of time reading text all day. Hopefully there will be some high quality 4K OLED displays released in the not-too-distant future which are affordable and suitable for use as a monitor, because it's difficult to go back and look at a regular display now. (and I thought it was hard after buying a retina iPad)

I find myself increasing the size of the fonts and sitting much further back from my other displays now to try and compensate for that.

 

With the retina displays, is anti-aliasing turned on for the text or do you run it "sharp"?

post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by tgm1024 View Post

With the retina displays, is anti-aliasing turned on for the text or do you run it "sharp"?
Anti-aliasing is not optional on OS X - but you always want it enabled, as it effectively triples the resolution you have for rendering fonts. At these high resolutions, color fringing is no longer a problem. (in Windows on a regular display, I tweak font rendering to minimize it)
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tgm1024 View Post

With the retina displays, is anti-aliasing turned on for the text or do you run it "sharp"?
Anti-aliasing is not optional on OS X - but you always want it enabled, as it effectively triples the resolution you have for rendering fonts. At these high resolutions, color fringing is no longer a problem. (in Windows on a regular display, I tweak font rendering to minimize it)


An object split over a "partial" pixel boundary is far too obvious for normal displays.  I turn AA off whenever I can for text: I'd rather see everything slanted or curved as a staircase than an out-of-focus smudge.

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by tgm1024 View Post

An object split over a "partial" pixel boundary is far too obvious for normal displays.  I turn AA off whenever I can for text: I'd rather see everything slanted or curved as a staircase than an out-of-focus smudge.
Well it depends on the rendering, how far you sit from your display, the font size, and the resolution of your display.
I really like Firefox on Windows, because it's completely customizable as far as font rendering is concerned, via the gfx.font_rendering settings in about:config.
You can change it between GDI and ClearType, adjust the level of saturation used (to reduce or eliminate color fringing) and adjust gamma & contrast. Fully tweaked, I really like how text looks in it.

I actually find the wispy thin text you get when anti-aliasing is disabled rather difficult to read these days compared to properly anti-aliased and kerned text - especially at larger sizes.
A lot of websites are now using custom fonts rather than system fonts, which were often designed for print rather than screen rendering, and those fonts look particularly bad without anti-aliasing.
But I also find text difficult to read when it has been fully justified due to the large, variable, spacing between words. Some people may be able to "filter out" things like that a lot easier - I suppose in the way that I'm able to overlook some pixel-level sharpness to gain, in my opinion, far more legible text.

  • No AA - thin wispy text that looks nothing like the font. Weird character rendering and spacing due to being snapped to the pixel grid.
  • GDI rendering - a better representation of the font, but it's still snapped to the pixel grid. Saturation is far too high resulting in color fringing.
  • Tweaked ClearType Values - the best representation of the fonts with minimal color fringing. Perhaps a little soft, but much smoother and using proper kerning (character spacing) makes it easier to read in my opinion. This is tweaked to look correct on my screen though, it may not be ideal for yours. I'm just illustrating that there are different levels of anti-aliasing available.

I do find OS X font rendering difficult to read on low DPI displays though. It's designed to render as if the fonts were printed, completely ignoring the fact that they're being displayed on a screen.
This means the text is a good representation of how the font actually looks (better than ClearType on Windows) but it only looks good on a high DPI display. It's really fuzzy unless you're looking at it on a Retina display.
If you do a direct comparison between Windows and OS X on a retina display, OS X still looks a bit fuzzy, but taken on its own it looks fine. You would still call text on a retina display "sharp" in OS X.
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post
 
  • No AA - thin wispy text that looks nothing like the font. Weird character rendering and spacing due to being snapped to the pixel grid.

 

I don't believe that this is exactly right.  You might be forgetting hinting which has nothing to do with AA and employed with (but distinct) from kerning.  The pre-press industry is the bulk of my background.  Hints are encoded within the font outlines themselves.  They give information to the font rendering engine just where to line the glyphs up, particularly when there's only a small number of pixels to work with.  I used to call this The Pixel Famine.

 

In font rendering engines I've used, turning off AA doesn't affect the hinting algorithms.  In fact, AA has the ability to muck up a properly hinted rendering in the wrong cases.  You'll see hinting at work in several cases, such as the wispy thin outlines you mention (where it tries the best it can to keep the thin lines no thinner than a pixel and uniformly so across the glyph), and in tight enclosures such as the center of the lower case e.  Without hinting, for instance ,the letter M might end up with thicker leading and trailing legs, and with AA they'll often turn into something like a thin dark line and a thick light light.

 

It's actually really interesting to watch: Progressively decreasing the font size and looking carefully at the "e" up close you'll see the hinting algorithms try desperately to keep that inner loop open.  Until finally it "calls it quits" and you end up with a kind of blob.

 

I like your examples.


Edited by tgm1024 - 9/1/13 at 2:37pm
post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by tgm1024 View Post

I don't believe that this is exactly right.  You might be forgetting hinting which has nothing to do with AA and employed with (but distinct) from kerning.  The pre-press industry is the bulk of my background.  Hints are encoded within the font outlines themselves.  They give information to the font rendering engine just where to line the glyphs up, particularly when there's only a small number of pixels to work with.  I used to call this The Pixel Famine.

In font rendering engines I've used, turning off AA doesn't affect the hinting algorithms.  In fact, AA has the ability to muck up a properly hinted rendering in the wrong cases.  You'll see hinting at work in several cases, such as the wispy thin outlines you mention (where it tries the best it can to keep the thin lines no thinner than a pixel and uniformly so across the glyph), and in tight enclosures such as the center of the lower case e.  Without hinting, for instance ,the letter M might end up with thicker leading and trailing legs, and with AA they'll often turn into something like a thin dark line and a thick light light.

It's actually really interesting to watch: Progressively decreasing the font size and looking carefully at the "e" up close you'll see the hinting algorithms try desperately to keep that inner loop open.  Until finally it "calls it quits" and you end up with a kind of blob.

I like your examples.
Yes, I was referring to hinting when I said that characters were being "snapped to the pixel grid". I think all forms of font rendering on Windows still use hinting, but it's most obvious when you have anti-aliasing disabled on characters such as a lowercase n - they look far wider than they should. GDI seems to use strict hinting combined with subpixel rendering - you will see that the character spacing is almost identical, but characters are now "shaped" using the subpixels.
Even the ClearType example seems to snap to the pixel grid somewhat - though obviously far less than either of the other two - but you see this when compared with OS X font rendering which looks a lot softer, but more faithful to the correct shape of the characters.

Another thing which you may like is that Firefox has the option to mix GDI and ClearType depending on the font size. (it does this by default) Personally I find that when you get to a font size that is difficult to read using ClearType, it's just as difficult to read with no AA, due to the level of aliasing.
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