In a recent YouTube video, popular tech channel Hardware Unboxed reviewed the all-new 2021 MacBook Pro‘s Liquid Retina XDR display and found some pretty unexpected results: while the panel is absolutely gorgeous to the eyes, it is painfully slow and has motion blur for days.
The 2021 MacBook Pro models, which were coined “the most powerful laptops” available by The Verge, feature a high-resolution Mini-LED LCD panel with full-array local dimming, which makes for highly accurate blacks, and true HDR functionality.
The 16″ model has a 3456 x 2234 resolution, while the 14″ has a 3024 x 1964 resolution. The display panel offers 1,600 nits of peak brightness in HDR and a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate.
Hardware Unboxed‘s dedicated review of the new MacBook Pro’s display looks beyond the amazing viewing experience — and it is, undoubtedly, an amazing viewing experience — to delve deeper into performance and technical specifications.
The Liquid Retina XDR display has a wide gamut with 99% coverage of the DCI-P3 colour space, which is excellent for content creation, and full sRGB coverage. The new MacBook Pro also comes with a number of different pre-set colour profiles for different workflows out of the box.
The highest brightness recorded was a peak of 1,671 nits for HDR content, which the YouTuber ceded was “very impressive.” The HDR performance overall was nothing short of amazing, and the contrast was also remarkable with little to no blooming.
Motion performance, however, was found to be astoundingly bad, with the panel’s pixel response times not even being tight enough to keep up with the 2021 MacBook Pro’s 120Hz refresh rate. The display is simply “very, very slow,” as Hardware Unboxed describes it.
The Liquid Retina XDR display demonstrated rise times of nearly 100ms, which the YouTuber admitted was “one of the worst results” he has ever measured. Display fall times aren’t nearly as bad at 35ms but are still pretty poor. By comparison, the best laptop OLED panels make these transitions in under 2ms.
The renowned Blur Busters UFO test did not do the panel any favours either, revealing uncomfortably high motion blur. Even with the 120Hz refresh rate, the clarity of objects in motion on the MacBook Pro’s screen is pretty skimpy.
For a better idea of what that means, check out the screenshot below, shared by Reddit user Select-Deer7961, that compares the response time (and resulting motion blur) on the 2021 MacBook Pro with its 120Hz Liquid Retina XDR display (right) with that on a Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 with a 60Hz OLED panel (left):
“The level of smearing here is insane, and I’m really not sure how a modern LCD could end up this slow,” the YouTuber said in conclusion.
macOS has already been historically bad from a gaming viewpoint, and the alarmingly slow display panel on the latest and greatest MacBook Pro will simply make life harder for anyone who needs one for their workflow but would also like to game in their spare time.
But the thing is, slow pixel response and high motion blur affect more than just gaming — despite the high refresh rate, 2021 MacBook Pro users will be able to notice ghosting, smearing, and lacklustre visibility in fast-moving video content like sports and when scrolling through text on a website.