When I use my MacBook Air in darkness for various reasons (e.g. causal stargazing or working late in close quarters) the last brightness notch before "black" is way too bright for me.

There are add-on work-arounds (see for example Macbook air screen is too bright even on the lowest setting) so I'm not asking how to get lower brightness.

I'm wondering if there are some hardware issues when operating at very low brightness that should be avoided, or if it's just a question of difficulty to assure the customer display quality at very low brightness, or something else?

  • 3
    I don't know the specifics for your MacBook Air screen, but often brightness is controlled by turning off/on the backlight in very small intervals. The brain will perceive that as a constant light, but less bright. However if the intervals become too long, you'll start to experience the display as flickering. Therefore there's a limit as to how low brightness you can achieve with this method.
    – jksoegaard
    May 1, 2017 at 13:55
  • 2
    @jksoegaard OK that's an interesting theory. I should be able to look at it with a photodiode or phototransistor and oscilloscope, except I don't have those handy. However they may modulate the pulse width at constant period instead of varying the period. But that could also have limitations as well. I like this theory!
    – uhoh
    May 1, 2017 at 14:44
  • It is likely a log or linear scale and that is just what you get when computing the values
    – William
    May 2, 2017 at 18:51
  • @William Volume is also likely a log or linear scale and it works great, going down to very low values before shutting off. I'd guess that Apple can implement whatever scale they decide is optimal for the user experience.
    – uhoh
    May 2, 2017 at 19:16
  • 1
    @uhoh I'm of the opinion that the graphic was confusing and distracting from the main point of the problem, which is to figure out why the brightness increments differently on different machines. That's why I left my comment: I know it's not an opinion poll, but understanding what hardware does what could be useful in discovering why that hardware does what it does.
    – JMY1000
    Dec 18, 2017 at 13:19

1 Answer 1


Have you tried to split the last notch in 4 part, pressing Alt+Shift+F1 or Alt+Shift+F2 ?

It allow you to have other three level before black screen. It will works also with audio.

  • FWIW On my MacBook Pro Retina, 15-inch, Early 2013, ⌃⇧F1 with just the first indicator position lit, and pressed three times, had no noticeable change, but it did from any of the other indicator positions. The same was true with ⌃⇧F2 with no indicator lit, other than the first press, I saw no noticeable change until the start of the second indicator being lit. So while this doesn't work for me on the lowest indicator position and may not work for some on the lowest indicator position, it's still a nice tip and worth a +1. Dec 18, 2017 at 16:27
  • Cool! Thanks for the interesting suggestion! On my circa-2012 MacBook Air it works increasing above the last full notch, but does not dim below it. I get four increments of identical brightness, then suddenly zero. I think this may be a strict hardware lower limit.
    – uhoh
    Dec 18, 2017 at 18:39

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