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What is a nit? And why Apple’s obsessed with getting more of them



You might have heard the word ‘nit’ crop up a few times during the latest Apple event, but what are they, and do you need them?

After the announcement that the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 Pro both have 800 nits of brightness, we wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t really understand why that was a good thing.

Nits are related to the brightness of a screen and are used as a measurement when talking about TVs as well as smartphones, and other devices with a screen.

Keep scrolling to understand what a nit is, why it’s important and what else affects the brightness of your screen.

How bright is a nit?

A nit is actually measured from the brightness of a candle, if you can believe that.

To throw some more terms at you, a candela is a word for the amount of light one candle produces. If you were to imagine a cube of one square metre by one square metre with one candle in it, that would be a candela.

That amount of light that’s created over one square metre is one nit. So all the light reflected off of this cube is one nit. If you added more candles to this box, you would be adding more candela’s and more nits, since the square metre has more light in it than before.

To simplify; a candela is a light from a candle, and a nit is light from a candle per square meter. Totally understandable.

And as you would expect, more nits equal more brightness, so it’s best when your devices have a high nit count.

The average movie theatre screen sits at only 50 nits, but since it’s in such a dark room it doesn’t need to be much higher. Most smartphones have between 300 and 400 nits, and high-quality TVs can go over 1000 nits.

Why are nits important?

Now we understand what a nit is, it’s important to understand why they’re something you should consider when buying a new phone or a TV.

Essentially, more nits mean that the screen can get brighter, which is ideal if you’re in high-light environments.

For example, when it’s summertime and it’s really bright outside, it can be really hard to see what’s on your phone screen, because the screen can’t get bright enough to be visible when in direct sunlight. So, having more nits means you can see your screen in these conditions, and it allows for better and brighter colours on your screen.

How do nits impact HDR performance?

Having a higher nit count can actually improve your TVs HDR output, as HDR videos are usually mastered for a high nit count, from 1000 to 10,000 nits. Though not every device or TV will have a nit count that high, meaning you can miss out on HDR.

As we’ve said, more nits mean a brighter screen, and the ability to go brighter will make the HDR more impressive as it can get better contrast from the bright sections of the video, and the less bright.

In laymen’s terms, having more nits on your device means that your device can make better use of any HDR capabilities. Usually, to get HDR to work best, you want to aim for a TV that’s at 600 nits or higher.

You can also check out our article on HDR if you want a more in-depth look at how to get the most out of high dynamic range.

It’s not just all about nits

There are many other things that will impact display quality, it’s not just nits that make the experience. There is also black level, which is essentially nits but for darkness. A lower black level will give you better colours and contrast, as it allows for the darker parts of the display to be even darker.

Black level is also measured in nits, and in the same manner as its bright counterpart, but unlike max brightness you want a lower level for the best viewing experience. If the black level is too high the black parts of your video will look grey. In an ideal world, having both the black level at zero and the nit count high will give you the best colour contrast and range of colour on your screen.

There’s also colour temperature, which is measured in Kelvins. Colour temperature references the way the colours look; warmer temperature results in the screen looking yellower, while a cooler temperature will bring out the blues. 6500 kelvins is the ideal where colors look most natural.

You may have noticed that your phone screen goes to a more yellow tone when it’s late at night, as the yellow tones are much easier on the eyes than blue, and actually help you to sleep better. Colour temperature is important in terms of comfort when looking at a bright screen in a dark room, but also to make sure the colours on the screen don’t look too yellow or blue.

There’s also Delta E, which measures the difference between the colour on screen and the colour the human eye actually perceives. If the colour that’s being displayed differs too much from the original input content, then we will perceive the colour as different when we see it.

Delta E becomes quite technical quite fast, but you shouldn’t really notice any issues if Delta E is at three or less, but the higher it goes the less accurate the displayed colour is.

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