Any screen you’re reading this on is probably producing enough light per square meter to light several hundred candles. That’s true, candles continue to be the primary unit of light measurement. If you’re looking for a screen, you’ll likely encounter the “nits” number, which indicates the maximum amount of candlelight your screen can produce per square meter. If you want to use your device outside frequently, nits (not to be confused with head lice) can be significant, but nits brightness is only one component of a high-quality screen.
A unit of brightness is nits
No, we’re not talking about head lice here; instead, we’re talking about a phrase used in the software industry. The measurement for how bright a television, smartphone, computer monitor, laptop screen, or other form of display is is called nits, to put it briefly. The brightness of the display increases with the number of nits.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But doesn’t brightness refer to “lumens”? And why, as a consumer, do you value nits so highly? Let’s respond to a few of these queries.
What Does a “Nit” Actually Mean?
It’s interesting to note that nit, which is derived from the Latin word nitere, which means “to shine,” isn’t recognized as a standard unit of measurement because it doesn’t formally belong to the International System of Units or any other measurement system. Actually, “candela per square meter” is the correct phrase. But we suppose “nit” is simpler to recall.
So let’s dissect it. Since you now understand that “nit” simply refers to “candela per square meter,” you also understand that a nit measures both area and luminance (the candela) (the square meter).
As you might have guessed, the Latin word “candela” means “candle.” As a result, one candela is equivalent to the brightness of one standard candle. The brightness of two candles is equivalent to one candela, and so on.
Now you can measure how much light is dispersed across a surface by multiplying the number of square meters. So the brightness of one candle shining onto a surface that is one meter wide and one meter down is equal to one candela per square meter (or one nit).
To put that into simpler terms, picture yourself holding a piece of poster board that is one meter by one meter in size, which is similar to the dimensions of a typical poster board. After that, you light one candle and hold it high in front of your poster. One nit is the quantity of light that the candle emits onto your poster board (or one candela per square meter).
If evaluating brightness in terms of candles sounds a little weird, keep in mind that we still refer to engine power in terms of “horsepower.”
What’s the Distinction Between Lumens and Nits?
You could be thinking that the lumen, a unit of measurement for light intensity, already exists. After all, we use it to gauge how bright light bulbs, flashlights, projectors, and other devices are. Lumens and nits, however, measure different things.
Lumens don’t indicate light over a specific area like nits do, which is a significant difference. Lumens, on the other hand, describe the strength of the light coming from the source, regardless of its size. Lumens are the unit of measurement for projectors, flashlights, and light bulbs.
Another way to phrase it is that nits measure the quantity of light coming off the projector screen, whereas lumens show the amount of light that a projector itself emits.
Why Should You Be Concerned With Nits?
You may be asking yourself the most crucial question now that you are aware of all the scientific jargon associated with nits: Why should you even care?
The general rule is that a TV’s display is brighter the greater its nits count. For what it’s worth, the brighter a TV can become, the nicer the image will look in a bright room. This may not be a significant factor for you when searching for a new television.
When it comes to smartphones, which you’re more likely to use outside in the harsh sunshine, nits are even more crucial. Even on the sunniest of days, a screen with a lot of nits will appear bright and clear. However, I’d contend that you don’t need to pay very careful attention to how many nits a TV has when searching for a television and most people won’t even be able to detect the difference.
One candela per square meter (cd/m2) of brightness is also referred to as a “nit.” A typical candle emits about 1 candela. Now that you are aware of the name’s origin. Birthday greetings.
One nit of light is present when dispersed over a square meter. Or, to put it another way, picture a box with a candle in the center that is 16 inches (40.8 cm) on each side. That box’s interior surface is being illuminated by 1 nit of light overall.
But let’s focus on the topics that are of interest to us. A movie theater screen can likely get as bright as 50 nits in a typical cinema. Your TV may likely attain between 100 and 400 nits if it is a few years old and pre-HDR. High-quality LCDs would be on the opposite end of that spectrum from plasmas, which are no longer manufactured.
The best HDR TVs can emit over 1,500 nits of brightness, making modern TVs far brighter than older models. We’ll probably witness substantially greater light outputs in the upcoming years. At CES 2018, Sony displayed a prototype TV with a 10,000 nit brightness.
We’d like to take this opportunity to inform you that a manufacturer’s claim and a real-world nits number frequently differ. For both HDR and normal content, we evaluate each TV’s light output in nits for our TV reviews, and we’ve discovered that some TVs live up to the claim and some don’t. Additionally, some have imitated other features, such as the tendency of some Samsung TVs to change their light output over time, going from full brightness to half brightness or less after a given amount of time. Beware of scams.
How about the feet?
“Foot-lamberts” may have been mentioned in TV and projector reviews. One nit equals 0.29 foot-lamberts because this is the Imperial measurement for nits. Therefore, a TV that emits 1,000 nits emits 291.9ftL. However, nits are now generally used by everyone, including CNET reviews.
What about Lumens?
Lumens is a different way to measure light, and this is where things become tricky. Lumens usually only relate to projectors for what CNET deals with. It provides you with information about how much light energy something emits, but not exactly how “bright” it will appear. You’re not directly gazing at a projector, which is why. If a projector has 2,000 lumens, for instance, it will appear brighter on a 150-inch screen than on a 50-inch screen.
Or, to put it another way, your eye will see both a 500 nit phone and a 500 nit TV as being equally bright. However, a 2,000 lumen projector on a screen that is 50 inches will appear WAY brighter than a 2,000 lumen projector on a screen that is 150 inches.
Does that imply that on a screen of the same size, two projectors with 2,000 lumens each will appear equally bright? Nope. It would be too simple. Lumens cannot be precisely measured, hence manufacturers often inflate these figures. It’s unlikely that a projector with 2,000 lumens will be darker than one with 1,000 lumens, but you should still be skeptical of any specifications provided by the manufacturer. ANSI lumens, which describes the procedure for measuring light, is an exception to that rule. Those figures ought to be broadly equivalent between projectors.
Or, to put it simply, a projector’s output is measured in nits, exactly like a TV, and its image is measured in lumens. It’s far simpler to state “1,000 lumens” than “300 nits (on a 100-inch, 1.3 gain screen in a dark room with the projector sitting at screen height, unzoomed, in the Bright picture mode…)” because projector manufacturers don’t know what size or gain screen you’re going to use.
Bright displays have always been a goal for TV manufacturers. According to an old proverb, the TV with the brightest display sold the best. The aim of this brightness has changed in the HDR age to improve picture quality. Realistic highlight creation is one of the key components of HDR performance. The more illuminated these little screen regions are, the better. Consider the gleam of, say, the metallic skin of an airplane. This will appear much brighter in real life than the surrounding area. It is also on a top-notch HDR television.
To suggest a 2,000 nit TV will always look better than a 1,500 nit TV is not to say it will, but it can be a factor. Black level makes up the other half of the crucial contrast ratio calculation, which also includes brightness (nits). In the meantime, emerging technologies like quantum dots are elevating overall performance, including brightness, to heights that were unthinkable just ten years ago.
Candelabras, Nits, and Lumens
Imagine a candle within a cube with a one-meter by one-meter total surface area (about the size of a bath towel or 20 iPads that have somehow been made into a cube). At its source, that candle produces around “one candela” of light overall.
Technically, “one nit” is defined as “one candela per square meter,” which sums up all of the light illuminating the cube’s surfaces. Every additional candle you add to the cube will result in an increase in brightness, which increases the square meter’s nits value. The light per square meter would be 400 nits, which would make for a fairly decent laptop screen if you were able to fit 400 candles/nits into the cube before it caught fire.
Screen size and nits are unrelated because this is a per-square-meter measurement. Smartphones, which are frequently used outside, typically have a brightness of at least 300 to 400 nits, whereas movie theater displays, which are only used in dark conditions, are typically about 50 nits.
Although a smartphone emits more light overall (measured in lumens) than any theatrical projector, the phone concentrates that light into a smaller area. Due to the fact that a phone’s candela per square meter is at least ten times greater than the screen’s, using one while watching a movie is frowned upon.
If you scanned to the bottom of that in search of the incredibly brief summary, here it is:
- 1 candle’s brightness is approximately 1 candela.
- Light from one candle per square meter is known as nit.
- More nits equal more candles per square meter, which makes the display brighter.
How Do Nits and Lumens Compare?
What is a nit? is likely the first question you ask when you come across the measurement because you are probably more accustomed to hearing lumens than nits. It’s crucial to understand that nits brightness isn’t a recognized unit of measurement. The Latin word “nitere,” which means to shine, is its etymological root. Even if you are actually measuring brightness based on candles, nit is frequently used in place of candela to prevent sounding like you are just doing it.
So how is a lumen different from a nit? Lumens are a more comprehensive measurement than nit, which account for both light intensity and light output per square meter. Lumens are used to measure things like flashlights and lightbulbs, for instance.
Lumens gauge a light source’s overall intensity. Lumens, for instance, are a unit of measurement for the overall illumination produced by your TV screen. Nits would be used to gauge the screen’s overall brightness. While it may be confusing, consider that nits represent the measurement of the surface illumination and lumens represent the total light.
What Do Nits Serve?
You’ll understand why nits matter if you’ve ever tried using a dim device on a bright day. To be easily readable, your display must be brighter than the nearby light sources. On the other hand, having more nits wouldn’t really help if your smartphone never leaves the basement because you probably won’t be cranking up the brightness all the way.
Unless, of course, that device has an HDR (High Dynamic Range) TV. The fact that these TVs can display pure black and brighter brights makes them better overall. Although most HDR TVs have a brightness limit of roughly 2,000 nits, a Sony prototype HDR TV was able to reach 10,000 nits.
What Devices Perform Best at What Nits of Brightness?
It’s kind of difficult to determine how many candles you want in your screen without looking at a few numbers because we no longer use candles and putting them into delicate electronics is a bad idea. You can never go wrong with bigger numbers because, in general, more nits are always preferable. It won’t harm your battery as long as you don’t turn it up to its maximum when you don’t need to.
The maximum nit capabilities you should look for are broken down here.
200 to 1000+ nits for smartphones and tablets
Smartphones fall into the “more nits are better” category because they are frequently used outside. Technically, when a device reaches at least 1,000 nits, it qualifies as “sunlight-readable,” however very few mobile displays reach that level. On a sunny day, anything above 400 to 500 nits should work reasonably well, but below 200 nits, you might need to locate some shade to respond to SMS.
200 to 600+ nits for laptops and monitors
Since they are typically used indoors, laptops and computers don’t need to be as bright. While 200 is below average but still useful, 400 and higher is above average. You generally won’t need to use a computer display’s maximum brightness very often because few of them exceed 500 or 600 nits. But once more, if you have the option, you shouldn’t hesitate to purchase more nits.
Televisions: 100–2000+ nits
While most contemporary non-HDR displays fall in the 200–500 nit range, older TVs likely fall in the 100–nit range. High nit counts are ideal for HDR TV and typically call for at least 500, with many models aiming for at least 700. More than 2000 nits are possible with higher-end HDRs.
How Significantly Do Nits Matter?
Even though nits are significant, choosing a screen shouldn’t be solely based on them unless you particularly need something brighter than a certain level for HDR or outdoor use. As long as you’re not at the very low end of the nit range, you should be alright. Other elements that affect the quality of your screen include resolution, contrast ratios, black levels, sRGB color, and others. The most crucial component is just being aware of what a low, medium, and high nit value for a specific gadget looks like in order to make an educated choice.
Do not become fixated on any specification or technical phrase that a manufacturer or salesman throws your way. When thinking about buying a TV or video projector, nits and lumens are only one factor to consider.
Consider the full picture, which includes not only the claimed light output but also how the entire image seems to you in terms of:
- Brightness as perceived
- Motion responsiveness, Color Contrast, and Viewing Angle
- Easy installation and use
- Acoustic quality (if you are not going to use an external audio system)
- Additional features for convenience (such as internet streaming in TVs)
- Also bear in mind that you must take into account the additional content access requirements if you want a TV with HDR capabilities (4K Streaming and Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc)
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