algiz 8x screen bright sunlight
All about RuggedGuest Blog

How bright is your screen? (Lumens, Nits and Watts)


How bright is a nit? Or 100 nits? Since 100 nits equal 100 candela per square meter, imagine a hundred candles sitting underneath a roughly 3 x 3 foot square. How bright would that be? I have no idea. So perhaps it’s better to think of things that, on average, generate so and so many nits and go by that. Standard laptops generate about 200 nits. A good tablet or smartphone between 500 and 600 nits. Rugged laptops can generate as much as 1,500 nits, as can modern 4K HDR TVs.

What makes everything more difficult is where we view an illuminated surface. Even a 200 nits handheld or laptop can look bright and crisp indoors. Outdoors that same device would be barely readable. Outdoors the weather makes a big difference, as does being in the shade or under a blue or cloudy sky. And when it comes to competing with the sun, all bets are off. The sun generates between 10,000 and over 30,000 nits.

So for better or worse, to get an idea of how bright the screen of a handheld, tablet or laptop is, look at its nits rating. Which, unfortunately, is listed only in a minority of spec sheets. That’s where a screen luminance meter comes in.

screen luminance meter 2
The guys at uses a screen luminance meter to define screen brightness on rugged computers.

The one we use here at has a range up to 40,000 nits and can show current or peak luminance of a display. We use it in conjunction with a test template to not only record maximum luminance in nits but also nits readings in steps from black to white.

Until something better comes along, every handheld, tablet or laptop screen spec should include a nits rating. Customers need to know that in order to make an informed purchase decision.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”600″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#d1d1d1″ txt_color=”#0a0a0a”]

By: Conrad H. Blickenstorfer[/mks_pullquote]

Conrad H. Blickenstorfer
Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, Ph.D., co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Pen Computing Magazine, has extensive experience in all aspects of rugged computing from his many years at the helm of the Pen Computing industry journal, Digital Camera Magazine, Handheld Computing Magazine, and his years of service as Director of Information Systems and Chief Information Officer with the New York State Dormitory and project manager for the New York State Urban Development Corporation. He has also written for numerous technology journals and wrote the mobile technology section in Fortune Magazine's semi-annual technology buyers guide for years. Blickenstorfer has visited numerous rugged manufacturing operations in the US, Japan, and Taiwan.