True Tone on External Displays Doesn't Work With MacBook Pro in Clamshell Mode [Updated]

Following in the footsteps of the latest iPhone and iPad Pro models, the new MacBook Pro features True Tone technology.

macbook 2018 display
True Tone automatically adjusts the white balance of the MacBook Pro display to match the color temperature of the light around you, which, as Apple says, provides a more natural viewing experience. The feature is similar to Night Shift, but more dynamic, continuously adapting to the surrounding environment.

If you are standing in a dimly lit room with incandescent light bulbs, for example, the display would appear warmer and yellower. If you are standing outside on a cloudy day, the display would appear cooler and bluer.

iPhone 8 true tone display

True Tone on iPad Pro

We've received many questions about how True Tone is enabled on the new MacBook Pro, and we've sought out some answers from Apple.

Apple says the new MacBook Pro has a multi-channel ambient light sensor, next to the FaceTime HD camera, that can assess brightness as well as color temperature, adding that the display should be open to enable that functionality. Apple added that True Tone does not use the FaceTime HD camera for its operation.

Apple says the ambient light sensor in previous-generation MacBook Pro models can only assess brightness, suggesting that True Tone is not a feature that can be enabled on older machines through a future software update.

The information also suggests that True Tone will only work on the LG UltraFine 4K, LG UltraFine 5K, and Thunderbolt Display when the display on a connected MacBook Pro is open, rather than in closed-display aka clamshell mode. Apple did not directly confirm this, though, so we'll be testing to see.

True Tone can help reduce eye strain, so it's a feature worth considering if you purchase the new MacBook Pro. It can be enabled or disabled in System Preferences under Displays, alongside options for Night Shift and auto-brightness.

True Tone can also be enabled on the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, 9.7-inch and 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and the 2017 model 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Update: As we suspected, True Tone does not work on external displays when the connected MacBook Pro is in clamshell mode.

Eric Slivka contributed to this report.

Related Roundups: MacBook Pro 13", MacBook Pro 16"
Related Forum: MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

Koudspeel Avatar
41 months ago
Is True Tone important to people?
Yes.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DrJohnnyN Avatar
41 months ago
Is True Tone important to people?
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Cryates Avatar
41 months ago
Too bad Apple laptops now cost $5,000.
They don't though
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
artfossil Avatar
41 months ago
Bollocks!

We know that one feature is only important if Apple doesn't have it.

Like laptops with touchscreen displays!
It's the Alice in Wonderland effect. (When you can reach the key on the table, you're too big to get through the door; when you can fit through the door, the key is on the table . . . .) That is:

When Apple has a feature in a laptop, it's unimportant and only for coffee-shop sitting by effete hipsters.
When Apple doesn't have a feature in a laptop it's critical to real work by real professionals.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FelixDerKater Avatar
41 months ago
Is True Tone important to people?
Is TrueTone important with the display closed?
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
McTool Avatar
41 months ago
Is True Tone important to people?
“True Tone can help reduce eye strain, so it's a feature worth considering.”
Better read the article before commenting.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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