Apple clarifies MacBook Pro 2021 will drop screen brightness if temperature gets too hot

MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) open and on a table
(Image credit: Future)

Apple’s MacBook Pro 2021 models – and the Pro Display XDR monitor – can drop down the brightness levels of their Mini-LED screens if the hardware is running too hot in its environment, the company has clarified.

Apple pointed this out in a freshly published support document uncovered by MacRumors which tells users “what to do if the brightness is limited on your display.”

If this happens, you’ll see an on-screen warning icon (with an exclamation mark) in the menu bar, and this indicates that your hardware has switched to a low-power mode – with lower brightness – in order to combat the temperature rise that has been experienced.

Apple explains: “This can occur if the ambient temperature of the room is high and you’ve been playing very bright content for an extended period of time.”

Suggested solutions to get out of this particular bit of display hot water include closing HDR content, lowering the ambient temperature – a pretty obvious one that, so if you’ve got a MacBook, take it into another cooler area if possible – or again with an affected laptop, you can close resource hogging apps in an effort to reduce the machine’s temperature.

Or failing that put the MacBook to sleep for five minutes just to let the display cool off.

The document says that hardware owners should contact Apple for further advice and presumably troubleshooting if the issue persists when the ambient temperature of the room is less than 77° F.

Analysis: It’s not likely you’ll see this warning kick in

From what we can gather based on anecdotal comments online, this is not something most MacBook Pro 2021 users are going to encounter (and we haven’t heard of it happening). Note that the specified ambient temperature is not the level that the warning kicks in, it’s just a yardstick for defining when something could be wrong with the hardware regarding how this protective measure is working.

At any rate, users are unlikely to see this unless they are in a hot country, and really pushing the brightness levels of their display (maybe with HDR content) for a lengthy period of time. If you keep brightness at a relatively sensible level, odds are you probably won’t ever see such a warning (unless, say, you’re operating the laptop in direct sunlight on a warm day for example).

In short, this isn’t something you should realistically have to worry about – only in niche cases – and of course it’s sensible for Apple to implement some kind of protection for these Mini-LED screens. Running brightness really high for extended sessions probably isn’t a wise idea for the sake of your eyes, anyway…

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).