The Sun And I Hate My Dell Laptop's Screen

I was very close to tossing my computer through some glass this morning.

I’m on an island. The only available internet is the wi-fi coming from the public libraries. My Dell XPS Gen 2 laptop’s screen, in order to save power, I suppose, isn’t fully bright unless the power supply is plugged in. That, combined with the sun’s natural hatred of LCD screens, meant trying to read my screen as I waited outside for the library to open was like peering through thick black smoke.

This is a design flaw, and obviously a surmountable one as my girlfriend’s Macbook is perfectly fine and readable in the sun, without plugged in power supply. Whoever thought it was okay to make a laptop completely unreadable in the sun is a moron.

Sure, it’s a gaming laptop and not meant to be brought out of a climate-controlled cave. I don’t care. I want to use it in the sun.

The next laptop I upgrade to will be readable in the sun and if that means I have to go Mac, then so be it.

(Photo: Getty)

UPDATE: Ah. Ok, you just press FN and the up arrow. Thank you, MRJIMBO19.
UPDATE: Annnnd it turns out that my screen is glossy and is meant for inside and not outdoor use. Case Of The Missing Clock, solved. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys can go home now and get ready for the sock hop.


Edit Your Comment

  1. MonkeySwitch says:

    Are you sure you couldn’t turn up the brightness?

  2. mrjimbo19 says:

    Hold down the FN key and hit the up arrow, your brightness is back up to normal. It dims the screen to conserve battery while away from an outlet, annoying but easily fixed. The other thing that may be causing a problem is if you have a glossy screen, not much you can do about that after the fact.

  3. iMike says:

    Drape a sheet or towel over your head and the screen. Fairly goofy but effective.

  4. Toof_75_75 says:

    Doesn’t seem like it should be too hard to just turn the screen brightness back up…

  5. admchnty says:

    Exactly what MRJIMBO19 said, you need to change the power options.

  6. Ben Popken says:

    @mrjimbo19: omg, it works. thank you.

  7. Musician78 says:

    I have a Dell 9300 and have the same issues with it. >:( I don’t know if all Dells do, but when I eventually upgrade, it will not be another Dell.. namely for that problem.

  8. Musician78 says:

    I should have read all the replies prior to posting. What a chowderhead. I’ve been dealing with that for two years. TYVM!

  9. bobnfloyd says:

    You should put the correction on top of your rant/text. The problem was solved and in a manner that you should have been able to see in the manual or online. The note at the bottom is very small and will be missed by many readers.

    I think you should do this because you get readers who won’t read all the way through like the pereson that posted after you and they are misinformed and mistaken.

  10. bambino says:

    This is the second WTF moment in a week. Ben, are you hanging out with lindsay lohan as well?

  11. dugn says:

    …and you can adjust the power options so depending on power state (plugged in, not plugged in, etc.) your screen, CPU, hard drives and other things will use your selected amount of power.

    Can we make a new rule that people posting technology rants must RTFM first?

  12. Thorimm says:

    You should put up a “Oh, crap, I was so wrong” as the headline on this one, rather than continuing to post the slander.

  13. nkwu says:

    Do the XPS come with GLossy screens?

    As much as Glossy screens make things look better (at least to my eye) in a controlled environment, I can’t stand glossy screens on laptops. The glare is killer/

    If it’s glossy – good luck, otherwise just turn the damn brightness up

  14. Ben Popken says:

    @Thorimm: Actually, the dimness was only half of the problem. I still hate the screen in the sun. “Slander?” Give me a fucking break.

  15. louiedog says:

    @Ben Popken:

    As someone mentioned, you may have a glossy screen which looks bad in the sun, but awesome indoors. Most Dell laptops (and laptops from other companies) have multiple screen options and if you find yourself using your computer in the sun a lot you should look carefully at those options for your next purchase. No need to get a Mac unless you want a Mac for other reasons.

  16. acambras says:

    Ben, were you so frazzled and discombobulated that you forgot to use the royal “we” ? Or did you decide against it, knowing all the snarky comments that would result? ;-)

  17. polarogak says:

    What you are experiencing is Dell’s “TrueLife” screen, which serves as a mirror rather than a monitor in any kind of lighting environment other than complete darkness. It’s amazing to me that they still produce it.

  18. exkon says:

    LOL!!! Also, since you’ve turned up the brightness without it plug-in, the laptop will remember this setting and will keep at full brightness even when you are on battery power.

  19. Shenanigans Was Taken says:

    We typically adjust this in the BIOS of Dell laptops. Powerdown and reboot the computer. Hit F2 to get into BIOS and there should be a Power Management screen/section. In there will be settings for screen brightness when on A/C and when on battery power.

    If boosting the brightness level to the maximum when on battery power does not give you the results you want, then you will need to look into a screen attachment to help reduce glare.

  20. Ahkum says:

    So we’re supposed to believe the guy who can’t even figure out how to turn up/down his brightness set up that elaborate geek sting? Methinks someone else was definitely doing that work, or else it looks a little fishy now…

  21. TVarmy says:

    @acambras: Ben escaped from the city and found the forbidden word “I” in an abandoned library from the Old Times.

  22. Thorimm says:

    Yes, Slander. RTFM.

    Also, you can change the way the power saving features work permenantly by going into the BIOS and changing the ‘Brightness on Battery’ settings there.

  23. pestie says:

    What’s so great about glossy screens? I have one at work, and unless the background is white, it acts like a goddamned mirror. It’s annoying as hell when I’m trying to work in a Linux terminal session, where 98% of the screen is black.

  24. el_gordo says:

    What’s a gaming laptop?

  25. Ausoleil says:

    As people suggested, adjust the brightness to where you want it.

    If you are still not happy, find an old shoe box (any *clean* box will do, but shoe boxes work great. Using a pair of scissors or an x-acto knife, cut yourself a little sunshade that covers the top and sides of the screen and blocks the sun a bit.

    If you are the least bit creative, you can even make it so it folds neatly when you aren’t using your new doo-dad. Best of all, the price is far cheaper than a new laptop.

  26. Thain says:

    Is anyone really surprised that a glossy screen is unusable outdoors? It’s a feature, not a bug, folks. Glossy screens are designed to give a truer black so that you have the best image possible. The designers don’t give a shit about outdoor functionality because that’s not the point. Honestly, it would be like complaining that your glossy-screened HDTV is unwatchable when sun is streaming in the window. The world collectively shouts, “Duh!”

    If you want the nice true-black effect given by a glossy screen, you give up the right to complain that your notebook doesn’t play nice outdoors. If you want a notebook that plays semi-nice outdoors, you give up the right to complain that blacks look a little grey-ish.

  27. ribex says:

    Uh, no, not slander. That would be libel. Maybe you shouldn’t sling RTFM so casually… That said, I’d appreciate seeing more headline changes on this site to reflect new information that often surfaces. Too many misleading titles persist.

  28. Jerim says:

    As other’s have pointed out, turn the screen brightness up. It is in the BIOS, which you can usually get into by hitting DELETE or F2 when you first turn the laptop on. Keep in mind, the brighter the screen, the quicker the battery drains. Macs are pricey, but they come with very good battery life. If your laptop is some cheap “special”, then your battery life could be about an hour. This is why most laptops are set to automatically dim when running on battery. You can have bright screen/short batter or dim screen/long batter. But you can’t have both, unless you bought a laptop over the $1000 price range.

  29. Caprica Six says:

    oh Ben, just git yerself a Mac. Hey, no hatin’! I can work on a PeeCee too, but getting a Macbook will ease the pain, plus if you get a big enuf hard drive, you can dual boot it too :)

    Ok, geek rant is now over.

  30. Wormfather says:

    This is going tos ound petty, but what island do you live on?

    I mean they get internet in kenya for crying out loud…and Nigeria for that matter, but that’s a whoooooooooole ‘nother story

  31. dbeahn says:

    This is what we call a UTFS driver issue. The User is Too Fracking Stupid.

    I mean really, before you start whining about “poor design” and all that crap, maybe you should read the instructions and learn to use the notebook you paid so much for.

    I’m disappointed Ben – I expected better from you. In addition to using the FN option, there’s also a place in “power settings” that let you define how bright you want the screen on batteries.

    Guess next time I get into a car and the mirrors aren’t exactly how I like them, rather than move them to my preferences, I’ll need to start bitching about how the car has a HUGE design flaw that boarders on making it UNSAFE TO DRIVE!!!


  32. SuperJdynamite says:

    “if you have a glossy screen, not much you can do about that after the fact.”

    That’s not entirely true. Word on the street is that the matte anti-glare screen is a drop-in replacement for the equivalent TrueLife screen.

    This site has both direct replacements and upgrades they can do to your existing laptop LCD.

  33. quagmire0 says:

    Silly end user…..ugh. >:|

    @DBEAHN – I like that one. :D

  34. GreatMoose says:


    Yep, they’re drop-in replacements. I’m a Dell certified tech (don’t work for Dell, but certified), and we do this a lot.

  35. Sockatume says:

    I actually seek out the anti-glare screens. I nearly wound up with a glossy screen this time around (it was cheap) but when I got it out of the box, it was glare free. Fortune was smiling that day.

  36. admchnty says:

    @ BEN POPKEN, Did you see that the consumerist is looking, “A Call for Better Comments.” Perhaps you might cut back on the profanity. Little ironic it came from the consumerist?!

  37. sleze69 says:

    Why hasn’t this post been deleted? The guy is complaining about something that is totally wrong and he confirmed it in updates. This clearly has nothing to do with protecting the consumer.

  38. Trackback says:

      I have always watched more sitcoms than most people. I haven’t ever really met anyone who enjoyed The King of Queens as much as I did, at least under the age of 50. The age of high-definition has only increased my propensity to consume mediocre situation comedies with appealing people.

  39. oneswellfoop says:

    User Error. I know Dell makes mistakes….all companies do, and they should be taken to task if they don’t help the customer resolve the issue, but crap like this(ignorance of the user) that can be solved by a couple of properly phrased searches on Google, is why Dell and all the other companies make you try to go thru all the automated crap before reaching a real human. They hope you will give up, or do a search adn savd us all a little trouble.

  40. 3xMort says:

    I was sure that this was going to be about the new Roddy Doyle movie.

  41. man, i’ve never felt the opposite with the comments this much. i’ve had laptops with matte screens and not only did they produce poor color contrast, but i couldn’t see a thing when outdoors. i have made sure to have a glossy screen on every laptop since because of the colors, and i have actually found it to work just fine outdoors…at least much better than a matte screen. maybe i have magic eyes?

  42. Ben Popken says:

    @admchnty: Yep. It was made after this one, perhaps in recognition of the level to which I had stooped.

  43. MrEvil says:

    Dell is pretty well comitted to the glossy screens in their consumer laptops. Which includes Inspiron and XPS. Dell’s business lines such as Latitude and Precision Mobile show little trend towards putting glossy screens in them. If you’re looking for a 17″ laptop right now with some gaming muscle the Precision M90 is an XPS M1710 without all the LEDs and a matte screen. Odds are when Dell gets around to releasing a new 17″ XPS there’ll no doubt be a Precision Evquivalent with a matte screen.

  44. pattie says:

    You and Mr.Jimbo have saved my vision, not to mention my sanity!! I have been dealing with this dim screen for a year now and have hurled expletives even I’d never heard. Your rant was the only help I found in a search for a solution. Maybe Dell should hire you as a consultant!! Thanks to you both for the Fn up arrow tip. I’m eternally grateful.