eli5: How did gameboys not only function in but actually need very bright external light in order to see the screen, but modern screens with built-in backlights are nearly impossible to use on bright sunny days?

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eli5: How did gameboys not only function in but actually need very bright external light in order to see the screen, but modern screens with built-in backlights are nearly impossible to use on bright sunny days?

In: Technology
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Basically an extra large amount of light is washing out the display. The basic LCD of an original gameboy does so we’ll because it’s more like pages in a book without the backlight, the advanced tech that’s backlit has too much light.

Different technologies. The game it used reflected ambient light and filtered it through the crystal matrix; modern displays have a projected light from behind that gets filtered as it comes out towards your eyes.

But not all displays are like that; eBook readers and my Garmin watch both work best with reflected ambient light.

The original Gameboy used what is called a [Transflective display](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transflective_liquid-crystal_display).

It has a regular LCD on top like most display today but on the backside, there is a layer that reflects light and let light through. It is like a two-way mirror but not specular have defused reflection like a white paper
That makes it possible both to illuminate it from an external light source and from a backlight.

A display that only uses back illumination is called a transmissive display, this is the common type.

The advantage is that it works fin in direct sunlight and it will then use less power because no backlight is needed.
The problem is that that if you do that the color will look a bit washed compare to a display that only is illuminated by a backlight.

So unless you are it very bright sunlight a transmissive will look a lot better than a transflective display. Because the phone is mostly used out of direct sunlight they use a transflective display.

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You can look at the difference the technology in [monochrome displays](https://focuslcds.com/product_images/uploaded_images/204.jpg) and [color displays](https://www.szmaclight.com/Uploads/image/20191123/20191123054247_46476.jpg) and there is a quite clear difference.
If you look at a [Gameboy display](https://i.ytimg.com/vi/LZdbuKI0XGw/maxresdefault.jpg) it is quite clear that the display is not very good. There is not a lot of contrast in the display at all

Translefective displays are used for applications where sunlight usage is a lot more important than good color reproduction. The monochrome variant is quite common and it what you see in for example wristwatches.

I have a handheld Garmin Oregon 450 GPS with a color transflective display. It works perfectly in sunlight but the display looked washed out and I would not like to have it on my phone.

You can compare it to the touch screen on the GPS.
It has a resistive touch screen so it works by pressing anything to the screen so gloves are no limitation like on phones with a capacitive touch screen. It also works fins if it is wet and that is relevant for a device that is watertight and is used out when it rains
The resistive is less precise and responsive.
So I like the capacitive touch screen on the phone and the resistive touch screen on the GPS.

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So like almost everything else if there is one advantage there is often a disadvantage so you select the appropriate technology for the production. For a phone, it is a better color reproduction than it prioritized before usage in direct sunlight.