A woman with glasses squinting at a computer laptop.

In the last few years, dark mode has become increasingly popular for smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Some people believe that dark mode is always beneficial, but that opinion isn’t backed by science. Here’s why dark mode is overrated.

It Can Make Your Screen Harder to Read

If you’re trying to read light text on a dark background, you may find it more difficult than dark text on a light background (what researchers call a “positive polarity” display). That’s because when you’re looking at a dark screen, your pupil dilates in order to let in more light. Larger pupils result in fuzzier details, making text appear more difficult to read.

Example of a positive polarity display verses a negative polarity display.
Benj Edwards / How-To Geek

Multiple studies have shown that workers are more productive with a positive polarity display (dark text on a light background.) These results hold among people of different ages and with on-screen text of different character sizes. So even though you might enjoy dark mode (negative polarity), it might actually slow you down, decreasing your reading speed and your ability to understand the user interface.

It Can Cause Eye Strain

A man sitting in front of a laptop with eye strain, rubbing his eyes.

While dark mode can potentially help alleviate eye strain in low-light situations, it can also cause more eye strain in well-lit environments. That’s because dark mode typically presents a lower-contrast display than light mode, and low-contrast text can cause eye strain as your eyes work harder to recognize fine details of the text or the interface.

It Doesn’t Always Save Battery Life

One of the slight benefits of dark mode is that it can help conserve battery life—but this only applies to screens that use OLED technology, where the black pixels are actually completely off. If your display uses LCD technology, dark mode won’t make a difference in your battery life because your screen’s backlight is always powered on, even if displaying black pixels.


Stick With What Makes You Comfortable

All that being said, using dark mode is a matter of personal preference. If you find it comfortable, don’t feel bad about using it.

But if you don’t like dark mode, there’s no shame in sticking with light mode instead. We have guides that help you enable it (by turning off dark mode) on Android, Chromebook, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows 10, and Windows 11. If light mode is too intense, you can turn down your screen’s brightness without turning on dark mode.

Also: Remember to take breaks every 20 minutes, looking away from your screen and blinking frequently. That’s one tip that will help your eyes.

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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