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SP3 display: poor black levels, and possible fix


New Member
Sorry if this has been mentioned before, but figure it's worth repeating in any case ...

Overall, I'm really happy with my three-day-old SP3. BUT I was surprised by the display. The display got a fantastic professional review -- since I do a lot of photo editing, that was a real sell. Now, for the most part the display did look fantastic ... until I played a video and dark scenes were almost impossible to see. Darker shades were all resolving to black. I checked a photo, and sure enough shadow detail was zilch. Worst I've seen. This was true whether on battery or not.

Black level can be tested here at Lagom: http://www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/black.php#blacktest.png. I'd love to know how other people test. For me, I could see only from about 13 or so -- that's really awful. Worse still, different shades of black/grey had colour tints. (Don't worry if you can't see them all: with max brightness, getting only one or two of the first row is pretty much expected, unless you use hardware calibration.)

So, the fix. I got GoodBytes Surface Tweak Tool since I read that it had an option to turn off Intel's dynamic contrast adjustment, which is famed for causing problems like this. So I turned it off, and, after restart, it was perfect!

... that said, when I turned it on again -- just to double check -- the problem didn't return. There was bad banding on battery with Tweak Tool's banding test, but black levels were still fine. So I'm not absolutely positive it wasn't a fluke (I played around with a lot of random settings before trying Tweak Tool). In any case, if you've similar problems, it's clearly well worth a try.

For completeness sake: I was using f.lux, until it started causing freezes (like other SP3 users: f.lux often doesn't play well with certain display drivers). So I initially thought this was the cause, and I guess it shouldn't be entirely ruled out.


Well-Known Member
I just installed the stock Intel Display Drivers and set Gamma to .6 with the HD Control Panel. Blacks looks great.


Well-Known Member
The first one I can see is the 5. But I applied long time ago GoodBytes hack. And the same thing happened to me. Applied the hack and nothing happened, turn it off and everything looked better.


Well-Known Member
Just downloaded the tool. For me, the dynamic contrast adjustment is already off by default in the tool. Am I doing something wrong? I'm not running the stock SP3 drivers but the ones from Intel.


Well-Known Member
Just downloaded the tool. For me, the dynamic contrast adjustment is already off by default in the tool. Am I doing something wrong? I'm not running the stock SP3 drivers but the ones from Intel.
I don't remember the details. Turn it on and off and check if you see any difference.
Wow, great find... hadn't really used the device for photo yet so I hadn't noticed the horrendous blacks as a result of this "feature". On that website test the first black box I could differentiate was 14!!! Used the tweak and now I can see #5 with nice differentiation up the scale. This should make darker movies & shows look much better as well I imagine.

On another note, I've never touched the factory Intel drivers, so I still don't have a control panel, even though I tried enabling it using the tweak tool. Is the only way to get the Intel graphics control panel to install the website drivers over-writing the Microsoft tweaked ones (which I understand are optimized for battery?).


New Member
I also used Goodbyte's tweak tool, but I used it to turn off the dynamic contrast so I could get a good hardware color calibration. One thing I noticed is that if I turned it back on and rebooted, it was still in the off setting. You may be having the same issue which may be why you did not see any difference after turning it back on... after a reboot see if it is still in the off position. On that black level test I can see starting at 4, but my brightness level is set at 61% so not sure how that affects the test.
How much does having the dynamic contrast on really positively affect battery life? Is there any real disadvantage of leaving it off all the time?


New Member
Running the stock Intel drivers sounds like another solution, though I guess I'd prefer to use the original drivers unless I have a specific reason not to. I never use the control panel; I'll be hardware calibrating, but that's the only fiddling I'll do.

@wmgreenjr Yeah, I did notice it took a few attempts to get it to turn back on, but I got it eventually and still found the black level fixed -- could be simply that the dynamic contrast only kicks in in specific circumstances. And 4's exactly what I get now on the Logon test, so it seems the displays are pretty consistent. (Brightness level doesn't affect the test, other than make it easier to notice the difference: it tests whether the display differentiates between the shades at all, which, for an LCD, is independent of brightness.)


I could only see from box 14. even with brightness on max.
I was happy with my sp3 as it was now you gone and made it totally awesome!
Just played ctitanics' 4K link (I downloaded it to the surface the other day with 4k downloader to show me mates etc) and I got all emotional.
Now all need to do is take me surface to tv store and with the display port cable I just got delivered to me try it out on a full 4k monitor to see how it performs.


Using Intel's HD 5000 version at gamma .6 to get proper white and black levels I have to set brightness to 40 and contrast to the lowest allowable level which is 40.

Is there a way to see if dynamic contrast is on or off without installing the tweak tool
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