Let’s face it: eye strain is inevitable when you keep staring at the screen for too long. One of the culprits for keeping awake at night, or feeling like your eyes are tired or dry, is the blue tone of your device screen.
At this time and age of computing and mobile devices, it’s almost mandatory to have enabled some kind of blue light filter to reduce these undesirable effects. MakeUseOf has an article that looks into the relation of the blue light, melatonin, and sleepness.
This is my opinionated list of good filters that I’ve been using for the past years or so. I’ve used them in multiple computers, and these may also work for you, depending on your needs.
Your device’s Blue Light Filter (free)
Since last year our device OS has integrated Blue Light Reduction (or Filter) natively, probably hidden under your screen options:
- Windows 10 has its own since April 2017, called “Night Light”
- macOS Sierra 10.2.4 and iOS and later has “Night Shift”
- Ubuntu 17.10 also as its own “Night Light Mode”
These are simple tools for simple people, and it will suffice for the common user looking for a warm screen. For others looking for more control, there are free and paid options.
f.lux (free & paid)
I can’t say f.lux wasn’t my first option long time ago, when there was no app to filter the blue light with a nice interface. But ever since, the software haven’t broke ground in features considering your OS does the same already, out of the box.
While it’s free, corporate users may want to buy a corporate license to manage remote installs and so on.
Also, I had problems in the past with the intrusive polling rate that made the whole computer stutter every 5 seconds or so, no matter what. I haven’t tested the new version if this keeps happening or not, as I moved on.
Linux users may want to use Redshift as its made exclusively for this OS. There is a experimental Windows build, but considering Windows Night Light is already here there is not much appeal to install this.
For those who want another tool, just keep reading.
My personal favorite for your average PC owner — its license is not commercial or for business, so you can use it only on personal devices. It does what any blue light filter would do, but also:
- Transition speed from 0 to 100 in minutes.
- Custom delaying time to activate
- Warming Color in Kº below Windows’ limit.
- Brightness, plus Saturation & Hue (HSB)
- Night and Day presets
- Custom polling rate
The software is relatively small, and it stays around 10MB in memory, so it’s very light considering the trend of 8GB of RAM as the mainstream size in your PC. It’s only available for Windows, though.
People who only want to have a different settings for day and night, and different brightness or tint, may want to stick to this and call it a day.
Iris (free & paid)
All latter software pale in comparison to what Iris offers. While the other may suffice for the average user, Iris is a powerhouse of options. It’s available for Linux, macOS and Windows, so you are pretty much covered whatever you use.
So, what it does? The product scheme seems daunting at glance, but is very simple: get Iris Pro and stick to it. This “main version” has a trial of 2 weeks, expandable by inviting friends to download it using a URL referrer, enough time to test if you want to buy it or not.
You may ask if there is a Iris version that is Free, and that is Iris Mini, which adds nothing new to your device native blue light filter. I’ll talk about that later.
So, what you get for $10 bucks? A lot:
- Pre-programed profiles for Movies, Sleeping, Programming, Reading and so on
- Day and Night configuration, with Brightness, and Transition time.
- Selective screen activation “even on docking stations and monitors connected with USB” — you can enable or disable it on selected screens, but not have different settings for every monitor.
- Extended values for color temperature (0 Kº ~ 10000 Kº)
- Screen Effects like Darker Borders (called Lightness), Invert colors, Negative Grayscale, and Color Blind filters
- Color Schemes that affect the filter overall.
- Font Rendering options and Zoom
- Timer for resting or breaks
- Automatic pause (or filter) on applications.
- Screen overlay for non compatible screens.
- Partial screen filter
- Automatic Brightness and Blink Detection
- …and that is only the tip of the iceberg.
For me, Iris is the best and most comprehensive blue light filter on the market. For all these features, USD $10 seems like a steal, and seems like a good software if you have the money, which is not much.
What about Iris Mini?
Iris Mini Free doesn’t have any reason to exist. Feature-wise, it only adds slightly more than Windows, Ubuntu and macOS default tool, and tools like f.lux, Redshift and SunsetScreen can do more for free.
The “unlocked” version only gives more temperature and brightness settings for USD $5, which sounds like a worse deal than just buying Iris Pro for just USD $10. I would buy Iris Mini Pro if it were like USD $1~3. Also, didn’t see any path to automatically upgrade from Iris Mini to the Iris Pro without paying virtually twice.
Other versions like Iris OS, Iris Micro and Iris FLOSS seems for power users and sysadmins. They’re free, though.
TL;DR: What Blue Light Filter should use?
- Use your OS integrated blue light filter if you are fine with just a basic filter scheduled automatically, and brightness controlled manually.
- Get Iris Pro if you are color blind, manage multiple monitors, use image/video editing programs, game at midnight, or you are concerned by graphical performance or brightness pulsing.
- Get SunsetScreen, Iris Mini or Redshift if you only want to fine control of brightness, and different day and night configurations, or you are using and older OS without integrated blue light filter.