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Before anyone gets too excited, it's not the "Adaptive Brightness" feature of the OS. I've already turned that off.

Also it seems to have nothing to do with ambient light. It actually seems to do with the average "color" of the display. If I'm working in dark-themed Visual Studio, the brightness "pops" brighter. When I switch to the browser, it "pops" darker. So it's kind of adaptive brightness based on average pixel color (or something like that).

What makes it rather annoying is that the brightness pops, rather than transitioning gradually. What is this feature, and how do I disable it (or at least make it smoother)?

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Retina display Macbook Pros come with switchable graphics (one Intel Graphics HD and one dedicated graphics card), right? It might be the built-in "Display Power Saving Technology" feature for Intel Graphics that's causing the "brightness" shifts. Does it happen only when your laptop's running on battery?

To check, right-click anywhere on the desktop, go to Graphics Properties, click on Power, then on On battery, and click on Off for Display Power Saving Technology. See if this solves the problem.

Intel HD Graphics Panel

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    I have the 13" MBP which only has a single graphics card. However, I do think there's something to this. I'll give it a try next time I'm on my computer and let you know how it goes.
    – gzak
    Aug 21 '14 at 3:37
  • Spot on! That's exactly what it was :-)
    – gzak
    Aug 21 '14 at 4:24

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