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...And mostly, why is it unable to turn this backlight off?

Gaming Consoles (and Mobile Phones, PDA's and other handheld devices) are always backlighted nowadays. Older devices, such as the GameBoy Color I still have, do not need backlight. The great thing of those backlight-less devices is that you can play them while sitting outside in the sun or near another bright light source. But with backlighted devices, while being able to use the device in a completely dark room, you will see absolutely nothing while in a bright area.

Is there a technical reason for the need of backlight? Or is it just the new standard?

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    \$\begingroup\$ My old GameBoy Advance, which didn't originally come with a backlight, has one now. I put one in because I got tired of the crappy and dim display. \$\endgroup\$ – user3624 Feb 20 '12 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ For me more annoyance is that the minimum backlight level is usually too bright for the night. I need to look for special low-level backlight control around this limitation or implement "backlight modulation" hacks to turn it on and off quickly to simulate ultra-dim backlight because of that. \$\endgroup\$ – Vi0 Dec 8 '12 at 20:18
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It's because they use hi-res colour displays. There is so much light lost through colour displays that they need a backlight to provide good contrast. You lose 50% through the polarizers, then about two-thirds through the RGB filters, so less than a third of the light makes it through.

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    \$\begingroup\$ One thing I've wondered about color displays: could one replace the RGB filters with RGB phosphors (or else red and green phosphors for red and green pixels, and let blue pixels shine through)? \$\endgroup\$ – supercat Feb 20 '12 at 21:30

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