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I tried turning off smoothing and frankly the text was uncomfortably thin to read. I guess maybe their font should just be bolder by default so you don't need the glyph dilation to compensate.

I didn’t actually know you could turn it off before today! I’ve never had a Mac, I’m used to FreeType and Windows font rendering.

I have a vague feeling that Macs also have somewhat different gamma treatment from other platforms, which would be likely to contribute to thickness perception.

I totally agree.

In Leopard that font smoothing preference wasn't a checkbox, but a drop-down menu specifying how much font smoothing. If you select "Strong" you get a result that looks even bolder than normal. Even when a website is using an extraordinarily thin font, this setting makes it readable.

Apple replaced the drop down menu with a checkbox in Snow Leopard, but the underlying functionality wasn't removed until Catalina. Naturally I was very disappointed after my upgrade to Catalina because all text looked too skinny to me.

You get used to it after few days

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