Print 40 comment(s) - last by slashbinslashb.. on May 26 at 10:34 PM

Lawsuit claims LCD screens on Apple's current notebooks are not capable of millions of colors

Apple Inc. has been in and out of the courtroom a number of times this year for patent infringements, product defects and mostly to defend its iPhone. This week, Apple finds itself in the courtroom again, this time facing a class action lawsuit alleging the LCD screens on its MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops are substandard. The claim also alleges Apple advertised its screens as being superior, but knowingly shipped screens that did not meet its original claims.

The class action lawsuit points out the glossy screens Apple introduced with the launched of its MacBook last year. Apple advertised that the new glossy screens provided users with deeper blacks and whites that are more vibrant. However, many customers experienced graininess and sparkling effects common to dithering techniques, according to the lawsuit.

According to the complaint:

Many such dissatisfied purchasers were chastised by Apple agents and employees for being too picky about their assessments of the quality of the display. Other dissatisfied purchasers were told that they were imagining the complained about defects.

The complaint also points out that many of the disgruntled customers posted messages on Apple's own forums only later to have their posts moderated or completely removed by Apple forum administrators.

"It appears that Apple has engaged in substantial editing of the posts on the discussion forum," the lawsuit indicates.

The lawsuit alleges Apple uses dithering techniques to create an illusion of colors that don't actually exist. In fact, the lawsuit claims if a MacBook or MacBook Pro users installs Windows XP, they will notice superior image quality in areas such as gradients. The test seems to indicate Apple is using some sort of software at work in OS X.

"The displays are only capable of displaying the illusion of millions of colors through the use of a software technique referred to as 'dithering'," the lawsuit claims.

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Say what?
By NaughtyGeek on 5/18/2007 2:13:43 PM , Rating: 2
Could someone here give a brief technical description explaining why this is true or BS? I have to admit, I'm a little lost on this one.

RE: Say what?
By mcnabney on 5/18/2007 2:33:08 PM , Rating: 5
This is most likely an issue with people who need 100% color accuracy down to the pixel. That means people that work with Photoshop or CAD software might be a little pissed. They paid above market price for Apple products that were advertised at certain graphical specifications to meet their needs. For regular consumer uses, it wouldn't matter, but it does to professionals.

RE: Say what?
By mindless1 on 5/20/2007 2:04:07 PM , Rating: 3
Quite a few people who aren't using CAD or photoediting types of apps find dithering (when perceivable) objectionable and actively seek products that don't.

It matters to regular customers. Look at a poor monitor if you like but don't pee in my pool.

RE: Say what?
By otispunkmeyer on 5/21/2007 4:04:06 AM , Rating: 2
probably been found out selling 6bit panels with 2x2 dithering on their laptops.

and honestly, i can see why people are upset, especially the MBP users who paid to have a more professional bit of kit.

6bit dithered TN's are like the lowest of the low in LCD's certainly something you dont put on a $2000 laptop.

glossy coatings are mostly rubbish too. theyre like a band aid to cover up naff panels...unless you own a NEC 20.1inch with the S-IPS 8bit panel, that thing is sweet.

RE: Say what?
By theapparition on 5/21/2007 8:15:37 AM , Rating: 2
Not that many CAD applications for a MAC notebook ;-)
I agree with Photoshop, though.

RE: Say what?
By slashbinslashbash on 5/18/2007 2:41:24 PM , Rating: 5
It seems to be somewhat BS, but there *could* be an actual complaint in there if the LCD panels are actually 6-bit. The listed complaints (in the lawsuit PDF from Engadget) do not get very technical and sound more like griping than anything that could be backed up in a court of law. It lists a whole bunch of complaints from web forums. It does not take apart a MacBook screen and note the panel manufacturer and whether the LCD is 6-bit or 8-bit but instead relies on these web forum posts to allege that the panels are 6-bit. It also claims that the colors are noticeably better on a MacBook Pro under WinXP than under OSX, which would seem to contradict that the screen itself is faulty. It also mentions "points of light" (stuck pixels?) that (to me at least) indicates that this is more of a crank lawsuit than anything real. Of course, if Apple is found to be using 6-bit panels, and they can't make a convincing argument for dithering as an approximation of millions of colors, they may lose on that one point, but the rest of it sounds like sour grapes.

RE: Say what?
By Proteusza on 5/18/2007 4:05:37 PM , Rating: 3
Hmm, if OSX has special features to enhance graphics, then Windows XP would look worse, because it wouldnt have them.

Sounds phony, but I must say, so many consumer complaints must mean something in this case, they obviously arent good displays, time will tell if any trickery is going on.

RE: Say what?
By mindless1 on 5/20/2007 2:09:31 PM , Rating: 3
Actually they don't have to demonstrate 6 or 8 bit at all. While some make this association, in the end it is whether the panel can actually do what was advertised. That was not 6 vs 8, it was number of colors. Point is, you could have an 8 bit panel that has problems, or elsewhere in the notebook there are problems and as a whole product, that product does not live up to the stated quality level regardless of where in the chain you had the weak link.

It doesn't have to be technical. If you buy a green car and the dealer delivers a blue car, do you have to know the technical details of the type of pigment they used to know you aren't getting the color you paid for?

RE: Say what?
By slashbinslashbash on 5/26/2007 10:34:45 PM , Rating: 2
Well, there's a difference between green vs. blue cars and such things as "state of the art" computers (a phrase which is repeated multiple times in the complaint). "State of the art" in a marketing context means practically nothing.

Plus, your green vs. blue car analogy fails to support your case. I have seen many cars where the color is debatable whether it is blue or green. I have even had that very argument a couple of times.

Furthermore, the color of a car (like the screen of a laptop computer) is easily ascertained before the purchase. Nobody buys a car in a particular color without either seeing it in person or seeing a color swatch somehow. Similarly, it is fully possible to purchase a MacBook or MBP only after viewing the screen of similar machines. Buying one "sight unseen" is also possible, of course, but doing so for any product is often the road to buyer's remorse.

Have you even read the PDF complaint? It's really fairly absurd and, as I said before, most of the "hard facts" are in the form of quoted forum posts, some of which are contradictory (e.g. one guy talks about how the MacBook (non-Pro) has much better screens than the MBP while the complaint as a whole includes the MacBook as being just as bad as the MBP). Plus, I can't believe they included tripe like this in a complaint filed in a court of law:

"it is not only the color banding and gradient stuff. Hook up a ACD and you will see that the color is W off if i edit a pict in aperture on my mbp17 and then preview it on my 23acd i vomit ! This is no PRO computer !" (p. 7 of the complaint, copied verbatim, spelling and grammar mistakes included).

RE: Say what?
By psychobriggsy on 5/18/2007 2:54:42 PM , Rating: 5
Most (if not all) laptop and budget desktop LCD displays use 6-bit panels.

That's 6-bits per colour component.

2^(6+6+6) = 262 thousand colours.

I don't know how LCD panels dither. I am assuming that they dither temporally here:

Because TN screens (which are usually the 6-bit screens) are quite fast to react however, you can create shaded inbetween those colours by switching between them faster than the human eye can notice or discern. e.g., If you had a 1-bit mono display, flicking between white and black would produce grey, effectively. On a 6-bit display you could create the illusion of a 7-bit display by switching between two adjacent colours. 2^21 is 2 million colours. I'm sure that they can emulate an 8-bit display as well, either with different timings for the dithering effect, or by using different colours to dither with.

Apple are accused of advertising their screens as handling "millions of colours". Make of it what you will. I think the problem regarding graininess is somewhere else than the screens themselves, it might be possible that a driver fix could fix it, but if so, then Apple really should have done something about it.

RE: Say what?
By rultin on 5/18/2007 3:23:35 PM , Rating: 3
Maximum PC actually had a great column recently about LCD Displays and the person here who mentions TN is right on the mark.

Different LCD manufacturers use different techs to "create" millions of colors on 6-bit displays. If the Apple screens are 6-bit and not 8-bit then there could be cause for concern. As, for now, you won't get vibrant and bright colors on 6-bit displays.

Granted, for now, these 6-bit displays are being used mostly in the 22inch LCD range. I would be surprised if Apple used 6-bit displays on their laptops...then again it would only increase their profit margin on each device sold as the 6-bit displays are substantially cheaper at the 22inch size I can only imagine it would be pennies at the 12-14inch range.

Check out this months Maximum PC issue for info on TN displays pretty interesting.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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