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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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True, but Apple is the wrong company to sue
By RyanHirst on 5/18/2007 3:32:01 PM , Rating: 6
To the gent who asked if this is true or BS:

It is absolutely true.
But it has little to do with Apple.

1)A 6-bit panel can display 2^6 different tones for each channel (R,G,B). 2^6= 64 colors per channel. 64red x 64green x64blue = 262,144 possible colors.

An 8-bit panel produces true 24-bit color (8 bit color x 3 channels). 2^8 = 256 different tones per channel. 256r x 256g x256b = 16,777,216 colors.

2)6-bit panels all use dithering techniques to render more "visible" colors. Adjacent pixels alternate between very close shades to produce the illusion of more colors. If you see two different reds flashing back and forth on top of one another, (perhaps) you see a color in between.

3)Dithering techniques work. However, there is no escaping that the color depth simply isn't there. Some people are more sensitive to this than others. Satisfied customers rant about photo snobs who claim to tell the difference. I'm not a photo snob; the difference is obvious to me.
For a more creditable reference, compare the review standards of AnandTech and TomsHardware. Both are reputable and thorough reviewers. The THG monitor guy(s?) aren't bothered in the slightest by a 6-bit panel; generally you will find no information whatever in their reviews about the true bit-depth. Anandtech's reviewer(s?) notice the difference keenly, and make it clear what kind of panel is being reviewed. So it goes....

4)Apple sold 6-bit panels as displaying 16+ million colors.
Now, here's the crux

5)Every panel manufacturer and every branded monitor rates its 6-bit panels at 16+ million colors. It is often impossible to determine, based even upon the specs listed on a manufacturer's website, whether the panel in question is 6-bit or 8-bit.
The easiest ways to tell are by checking the viewing angles (true 8-bit panels invariably rate 176-178 degrees, 6-bit between 130 and 170), and, if you're lucky, the precise number of colors claimed. Generally, 6-bit panels will claim 16.2 milllion.

Incorrect specs, different definitions of dithering, and (above all) the absolute desire on the part of manufacturers to make it impossible for the end-user to tell s/he is buying a 6-bit panel, mean even product specs are regularly wrong.
I've even tried contacting a company directly, to determine if a product used a 6-bit or an 8-bit panel. The reply: different panels were used at different times; it would be impossible to quote which exact panel was in any monitor. Thus skirting the issue; it was later clear that ALL the panels used in that model were, regardless of manufacturer, 6-bit.

So, while Apple DID claim its 6-bit panels were 16 millions colors, those specifications came direct from the manufacturer (Apple does not manufacure or spec its own monitors). And, if Apple HAD stated the 6-bit panels only generated 262K colors, they would have been the only distributor of monitors, worldwide, doing so.

RE: True, but Apple is the wrong company to sue
By RyanHirst on 5/18/2007 3:38:04 PM , Rating: 2
I should have said, "adjacent subpixels"

And, for whoever ranted about apple and 24-bit: The best consumer LCDs are, at best, 24-bit color, which IS millions of colors. If you think you are getting 32-bit color out of your LCD, simply because you have your Windows/video card settings tuned to 32-bit, you are simply wrong. Or you paid well over $1000 for a specialty 36- or 48-bit professional monitor. In fact, 32-bit color doesn't exist for an LCD. It's not divisible by 3.

RE: True, but Apple is the wrong company to sue
By Seer on 5/18/2007 8:20:23 PM , Rating: 2
I've always wondered about that 32 bit setting. It's not divisible by the hell does it even work?

*Goes and checks Wikipedia*

By wien on 5/18/2007 9:27:53 PM , Rating: 2
Windows counts the alpha channel, so the setting is actually RGBA (32bit) instead of RGB (24bit). Of course alpha is meaningless on a monitor, so you only really get 24bit RGB regardless of the setting.

RE: True, but Apple is the wrong company to sue
By McScoot on 5/18/2007 9:17:54 PM , Rating: 2
In almost all cases 32b colour on PCs does have only 24b of colour information. An 8b per component LCD should be able to display all colours in a typical 32b colour signal (subject to other shortcomings of the actual panel). The other byte is not used or stores alpha information. There are some cards that support a 10b per component output (30b with 2 wasted bits), but it's not really the standard. Matrox Parhelia, G80, R600, and I think ATI's X1000 series all support some sort of 30 bit output.

RE: True, but Apple is the wrong company to sue
By INeedCache on 5/19/2007 1:40:56 AM , Rating: 3
I'm a little miffed by the statement "True, but Apple is the wrong company to sue". Why? Their name is on the device. It doesn't make any difference in this case who made the panels. Apple used them in their machines and apparently made false claims. The burden is on them to verify the panels work as claimed by the manufacturer, and the validity of any statements made by the panel manufacturers before they make them available to the public, and before they make public advertising statements that are not true. They are most certainly culpable here.

By RyanHirst on 5/19/2007 5:51:21 PM , Rating: 2
I've been miffed, too, ever since I first shopped for an LCD monitor. The problem is that panel manufacturers are NOT required to distinguish between methods of producing color. By the book, these panels produce 16 million colors. Legally, these statements ARE true. Apple is guilty of nothing, and all 6-bit panels will still continue to be spec'd at 16 million colors for the duration of this suit, and after... until those standards are changed.

I agree wholeheartedly that this information is deceptive. It is infuritaing. But, at present, Apple has done nothing wrong, because the deception is in the standard. Until that standard is changed, there is no culpability at all, for no deception has occured. Recognizing that there is deception, we are obligated first to set in place a recognition of that deception (which happens to exist at a level which is independent of Apple), and only then is there a way to hold individual violators accountable.
I know this sounds like a technicality. But lawsuits like this actually can endanger the cause they intend to champion. The issue of the deception inherent in the 6-bit panel specs becomes entangled in a suit that's not directed explicitly at identifying and criminalizing that deception (after all, why are the manufacturers themselves, all other distributors, and the creators of the standards not culpable?). Perhaps the judge will steer the case to this point. Perhaps not. If s/he does not, and if Apple wins, then a case is on the books that is not ABOUT panel standards, but has them entangled with the case... the standards, having won out inderectly may be much harder to challenge directly if/when the issue is finally brought to court.

By kelmon on 5/19/2007 5:04:52 AM , Rating: 2
I'd just like to say "thank you" for that post. Great work. Seems as though if this claim is successful that people will be forming an orderly queue to sue other laptop manufacturers if the same issue applies to them as well.

No shoving at the back, OK?

By KristopherKubicki on 5/20/2007 2:51:28 PM , Rating: 2
Superb post. I've been claiming this for years, but nobody really had much reaction. The entire industry died a little bit when everyone jumped on 6-bit TN panels over 8-bit PVA/MVA/SIPS and then marketed the TN panels as "faster response time."

Clearly, you've done your homework.

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