Crappy MacBook displays: true or false?
February 27, 2007 10:49 PM   Subscribe

Are the displays on the MacBook Pro really as bad as I hear they are?

I've heard some talk about uneven backlighting (dark or overly bright spots), grainy displays, something about gradients being displayed incorrectly, 6 bit color depth, narrow viewing angles, etc. Has anyone here experienced any of these problems with their MacBook Pros? I'd especially like to hear from people with the 15"/2.33GHz C2D model because that's what I'll most likely be buying within a week or two.
posted by Venadium to Computers & Internet (28 answers total)
You could always wait until next month when new stuff is going to be announced. I heard apple was working on new LED backlit laptop LCD's.
posted by who else at 11:09 PM on February 27, 2007

I like mine. Bought it a month ago, no complaints whatsoever so far.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:10 PM on February 27, 2007

I'm posting this from a 15"/2.16GHz C2D, and I don't have any of the problems listed. I've been using this laptop daily since the day I got it (about a week after the C2D line was announced, somewhere in October). No spots, no grain, gradients are fine, color depth is "Millions" (32 bit, methinks), and the viewing angle is great (I get complements on it all the time).

If you do get any of those problems, just call up Apple and they'll replace it, since it's a manufacturing defect.

And if they don't replace it, make a stink online, get posted onto Digg, and you'll get a replacement anyway =)
posted by DarkElf109 at 11:11 PM on February 27, 2007

this is personal opinion:

ive probably owned or borrowed every apple laptop since the black powerbook g3, and to address your point, yes, over a long period of time, apple laptop screens develop slight dark/overly bright spots (the dark spots tend to develop at the bottom of the screen, near the keyboard). ive never had grainy displays or gradients displaying incorrectly (although the latter would probably an os/memory error), and as for the narrow viewing angles - well. compared to what? ive found the performance on "your average pc laptop monitor" to be so shitty in comparison.

although we had this conversation a few weeks ago about graphic applications on the macbook, and someone made the remark (with proof) that the macbook screen wasnt good for highend applications.. but then again, you're using a laptop, so you know what you're getting into.
posted by phaedon at 11:19 PM on February 27, 2007

I've never had any of the problems you describe with my Macbook Pro. It's not one of the latest models, but the screen has always been great.

I'm guessing you're reading lots of posts online from people who've had this problem. In general you can expect that these people are the exception to the rule for any moderately successful product -- especially mobile phones. Sure, there are real problems out there (like the battery overheating stuff that prompted a replacement from Apple -- I was even in the group that got replaced but hadn't had any problems) but by and large the problems are going to be isolated rather than the norm. In fact, just in case it hasn't been formulated before, I'm even going to formulate this into:

Ontic's First Law of Consumer Electronics: People who experience no significant problems with a piece of consumer electronics will be drastically underrepresented in online venues discussing that product.

Ontic's Second Law of Consumer Electronics: The first law is especially true of mobile phones and Apple products.
posted by ontic at 11:48 PM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I use a macbook pro all the time, and I have no idea what you're talking about.

I strongly suggest you go look at them in person if this concerns you deeply, because my experience (and the responses in thread) seem to indicate that it might be a nit-picker's sort of problem.
posted by PEAK OIL at 11:59 PM on February 27, 2007

Another happy (amd mildly confused) 2.16Ghz C2D Macbook Pro owner here. Screen is lovely. Is this supposed to be an issue with the glossy or non-glossy screens? I chose non-glossy so I wouldn't get irritated by reflections when using it outdoors or in front of windows.

Also, I agree with Ontic's laws. Happy customers don't go online and start threads about how their new product is lovely and works just as advertised. Forum posts are great for sharing info about how to resolve problems if you are unlucky enough to get hit by them, but generally their existence doesn't indicate a majority issue.
posted by Joh at 12:07 AM on February 28, 2007

I'm not sure I'm sold on the gloss. Other than that, no complaints.

Reread ontic's laws. Therein lies much truth.
posted by sourwookie at 12:07 AM on February 28, 2007

And FYI, most (possibly all) laptop LCDs are 6-bit. It's done because 6-bit displays are faster, so you don't get as much ghosting and what not when you watch a movie or whatever.
posted by PEAK OIL at 12:15 AM on February 28, 2007

Wha...?? The only thing I can think of is that you're reading comments about the glossy displays that come as an option on MBPs. I agree, glossy is ridiculous for real work. The MBP's matte screen is the best laptop screen I've used.
posted by lorimer at 12:48 AM on February 28, 2007

Another "typing this on a MacBook Pro and have no clue where you're hearing about these problems from" here.
posted by tkolar at 12:51 AM on February 28, 2007

Macintouch's satisfaction survey of the MacBook and MacBookPro lines imply the lighting problems were largely with the original 17" Core Duo model.
posted by ardgedee at 3:07 AM on February 28, 2007

another vote for "first ive heard of this"
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 4:26 AM on February 28, 2007

Posting from a 1st gen 17" MBP. The only time I have any screen issues are when when the display has been shut off and turned back on (waking up from sleep, first boot, etc). The screen seems to take about 15 seconds to come to full brightness. Once it's warmed up, the display is crystal clear from any angle. I believe this was only an issue with the 1st gen 17" MBP. Some people had the blotchy display issue, but I haven't heard any reports about it since the 2nd gen systems came out.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:59 AM on February 28, 2007

And FYI, most (possibly all) laptop LCDs are 6-bit.

Can't speak to "most", but "all" is definitely wrong. I just made myself a little test graphic consisting of four nested green rectangles, colored #009800, #009900, #009A00, #009B00, and the edges are subtle but clearly distinguishable on this Dell Inspiron 8200 laptop (2001 vintage) 15" Ultrasharp 1600x1200 screen. If the screen were to ignore the two least significant bits of a pixel color, all these rectangles would render in exactly the same color and I wouldn't be able to find their edges.

This screen is a pleasure to watch movies and play 3D games on, too, so it's clearly possible to manufacture a quick, high-resolution, 8-bit laptop LCD.
posted by flabdablet at 5:19 AM on February 28, 2007

Mine is great (15" 2.16 core duo with matte screen)

I use it for web design, programming, print design & production...never have any problems.

WoW looks fab on it too. ;)
posted by miss tea at 5:58 AM on February 28, 2007

17 in Macbook Pro-Glossy screen: In my opinion it is the best screen I have ever had on any of my laptops.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:00 AM on February 28, 2007

Among designers/artists, the only real discussion I know of is about the glossy-vs-matte screen. The general concensus (among those I've spoken to) is that the matte screen is more accurate, color-wise. The point being that the glossy screen tends to visually pump-up the saturation and contrast of the colors a bit. The general public likes the glossy screen and the vivid colors, though. For professionals, though, it's not color-accurate.
Then there's the glare issue with a glossy screen.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:23 AM on February 28, 2007

6-bit? That's 64 colors. Windows 1.0-level graphics. Meaning that even 256-color GIFs couldn't be represented with full fidelity, much less million-color JPEGs.

Even 16-bit seems like a stretch. The difference between 16-bit and 32-bit (which Apple simplifies to "thousands" of colors vs "millions") is immediately apparent on my LCD screen.
posted by adamrice at 7:26 AM on February 28, 2007

The MacBook Pro that I'm typing this on has a quite lovely screen, as laptop screens go. Nobody I know has complained about theirs.
adamrice: it has 32-bit color depth; this "6-bit" business must refer to some other aspect of the technology you and I don't understand!
posted by nowonmai at 7:42 AM on February 28, 2007

And FYI, most (possibly all) laptop LCDs are 6-bit.
All Apple displays (stand-alone, iMac, and laptops) are 32-bit. Have been for many, many years.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:49 AM on February 28, 2007

It depends how fussy you want to be. I'm a broken record on this, but get pissed off when people who have little interest in the very fine points of colour go "screen is totally fine!"

It may be if you're just doing design/web/print/email etc, but if colour matters to you, it won't do at all. There are colour shifts on a significant number of displays, and it has pretty bad colour ghosting when moving thin details in certain colour ranges.

There is always going to be a trade-off between what you can get in a big screen and a laptop, but the current apple screens are just bad in that sense, they're bad in a degraded sense. Hues, casting, limited colour range.

I can go on about this for ages, but the sum is: you probably won't notice, but if you really care about colour (as in "i have a calibrator") there's a high chance you will.
posted by bonaldi at 7:59 AM on February 28, 2007

The 6-bit refers to the bits per color channel. So, in the terms most people have been using, 18-bit instead of a true 24-bit display. Many LCD panels (even on desktops, including some of Dell's most recent large desktop panels, do this to cut costs/speed things up) do this. Often you can't tell because of subtle dithering.
posted by rbs at 8:30 AM on February 28, 2007

I have an older MacBook Pro (1.83) and I love the display. I love the computer, in fact. I don't know what 6-bit colour depth is (as opposed to 6-bit colour, which this is definitely not), but I can tell you that things look crisp and beautiful on this screen, and it's nice and bright. I've had no problems with it.

Of course, if you'd prefer a first-generation MBP, I'd be happy to trade you.
posted by Dasein at 9:47 AM on February 28, 2007

Then there's the glare issue with a glossy screen.
posted by Thorzdad

Glossy here, never had a glare problem.

You're going to find knee jerk reactions to glossy screens in general (mostly by people repeating what they've heard without testing those claims), but mac's glosssy screens are really nice. I've put them side by side next to a window and both became unusable at the same time. Yes, some lights (high ones especially) are slightly visable on a glossy screen that are not on a matte screen. Then again in low light a glossy screen is gorgeous, much more vivid than a matte screen. So it's personal choice. There are positives and negatives to each.

I agree, glossy is ridiculous for real work. The MBP's matte screen is the best laptop screen I've used.
posted by lorimer

I know several people who run a business/ do their jobs with glossy screen mbps (by choice). That's just a stupid statement.
posted by justgary at 9:51 AM on February 28, 2007

No problems with mine. We have quite a few MBPs around here, and the displays all look ok.
posted by drstein at 10:24 AM on February 28, 2007

OK. For everyone who thinks the MB screen is fine, try opening this image and then dragging the browser window around a bit, fairly slowly.

Ability to handle that sort of stuff is a good test for LCDs. I don't mind the MacBook failing -- it's cheap. I'm not sure the MacBook should -- especially when the PowerBooks I tried didn't.
posted by bonaldi at 6:51 PM on February 28, 2007

I appear to be in the minority here, but I know exactly what you're talking about -- I had my 15" MacBook Pro's screen (2.33GHz, glossy) replaced in mid-January because of two blotchy, dark patches in the middle of the screen, and just today I noticed that the same splotches are now growing on this replacement screen. (And this is added to the complete hard disk replacement this machine needed two weeks after I got it.) I'm well aware that a lot of people have had no problems with their MBPs, but I have to say that if I have a fourth problem with this one, I'll be invoking the wrath of God (well, the wrath of my very, very large federal agency's contract with Apple) to get it replaced wholesale.
posted by delfuego at 7:32 PM on February 28, 2007

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