Lawsuit Has Grainy View of MacBook Screens

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A lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of San Diego by Dave Gatley and Fred Greaves accuses Apple of falsely advertising the capabilities of the displays in the company’s MacBook and MacBook Pro, claiming the displays have to use dithering to simulate the display of million of colors. Greaves and Gateley say the dithering problems cause noticeable banding in photographs and applications which display continuous gradations of colors, and that numerous other MacBook owners have described the displays as “grainy” or “sparkly.”

Apple advertises the displays as being able to display up to 8 bits per color channel, which would enable the support of over 16 million colors. The suit alleges the displays are only supporting 6 bits per channel, for a total of just over 260,000 colors. The plaintiffs also allege Apple edits and deletes posts on its online discussion forums where other users have complained about the problem—and accusation which has dogged Apple’s online support efforts for years. Some users have reported Apple representatives have dismissed their complaints or simply told the customers they were imagining things.

The suit seeks an injunction against Apple against misrepresenting its products, as well as compensation and damages. The suit also seeks class action for “all others similarly situated.”

Apple representatives would not comment on the suit.

Although some Mac message boards and forums have seen numerous postings and complaints about dithering and other display issues with MacBook and MacBook Pro displays—and the suit cites several such posts—the majority of MacBook users don’t seem to be aware of any problem—and many of them are in production and media-oriented positions where the quality of the MacBook’s display is important. Apple has traditionally had very high screen quality in its notebook products, and is acutely aware that its portable systems are widely used for professional graphic design, as well as to edit images and video. Although a manufacturing defect with some displays is a possibility, a widespread problem with the displays would have come to light—and drawn far more attention—by now.

Some users report that when starting up the Intel-based MacBooks using Windows, the dithering problems don’t appear, which may indicate issues are caused by a software issue within Mac OS X or an incompatibility with third-party tools.

Online Macintosh forums also sport other consistent sources of complaints about the MacBook, ranging from the quality of its keyboard and claimed battery live to the quality of the casing to the amount of heat produced by the units. To date, none of these other persistent complains have generated lawsuits.

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