17" MacBookPro C2D Colour Banding Problem / LCD Quality Observations / OSX Users

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by geehk, Nov 28, 2006.

  1. geehk macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    #1
    Please don't take this story personally if you have just bought a C2D MBP and you are happy with it - enjoy it and read no further!

    I spent quite a few hours looking at reviews of the 15" and 17" MacBook Pro C2D on this site and others prior to making a purchase. My main concern was the quality of the MBP LCDs as many people have found them questionable - others seem to be in denial about the 'actual' quality of their MBP displays maybe because they are happy with the raw processing speed and the fact that it looks great - everyones expectations differ depending on what they use the machine for. I use the laptop for Photography, Colour Correction and Design whilst I'm on the move so I need a decent display. Like many, I'm an OSX user so my options on laptops are limited to Apple only! I need to use RAW software like Aperture or Lightroom which really means a MBP is the only option as it has a decent graphics chipset and good size screen.

    I've had several Powerbooks before and found the screen pretty acceptable for viewing angle, colour rendition and detail - not perfect but OK. I did have one of the Powerbooks affected by white blotches and I'm familiar with usual uneven backlight issues. I'm not getting into glossy or matte issues - I need a neutral canvas for colour correction work on the move so I prefer matt.

    I sold my last Powerbook to a friend and bought a 15" C2D MBP. In my opinion, I found the screen uncomfortable to look at due to odd viewing angle problems which could be due to the reflective quality of the anti-glare coating used. The coating also seemed to add a textured appearance to the screen - others call it grain. Unless your head is always completely perpendicular to the LCD, the appearance of the edges of the screen cannot be seen perfectly - it's annoying especially if you are judging photos for quality or doing design work etc..

    I ran a program called LCD Test, it contains test charts for judging your LCD quality. I looked at the uniform grey background test charts (dark, medium and light). After the MBP warmed up, the Illumination across the display looked OK - left, right & top edges were slightly dark and the bottom edge was bright - like most laptops are. On looking at the RGB and CMY gradient charts it became very clear that the LCD showed strong Colour Banding :eek: (the graduation between one colour and the next is not smooth enough to display the transition accurately). On some transitions, there appeared to be heavier (darker) bands where the LCD was just not coping well at all at a particular luminance level.

    I returned the 15" MBP C2D back to the shop and tested another unit - I found the same thing! I decided to order a 17" MBP C2D (Matt) and waited three weeks to get it :-( I'm in Hong Kong and even though they are made just up the road, the first orders went to USA and Europe. I went into the shop today, apprehensively, to test it out and left as a disappointed / jilted mac lover with no computer!:(

    The 17" MBP C2D LCD is a little better than the 15" for viewing angle and does not seem to have as much texture/grain. It does not look as matt as the 15", in fact it had a slight gloss/shine to it. On warming up the screen for 30 mins the backlighting seemed acceptable although a little darker than the 15" on left, right and top. Although the brightness on the 17" display seems a little less bright than the 15" the overall feeling was more comfortable on the eye. On running the LCD Test charts on the 17" the Colour Banding problem was pretty bad! I tried different colour profiles and adjusted gamma settings, resolutions and re-calibrated just to sure - no real difference!

    In shock, I asked to run the test charts on the other macs including a final revision 17" Powerbook side by side. (Please see the results below) These findings were also reflected by the staff at the shop. They all knew the score, so many customers have said the same thing - like it or not, the new MBP LCDs have problems - and if the problems are 'within Apple specification' then they are low specification LCD's period. You either void the warranty and change the LCD yourself or hope and pray that apple changes their Laptop LCD supplier immediately ready for the next revision!

    Come on Apple, admit it please! If the Intel C2D processors are costing you too much, don't skimp on the LCD to keep the MBP price down and think people won't notice!:mad: At least provide a top class LCD as a built to order option and support the people who rely on that option, hey, anodise it Black and call it the MacBookPro 'Ultimate' if you want, just deliver the goods as the core OS X users expect! If not the only option is to switch to Windows to have a real choice in laptops and that defeats the Apple OS X marketing campaign doesn't it?


    This is a table of my findings - it's not scientific but it gives an idea of what to expect.....

    Model................. | Viewing Angle |Colour Rendition |Colour Banding| Brightness
    MBP 15" C2D Matt | Annoying.........| OK.................| Banded..........| Very Good
    MBP 17" C2D Matt | Average..........| OK.................| Very Banded...| Good
    Powerbook 17".....| Good............. | Good..............| Smooth..........| OK
    Macbook 13" .......| Average..........| OK.................| Smooth..........| OK
    iMac 20" C2D ......| Good..............| Excellent.........| Smooth..........| Excellent
    iMac 24" C2D.......| Excellent.........| Excellent.........| Very Smooth...| Excellent

    Maybe there are so many Windows users happy to have a cool looking MBP laptop afterall that no-one cares about screen perfection too much. The top end Apple Laptop should have a spec like the VAIO VGN-AR28GP even if it costs a more for the pro options.

    I'm not sure what to do next - I need a Powerbook replacement that runs the latest OS X software fast! Any input for the banding issue would be most appreciated - your mileage may differ but I spent a good deal of time comparing all the machines I could - the shop staff were very understanding. I heard rumour of a Dithering problem with the ATI x1600 graphics card. I asked the shop about this and they said that the Apple Technicians told them the colour banding was due to the LCD characteristics only. I was hoping to apply a graphics card firmware update and take the 17" home there and then, but it seems more fundamental than that, unfortunately. If there is a fix, I would love to hear it! :eek:

    The Color Banding problem I observed on the MacBook Pro's were similar to this, where you can see defined lines on a gradient like the display is not showing all colours - graphic card was set to display millions of colours:
    [​IMG]
    If you want to download a test gradient and check yours click here> Granger Test or Gammut Test
    All the best to everyone - sorry for the long post!
     
  2. alFR macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2006
    #2
    Hmmm... the specs on the Apple site say that the MBP display supports "millions of colours". If that's true, then it must be at least a 24-bit GFX card and an 8-bit LCD panel, no? So, if you're seeing obvious banding on this display with gradients that should be smooth on a millions of colours display, either the graphics card was set wrong (to less than millions of colours) or the panel isn't an 8-bit one, it's 6-bit. If that's the case, Apple is guilty of false advertising.

    Anyone out there got a way of measuring how many colours one of these displays can really show?
     
  3. AppleKrate macrumors member

    AppleKrate

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2006
    Location:
    London
    #3
    I too have some screen issues - gradient banding and also a darker vertical area (see below) so thanks for your good research, but can I just point out that the link for LCDTest that you gave is to the new version (2.0) which doesn't seem to have the gradient test - the earlier version http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/23237 has more features :confused:

    I have a darker vertical area, mid screen, noticeable with a solid colour desktop background. Here's the thing... I ran LCDTest (v 1.1) there's a colour screen test is in the 'pixels' tab. On R G B and light gray, the screen is perfect - no darker areas - but on the mid grey, there is the darker vertical area again!
    Wierd!

    Also check this thread http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=3615129#3615129

    If you have the problem, then it should be fairly apparent on the following picture:
    http://home.comcast.net/~scott.beatson/gradient_copy.jpg

    If it doesn't look like it, it is in fact a smooth gradient (I have confirmed it on several other computers).

    Could it be a software thing (some color profile issue)? I'm not an expert on that but when you open the image in Firefox, the gradient looks fine. On Safari and Preview, it shows the problem as you describe.

    Update: On Photoshop (I'm using CS2), go to View > Proof Setup > Select 'Monitor RGB'. Then check View > Proof Colors. It will show the corrected gradient.
     
  4. geehk thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    #4


    Thanks for your input! Just to confirm, I used LCD Test v2 as originally linked. Using the Colour Gradients Verification. By pressing space bar it displays many different types of RGB & CYM gradients so you can assess how your LCD/Graphics Card handles transitions (Not just Red to Black).

    Transitions on these 'Colour Gradients' are repeatedly poor on both 17" and 15" MBP C2D models. Could it be ATI x1600 firmware or Cheaper 6 Bit TN LCD's in the laptops? I hope there is a technician who can put this to rest :eek:

    The problem I am aware of is not backlighting ie. uneven illumination of parts of the screen - that happens on most Laptops and it's luck of the draw. Most are OK after a warm up - photos of the screen make it look worse as the dynamic range of the photo is less than the eye etc.
     
  5. PDE macrumors 68020

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    Nov 16, 2005
    #5
    I did the same banding test with the same results.
     
  6. PDE macrumors 68020

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    Nov 16, 2005
    #6
    I just remember looking up the samsung and chimei displays on their respective sites and I thinking that it was odd that in the specifications it said that they support 256k colors. I don't know what is going on, but perhaps this is a clue? I don't remember if both displays panels had that specification, but I know one did.
     
  7. geehk thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 28, 2006
    #7
    I did have a look at ATI's website and found a thread with users having similar issues. Apparently a Dithering feature of graphics cards can drive a 6 Bit LCD to make any gradients look smooth as if they were displayed on a 8 Bit LCD.

    If the LCD's in the MBP's are only a cheaper 6 Bit model and the graphics card is set correctly for the LCD, I'm hoping 'dithering' should solve any visible banding. I'm no expert I'm just 'dithering' and reading between the lines ;). Anyone in-the-know willing to comment on a possible solution? What type of LCD's are they using? Does the brand/type of LCD they use differ between batch?

    I've had the 'Millions of Colours' setting enabled when I've done my testing. Apple's specification sheet says 'Support for Millions of Colours' - maybe they mean that the graphics card can support millions but the LCD can't display them!

    These are thumbnails of the type of test gradient charts I mean. On the MBP C2D 15" and 17" you could clearly see curved banding lines where the machine was having problems displaying the subtle differences between the colours - these thumbnails are for reference only, not a good size for a test!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  8. prplmnkydshwshr macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    #8
    Just curious, other than the test gradient patterns are there any signs of this color banding problem in your daily usage of the machine? Apple have proposed upgrading my base stock 15" MBP C2D for free to a 17" model due to getting 3 defective 15" machines in a row, so I just wanted to be aware of any potential LCD issues on the 17" before I accept that offer. Thanks.
     
  9. AppleKrate macrumors member

    AppleKrate

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2006
    Location:
    London
    #9
    I've only just got my machine, and haven't had a chance to start working properly on it, so I am asking myself that same question, hence my contribution s to this thread... I do graphic work on my mac - my MBP is a replacement for a G4 tower with Studio Display - so if it isn't genuinely millions of colours there is a potential issue... I am trying to work out if it's an issue I should return the machine over, or whether, if indeed there are general MBPC2D display issues, I should hold on to my machine, as it's not as bad as some I have heard of... what I really hope is that there will be a firmware fix, but who knows? Advice gratefully received :confused:
     
  10. AppleKrate macrumors member

    AppleKrate

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    Sep 12, 2006
    Location:
    London
    #10
    ASP says the display in my MBPC2D17" is 32bit? when I set the display to 'thousands' of colours, the gradient test results are slightly better (less noticeable banding) than 'millions' :eek: Also, as posted below, Firefox shows much less banding of the same image than Safari (or Preview)
    Soemthing ain't right! Should I return it :confused:
     
  11. geehk thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 28, 2006
    #11
    I refused to buy the 17" MBP C2D as I was aware of the problem on the 15" version. If you have had 3 faulty 15" MBP C2D's I would make sure you flag the potential shortfalls of the 17" replacement with Apple before you get it. In my opinion (and the Salesman's opinion) the 17" suffered worse banding - he suggested I took the 15" - then I explained again I was trying to get away from the 15"! They were both faulty anyway - do you buy a faulty machine from new even if you are needy for a replacement? Not this time.

    As I was in the shop testing it (for an hour and a half!) I did get all the Apple Desktop Pictures and looked at them in the Preview App as a slide show. The problem was visible only on images with very subtle transitions like the ones in the 'Abstract' folder. If you were doing some Photoshop or Illustrator and creating subtle blends for a design it would be obvious (and hinder your workflow). If you were working on Photos with subtle graduations, it would also be obvious (is it a camera fault or colour correction error?). Ideally images should be viewed 1:1 ie. actual size with no zooming/interpolation.

    The 'Acid Test' with display devices is using a test chart (or test program) to check any problems. Bottom line is that the LCD should display smooth graduations especially if people have been told that the display is 8 bit per component (R,G,B). This is how an engineer would tell if the display device is working as it should - normal 'Photos' as a test are too subjective. It's only when you see a perfect display device next to a faulty one do you realise that it is in fact broken!

    As I haven't got a machine to test now :( I'm relying on people with a MBP C2D to find some clues. It might be good to test the 15" & 17" with some full screen (1680x1050 etc.) test charts made in Photoshop using the gradient tool (in spectrum mode). I found a site which has a method for doing this Here

    At least this way we would know if there were any funnies happening with the LCD Test program versus the x1600 graphics card. I don't think this is the case though as I tested the program on a 17" Powerbook (last model), 20" (ATI x1600 128mb) & 24" (nVidea 7300) and the images looked perfect on those - it's worth checking though.

    The bottom line is, I won't be buying one until the problem is fixed. Apple have a habit of releasing things before they are ready and making their customers pay $ then allow them to run around or wait for a solution. The fact is, on production lines they test devices as they are made with Oscilloscopes and Test Charts and stuff like that. They know if it is working before they send it out don't they?

    All the best, I hope we can get to the bottom of this! I'll keep checking MacUpdate.com for a firmware release! (It's been a month now no? or is it the LCD?) I just want to find a solution so I can hand over my OSX laptop ransom money to Apple too ;) ....
     
  12. prplmnkydshwshr macrumors newbie

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    Nov 19, 2006
    #12
    geehk, thanks for your reply. Did you happen to look at the post mentioned earlier in this thread in the Apple forums. Some users there only noticed the grains in specific programs, and one user reported no banding at all with LCDTest.

    http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=3615129

    I guess one way to check if it is truly software or hardware is to have people hook up external monitors to the MBP and see if the banding is consistent across both LCDs.
     
  13. Cybergypsy macrumors 68040

    Cybergypsy

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    Central Florida!
    #13
    I am happy I did not get rid of my macbook for the pro after reading this post.....
     
  14. alFR macrumors 68020

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    Aug 10, 2006
    #14
    Just to throw another variable into the mix, I noticed this on the download page for LCDtest, under the "new in version 2.0" section:

    "changed color gradient pattern to leverage Quartz engine directly (not working well) "

    Maybe this effect is due to a bug in the LCDtest software and how it interacts with the graphics drivers in the MBP?
     
  15. geehk thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 28, 2006
    #15
    Possible, but there is a non 'Quartz' Graduation Mode in the program too. I tried both and got similar 'banded' results on both 15" and 17" C2D MBP's - the quartz version looks a tiny bit more pixelated but it's subtle. I also saw the colour banding problem whilst viewing the desktop pictures in OSX's 'Abstract' Folder.

    If you see banding on your machine try colour gradients generated a number of ways just to be sure.

    There is another thread on Apple's site (mentioned a couple of posts ago). One guy noticed the problem as he was doing his usual Photoshoping. Many agree there is a problem with their units without using 'LCD Test'.

    Maybe someone with a MBP C2D & Photoshop can make some full-spectrum gradients and post their results? This is the method for making gradient test charts as suggested by the guys at Luminous Landscape a photography site.

    To be honest, I hope it's just a horrible nightmare, the banding is just a figment of everyones imagination and I can go out an get a new 17" MBP!
     
  16. prplmnkydshwshr macrumors newbie

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    #16
    That specific user reported the gradient looked normal in Photoshop after someone suggested the following:

    "Update: On Photoshop (I'm using CS2), go to View > Proof Setup > Select 'Monitor RGB'. Then check View > Proof Colors. It will show the corrected gradient."

    If you look at the Apple thread, the consensus right now is the banding appears different in various applications, some have it while others don't, so it could be software problem
     
  17. geehk thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 28, 2006
    #17
    OK. If that's the case maybe others can test it on their new 15" or 17" C2D machines on various software - I don't have one now. I made some 17" size (1680x1050) test charts in Photoshop - they are JPEG's at 100% Quality to save bandwidth should be OK - look V smooth on this Gateway LCD.

    [​IMG]
    Full Size Version Here

    [​IMG]
    Full Size Version Here
     
  18. brikeh macrumors 6502a

    brikeh

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  19. ProMod macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 29, 2005
    #19
    This is a definite problem. Looking at these sample images on my 1.25 ghz PB G4 15", the gradients are perfectly smooth.

    On my brand new 17" MBP C2D, I have definite lines separating the colors.

    Calling AppleCare. Horrible.
     
  20. prplmnkydshwshr macrumors newbie

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    #20
    Can you at least hook up an external monitor to see if the banding is carried over to the other LCD signifying a potential software issue?
     
  21. Blublub macrumors newbie

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    Minnesohhhta
    #21
    Hmmm, where are you finding the LCD Test app that allows viewing of gradients? The one linked in the first post only seems to run five single-color screens. There's no documentation, preferences or help - am I missing something?

    However, viewing the test graphics posted here on my 15" C2D with glossy in Preview shows no banding at all that I can see.
     
  22. glhiii macrumors regular

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    Nov 4, 2006
    #22
    The banding does not appear on a Cinema 20" display connected to the new MBP 17, but of course it DOES appear on the MBP's screen (matte). It doesn't bother me, as I use the machine mainly for text -- and it certainly doesn't appear when I view photos. I used the latest 17" Pbk until I got the MBP, and I like the MBP screen much better -- it's brighter and easier to see. I can imagine, though, that this would be a serious issue for a graphics professional.
     
  23. ProMod macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 29, 2005
    #23
    I don't have an external monitor handy right now. I already called Apple and they offered to send a replacement with no hesitation. I have the bright light leak from the bottom really bad and pretty bad illumination overall.

    If my next one is the same way, I'm sending it back, getting a 24" iMac and keeping my trusty old Powerbook.
     
  24. kubla macrumors newbie

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    Calgary
    #24
    I ran these tests on my PBG4 and my new MBP C2D. I note virtually no difference. Both are 17".
     
  25. ProMod macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    Kubla, can you check to see what the model number is for the display on your MBP?
     

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