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16-inch MacBook Pro: Staingate / AR coating failure?

globalmatt

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 9, 2016
56
46
I bought a 16-inch MacBook Pro in November last year (the day it was launched in fact). Generally it’s a fantastic machine. I look after my gear very carefully (especially laptops). The laptop has only been out of the house a handful of times, and I’ve always carried it in a laptop bag.

In April this year, while cleaning the display, I noticed several tiny marks on the display that wouldn’t come off:

IMG_0459.jpg


While they were mainly a cosmetic issue, one of the marks was big enough that I could see it when the display was on (it looked like a tiny rainbow-coloured dot, like a stuck pixel).

When I looked very carefully with my iPhone’s flashlight or in bright sunlight, I noticed there were actually hundreds of these microscopic marks, and they were clearly caused by contact with the top case (I could see the pattern of the keyboard and trackpad in the marks):

IMG_0461.jpg


After quite a lot of back-and-forth with Apple here in Australia, they agreed to replace the display (good service). However the guy in the authorised repair shop told me that this issue was common and I could “expect it to happen again within months”. I didn’t believe him, but decided to be even more careful from now on.

I checked the replacement display for 10 minutes in the shop and it was perfect. I then placed a ScreenSavrz cloth between the display and top case before I closed the laptop and took it home. Since then, the laptop lid has only been closed twice, and both times I’ve made sure the ScreenSavrz cloth was in place between the display and top case to prevent contact.

Amazingly, after just over a month with the new display, while cleaning the display with the ScreenSavrz cloth I noticed 2 unremovable bright marks had spontaneously appeared since the last time I cleaned it (a few days before):

IMG_0855-1.jpg


A month after that, 5 more non-removable spots have appeared. The laptop lid has not been closed even once during this month. So it can't be caused only by contact with the top case.

It looks to me like the AR coating is spontaneously failing.

I can think of 3 possibilities here:
  1. I'm just very OCD, and everyone has marks like these on their MBP displays and doesn't notice/care. (You do typically have to look quite closely with a flashlight to see them.)
  2. There's something unique about my situation that's causing these marks. Perhaps to do with temperature/humidity/something in the air?
  3. I've been unlucky to receive 2 panels with the same manufacturing defect.
Has anyone else noticed tiny defects like these in their 16-inch MBP display? I’ve seen several other posts on similar topics and I’m starting to think this is quite a widespread issue with the 16-inch:

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/macbook-pro-16-unremoval-dust-particles.2253082/

https://forums.macrumors.com/thread...cbook-pro-16-anti-reflective-coating.2254700/

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/keyboard-marring-the-screen-normal.2253421/

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/does-your-mbp-16-s-trackpad-leave-marks-on-the-screen.2222170/

I’ve contacted Apple again about these marks on the replacement display and they are looking into it for me, but they claim it’s very rare for this to happen with the 16-inch model.

They say they can probably replace the display again, which again is great service, but I can’t afford the downtime to continue having the display replaced every few months (I’m a freelancer and this is my main work computer). I’d hate to have to switch to a Windows/Linux laptop (I love macOS), but on the other hand I’ve spent/lost over 40 work hours on this issue so far, which is a big dent in my productivity.

Right now with this replacement display it's just a cosmetic issue (I can't see the marks when the display is on), but clearly it's only going to get worse with time, and I also have the resale value to consider.

(My 2010 17-inch MBP with matte display still has a perfect screen, with no marks or scratches.)
 
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throAU

macrumors 604
Feb 13, 2012
6,874
4,543
Perth, Western Australia
I'm not discounting that this is a problem but I do wonder that maybe some people see it repeatedly due to more frequent cleaning. i.e., it's not luck of the draw, it's an inherent flaw, but some people don't see it as early/often due to different end user behaviour.

I avoid getting stuff on my display as much as possible and it took 5 years for my MBP 2015 to get any signs of staingnate. But I cleaned the display only with the apple cloth and no more than once every 1-3 months.

Also be aware that it's possible your cloth is picking up debris from the cleaning/wherever you store it and its not the cloth that is causing it or anything else causing but, but maybe the debris it has collected.
 
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globalmatt

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 9, 2016
56
46
I'm not discounting that this is a problem but I do wonder that maybe some people see it repeatedly due to more frequent cleaning. i.e., it's not luck of the draw, it's an inherent flaw, but some people don't see it as early/often due to different end user behaviour.

I avoid getting stuff on my display as much as possible and it took 5 years for my MBP 2015 to get any signs of stagnate. But I cleaned the display only with the apple cloth and no more than once every 1-3 months.

Yeah I do wonder about that. I clean the display fairly often (once or twice a week) because I find that marks show up on it much more easily than they did on my 17-inch MBP (due to the glossy reflective display - I use the laptop outside quite a lot and marks really show up). But I only use the ScreenSavrz cleaning cloth and my breath to clean, and I clean very gently. I personally wouldn't expect the coating to start failing after only one month, even with the cleaning.

Also be aware that it's possible your cloth is picking up debris from the cleaning/wherever you store it and its not the cloth that is causing it or anything else causing but, but maybe the debris it has collected.

Possibly, although I wash the cloth weekly.

Also, the marks look more like the AR coating simply coming away (like peeling paint), rather than scratches/dents. Although they are so tiny that it's hard to know for sure.
 
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throAU

macrumors 604
Feb 13, 2012
6,874
4,543
Perth, Western Australia
I'd maybe suggest using water instead of your breath. I'm not sure, but its possible your breath may perhaps contain gaseous stomach acid/saliva and I really doubt it is ph-neutral.

Something to perhaps consider.
 

globalmatt

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 9, 2016
56
46
I'd maybe suggest using water instead of your breath. I'm not sure, but its possible your breath may perhaps contain gaseous stomach acid/saliva and I really doubt it is ph-neutral.

Something to perhaps consider.

Anything's possible I guess! (Tap water will contain impurities that might also damage the coating, so I guess I should use distilled water?)

That said, I still wouldn't expect the coating to start failing like this after only a month of careful use. It seems incredibly fragile.
 

danada

macrumors newbie
Sep 16, 2020
15
5
The marks that arose even though the laptop was left open are dust particles that hit the screen. Yes, I know what it sounds like, but it's true, even dust particles floating in the air after hitting the screen leave marks in the AR coating. This is not an isolated case. In my MBP 16 the first traces were already visible after a week of use. If you work outside, the more you expose the display to dust, sand particles. It's best to get rid of OCD and if they are micro traces or micro scratches that are not visible during normal use, forget about this and enjoy your computer.It is a common problem and if users turned off their computers and inspected the display with, for example, an iPhone flashlight, everyone would find defects on the AR coating and reduce cleaning to a minimum because this coating is so delicate that I have the impression that it can get scratched just by looking.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
20,508
7,283
"In April this year, while cleaning the display, I noticed several tiny marks on the display that wouldn’t come off"

OK, STOP RIGHT THERE.

How often do you "clean" the display?
What do you use (what type of cloth, what type of cleaner)?
Do you apply much (any) pressure against the surface of the display?

The MacBook Pros have a VERY thin sprayed-on anti-glare coating. It's really just "particles" that are sprayed on to form a thin film.

Just about ANYTHING that is done to "clean the screen" is going to start degrading the coating, if done too much. It will start flaking off, and some folks will just keep "cleaning" until these become wide streaks across the surface.

Hence, the condition called "StainGate".

The best way to AVOID StainGate is to NOT "clean" the surface of the display, or to do so in the most "minimal" way possible, and do it as seldom as possible.

This means, using extra care when opening and closing the lid to not touch the surface of the screen.

If a little dust or other particles is on the surface, don't "clean" it with pressure.
Instead, just "dust across it" with a soft cloth.

If something won't come off that way, use a moist cloth and AS LITTLE PRESSURE AGAINST THE SURFACE AS POSSIBLE to dislodge it, then "dust dry".

These are the techniques I use.
My 2015 MBPro (bought in December 2016), it still looks fine.
 

topcat001

macrumors regular
Nov 17, 2019
208
91
Might also help to use a piece of cloth like the protective sheet of paper which comes with the machine between the keyboard and the screen when the lid is closed.
 
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throAU

macrumors 604
Feb 13, 2012
6,874
4,543
Perth, Western Australia
Might also help to use a piece of cloth like the protective sheet of paper which comes with the machine between the keyboard and the screen when the lid is closed.

I've started keeping the apple cleaning cloth between the keys like that.

However unlike my 2015 MBP 13, the 2020 Air I have doesn't seem to have the keys touch the display while the lid is closed, so I'm not getting the finger grime from keys touching the screen like the older models seemed to.
 

oriberu

macrumors newbie
Oct 9, 2020
3
6
I also have one of those white marks. It looks and behaves like a defective pixel (white when screen is black, black when screen is white) but I can feel it on the display as if it was a speck of dirt. It is non-removable.
 
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globalmatt

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 9, 2016
56
46
The marks that arose even though the laptop was left open are dust particles that hit the screen. Yes, I know what it sounds like, but it's true, even dust particles floating in the air after hitting the screen leave marks in the AR coating. This is not an isolated case. In my MBP 16 the first traces were already visible after a week of use. If you work outside, the more you expose the display to dust, sand particles. It's best to get rid of OCD and if they are micro traces or micro scratches that are not visible during normal use, forget about this and enjoy your computer.It is a common problem and if users turned off their computers and inspected the display with, for example, an iPhone flashlight, everyone would find defects on the AR coating and reduce cleaning to a minimum because this coating is so delicate that I have the impression that it can get scratched just by looking.

Yep, I agree with all of your points. The AR coating is just incredibly fragile. I really wish I could still buy a modern MBP with a matte display like my 17-inch has - that display still looks perfect 10 years later.

And yeah, I'm pretty much ignoring the marks for now (although Apple is happy to replace the display again, which I will probably go for at some point). As long as the marks don't start to become visible when the display is on then I can live with them I guess (the resale value is another story...).

Anyway, good to know I'm not the only one who has this issue, so thanks :)
 

globalmatt

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 9, 2016
56
46
How often do you "clean" the display?

About once or twice a week at the moment because I'm seeing how frequently these marks are appearing. Usually it's less often than that (maybe twice a month I guess?).

What do you use (what type of cloth, what type of cleaner)?

ScreenSavrz cloth (usually dry, sometimes damp) as mentioned in my original post.

Do you apply much (any) pressure against the surface of the display?

Very gentle pressure (the ScreenSavrz instructions claim you can actually use quite a lot of pressure without damaging the display, but I haven't dared try that).

EDIT: For the sake of accuracy, I dug out the instructions again and the phrase used is: "Firmly and briskly wipe the display from top to bottom, don't be afraid to apply mild pressure".

The MacBook Pros have a VERY thin sprayed-on anti-glare coating. It's really just "particles" that are sprayed on to form a thin film.

Yep. Wish it was more robust, for a $3000 computer.

Just about ANYTHING that is done to "clean the screen" is going to start degrading the coating, if done too much. It will start flaking off, and some folks will just keep "cleaning" until these become wide streaks across the surface.

It's nowhere near that bad. Just tiny dots here and there. And they started appearing after less than a month (after around 5-10 gentle cleans with the screen cloth).

The best way to AVOID StainGate is to NOT "clean" the surface of the display, or to do so in the most "minimal" way possible, and do it as seldom as possible.

This means, using extra care when opening and closing the lid to not touch the surface of the screen.

If a little dust or other particles is on the surface, don't "clean" it with pressure.
Instead, just "dust across it" with a soft cloth.

If something won't come off that way, use a moist cloth and AS LITTLE PRESSURE AGAINST THE SURFACE AS POSSIBLE to dislodge it, then "dust dry".

Yep, that's exactly what I do, following these instructions.

These are the techniques I use.
My 2015 MBPro (bought in December 2016), it still looks fine.

Have you inspected it using a flashlight or in bright sunlight? I'd be interested to know whether you see any marks under those conditions. Mine also looks fine under "normal" conditions (apart from the bigger spot on the first display that was visible as a rainbow-coloured dot when the display was on).

The Apple senior tech told me that they're keen to replace the display a second time because this issue shouldn't be happening. I told him how I used and cleaned the laptop and asked if I could be doing anything wrong. He said no, I'm using it as Apple expects it to be used.
 
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globalmatt

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 9, 2016
56
46
Might also help to use a piece of cloth like the protective sheet of paper which comes with the machine between the keyboard and the screen when the lid is closed.

I do - the ScreenSavrz cloth (as mentioned in my original post).
 

globalmatt

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 9, 2016
56
46
foreign particles, especially fine grains of sand getting in between the keyboard sheet / keyboard and screen will cause these symptoms. Very common in sandy areas.

Yeah I've had issues like that with other devices, which I suspect was due to grains of sand. However this new display started developing these spots even when the laptop lid was kept open, so nothing was touching the display (apart from during cleaning of course).
 

globalmatt

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 9, 2016
56
46
I've started keeping the apple cleaning cloth between the keys like that.

However unlike my 2015 MBP 13, the 2020 Air I have doesn't seem to have the keys touch the display while the lid is closed, so I'm not getting the finger grime from keys touching the screen like the older models seemed to.

It's amazing how small the tolerance between the display and the top case is on the MBP. I assumed that's what caused the marks on the first display. However the marks on this replacement display are a puzzle, because the lid hasn't been closed.
 
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