Comprehensive Test of Macbook LCD's - Check it out! [56k warn]

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by leonk, Apr 20, 2007.


Which LCD Panel would you rather have based on the results below?

  1. 42716C0

    13 vote(s)
  2. 42717C0

    5 vote(s)
  1. leonk macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2007
    I recently got a chance to test drive two "identical" Macbooks. (C2D 2ghz, 80GB HD, 1GB RAM). I've noticed significant differences in the LCD panels, and decided to write up this post.

    I know that no 2 LCD panels are ever the same. Apple is stuck using 6 bit LCD panels that can only show 2^6 x 2^6 x 2^6 = 262,144 colors. Yet the video card outputs 2^8 x 2^8 x 2^8 = 16,777,216 colors. As such, the color rendition is only as good as the panel being used due to color conversion done by the panel.

    Test setup:

    - All pictures were taken using a Canon Digital Rebel with a 24-105 f4L pro lens
    - Pictures were cropped/resized only
    - Machines were put side by size in a dark room when images taken
    - All defaults being used in Display settings (for font smoothing) and Apple ICC for Color LCD used.

    It is important to note that you might be looking at this page on an LCD screen that may not be calibrated. As such, I will try to describe what the image looks like in true life, and hopefully the on screen image in this post will match.

    LCD Comparison:

    System 1:

    - Made mid February, 2007
    - LCD Model 9C5B / 42716C0
    - This panel looks great from any angle you look at it


    System 2:

    - Made last week of March, 2007
    - LCD Model 9C5F / 42717C0
    - This panel looks great from any angle you look at. But you do seem to notice the coating used on the panel when you look at it at an angle. It seems like an inch wide bands across the screen.


    result: It's not really apparent from the images above, but 42717C0 is much brighter! using the same camera settings (f4 and ISO 400) the shutter speed for 42717C0 was almost twice as slow! Visually, the horizontal lines in dialog boxes and menus are washed out for 42717C0 while visible for the 42716C0.

    Gray Scale Test:

    - You can find the test pattern on Every single one of their camera tests has this on the bottom of the first page.





    result: You should clearly notice that 42716C0 has a uniform gray scale pattern (no 2 letters are the same). While for 42717C0, A & B seem the same.

    Winner: 42716C0 - perfect uniform gray scale pattern.

    Font clarity/smoothing:

    Text is the the visual entity most often seen by computer user. You're reading it now, you interact with it through dialog boxes and menus, you use it in e-mails and general web browsing.

    This test compares fonts between the 2 LCD panels.





    result: This is by far the biggest noticeable difference, and the thing that prompted me to run these tests and post this. Because 42717C0 is much brighter, it seems that it has an ill effect on font smoothing. Text seems to be "thinner" and more aliased. 42716C0 seems to have bolder, smoother looking text.

    Winner: 42716C0 by a long shot. Even windows (running in Parallels) looks as good as on my old IBM Thinkpad! It just looks wrong on 42717C0.

    Color Banding / Gradience:

    Due to the 6 bit color rendition of most LCD panels, color banding is a very common problem. The idea is to feed 16 million colors into the panel, and see how it behaves.

    The way I tested this is to run the LCDTest program found here:





    result: 42717C0 seems very uniform and clean of any problems. 42716C0 on the other hand shows many issues. There's a clear green line in the green spectrum. In the red spectrum, the image pixelates in small squares!

    In fact, the pixelization in visible in other colors as well. The following image should show the problem more clearly:


    These strange color artifacts (square blocks of color, rather than uniform dispertion) show up in some photos I've taken with my camera while on vacation on the 42716C0 panel. On the 42717C0, the color is uniform.

    Winner: 42717C0 by a long shot. There are many forums that discuss the 42716C0 LCD panel and its green band issues (see here:

    Overall conclusion:



    - Excellent gray scale (probably due to the fact that the panel is not as bright)


    - Not as bright (which might be a good thing, if you use your machine for a long time)
    - Color banding (not good if you do any photo editing)



    - Very bright display
    - No visible color banding (excellent for photo editing)


    - Too bright - causes fonts to wash out and images to look over exposed. But this might be the "fix" for color banding -> really bright image

    Any comments??

    What LCD panel would you rather have in your system?
  2. hircus macrumors member

    Mar 5, 2007
    Mid-west, USA
    And reducing the display brightness does not fix the washed-out look and the grayscale uniformity? Hmm, if #16 is bright enough then I might just take it. You have calibrated the displays before testing, I assume?
  3. leonk thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2007
    I've tried calibrating the displays, but no matter how much I try, the Apple supplied ICC profiles for these panels are as "good" as it gets for my eyes (when comparing pictures on the screen to those on a 42" LCD TV or 8x10 printed photos).

    I'd be interested to see what panels people have and how they compare.
  4. PDE macrumors 68020

    Nov 16, 2005
    thanks for taking the time and making the effort. I noticed a very big difference between my girlfriend's macbook (October 2006) 09c5B, my blackbook (February 2007) and the white macbook i just got for my sister (09c5f)which is a late March model. In terms of brightness the 09c5F wins over all of them. However, there is also a very thin bright strip at the bottom of that display (somethin I've not seen on the macbooks before) and I've had trouble getting colors to look good too. As you say, text does not look as sharp - more washed out - and that is very noticeable. The 09c5B is less bright than the other two and seems more unevenly illuminated - the right lower part is significantly brighter than the rest of the display. Otherwise it looks fine to me. The best of the three is the 09c5E on the blackbook: it's evenly illuminated, very bright and whites seem crisper and moer white than on the others. I wonder if apple is deliberately using a better panel on the black macbooks, or if it's just a coincidence? Anybody with a blackbook with one of the other displays?

    Just my subjective observations...
  5. urmel macrumors newbie

    Apr 20, 2007
    Apple uses another type of display called 4271780. This one is the best I've seen (and i've seen all three). 4271780 is similar bright as the 42717C0 but has more saturated colors and NO banding or pixelization effects.
    I did a new colorprofil with a hardware monitorprofiler as well. Now i have perfect colors! Feel free to get it here:
  6. PDE macrumors 68020

    Nov 16, 2005
    To me, the 09c5F is very bright, but not very uniformly illuminated. Are those two linked? The worst uneven illumination I've seen has always been on the most brightly illuminated ones (ie MBP). Is it just less visible when they're not as bright? Have we reached the limit of what current LCD technology can provide in notebooks? It seems that way.

    I've actually seen two samples of the display and they were both different - the one I got has a bright strip at the bottom, the other one I saw briefly seemed to have darker sides compared to the middle of the display. They both seemed a little washed out thought. I really think it's unfair to customers for the quality of the display to be based on chance. I mean, why should a customer pay the same price for a laptop with a worse screen when another customer is getting a good one? The product variation (aka quality control) is simply non-existent with Apple notebooks right now. Is it really impossible to use one model of screen on their macbooks? Or is just a matter of cost? For the price (they're not that cheap) you'd think they could do better and still make healthy profits, no?
  7. leonk thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2007
    Quick update:

    Just got back from the Apple store. I checked out EVERY SINGLE macbook I could get my hands on (about a dozen units).


    - now use the 42717C0 panel
    - have the exact same characteristics I described above

    Upon closer inspection, there's a very small difference between 'A' & 'B' but it can only be seen when you look at the panel at an angle. When look straight on, they always have the same brightness.

    And in all cases, the text seems thinner and softer. Some lines in some characters is no longer solid black, it seems to be made of a few color pixels.

    Here's a link to the image I use to test pixelization of the panel. Try it out, and take a look at the top left corner. It should be even with no square boxes.

  8. iJawn108 macrumors 65816


    Apr 15, 2006

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