New 17" screen black levels.

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by dmgabe, Jan 24, 2010.

  1. dmgabe macrumors newbie

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    Jan 24, 2010
    #1
    I just received my new 17" MBP and have only one complaint. The black level on the screen is just this side of horrible. The 3 year old 15" MBP that is replaced had much deeper blacks. Anyone else have a similar problem, or is this something that I should be contacting Apple about? I just don't think this screen is right after paying $3,000 for a computer.
     
  2. gr8tfly macrumors 603

    gr8tfly

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    #2
    Are you using the default Color LCD calibration?

    Another thought I had is if you aren't using the system it shipped with (or later), you might be using the wrong calibration (even if you have "Color LCD" selected). That would only happen if you used a cloned system - if you just migrated from your other system, you should be fine.

    I have the Early 2009 17" ubMBP, with SL, and it has solid, deep, blacks.
     
  3. dmgabe thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #3
    Yes, I am using the color lcd calibration. This problem was present out of the box. The only way to get black level to be decent is to decrease screen brightness down to less than half, not always an option.
     
  4. gr8tfly macrumors 603

    gr8tfly

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    #4
    It's probably still a s/w issue. One quick test would be to boot-up from your Restore disc and see if it looks correct.
     
  5. dmgabe thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #5
    I just did the recovery CD boot, and there was now perceptible difference in black level. I might give Apple a call this week, if for no other reason than to document the potential problem as early as possible.
     
  6. spyker3292 macrumors 65816

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    #6
    It is *that* bad? Most of the time you can't get good black levels with really bright screens.
     
  7. gr8tfly macrumors 603

    gr8tfly

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    #7
    I still have good blacks at maximum brightness - as I have with my earlier MBP (2.33) and PBs (though, this is probably the best display of them all).
     
  8. dmgabe thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #8
    For the money I paid, I fully expect this to be able to meet or beat the black level production of the 3 year old MBP it replaced. Once I hit about 60% brightness the blacks get all washed out. Technology is supposed to improve with time, there is no acceptable explanation for this given the money spent and the age of the machine I am using for comparison.
     
  9. aberrero macrumors 6502a

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  10. dmgabe thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #10
  11. dmgabe thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #11
    Anyone else care to weigh in on this? I will try and post some pictures of a side by side later this evening.
     
  12. Inside_line macrumors regular

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    #12
    I know this doesn't help you but I can see them all on my nec 2490WUXI2 that I just bought... connected to 2006 MBP. I'll check it out on the laptop itself later when I'm not using it docked.
     
  13. ventro macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    Apple LCDs have always had bad black levels. Probably wont improve until they move to a new display tech
     
  14. aberrero macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    I know this doesn't help you at all, but I can see one more square than you on both the white and the black... on my $180 Dell netbook.

    Can someone with a MBP 13 do the test and report back? I would like to know where it stands if I am going to be buying one.
     
  15. Pax macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    @dmgable

    I can see all of them 1 through 255 on a new 13 MBP Unibody with the 9C9E panel, but only if I use a custom calibration which I did myself. With the stock calibration (color LCD) I can only see down to 6, like you.

    Until I did this test I didn't believe that calibration would affect contrast ratio, but it seems that it does. Surprising. I advise running through the color calibration from System Preferences, use Advanced mode or whatever it's called.

    @aberrero

    I measured the contrast ratio on my 13 MBP at about 600:1 which is extremely good for a TN LCD. This panel has a bit of backlight bleed along the bottom 5 mm or so, but it's far from horrible. Viewing angles are pretty good, much better than the old CCFL MacBook I had. The MBP panel is also crazy bright, ie easy to read even in strong sunlight.

    some people have bitched about the colour balance on the 9C9E panel but I don't see it. I think the stock colour calibration is a bit funny, but if you run through the Apple "advanced" calibration steps I got something which I found quite pleasing. YMMV

    I measured the contrast ratio using a digital camera on spot metering, measured a pure black and then a pure white, all in a darkened room. Pretty rough and ready but should give the right idea.

    FWIW my old original CCFL MacBook 1.86 has a contrast ratio of about 150 using the same test.

    Overall I'm very impressed.
     
  16. Pax macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Thinking about this some more, you could have one of two problems with your MBP display. One can be fixed in software, the other can't. I'm not an expert in this area but did quite a bit of research in the past couple of years.

    Possible problems
    (1) Black crush where very dark greys are "crushed" into absolute black. Common on LCD TVs using PVA technology. This can be fixed by changing the software calibration profile

    (2) Contrast ratio the difference in brightness between white and black, or putting it another way the blackest black the panel will show for a given brightness. This is a property of the pixels themselves and can't be fixed

    The calibration page that aberrero linked to tests (1) above but not (2). Basically the calibration software maps software grey values to pixel voltages. Changing the calibration profile means that a given grey value will map to a different pixel voltage and will give a different grey on the screen. If the calibration is wrong all the low-level grey voltages will be too similar and will be crushed to pure black.

    The fact that you can see only down to level 6, and I can see 6 or 1 depending on my calibration, is all about black crush, and is (mostly) not a fundamental property of the panel.

    But if your problem is with the absolute black level (eg the background surrounding the numbered squares on aberrero's testcard, or the letterbox bars on DVD Player) you need to look at a different thing:- the contrast ratio.

    I did a simple test just now, perhaps you could try it too...
    - select a desktop background that's very black. I use the earth from space one, I think it is pure black (level 0 I think).
    - looking at normal windows (eg Safari, Mail) set the brightness to a comfortable level. In my office which has "normal" light levels I am at about 75% brightness.
    - hide all the windows so you can see the desktop. Don't use Expose since that leaves "edges" of the windows around the display.
    - compare the black of the panel surround with the black of the panel itself. I can just about see the difference in brightness between the two. If I turn the brightness down another 3 steps just about I lose the distinction. I have a little backlight bleed along the bottom so I am looking at the left & right sides of the display.

    Is your black level significantly different from this (not very scientific) measurement.

    If you want to measure your contrast ratio more accurately you could try this method using a digital camera.... http://www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/contrast-ratio.html. It's a bit fiddly and might take half an hour but at the end of it you will have a contrast ratio number which is reasonably accurate. I did this and got around about 600:1 - which IIRC is what the panel spec sheet says.

    If you get any numbers or other results I'd be very interested to hear them
     
  17. dmgabe thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #17
    Here are some photos.

    side by side full bright and half bright

    and a single shot full bright and half bright

    Comparison is with a June 07 MBP 15.
     
  18. dmgabe thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #18
    Maybe the pics will actually show up this time.
     

    Attached Files:

  19. Pax macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    Interesting photos. At full brightness the 17" display does seem to have quite a lot more backlight bleed around the bottom left than the 15", measuring roughly using a digital camera the 17" seems 2-3 x brighter than the 15" at the bottom left, but in other parts of the screen the 17" is darker.

    But for half brightness the 17" seems WAY darker than the 15", the camera is struggling to pick it up.

    But we're not quite comparing like with like here. I expect that a new 17" with the LED backlight is much brighter overall than the 3 year old CCFL backlit 15".

    If you put both displays at maximum brightness, does the 17" display seem a lot brighter than the 15"? If the 15" and 17" have similar maximum brightness, then I would agree you might have a problem with your 17" display. If your 17" is like my 13" and very bright at maximum brightness, then I don't think you have a problem.

    Again measurements using a digital camera as described on the link I sent would be useful. Even photos of the two side by side on maximum brightness would be good.

    I guess the question is important for two reasons:- if the panel is not performing to specification, Apple should replace it. But if the panel is within specification, and you are dissatisfied with it, you will still be disappointed if Apple replaces it with a panel which meets the same specification.
     
  20. dmgabe thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #20
    I will take a picture of a movie with dark scenes later this evening. This is where I really notice a problem, regardless of screen brightness. With my old MBP contrast was fine, and even dark scenes appeared crisp and clear, with this new screen, dark scenes look horrible. The display is amazing as long as the images are bright and colorful.
     
  21. dmgabe thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #21
    I also have to admit that the problem may only seem this bad since I have that dark black surround to compare it to all the time.
     
  22. Pax macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    Yeah, I think the black surround was a big mistake by Apple, it really accentuates the problem. That's why Philips LCD TVs have the "Ambilight" gimmick - there are lights around the screen which light up the TV's surroundings. That hides the fact that the black isn't really very dark.

    I'm trying to attach some images of my screen playing a DVD in a darkened room. The first one ('05.jpg) shows it on full brightness. But on full brightness screen is way too bright, it's painful. For comfortable viewing in a dark room I need about 50% brightness. That's the second image ('06.jpg).

    As you can see on full brightness, yes there's some backlight bleed which looks similar to yours. But on half brightness like yours it's almost impossible to see where the panel ends and the surround/bezel begins.

    This was taken using a digital camera set to whole field metering (not spot metering) but all the exposure etc was automatic.

    If you can find a similar image that's roughly 75% deep black but also has a good amount of white in it, we can compare.
     

    Attached Files:

  23. Pax macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    If it helps, I also took the same picture on my Dell WFP2007 S-IPS monitor which is supposed to have a contrast ratio of 800:1 IIRC. It really does give an excellent picture with very dark blacks.

    Again the first image is on full brightness which is painful to watch in a dark room, the second is on 50% bright which probably still too bright for normal viewing.

    You can see backlight glow on both images, at about the same level in both (the camera is on program/AE so it is just altering the exposure to similar levels).
     

    Attached Files:

  24. Pax macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    I'm not very happy with these photos, the exposure is all over the place. You can see underneath the wings - some are quite dark, others very bright. Particularly the 2nd set from my Dell, the exposure is much brighter making the backlight leakage look worse than it is

    I should have used spot metering or some other method of making the white brightness all the same.

    Anyway let's see what you come up with
     
  25. jonni911 macrumors newbie

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    Jan 28, 2010
    #25
    A quick question

    Hey guys just a quick question, a bit offtopic but I'd reaaly be thankful for a quick answer. Some water was spilt on my MacBook pro the most recent one and by accident I turned the brightness right down so I can't see anything on the screen. As water has been spilt, some of the keys have temporarily stopped working and the brightness up has. Is there a way of trning brightness back up without being able to see anything on the screen. I am using a USB keyboard to write and type.

    Cheers
    jonni.
     

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