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Portables (Apple) Bug Displays Hardware

Grey Lines Mar MacBook Air Displays 288

Posted by kdawson
from the pin-stripes-are-vertical dept.
adamengst writes "Numerous users have been complaining about grey lines that muddy the crispness of the displays of the recently updated MacBook Air. Doug McLean explains the problem in TidBITS, along with what Apple appears to be doing about it."
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Grey Lines Mar MacBook Air Displays

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:16AM (#26001745)

    What, is this an audiophile forum now? I can only assume the lines fluff up the felty softness too.

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:32AM (#26001859) Homepage

      The problem is that these users are not conditioning their laptop displays before use. It's well known you need to play a very diverse video before any actual use so that the screen is "exercised" and ready for use. they get stiff after sitting off for a while.

      Also using directional USB cables as well as cleaning the keyboard with a gold based cleaning solution will help enhance the crispness of the display.

      • by LMacG (118321) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:39AM (#26001917) Journal

        Also, marking around the edge of the display with a green felt-tip pen will keep all the pixels in proper alignment.

      • by AdamPee (1243018) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:47AM (#26001979)
        You can't start out with too diverse video, your computer could pull a driver. Instead, start off gently, something like a screensaver, and move on to something a little more rigorous as it warms up.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I get stiff after playing my diverse videos for a while. Then my right arm gets exercised.

      • All FanBoys also know that you must love on your machine. Unlike PC varieties that don't need to burn in a laptop display like a transmission on a new car (from 20 years ago), you need to love your machine.

        -Stroke the keys lightly as if to say, I love and want everyone to see me holding your hand as I walk down the street.
        -Offer the CD/DVD to the machine with both hands. Don't force it in, be very gentle the first time. It needs to loosen up a little before you start inserting them more aggressively.
        • by theaveng (1243528)

          >>>Don't force it in, be very gentle the first time. It needs to loosen up a little before you start inserting aggressively

          Thanks you.

          This is the sort of thing they don't teach in sex ed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by IronChef (164482)

        Don't fall for that gold-infused keyboard cleaner bullshit. Nothing is more important than the pH of the cleaner, which should match that of the primordial seas.

        If your keyboard is too acidic vowels will suffer from a lack of sensitivity, making a left circle-strafe difficult.

        For this reason, I wear museum artifact restoration style cotton gloves whenever I use my keyboard, to keep my keyboard free of any possible pH imbalance.

        That and a green sharpie are all you need and anyone who says otherwise is sellin

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by ckthorp (1255134)
      They just need more burn-in time, like audiophile speakers and headphones. The users need to display vibrant oilpan-like colors for a few hundred hours to ensure that the pixels are transitioning with optimal clarity and efficiency. </sarcasm>
    • HP came out with a new LCD display and (also in notebook form) that displays billions of colors.

      This beats even apples cinelerra displays:
      http://www.macobserver.com/review/2008/06/17.1.shtml [macobserver.com]

      HP press release (on the notebook):
      http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2008/080811xa.html?jumpid=reg_R1002_USEN [hp.com]

      Many people don't know about it yet but it appears to be making waves..

      Possibly apple is getting to comfortable with it's new marketshare.

      Personally I will be looking at the displays as an alternative, when

  • by gapagos (1264716) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:22AM (#26001787)

    Step 2: Start another ad with an undergrad making fun of his computer science professor.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Svippy (876087)

      Step 2: Start another ad with an undergrad making fun of his computer science professor.

      Step 3: Profit!?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Farmer Pete (1350093)
        Wow, you totally got this one wrong. You missed the very vital step (see below)

        Step 1: Make expensive laptops with a shitty display.
        Step 2: Start another ad with an undergrad making fun of his computer science professor.
        Step 3: ????
        Step 4: Profit!
        • Step 3 (which really should be step 1) is 'Be Apple', there really are no unknowns in this equasion.
  • Cool transparency effect, without any CPU cycles involved! I am not a Mac user, but this brilliant trick makes me want to... uh...

  • No surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mad Merlin (837387) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:32AM (#26001863) Homepage

    LCD panel quality in general has been on the slide for a couple years now. Pretty much every LCD sold today has a trashy TN panel (6-bit colour and awful viewing angles), instead of mostly just the cheap ones like a couple years ago.

    • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday December 05, 2008 @09:05AM (#26002161) Journal
      A little while back the HD in my MacBook Pro died (shortly after completing the first full backup I'd done in almost a year, which was pretty incredible timing). While it was off being repaired, I switched back to my old PowerBook. The resolution of the screen was slightly lower, but the difference was amazing. With the PB I have massive viewing angles - unless I'm off at such a wide angle that the screen is almost a sliver, the image is still clear. With the MBP it starts to go as soon as I'm not flat-on to the display. You'd have thought that the 'pro' lines would still have decent technology, but maybe no one's making it anymore (and the newer ones have those horrible glossy screens, so I won't be getting one of them). If it wasn't for the fact that LaTeX documents that build in 10 seconds on the MBP take over a minute on the PowerBook, I'd be tempted to switch back to it.
      • by theaveng (1243528)

        Your description reminds me of my old Windows 98 Compaq Presario laptop. Absolutely terrible display, because it's impossible to see the entire image at once... even just 1 degree off perpendicular and the image fades. As a result I can see either the top half or the bottom half of the screen, but not all at the same time. Junk.

        IMHO they should forget LCDs and use Plasma displays instead. Almost as bright and colorful as a CRT (big and bulky but still the best display ever made; plus it can handle multi

  • by iamdrscience (541136) <michaelmtripp AT gmail DOT com> on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:33AM (#26001871) Homepage
    I for one, think that a few grey lines make a display look distinguished.
  • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:45AM (#26001965)
    Only tangentially related:

    I've had an intermittent graphics card problem with an '06 MacBookPro for a while now... it leads to occasional system freeze, maybe once a day, sometimes recently a lot more. One warning that a freeze may be imminent is the appearance of thin horizontal light blue lines during what appear to be block-copys of graphics (like scrolling a browser page) - freezes often come during intense operations like a Genie style minimize, but even turning all these off, the freezes still come. There are scattered [macrumors.com] reports of similar problems, mostly when new, and my experience tracks with these (more frequent when external monitor is connected, etc.)

    Bottom line - I didn't pay the 15% AppleCare tax, so I'm SOL in terms of support from Apple, they haven't admitted to anything systemic, though it obviously is at least somewhat reproduceable. What I'd really like them to do is publish a kind of tech bulletin telling how to correct the problem if you have it, but I suppose that might take business away from their Genius bars (nearest one being 2 hours drive from here.)

    If they wanted a reputation as a truly awesome company, they would develop and release that kind of info instead of suppressing it to affect the (false, and repugnant) air of perfection.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by David Gerard (12369)

      The answer is to buy a new MacBook like a good consumer. Ask Steve! [today.com] He can display your captured and tormented soul perfectly on the new MacBook Air. If you can't, you just need more Apple products and probably a tattoo.

      I'm trying to imagine what a Google laptop would look like. Tasteful understated text ads subliminally woven into the display, probably. Free but doesn't have a hard disk.

    • by RMH101 (636144) on Friday December 05, 2008 @09:04AM (#26002143)
      Woah there. Want the good news or the bad news? Bad news: if you've got an Nvidia GPU, your MBP's fvcked. The GPU's almost certainly one of the very, very large number Nvidia managed to screw up. The ball array soldering is faulty, and it isn't fixable.

      Good news: Apple have acknowledged this as an issue and are fixing out of warranty. See http://apcmag.com/apple_acknowledges_macbook_pro_graphics_glitch_offers_fix.htm [apcmag.com] for details.

      Mine's in the faulty date of manufacture range so I'm just waiting to get hit with it too. Ric

      • A thousand thanks... (actually, more like 2400 thanks if I was going to replace with a similar product).

        Next gut wrenching life decision, during what 6-12 week period do I wish to sacrifice access to my laptop to take advantage of this "free" repair? (just hip-shooting on the repair time, but actual experience with a MacPro repair at the local shop was longer....)

        • Next gut wrenching life decision, during what 6-12 week period do I wish to sacrifice access to my laptop to take advantage of this "free" repair? (just hip-shooting on the repair time, but actual experience with a MacPro repair at the local shop was longer....)

          Well, the good news is that if you actually have the repair done by Apple, you'll probably only be out a laptop for a week or two (maybe less). They overnight a shipping container to you, which then usually is overnighted back to them. Basically,
      • Double bummer:

        First: the free repair offer only extended for 2 years from original purchase, and I find out about it here today, 30 months after original purchase, when I have been having the problem for the last 12 months (though, actually, only really badly for the last 6 months.)

        Second: I have the ATY,RadeonX1600 graphics.

        No more stress over when to send the thing in for repair, though. I'm just muddling through using the MBP less and less while a $400 Dell-Vista box picks up the things it can't do, l

        • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:40PM (#26004711) Homepage

          who the hell are you people who are constantly having hardware issues (and just put up with it)?

          if my video card or sound card breaks, and there's no way to fix it, i replace it. if my system is acting strange and affecting my productivity, i troubleshoot the problem and resolve the issue, or reformat and do a fresh install when necessary. there's no reason to put up with a system that is constantly crashing or that "goes black once a week." it's not a problem with technology; it's a problem of, either having the incredibly bad luck of consistently buying defective hardware, or simply being too undiscerning when shopping for a computer.

          honestly, this idea that computers can never work properly for long periods of time is incredibly misguided. in my experience the only people who resign themselves to a fate of having a computer that never functions properly are generally people who aren't very computer savvy. otherwise, it shouldn't take more than 2-3 weeks to troubleshoot a problem and get it resolved one way or another. and you shouldn't be having computer problems all the time.

          heck, even the computers i have to fix at work usually stay fixed for at least 3-4 months. and only very rarely do hardware problems crop up (maybe once every 1~2 years one of the 5 computers in the office will need something replaced). and we don't even get manufacturer warranties. honestly, there's no reason to settle for a less than fully functional system. after all, you paid good money for it. so fix it yourself, or find someone who can.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by JoeMerchant (803320)

            For me, it's cost-benefit. The MacBookPro is bitch-worthy because it's reaching that nuisance cost exceeding cost of replacement threshold (5 minutes per day vs cost of whatever replaces it).

            Fixing the Vista box just isn't worth it at this stage, I lose about 3-5 minutes a week to its flakiness - I could spend several hours with Dell for a 50% chance that they might do something about it with a further 50% chance that whatever they do won't really work. Add to that the risk that my system setup might be

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by spiffyman (949476)

      Sorry to hear about your problems. Given your comments below, it looks like your MBP is completely effed. I would look into getting a new mobo (I don't think you can replace the GPU on those boxes) and finding a good guide (look around here [lowendmac.com]). Otherwise, sell it to an enthusiast when it dies.

      I had something similar happen with an iBook G4 many moons ago, and it taught me a very important lesson: buy the damn warranty, especially with a laptop. I've done it with every laptop I've bought since then, Apple or n

      • I had something similar happen with an iBook G4 many moons ago, and it taught me a very important lesson: buy the damn warranty, especially with a laptop. I've done it with every laptop I've bought since then, Apple or not, and it's absolutely worth it.

        I thought so, too -- then found out it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.

        Apple overnighted me a box, which was cool. I sent my Powerbook back. They took one look at it and said that since there was physical damage (a dent from dropping it a year prior to the display failing here), and because of this, any repairs were out of warranty. Furthermore, since my problem involved the display -- most likely the backlight was burnt out -- they would charge me the cost of repairing the entire laptop -- more th

  • by MemoryDragon (544441) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:48AM (#26001991)

    DonÂt get me wrong die macbook air has so many things done right, but I get the feeling that it was released prematurely. I am not sure how it is with the current ones.
    But I have one of the first generation, and you cannot run more than 10 minutes on 60% processor load after then the speed drops significantly due to excessive heat.

    Which means since I mostly use ot for development I reach this stage after a few hours of work.
    I called apple about this, and the support seemed to be rather dumb regarding this issue! Searching on the net revealed that others have the same problem. I assume this is a broken by design issue, since the heathing itself might be a problem in this formfactor.

    Well maybe this problem is resolved with the current generation but seeing that they now have another problem with the otherwise excellent display.

    Well to sum it up, if they aluminium macbooks would have been out back then I would have opted for a macbook instead of the air, but for now I live witht it and a handful of hacks installed to make the heating/venting issues more bearable!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Which means since I mostly use ot for development I reach this stage after a few hours of work.

      You see, that's what I don't get. No offense, but was the Air really the best machine for development?

      I thought it was a neat little laptop, but I avoided it specifically because of my machine needs: a programmer's rig.

      Now if I wanted a small laptop that I carried around with me to do minor things then I might consider it as it looks like it might travel better, but it would be a secondary machine to my coding ri

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MemoryDragon (544441)

        In my case it was, i am constantly on the road due to being in a consulting business, and dragging around something more heavy is a major pain. Add to that the OSX is pure unix, and the formfactor of the air is close to being rugged, and you get the perfect roadwarrior machine. Not everyone who has to travel a lot is a salesman, I am sort of a wandering developer :-)

    • by mario_grgic (515333) on Friday December 05, 2008 @09:08AM (#26002183)

      The new aluminum Macbook is a better Macbook Air. Seriously, it is almost as sturdy, it has DVD burner, better CPU, more and easily accessible ports, and stereo speakers (although totally useless on both models).

      It's not as light, but it's not much heavier either.

      On the other hand, my Macbook has no heat issues, it's actually amazingly cool for normal use.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday December 05, 2008 @09:12AM (#26002237) Journal
      Google for 'fan control'. I had a fan control utility for my PowerBook that some apple techs accidentally left on the machine after a repair, which let me manually activate the fans, and there's a nicer one for Intel machines that lets you define the fan speed to temperature relation. When the MacBook Pros were released these values were wrong. The fans would not kick in early enough and the machine would become unstable. Tweaking them a bit made the machine a bit louder and shortened the battery life slightly, but stopped it crashing (the CPU was fine, but the memory chips got too hot). A subsequent update fixed the problem and I don't have the fan control or temperature monitor utilities installed anymore.
      • Actually I still have those things installed problem is that if you push the machine towards heavy load which happens if you do development no fan control can help the machine becomes hot. But fan control programs can at least help to keep the problem at bay.
        The entire macbook air design is an excellent idea but broken by design, probably if I had the choice nowadays I would opt for the macbook instead, which is the better air than the air :-)

  • Dithering (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AC-x (735297) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:49AM (#26002007)

    The picture [tidbits.com] posted of the problem looks like the dithering's gone wrong and it's just showing lines rather then the usual checkerboard pattern

  • by rockout (1039072) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:52AM (#26002031)
    In my statistical study of one sample unit (mine), I've had my eye on the display since April, and I have no complaints with it.

    However, I do notice that it takes longer to find wireless networks than my old PowerBook used to. Not sure why this is.
    • by rockout (1039072)
      Well, now that I've RTFA (what's wrong with me?!?) and even TFS more closely, I see it's only an issue on the newer MacBook Air. A rare instance of the early adopters actually being slightly better off.
  • by decalod85 (1214532) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:54AM (#26002043)
    My Mac SE from 1988 had all grey lines! You kids and your 'color' monitors...
  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:55AM (#26002053)

    ...considering I now use LCD wherever a visual display unit is required, I'm very fussy about the flaws I allow. I sent some Samsung panels back and had them replaced because two of them had ghost patches. One had a bug (a real bug!) sandwiched in between the LCD layer and the backplane. Yet another had a partially detached backplane (which resulted in uneven lighting). No good to me at all. I can deal with one or two hot or dead pixels, unless it's on a panel I use to do serious work on (read: graphics-intensive stuff) where the panel has to be pixel perfect and the backlight has to be even and of the right colour temperature. As for Apple's not very new problems: yes, their panel quality has suffered a huge amount over the years. I have a G3 Lombard with a perfect panel (no hot/dead pixels and the light is even), and a G4 iBook with a panel which has dark corners and four hot pixels right in the middle of the panel. Not hugely offputting unless I try and watch a DVD... and now the Airs have panel problems? Hardly surprising... tho don't try and pick one up by the top edge of the screen, I heard of a guy who couldn't wait to get home from the Apple dealer over here and took his MBA out of the box as he left the shop... snapped the notebook in half. ...sort of put me off from buying one...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 05, 2008 @09:00AM (#26002107)

    The article is in German and not freely available online, so I'll summarize it: The problem is in the display electronics. To prevent the liquid crystals from polarizing themselves (sort of a burn in effect), the polarity of the voltage is reversed after each frame. If the center voltage is not exactly between the low and high voltage, then the pixel is brighter or darker, depending on the current polarity of the control voltage. The display drives the lines with alternating polarity, so this deviation causes an alternating pattern of slightly darker and slightly lighter lines.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It appears to be a calibration issue. Here is press release about a chip which obviates manual calibration: http://www.electronicspecifier.com/Industry-News/VCom-calibrator-reduces-manufacturing-costs-in-TFTLCDs.asp [electronicspecifier.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        That sounds like a likely possibility. Seems like if it's a calibration issue, you wouldn't have to replace the display, but you would have to recalibrate it. In the FTA, they suggest that:

        Theories about the lines are scant, but the main ones attribute them to the new anti-glare coating or the new Nvidia graphic chips. Many users seem suspicious, though hopeful, that a firmware update will resolve the problem.

        The anti-glare coating idea is bollocks I think, because if it's a coating it would wear out

  • by Animaether (411575) on Friday December 05, 2008 @09:04AM (#26002149) Journal

    submitted by somebody at a blog, a vague summary about a 'story' at... that same blog!
    Maybe it's not a blog - sure reads like one.

    "Numerous users have been complaining about grey lines that muddy the crispness of the displays of the recently updated MacBook Air."
    That line in the summary -is- the 'story'.

    "Doug McLean explains the problem in [the advertised blog]"
    No he doesn't. He just recaps what the supposed problem would be in some detail with an example image. Kudos for the image, but there's no explanation of the problem - what causes it, why it's only apparently in late 2008 models, etc. etc. you know.. explanation - whatsoever. There's wild guessing as to what's causing it...
    "Theories about the lines are scant, but the main ones attribute them to the new anti-glare coating or the new Nvidia graphic chips. Many users seem suspicious, though hopeful, that a firmware update will resolve the problem."
    But that alone should make you quirk an eyebrow... I do hope those 'many users' are on the side of 'the new Nvidia graphic chips [are the cause]", as I've got no hope whatsoever for those who think that a firmware update would fix an anti-glare coating.

    "along with what Apple appears to be doing about it."
    Well I guess including that information in the summary would mean even less people would click on the 'story', but the answer is "we don't know". As usual, with Apple, I know, but from the 'story'...
    1. "Apple has issued no official statement on the matter"
    2. "we hope Apple [...] takes [...] steps to resolve it"
    i.e. "we don't know what Apple appears to be doing about it"

  • Okay, I've looked at the picture, and I can't see any grey lines. Well, technically I can see lots of grey lines, they make up the background of the menu bar at the top of the screen. And I also see a bunch of grey lines making up the "swoosh" which looks to me like part of the desktop wallpaper. Anyone got a better picture?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rockout (1039072)
      If you click on the pic, a larger version comes up and you can see the lines on that one.
  • I am wondering if we are giving Apple a double standard here. I think right now the MacBook Air is the only Ultra lightweight and Thin laptop that performs as well as a Mid to upper mid level PC. These lines while an issue, the question is do other laptops that use these displays have the same problem.

    • I am wondering if we are giving Apple a double standard here. I think right now the MacBook Air is the only Ultra lightweight and Thin laptop that performs as well as a Mid to upper mid level PC.

      Better replace that with it performs as well as an upper to mid level pc until the thing becomes warm then the processor is powered down to reduce heat...
      Which appens always if you give it more load!

  • Premium laptop? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd o t .org> on Friday December 05, 2008 @09:38AM (#26002501)

    [...] and result in a disappointing display, particularly for a premium laptop.

    Since when is the MacBook Air a premium laptop? It sure has a premium price. And it looks stylish. But that's it.
    You know what else is like that? An expensive whore "girlfriend". ;) (Apple fans, stay with me! :)

    I think Apple has done some cool things. But this (or the iPhone) is not one of them.
    The 18 bit display was the first hint.

    It's more a EEE PC concurrent. Which means that it's useless for real full use, because of its slowness and lack of features (one example being Firewire).
    This is fully ok, if the laptop is really cheap. Unfortunately, that's where the MacBook Air fails. It's not cheap. It's really expensive (compared to the real market. Not to other overprices Apple products.)

    I really wonder, how cool Apple's products would be, if they had concurrency in their own domain. If for example MacOS XI would have a HAL that would allow other companys to do the same with their systems. They would have to look good and have more features to have a chance, so Apple would have to add even more, thereby lowering the price to a realistic market level.

    • You're really comparing the MacBook air to an EEE PC? The MacBook air has a large display and a full-size keyboard, if nothing else.

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