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MacBook Users Sue Apple for Fudging on Screen Performance

MacBook Users Sue Apple for Fudging on Screen Performance

The true display capabilities of MacBooks have come under scrutiny in a lawsuit filed by two California men. The suit, which could gain class action status, asserts that MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks cannot display the "millions of colors" promised by Apple. Instead, the suit claims, they use a process called "dithering," which tricks the eye into seeing colors that are not actually being displayed.

By Fred J. Aun MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
05/21/07 1:05 PM PT

Two California men, unhappy with the display qualities on their new MacBooks, are suing Apple for deceptive advertising, misrepresentation, unfair competition and violation of California's Consumer Legal Remedy Act.

The lawsuit, filed in San Diego County by Fred Greaves and Dave Gatley, asserts Apple falsely claimed, in advertising and technical specifications about its notebooks, that the units offered display quality superior to other brands' models when, in fact, the displays were no better than the others.

Greaves and Gatley, who seek class action status on behalf of all MacBook and MacBook Pro buyers for the past four years, said Apple misrepresented the notebooks' display capabilities by telling consumers they offer "support for millions of colors." In fact, says the complaint, the displays cannot actually reproduce millions of colors.

Just an Illusion?

"The reality is that, notwithstanding Apple's misrepresentations and suggestions that its MacBook and MacBook Pro display 'millions of colors,' the displays are only capable of displaying the illusion of millions of colors through the use of a software technique referred to as 'dithering,' which causes nearby pixels on the display to use slightly varying shades of colors that trick the human eye into perceiving the desired color even though it is not truly that color," says the lawsuit.

Additionally, the claimants note that the ability of a computer to dither is dependent on the "sophistication of the programming of the software," and they assert the MacBook and MacBook Pro -- which normally run on the Apple operating system but have the ability to virtualize Microsoft's Windows OS -- produced better quality when the notebooks were fired up with Windows.

The bulk of the lawsuit is a section containing copies of online forum comments from dissatisfied MacBook and MacBook Pro users. In the posts, some of the unhappy owners complained about poor customer service from Apple and said they felt misled by the company's advertising claims. There are also complaints about their critical posts being deleted from the forums section of Apple's Web site.

"Due to a large number of customer complaints, including complaints on Apple's own Web site and the discussion forum that Apple owns, it is apparent that Apple is well aware of the problem at issue," says the lawsuit. "Nevertheless, at no time did Apple make the buying public aware of or even acknowledge the defect or alter its advertisements, photos, representation and other marketing material."

Apple "deliberately and wrongfully chose easy profits over responsibility to its purchasers," according to the complaint.

'Blacker Blacks, Whiter Whites'

MacNewsWorld requested a comment on the lawsuit from Apple but received no answer. A message left with a lawyer representing Greaves and Gatley was also not returned.

The Apple Web site continues to use the same language cited in the complaint. "MacBook Pro makes your ideas more enlightening, with a sharp, high-resolution screen," it says. "See blacker blacks, whiter whites, and many more colors in between ... Enjoy a nuanced view simply unavailable on other portables."

The action asks that Apple be forced to "cease selling defective laptops" and noted the plaintiffs "recently purchased MacBooks believing them to be state-of-the-art notebook computers running a superior, more stable operating system, and with the capability to generate the most brilliant, vibrant notebook computer display of any notebook computer on the market."

They demand "appropriate relief" and ask for a court to order Apple to "resolve the past, present and future issues that Apple's misrepresentation inherent defect has created concerning MacBooks already sold."

Not For Commercial Use

The display quality of the MacBook satisfies David Etchells, founder of Imaging Resource, a Web site devoted to digital photography, who recently purchased the laptop. However, he would not expect it to be good enough for professional photo editing.

"You don't have the kind of controls in notebook display as you do in a high-end LCD monitor," Etchells told MacNewsWorld. "If you are trying to do critical color editing you should have some kind of LCD that's designed for higher-end use -- something that will calibrate well and have a smooth tone to it."

That said, one would be hard-pressed to find such a monitor for less than US$500, said Etchells. Most units below that price point aren't much better than the displays that come standard on notebooks these days, he noted.

As for the lawsuit's point about dithering, Etchells said it all depends on how serious one wants to get.

"I happen to own a MacBook and I use it for non-critical photo editing," he said. "I haven't noticed anything related to dithering in the images, but I don't use it for anything critical, so I'm not trying to make some really critical judgment."


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