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Lawsuit charges MacBook LCD screens are flawed

Apple promises 'millions' of colors; suit says displays are 'grainy' and 'sparkly'

May 21, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Two Californians have filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc. over the quality of the computer maker's laptop displays, and they want a judge to rule their claims a class action.

Filed by lawyers for Fred Greaves and Dave Gatley, both of San Diego, on May 3 in a California state court, the lawsuit charges Apple with falsely advertising MacBook and MacBook Pro displays as able to produce "millions" of colors. "The reality is that notwithstanding Apple's misrepresentations ... the displays are only capable of displaying the illusion of millions of colors through the use of a software technique referred to as 'dithering,' " the suit claims.

Greaves and Gatley tossed in other gripes as well, including claims that Apple's notebook screens look "grainy" and sometimes "sparkly," show gradient banding and sometimes display distracting lines.

Although the lawsuit includes statements saying that in some applications the display deficiencies might be unnoticeable, it also charged that "users who rely on the accuracy of displays for various graphics uses, such as photography, find that the color displays ... even at the highest resolutions, are unreliable."

When Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP is run on the same system using Apple's own Boot Camp dual-boot software, said Greaves' and Gatley's lawyers, "all resolution levels [are] superior to the display that those same computers display using Apple's OS operating system."

"Here is the irony ... if I boot into XP using Boot Camp, the dithering and banding and noise goes away," according to a MacBook and MacBook Pro owner whose online comments were cited in the lawsuit. "The screens look beautiful in XP (on both the MB and MBP) ... so there is a possibility that this is some sort of driver issue, but why wouldn't Apple just step up and fix it instead of dragging this out for all of us that bought the high end machines???"

The lawsuit also alleges that when display problems were reported to Apple, company representatives "chastised" users, who "were told that they were imagining the complained-about defects." It also claimed that Apple purged posts on its own support message forums that were critical of display quality. The Apple discussion thread cited in the lawsuit was not available today and returned the message "Error: you do not have permission to view the requested forum or category" when an attempt to access it was made.

Greaves and Gatley asked that a judge rule the lawsuit suitable for a class action, which could lead to wide-ranging restitution and/or other damages from Apple. A copy of the lawsuit can be found online (download PDF).

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