Aussie Developer Reckons Apple's Retina Display Testing Is Faulty [Updated]

Apple pretty consistently scores well with consumer groups when it comes to customer satisfaction -- so much so that it makes a point of advertising that fact. Disagree with Apple's diagnosis, as Aussie software developer Mitch Malone did, and the story can be markedly different.

Malone is a software developer based out of Sydney, and last August he purchased a Retina Macbook Pro with, from his description, all the trimmings for his development work. However, when he began to use it, he noticed some severe ghosting issues with the display. Checking around with other users didn't resolve much, so he took the unit into an Apple store to have it tested. Here's what happened:

I was greeted by a typical Apple store employ – someone cool and trendy with a moderate level of computer literacy. I described my problem and offered to show him the symptoms but he completely ignored me and proceed to insist we run an approved diagnostic (even though at the time my screen had my wallpaper pretty well burned into it after only a few minutes).
The diagnostic they run for this problem is pretty simple. They display a checkerboard of black and white for 3 minutes then fade to black. At this point the Apple Genius says to me, “can you see the grid?” My only reply was, “No.” I was then dismissed as the computer was not faulty and told to try the test again at home if I wished.
I was in a rush and not interested in making a scene, and also feeling kind of embarrassed so I left.

Being a web developer, and not that impressed with Apple's test, he wrote his own test that went beyond monochrome testing -- you can run it yourself from here if you're interested -- and the problem reasserted itself. Malone's not in a position as a freelancer where he can afford to be without his development machine, and despite petitioning Apple's Tim Cook, he's been rebuffed by Apple, who claim the display isn't faulty because it doesn't fail on Apple's own test.

Display retention issues with the Retina Macbook Pro are nothing new, with many highlighting LG display panels as the culprit. But when Apple's own tests won't accurately test the problem, what chance do consumers have?

I've asked Apple comment on the case; I can't say that I've personally seen Malone's Macbook Pro one way or the other, but I suspect that the Genius-level support staff may not have had authority to authorise anything but a standard repair according to the company guidelines -- which of course leaves Malone stuck in a very difficult place. He's currently using the Macbook Pro Retina with a lower resolution external display. Given the kind of price premium the retina Macbook Pro commands, that's hardly an ideal fix.

Update: Apple Australia has responded to my query, although the response isn't terribly detailed:

Apple decline to comment.
Should any customer have a concern in relation to any Apple offering, they should contact us direct.

[LaunchMcQuack]

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Comments

    It all depends on what mood your "Genius" is in that day. My MacBook Pro Retina had two clusters of dead/bright pixels, I took it in and the guy was happy saw the problem(also another issue with the LG screens) and sent it straight in for service and it was ready the next day.

    But when I took my iPhone in for dead/bright pixels the guy just kept saying he can't see any so there is no problem, ask for the manger and he said the same thing. The pixels were bright blue on a black/dark background. I booked in the next day at a different Apple store and that genius saw them straight away and gave me a new phone on the spot.

    It just depends on who you get.

      That's just sad...
      I believe that if a customer can prove (maybe with his own set of diagnostic tools), he should be eligible to get his unit repaired / replaced.

      Being in the Software Testing industry, I come across this too often:
      "Seeing Test Cases pass doesn't mean that your system works as expected. It just means that we don't have a scenario, yet, to break the system."

        I perform warranty repairs for another manufacturer, and sometimes the tests I use don't adequately isolate a fault. At that point I have to go with the gut and replace what I think the symptoms point to. Usually it resolves the issue, but I don't like not having solid data to inform my decisions. I'd be within my rights to just give the computer back and charge a minimum service fee, without solid data, but unless I'm really sure, unless I can reproduce the customer's problem reliably, and learn a bit about it, I don't like doing that.

        Your 100% right. We see that all the time at my work. We get a product back thats faulty, works perfectly when we run it through our test modes. Doesnt mean its not faulty, just means our test mode has detected the problem.

    I has the same issue with my work retina macbook pro 15"
    they swapped the pannel out after i demonstrated the issue
    i set the background to the light blue and opened in fullscreen on another desktop the black on white checkered wallpaper, if you left that open for more than 2 minutes and switched between the ghosting was horrible.
    just complain until they fix it.

      I've had a faulty screen and battery replaced by Acer without issue.

      I just called, said there was a problem and they sent the new parts to the service centre of my choosing. No fluffing about testing and crap like that. Obviously a problem, so they fixed it no questions asked.

      Both times my Ultrabook was fixed within the hour.

      Last edited 27/03/13 9:30 am

    I have had the same issue, and MULTIPLE times.

    I purchased the Macbook Pro retina when it was released in July and I am up to my 3rd/4th display (depending on which way you count).

    The very first one I had for less than 2 weeks before I noticed there was a dead pixel. I got this machine replaced and the new one was fine... for a while.

    After 3 months I started to get the ghosting issue just like you did. Fortunately for me, in my genius appointment I had the window open ready to go and the Genius 'verified' the problem. The monitor/display was replaced overnight.

    The next panel lasted 5 months before, again a dead pixel. So I again made an appointment and they replaced the display again (quicker this time, since I have had trouble with the machine). This last replacement was on the 31st of January and as of the start of this week (25th March) again... another dead pixel.

    So now after calling Apple and explaining my situation, they have agreed to replace the machine. Since it would be the 3rd display to go on the one machine (or 4th if you include the machine I had for 2 weeks) the are hoping to restore my faith in apple products.

    For me personally, Apple has been wonderful throughout the process, and I have never been charged for any of the replacements. It is just a shame that the retina displays keep getting dead pixels/ghosting.

      Well...

      After the previous post, I received a BRAND NEW machine from Apple on the 19th of April. Now on the 1st of July I am going through the whole process again, as this new machine has 3x dead pixels. 1 in each bottom corner and 1 close to the centre. 3x dead pixels in 3monts...

    Same deal here with the stuck pixels. Noticed last night that I have a couple of blue pixels when I have a black background up. The machine is two weeks old and I'm really not keen to be without it, or have to reconfigure bootcamp etc in the case of a swap. 2013 13" rMBP if it makes any difference.

    I had the same issue, my spec'ed to the max Mac Book Pro Retina had the LG screen and ghosting was terrible, lucky for me the guy who took a look at it at Apple did the test, and said it was faulty and replaced it. I now have the Samsung screen, and could not be happier.

    Not sure what to say, but I guess it depends who you get at Apple. The other thing is that there is no guarantee that you will get a Samsung screen, and may have the screen replaced and be stuck with the problem again. It is a lucky dip apparently.

    In my opinion, the LG screens are faulty, and should be replaced regardless with the Samsung screen, ghosting should never happen with the money the Mac Book Pro Retina's cost.

    Last edited 26/03/13 5:14 pm

    There is a way to check if you have a Samsung or LCD display by running command line as explained on this thread: http://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/61087/what-terminal-command-shows-the-type-of-display-that-i-have-on-my-macbook-pro

    I have a Samsung, so didn't have this issue, but I did have an issue, and an odd one at that. I bought the 15" RMBP in September and in January during use I saw a bug walking around on the screen. I went to flick it off, but then found the bug was actually walking around in between the LCD panel and the glass! I had never heard of such a thing, or thought that could be possible! I touched the screen slightly where the bug was and that was enough to kill it and stop it there, with a nice 3mm smudge stuck IN the display.

    So, a few days later I took it to the Carindale (QLD) Apple store and explained the issue. Of course, the Genies looked at me with amazement, and a bit of disbelief. They ran some system tests and had a good look over to see there was no physical damage otherwise. Then they looked up their system and said they would be able to repair it on the spot. They said go have a coffee and come back in half an hour, so I did, and when I returned I had a brand new screen. Extremely happy with the support for the odd issue.

    I was worried it might have been replaced with an LG screen as I knew they were notorious for the ghosting, but luckily it checked out to be a Samsung too, and it's been fine since *touch wood*.

      I didn't know samsung and LCD were mutually exclusive!

      :p

    I had a similiar problem with my 3GS. Phone wouldn't turb on. Showed the problem to the "genius". He ran his diagnostic and insisted nothing was wrong with the handset. I demonstrated the problem again. His friend comes over and I show him the problem. He says, I shit you not, that 'the 3GS doesn't break.'

    Thankfully Optus replaced it no questions asked.

      I just think its weird that people go to the apple shop instead of their provider in the first place.

      If you got your phone on contract, whilst it's yours, you're still buying it/paying for it, from them.

      I mean, if an android/win phone stopped working, I wouldn't hope the manufacturer would fix it, I'd get it on the service provider.

      That and apple generally prefer refurbs over fixes & replacements of new, which is your legal right under warranty.

    um....

    "Apple decline to comment.
    Should any customer have a concern in relation to any Apple offering, they should contact us direct."

    Is this an author's mistake, or a response outsourced from China?

      It's the exact quote from Apple, without modification of any kind.

      Apples polite way of saying " Fuck off Gizmodo and mind your own business".

      Personally I would take then to the ACCC and tear them a new one.

      Last edited 26/03/13 8:18 pm

    I've had the same issue, but instead of validating my own opinion of myself and posting here, I thought I'd be all Apple superior and post here.

    Hey Kidman you going to write one of these every time someone's rebuffed at the Bar?

      Nope -- the customer isn't always right, but in this case Malone has gone further than just disagreeing with Apple -- he's challenging the testing methodology for faulty screens, which has (potentially) much wider implications for warranty claims. I think that's a story worth pursuing.

        Don't bother trying to justify anything, alanzeino is the Sam Biddle of commenter's!

    Make a complaint to the ACCC. Lodge a formal complain with them, they can help mediate for a replacement or repair. Worst case scenario is you could end up in court, although it's rare for a manufacturer to take things that far, but it does happen.

    Last edited 26/03/13 8:16 pm

    Isn't his test, if run at a default length of 3 mins, the exact same test based on the description given? What is different in his version and what prevents Apple's one reproducing the error?

    Perhaps there was lighting issues or something in the store that also hindered the test, but that'd surely make his own one fail also. Anyway, hope it gets sorted out, but based on the above experiences even if they do come to, there'll be some down time where the machine won't be available.

      Read the article? his test uses colour, not just black and white.

      He's not saying that black & white check shouldn't be done, but that you should also be checking colour, too.

        Last night I went to the site and ran the test and it was black and white. Maybe I missed something at the time, but it looks like the site has since been updated. I'm sure I only had the option to change the period of the test. I certainly didn't get taken to a second page with another "begin test" after hitting "begin test" on the link Gizmodo linked to.

        I may have glossed over the 'colour' bit in the article...but I do believe the test site itself has also been changed since my post.

    My experience of Apple geniuses is like many people above - your experience can vary widely. But at least you get a human, not a call centre.

    Thank Dog for Dell!

      Indeed. They do make good monitors. My PC monitor, a 24"er is going super strong after 11 years and it's on almost 24/7

      I had no idea there was a Dell Store you could take your Dell product to, with an appointment system where a human being will sit with you as you discuss your problem instead of simply dropping off your product at a service centre or getting someone called out to your home for a fee unless you purchased their 'On Call' subscription.

        Come in spinner! You are completely correct and thank Dog for that, too. Of course Dell don't have anything as antiquated and inconvenient as the nightmare you describe. All that's required is a simple phone call to summon their awesome next day, on-site support. They will visit you at home or work, wherever is most convenient for you. No extra charge, it is the standard warranty service provided with every XPS or Precison model. You know, the ones that compete on features with a Mac but are still less expensive and often more stylish. If you pay extra you can even get on-site support when you are overseas.

          never thought i'd be +1'ing a motormouth comment but this is truth. had a faulty dvd drive in a dell laptop replaced at our office, on the next day after reporting the fault to them. factor in that apple stores are all located in busy retail environments and you need to spend time and/or money for parking, its clearly a worse option going to them if your time is actually worth something.

            Yes, my experiences have been even better. I reported a dead PSU and had a new one couriered to the office within 3 hours. When my first personal laptop had a problem while I was traveling, the Dell guy was at my home 2 hours after I got back to replace the mobo. All that took was two emails to XPS service - one to report the issue and a reply to organise a time/place for the service.

    Contact directly?

    Wellp, by going to the apple store, he did do that. Where do you go when you're rebuffed?

    Bitch on the internet, goshdarnit!

      so much for APPLE's direct face to face 'IT support' geniuses Jobs put in place...

    The angle of the screen in the image is really frustrating!

    I must say I am surprised at both the number of Mac owners around here and the number of issues they seem willing to put up with. If I had problems like that it wouldn't matter how quickly/well they were solved, I would never even contemplate that brand again. After all, we are talking about laptops that are two or three times the price of your normal grunty and stylish ultrabook, yet they seem plagued, actually plagued, by poor quality major components.

      People are willing to put up with any faults, only as long as it's Apple.

    Maybe because Dell recalls faulty equipment, where apple just replaces it behind the counter and pretends there was nothing wrong with it in the first place? Maybe you were holding it wrong...

    with apple it's always a matter of the mood of the hipster...i mean genius,

    so sick of apples hypocrisy

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