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Displays Portables (Apple) The Media Hardware

Photog Rob Galbraith Rates MacBook Pro Display "Not Acceptable" 504

Posted by timothy
from the pulling-no-punches dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Professional digital photographer and website publisher Rob Galbraith has performed both objective and subjective tests on laptop displays, finding that the late-2008 Macbook Pro glossy displays are 'deep into the not acceptable category' when used in ambient light environments. The Apple notebook came in dead last for color accuracy, and second to last in viewing angles (besting only the Dell Mini 9). He concludes: 'Macs are no longer at the top of the laptop display heap in our minds.'"
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Photog Rob Galbraith Rates MacBook Pro Display "Not Acceptable"

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  • Macbook pro 17" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psx29 (538840) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:31PM (#26648569)
    I wonder if they will test the macbook pro 17" which has a $50 matte option?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That doesn't make sense to me. Why charge to get rid of a faulty device that comes with it?
      • Cause... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by denzacar (181829) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:47PM (#26648693) Journal

        Why make it a feature when it can be a "special bonus" or an "extra"?

        Plus... haven't you heard of "downgrading to XP" costs for Vista laptops and desktops?
        "Downgrading" is the new "works out of the box".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kandenshi (832555)

          Rather sad commentary on the state of things isn't it? But quite a few people wont bat an eye at it, and for some people that's what they're stuck with.

          Need this particular piece of hardware, and it's more convenient to get it with this software and then go through the trouble of "downgrading" than it is to find another place offering the hardware without the New and Improved Software(assuming such a place exists).

          The article seemed pretty good, I like his writing style and he seems to be very knowledgeabl

    • Re:Macbook pro 17" (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ijitjuice (666161) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:39PM (#26649071)
      Did anyone RTFA? Per the author, "...but as with the previous generation of this Apple laptop, display quality is absolutely acceptable and usable for image assessment and simple Photoshop edits in the field, as long as you're aware of the display's particular blend of strengths and weaknesses." So clearly, the OP made the egregious decision to create this post just for the sake of flame bait.
      • Re:Macbook pro 17" (Score:5, Informative)

        by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @12:11AM (#26649285) Homepage

        It's shit no matter what.

        But so are all TN panels, which is what almost everyone use, laptop TN panels more so.

        Though then again it's not impossible that Apples isn't among the top of the TN ones.

        Benq has a 24" MVA-one which isn't that expensive nowadays, and Dell got a couple of 27" ones, it seems impossible to get a decent 20" nowadays, and IPS is hard to find no matter what.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kryptkpr (180196)

          I absolutely love my S-PVA Dell 2408WFP [dell.com]. A touch expensive for a 24", but they go on sale often. I got it for $599 CDN.. I've since seen it for $549 CDN, very reasonable considering after you see one, you will never want to look at TN display again.

      • Re:Macbook pro 17" (Score:5, Informative)

        by mfnickster (182520) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @02:04AM (#26649951)

        Did you read the second page..?

        "In ambient light environments which induce screen reflections, the late-2008 MacBook Pro 15 inch's glossy screen moves deep into the not acceptable category."

        That's where the summary and headline come from.

  • Photog? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Killer Orca (1373645) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:32PM (#26648587)
    Is this one of those words that has surreptitiously entered our language like "blog" or was the title just cut-off?
  • In other words... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sierran (155611) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:33PM (#26648589)

    Apple has now offered us a pay-to-play 'option' which fixes the display they broke in the first place (you can get matte as an option on the new 17" Macbook Pro for I think $50 but I'm not sure).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by palegray.net (1195047)
      Are you calling the matte option "pay-to-play?" You know, all Mac users aren't photographers or graphics professionals.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:39PM (#26648631)

        Then why are they using a Mac?

      • Re:In other words... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Moridineas (213502) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:42PM (#26648655) Journal

        I'm not a photographer or a graphic professional, and I think the glossy sucks...

        I'm on my 3rd mac laptop as my primary computer, and because of the glossy, I seriously doubt i will ever buy another one. Too bad, because I love them..

      • by Mozk (844858)

        You know, all Mac users aren't photographers or graphics professionals.

        I think at least some of them are.

  • NOT flamebait (Score:5, Informative)

    by syousef (465911) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:39PM (#26648633) Journal

    For f' sake, whoever modded this flamebait needs their head read. Read the summary. A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER has done extensive testing and both SUBJECTIVE and OBJECTIVE (quantitative) tests. He use to like Mac notebooks, but the latest crop doesn't suit a pro photographer. What do the fanbois want before they'll consider an opinion they don't like? A goddamn scientific study?

    For the last time Flamebait does not simply mean someone's said something that you disagree with or find inconvenient. Grow up people!

    • Re:NOT flamebait (Score:5, Informative)

      by samkass (174571) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:59PM (#26648789) Homepage Journal

      His conclusion, though, isn't exactly supported by the actual article:

      It's important to remember that, even though the late-2008 MacBook Pro 15 inch doesn't keep up in either colour accuracy or viewing angle with laptops from IBM/Lenovo, its display is still quite good and still falls on the right side of the line of acceptable display quality for field use by a working photographer, at least in ambient light that discourages reflections.

      The summary picked out the worst of the comments and highlighted them, obviously to cast Apple laptops in a bad light.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:25PM (#26648983) Journal
        When your screen is practically a mirror, any light is bad light.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ExileOnHoth (53325)

        Mod Parent up.

        This "story" is a pretty egregious example of the slashdot submitter posting something that's utterly out of sync with the linked article (who I otherwise tend to assume is actually the blog author himself trawling for traffic).

        Now, I've been around here long enough not to get all worked up and grumpy: "Jeez, slashdot editors, how about RTFA before you post these things?" Because I know it has always been this way and always Shall Be.

        But nowadays, the difference is, there are other places I c

    • The word "unacceptable" was used to describe an Apple product.
  • by GarfBond (565331) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:41PM (#26648647)
    Par for the course on Slashdot, but basically the entire basis of his gripe is the glossy screen, hence the complaint about viewing angles.

    Then there's this gem:

    It's important to remember that, even though the late-2008 MacBook Pro 15 inch doesn't keep up in either colour accuracy or viewing angle with laptops from IBM/Lenovo, its display is still quite good and still falls on the right side of the line of acceptable display quality for field use by a working photographer, at least in ambient light that discourages reflections.

    From earlier:

    Sum it up, and what you have is a very good 15.4 inch (diagonal), 1440 x 900 pixel screen. Good, that is, for a laptop. Its characteristics are very similar to the MacBook Pro 15 inch we wrote about in July 2007, and others we've set up since. The display has some colour quirks that put it one or two steps below a good desktop display, and it's important to maintain a consistent, front-and-centre viewing angle, but as with the previous generation of this Apple laptop, display quality is absolutely acceptable and usable for image assessment and simple Photoshop edits in the field, as long as you're aware of the display's particular blend of strengths and weaknesses.

    Basically, if you hate glossy screens, and it would appear these individuals do, the glossy can be a deal-breaker. Which anyone with half a brain could have told you without the trollish tone

    FWIW, the 17-inch MBP comes with a matte-screen option. Time will tell if such an option trickles back down to the 15".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

      Something to add is that the old glossy screens were less glossy than the new ones. They had a stronger optical multicoating that allowed a smooth surface not reflect as much as it would have without the coating.

    • by dfghjk (711126) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:08PM (#26648865)

      "FWIW, the 17-inch MBP comes with a matte-screen option. Time will tell if such an option trickles back down to the 15"."

      A popular apology being offered here and elsewhere but not true. The display option is described by Apple as an "optional antiglare display". It is not matte but a glossy screen with a coating applied and the bezel replaced with the older style aluminum one.

      • by beelsebob (529313) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:34AM (#26650953)

        A popular apology being offered here and elsewhere but not true. The display option is described by Apple as an "optional antiglare display". It is not matte but a glossy screen with a coating applied and the bezel replaced with the older style aluminum one.
        Except... that's all matte displays have ever been. That's why glossy displays have more accurate colour reproduction (while you can see them), and are brighter â"Âthey don't have a filter sat in front of them absorbing and scattering some of the light.

  • by jgtg32a (1173373)
    I was under the impression that anyone who cared this much used a CRT
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      no, I know of no one in the photo world (I'm including myself) who uses crt's anymore.

      GOOD lcd's (sips and often pmva) are very good and when calibrated, they are fully functional for photo work. pro photo work.

      5 yrs ago it was true. now, no one cares about crt anymore. they are ready to die. let them.

    • Nope, CRTs are dead (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @03:49AM (#26650457)

      Even if one wanted to use a CRT, it is very hard. You basically have to already own one. NEC, Sony, etc all have discontinued their high end CRT lines. To the extent you can buy a CRT anymore, it is a budget display. So the people using CRTs are those that haven't upgraded, not users buying new high end gear.

      Also LCDs have progressed to the point they can offer better color than even high end CRTs. The sRGB color gamut, often called "72% NTSC) is specified as it is because it matches the best most CRTs could do. That's why it became the "normal" gamut. It was what most CRTs were capable of. There were a few exceptions, NEC did have a 94% NTSC screen in the early 2000s, but it was over $4000. Not so popular.

      Well LCDs are easily exceeding that gamut these days. 92% NTSC LCDs are fairly common, and you can find higher than that.

      Now of course in addition to gamut, there's accuracy to worry about. True, typical TN panels are pretty bad. Goes double since all (or at least very nearly all) only have 6-bits per color channel. That means they've got to use some kind of dithering to do some of the finer color transitions. However those are just the cheap panels. There are better technologies out there. IPS, or rather it's later variants like H-IPS, would be what you want. It gives extremely accurate color, and a good viewing angle so color doesn't shift based on angle.

      So an LCD can easily do as good or better than even a high end CRT in terms of color. In terms of pretty much everything else, they blow it away. One big problem with CRTs was geometry. It took a lot of fiddling to get the display squared, and it would drift over time. So you ran in to problems of "Is this line that looks curved really straight?" Kind of a bitch for design work. No problems on LCDs. Even cheap ones have perfect geometry that needs no adjustment when you use DVI.

      Thus even the design world is LCDs now. They just use better ones. If you are interested, check out NEC's MultiSync 90 series. They are high quality IPS displays used by professionals. I've got one for my computer, though I'm not a graphics pro, because I like the quality of image. Only downside is you have to pay more for them. Quality isn't cheap. However it was the same in the CRT says. $150 might buy you a cheap monitor for office work, but you'd easily spend over $600 for a good pro screen.

      Same deal here. Acer will be pleased to sell you a 26" widescreen LCD for about $400. However, it'll be a cheap TN panel that doesn't have particularly good color. NEC wants more like $1100 for their 26" monitor, but it is a top notch image. Planar will actually sell you a monitor with a similar image (uses the same LCD panel, just different supporting hardware) for $800. Not quite as good as the NEC since it doesn't have as advanced hardware backing it up, but much better than the Acer.

      As with most things, you get what you pay for. If you've never got a high quality LCD, you've probalby not been willing to pay enough.

  • So true... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isaac (2852) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @10:44PM (#26648677)

    Apple is running away from the niche markets (like imaging) that sustained them through their dark days as fast as they can. The new unibody Macbooks (and the 24" ADC^H^H^HMini-DisplayPort external LCD) are slightly faster but in many ways less functional than the models they replaced. Glossy is a bug, not a feature.

    Meanwhile, HP and Dell are shipping laptops with RGB LED-backlit displays with 105% NTSC color gamut. Apple is slipping, badly, from this user's perspective.

    -Isaac

    • Re:So true... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by drmerope (771119) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:29PM (#26649017)

      Glossy is a bug, not a feature.

      Actually glossy is a superior technology for imaging hobbled by having only 8bits per color channel. Similar problems have arisen with wide-gamut displays. 8bit precision means fairly coarse steps between shades as the range of reproducible colors (gamut) increases. Glossy screens have better color gamut because environmental light contributes less "white pollution" because most sources are reflected away, not toward the viewer. Using a matte screen is more like looking through a layer of milk. Your mind's eye sees around the matte effect because of its uniformity across the screen, whereas residual reflections are distinctly localized in the glossy case.

      Now people doing press work actually cannot use the expanded gamut of the glossy screen--because paper is a limited medium. Therefore, given the bit-depths available, they prefer the more limited reproduction of a matte screen.

      To put this in perspective: The gold-standard for imaging is historically CRT technology which shares similar glossy properties.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ion.simon.c (1183967)

        The gold-standard for imaging is historically CRT technology which shares similar glossy properties.

        All but one of the CRTs that I own (I have about a dozen now) has a screen that's *significantly* less glossy than most (all?) of these glossy laptop screens. The rather reflective CRT is in storage, for when *all* of the other ones fail. (I don't want to see *ME* in the screen, I want to see the video behind my reflection!)

      • Re:So true... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by isaac (2852) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @03:13AM (#26650255)

        Actually glossy is a superior technology for imaging hobbled by having only 8bits per color channel. Similar problems have arisen with wide-gamut displays. 8bit precision means fairly coarse steps between shades as the range of reproducible colors (gamut) increases. Glossy screens have better color gamut because environmental light contributes less "white pollution" because most sources are reflected away, not toward the viewer. Using a matte screen is more like looking through a layer of milk. Your mind's eye sees around the matte effect because of its uniformity across the screen, whereas residual reflections are distinctly localized in the glossy case.

        Specious. Uniformity across the screen is more important to me than "white pollution" - not a term of art I've ever heard, but I know what you mean.

        The detailed reflections on a glossy screen are distracting and really slow me down when working with images in the field (i.e. real world laptop use.) In practice, even in a room with controlled lighting, I can still see my reflected face in the dark areas of images where I'd rather be seeing the image I'm working with.

        Gamut doesn't really enter into the glossy vs. matte debate. I only brought up the expanded gamut of the new LG laptop panels with RGB LED backlighting being shipped by Dell and HP as an example of how Apple is failing to deliver a truly premium product for the dollar ask of their latest line of so-called "pro" laptops.

        -Isaac

      • Re:So true... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:08AM (#26650813) Homepage Journal

        To put this in perspective: The gold-standard for imaging is historically CRT technology which shares similar glossy properties.

        *Very* historically. Then in the early 90's every CRT manufacturer started adding anti-glare coatings as standard on CRT's. Even an Eizo, Radius, et. al.

        Do you remember those horrendous Kensington Glare Guards everybody had taped/velcro'ed to their CRT's in the 80's so they could work under fluorescent lighting without getting migraines? Apple apparently doesn't (or they just said 'screw it' and went for the bling factor at Best Buy to improve their short-term bottom line).

        I see the secondary market is already coming up with various films to address the issue, but quality has to suffer; nothing is as good as factory-applied coatings.

        Somebody clever will start offering a mail-in service for people to get eyeglass-quality anti-glare coatings applied to their Macbooks. It's not going to be cheap as a retrofit, though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537)

      Glossy is a bug, not a feature.

      It's not quite that simple, but it's really more of a trade-off. Glossy displays really do allow for a slightly clearer/sharper image, since the light from the display isn't being scattered at much. And don't think that just because matte is scattering light that it's not reflecting light, or that ambient light can't mess with your colors on a matte screen. In some environments, a glossy screen can actually help to reduce the amount of ambient light reflected from the screen to your eyes.

  • Oh, who could have predicted such a thing?

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=995409&cid=25373917 [slashdot.org]
    http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=995409&cid=25375879 [slashdot.org]

    Glossy is annoying unless you've got perfect control over the lighting in your work environment. If you're using a laptop, chances are you don't some significant portion of the time.

    And that's before you even consider the actual color reproduction issues.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by macshit (157376)

      What's annoying is that the typical "matte" option is also crappy...

      I think the sort of "dully glossy" surface that seemed to be the default in the days before the stupid glossy/matte split, was much nicer than either.

  • TN panels (Score:5, Interesting)

    by postmortem (906676) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:01PM (#26648803) Journal

    Have bad angles and limited colors. They all suck, some more or less.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TFT_LCD#TN [wikipedia.org]

    And they are used in virtually all laptops.

    • Re:TN panels (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rezonat0r (409674) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:13PM (#26648893)

      Mod parent up (and the article down...)

      ALL laptop displays are "unacceptable" for serious graphics work, because they are all TN-type (TN is the thinnest).

      TFA even admits that the only recent laptop that had an IPS-type panel, a Lenovo, is discontinued.

      Rob should know by now that laptops are not for color critical work. This has been blindingly obvious for years.

      • Re:TN panels (Score:5, Insightful)

        by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75&yahoo,com> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @01:47AM (#26649847)

        Rob should know by now that laptops are not for color critical work. This has been blindingly obvious for years.

        That's not really the point.

        The point is a digital photographer has to take something with him/her on the road. So what do you take with you?

        Just throwing up your hands and saying "all these panels suck! don't accept any of them!" is not really helpful. Because that's equivalent to saying "you can't work outside the office". And clearly that is not at all true - you can work outside the office, with any laptop. The question is just which laptop works best for this kind of thing?

        Ever since I first started reading this site several years ago, there is always a certain group of people that take an absolute all or nothing kind of attitude, which just ends up being defeatist. Because it's not realistic. Nothing is perfect, and if you're going to expect it to be, then you're just not going to be able to work. That's reality.

        But people do work, including photographers, and they work just fine even with imperfect equipment. That doesn't mean they don't want the best equipment available, but it does mean most people in the real world are (surprise) realists, and they will use whatever they have to to get their work done.

        So yes, we should all be pressing manufacturers for better laptop displays. That doesn't mean displays that currently exist are "unacceptable" for photographic use. The vast majority of digital photos you've ever seen in any professional capacity, be it in a magazine, a newspaper, a book or a web site, were taken by a photographer walking around with both a camera and a laptop. Some of these were probably even viewed on laptops with (gasp) glossy screens. Most of them were no doubt viewed on laptops with TN screens.

        So to make this blanket statement that laptops are "not for color critical work" is just not a statement you can make. They may not be ideal, but then nothing ever is. Hell, the cameras photographers use aren't perfect either, they're always a series of compromises. Does that mean every camera in the world is "unacceptable" for taking photographs?

  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:01PM (#26648809)

    Just when wide gamut LCDs are approaching the range of colors once possible on CRTs, Apple has taken yet another step backwards with their new LED backlight displays.

    My LED MacBook has a spectacularly bad display, so I went to visit the local Apple store to see if this was typical. Sadly it is, and what's more, it looks like all of Apple's LED displays are vastly inferior to that of my old iMac G5. (which has an S-IPS panel and conventional fluorescent backlight)

    Color wise, the LED MacBook Pro and Cinema Display are better than the MacBook, but they are all shamefully bad, and definitely worthy of a "worst in the industry" rating. (at least color-wise)

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:23PM (#26648959)

    This is what I've found. The casual user that buys a MacBook* for general computer use love the glossy screen. They think it looks sharper, brighter, and clearer. And they maybe right. But anyone that is using a MacBook* for professional use, programming or photo/video, hates glossy screens myself included. It's the secondary reason I keep holding onto this 12.1 PowerBook. (Primary reason being it's 12.1" and fits perfectly on an airplane tray table, even on Southwest's economy class).

    Maybe MacMall has a left over 15" from the previous model that still has a matte screen.

  • by fbhua (782392) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @11:37PM (#26649059)

    If any of you are looking for laptops for serious color accurate work then you might be interested in this article:

    http://www.markzware.com/blogs/top-5-laptops-for-displaying-color-gamut/2008/10/14/ [markzware.com]

    As someone said before, it's a niche market. Color accurate work is usually done in a S-IPS / S-PVA panel based display which has been professionally calibrated using a hardware colormeter. If money is no concern, check it the top of the line products by Eizo or the HP Dreamcolor series. At the bottom end (but still quite decent) is the HP LP2475w. However, you'll have to add a hardware colormeter to your budget.

  • Perspective. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fishbowl (7759) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @01:25AM (#26649721)

    Whenever anyone complains about the state of the art for either audio or photography applications, my eyes glaze over. I would ask Rob if he would like to return to his Beseler, dialing in filters, or even, sandwiching filters. But then, I doubt he is old enough to remember the bad old days of sheet filters, and the good old days of Beseler heads. On the other hand I honestly believe I miss Kodachrome. Put in the proper perspective, matte display, glossy display, 16 bit audio, 24 bit audio, get real. It's a tempest in a teapot.

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