News: Are Two Bits a Big Deal?

Posted on May 21, 2007

The web has been buzzing about the newest lawsuit against Apple—apparently the MacBook and MacBook Pro displays are only capable of displaying 6-bits per pixel, rather than 8-bits on almost every other display out there. What does this mean?

Well, it means Apple is being hit with a lawsuit stating that the company made “false claims” about the displays. In marketing documents, Apple said its displays offer “millions of colors” and offer views “simply unavailable on other portables.” Because of this, according to AppleInsider, a suit was filed:

“Specifically, they charge that the Cupertino-based company’s MacBook and MacBook Pro notebook 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.”

Citations in the suit imply that the Apple notebooks may employ sub-par displays only capable of 6 bits per channel (18-bit color), rather than 8 bits per channel, making them capable of displaying only 262,144 colors without dithering, as opposed to millions. That would explain why within weeks of purchase, a flood of customers reported that their MacBook and MacBook Pro displays appeared “grainy” or “sparkly,” according to the complaint.”

Supposedly, Apple ignored complaints, deleted message board threads, and otherwise did nothing to remedy the situation. For most, we don’t think this is very noticeable, however (I’ve used MacBooks and hadn’t noticed), but it can be critical for creative professionals who actually need mobile color accuracy. In that case, they can always use external displays that are actually designed for accurate color reproduction. If this is only happening on MacBook and MacBook Pros, perhaps this is just another reason to hang on to that iBook or PowerBook G4.

As many have pointed out, this seems to be standard across the board with PC laptops and even previous Apple models. If that is the case, then it shouldn’t be cause for concern, especially since Apple did not say how their displays are better.

This post has been filed in News