Apple Sued: New 20" iMac Screens Display 260k Colors, Not Millions

Anyone who has been on the receiving end of an Apple ad campaign in the past 10 years knows that they tend to play fast and loose with the truth in their ad copy. Their towers are the fastest, their laptop is the thinnest, their phone is the most advanced. With so many unchecked exaggerations, Apple sometimes comes across as the consumer electronics version of Donald Trump, augmented by killer industrial and UI designers. Now a law firm in California has filed a class-action suit against the company for misrepresenting its new 20-inch iMac models as being capable of producing millions of colors, when in fact they use a substandard el-cheapo screen that is nowhere near as capable as what’s in the 24-inch models.

From the law firm’s press release:

Apple told consumers that both the 20-inch and 24-inch iMacs displayed “millions of colors at all resolutions.” Indeed, the new 24-inch iMacs display 16,777,216 colors on 8-bit, in-plane switching (IPS) screens, as did the previous generation of 20-inch iMacs. But the new 20-inch iMac monitors do not even come close, displaying 98% fewer colors (262,144).
While Apple describes the display of both the 24-inch and 20-inch iMacs as though they were interchangeable, the monitors in each are of radically different technology. The 20-inch iMacs feature 6-bit twisted nematic film (TN) LCD screens, the least expensive of its type.
The 20-inch iMac’s TN screens have a narrower viewing angle, less color depth, less color accuracy and are more susceptible to washout across the screen.
Apple’s Web site tells consumers that “No matter what you like to do on your computer — watch movies, edit photos, play games, even just view a screen saver — it’s going to look stunning on an iMac.”
In fact, the inferior technology of the 20-inch iMac is particularly ill-suited to editing photographs because of the display’s limited color potential and the distorting effect of the color simulation processes.

“Apple sued over ‘inferior’ iMac screens” [InfoWorld]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Who in their right mind would create a monitor that’s obsolete by about… 15~25 years?
    I really wonder how such a product got onto the shelves… someone should be fired for this mistake. The current stock should be scrapped.

  2. Rask says:

    Anyone who takes Apple to task on even a fraction of the bullshit this company feeds the public is all right by me.

  3. Is this a different case that was dismissed because they didn’t have enough people to make it a class action?

  4. heyguy says:

    Yes, this is a different case. The other one was for MacBook LCDs and was settled out of court (it was not dismissed).

    The type of panel used in the 20″ imac is the same as the majority of LCDs on the market. I wouldn’t ever buy one, but most people don’t see a difference/care.

  5. uberbucket says:

    Everyone knew the Aluminum 20″ had a TN panel, this was in no way a secret. There was a huge stink over this before the computers where even in user hands and many warnings to avoid the 20″ Aluminum if you cared about image quality.

  6. I have a 20″ imac and I can’t tell the difference. I also drink wine out of a box and beer out of a can.

  7. Spinfusor says:

    But the MacBook Air is the thinnest laptop.

    It’s a fact, not an “unchecked exaggeration.”

  8. Riddar says:

    @uberbucket: That is, the people who read forums for disgruntled users knew. People who went by the word of say, the product info page were less well-informed.

  9. IrisMR says:

    That’s odd. That’s such a retrograde move… Why reduce the colors so badly?

  10. acknight says:

    TN panels, whether right or wrong, are industry-wide referred to as capable of displaying 16.2 Million colors – through whatever fancy name each manufacturer calls their dithering. Shoot, Dell even calls some of their 6-bit TN panels HD panels – confusing it even further.

    No display _actually_ shows millions of colors without some form of trickery on the eye – be it dithering or something else. Are they lower quality panels than the previous gen? Sure. But it’s not playing fast and loose to use the terminology used throughout the industry.

  11. Chris Walters says:

    @Spinfusor: Check out this post for examples of thinner laptops from the past 10 years.


    Apple can claim thinnest on the market right now, that’s all. A lie? No. An exaggeration. And the general public assumes it’s true because Apple continues to make the claim—hence, “unchecked.”

  12. endersshadow says:

    Gasp! Apple has done no wrong! How dare you even suggest that they do something unethical! (/sarcasm)

    Thanks for bringing this story out. I saw it on /., but it’s good to get it out to the non-technical audience as well, as it’s important. Reminds me of the time Apple almost kicked me out of their HQ for asking an IR person if they were going to spend more on security. “There is no problem here, move along.”

  13. Hambriq says:



  14. FLConsumer says:

    @Chris Walters: I believe the Asus eee laptop is thinner. At the very least, Lenovo’s X300 laptop IS thinner and is a full laptop and is a production model. Most of the Macbook air’s “thin” look is due to some good eye-fooling design with the way they rounded the edges. It’s thin and looks good, but it’s definitely not the thinnest.

    Oh shit, here come the Apple fanboys… Go iWank your iPuds somewhere else.

  15. gamin says:

    @Rask: Im with you 100%

  16. iqag says:

    @超外人: Obsolete by 15-25 years? Try to recall what types of display were common in 1993. Then try to remember 1983, when the Apple IIe was introduced.

  17. zomgorly says:

    Apple just got out of the 6bit LCD lawsuit for the Macbook. I guess those guys should have spoke with this law firm.

  18. backbroken says:

    Yeah, but you’ll never get a virus on this monitor because its an Apple. [/sarcasm]

  19. spyz88 says:

    Well I am a bigger Apple fanboy then anyone but I had purchased one of these 20″ inch Aluminum iMacs and I am sure P.O’d that Apple screwed us over like this. I’m not looking for any money but I really do think they should do something about this.

  20. Spinfusor says:

    @Chris Walters: The MacBook Air goes from .16 to .76 inches thick. The X300 goes from .73 to .92. How is the X300 thinner?

    The EEE PC is also thicker than the Air. I couldn’t find thickest/thinnest measurements, but this picture, even when you don’t count the feet, shows that the EEE is thicker.

    When did Apple claim to have the thinnest laptop ever? It never did, nor did I claim it did in my earlier comment.

  21. Spinfusor says:

    @Spinfusor: Sorry, the first two paragraphs were for FLConsumer, and the last one was for Chris Walters. And I didn’t even do the tag properly…

  22. Riddar says:

    @Spinfusor: “When did Apple claim to have the thinnest laptop ever? It never did, nor did I claim it did in my earlier comment.”

    The MacBook Air, Apple’s latest Intel-based laptop, is the lightest, thinnest laptop Apple has ever constructed, and according to Apple, it’s the thinnest laptop ever made.


    “We’ve built the world’s thinnest notebook-without sacrificing a full-size keyboard or a full-size 13-inch display,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.


    It of course is not the thinnest laptop ever made, but they did say it was at the time.

  23. Spinfusor says:

    @Riddar: Thank you for correcting me.
    (I probably should have looked at some articles on the MacBook Air’s release before I said “it never did.” It should have been, “I don’t remember it doing.”)

  24. deserthiker says:

    Apple gets sued all the time. Ho Hum. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact they have $18 Billion in cash.

    Of course, i don’t have a new iMac so I really don’t care.

  25. uberbucket says:

    @Riddar: Next thing you’ll tell me that Apple’s claim of having the very first 64-bit desktops was also false.


  26. Riddar says:

    @uberbucket: …?

  27. belltolls says:

    But they are the most creative 260k colors IN THE WORLD!.

  28. Darkwish says:

    Uh-oh! Some people said something bad about a macintrash product! Beware of the Apple fanbois!!!

  29. Darkwish says:

    @Darkwish: And you all know that if this happened with a non-Apple product, the Apple freaks would be all over it saying how superior Apple products are to everything else.

  30. senor_tron says:

    I’m an apple fan-boy i guess. But i am with a strong measure of cynicism. As a professional user I understand and scrutinize machine specs before i make a purchase. I use a Mac simply because in my experience, i can spend more time doing actual work than keeping my computer running smoothly. The general public, especially the demographic targeted by the imac/consumer apple products is probably more enamored with the easy to use software (ilife stuff) and would probably be easily duped into purchasing on that point alone. I do think it’s shameful that Apple would start skimping on hardware components while maintaining relatively high price tags…especially for machines that come ridiculously underpowered (RAM – go to an apple store and check installed ram – for appearance – vs. included ram) Apple is an innovative company, perhaps more so in marketing than in real innovation.

  31. pestie says:

    Ha ha! Apple is teh suck!

    Seriously, how much longer can this company get by on the momentum it built up in the desktop publishing industry in the 80’s? It’s got to run out sooner or later, right?

  32. ehrgeiz says:

    Apple makes nothing more the glorified PCs anymore, the hardware is not different then anything else out there. All you pay for is the OS and the shiny laptop/desktop, and the elitist attitude that comes with it.

  33. @senor_tron: Agreed. I’m in the same boat you are. As an Apple fan (obviously), I’m ashamed of their hardware slips here lately. It’s a shame, too, because the 20″ iMac was going to be my model. But not now, not unless they add some colors.

    RE: the “/sarcasm tag,” thanks everyone for letting us know. Now if only we could get a “/I’m-not-a-polite-commentor” tag…

  34. cronick says:

    They forgot to take into account the enhancement feature that comes from touching Apple products. See Link:


  35. Onouris says:

    That’s pretty terrible even for apple. Which of their genius workers thought hey, lets just reduce the colours by 98%. Then! Lets lie about it! Hahaha they’ll never know!

  36. Trai_Dep says:

    So if no current monitors are capable of “true” millions w/o software tweaks, and many other vendors also uses the same tech as the 20″ iMacs, does anyone out here have comparisons or results from testing labs? Is it something noticeable or only something that you’d need a spectrometer to guage?

    @Chris Walters: Umm, someone coming out with a notebook using a chip unheard of (thus unusable to most apps/OSs?) doesn’t count as a notebook in the sense that consumers would recognize. A Transmeta chip? On a laptop that came out w/in the past five years? C’mon – it’s a footnote in an archaic engineering blog. I’ll kindly leave the other specs out of your example to avoid further embarrassment. Looking at the choices from PC vendors, MacBook Air IS crazy-thin. And fully functional. And waaay sleek.

    @ehrgeiz: Neither does Dell, Gateway, Lenovo… Have to break the news to you: they don’t fab their own chips either. Your expectations for what a computer mfr does is out of date by, oh, thirty years. But stay happy with your ugly, virus-ridden, quasi-functional computer out of the box!

  37. StevenBandyk says:

    The Mac Towers were the fastest Desktops also. Apple had exclusive access to Intel Dual core 3GHz chips for at least several months.
    I was very surprised how long Intel held out on a broad release.

    So.. for quite some time, Apple was the only vendor in the world with a 2 x Core2 Dual desktop at 3GHz.

    As a side.. PC Mag benched the MacBook Pros and noted that they ran Vista faster than major maker “PC” laptops with the same processors. :-P

    I’m always confused at how much some Windows users absolutely hate Apple, never having used one. My brother is one of them.

  38. Trai_Dep says:

    @Riddar: Note Jobs used present tense, and it’s accurate for all current mainstream (read: fully functional) models on the market when he spoke.

    Look, it’s a specialized beast. Not for everyone. You want a clunker, well, this is America. Have at it!

  39. Dude27 says:

    For me, the screen is the leastest problem of Apple laptop products: at Apple prices, videocards included in their laptop are a total SHAME !

    You should expect MUCH MORE than the rotten Intel x3100 for the macbooks and AIR and the 8600 GT is just BARELY acceptable for the Macbook Pro…

  40. StevenBandyk says:

    You realize the Macbook Pro is a professional, not a gaming, laptop.

    It’s meant to run Office, compile code…
    It’s not a professional CAD station,
    it’s not a gaming rig.

    BTW, my 2 year old MBP runs WoW just fine, even in OS X 10.4. 10.5 has multi-threaded OpenGL.

    I can’t speak to the latest models but my model has had persistent problems with the firmware and Sleep-mode. Nothing that’s a show stopper but annoying (I dock to a monitor every day).

    It’s hilarious that, for all their pissing and moaning, Mac-haters don’t use them so they have no idea what the REAL problems are. Here’s what I see [running an IT shop].

    – White G4 iMacs have a high failure rate.. generally bad Caps [same as Dell] and frayed wiring.
    – MacBook Pros (early iterations at least) have crappy batteries. Their life is pretty short. Within a year you tend to see a noticeable decrease in battery capacity. I got my 2nd battery last month and I would have got one a year ago if I spent more time away from a plug.
    – Early G5 towers had quite a bit of problems with the thermal sensors

    I’m actually struggling to think of any pervasive problems though I’m sure there have been some more.

    In general I think their QC has gone down significantly since their marketshare has skyrocketed. Before the PC guys whine, doubling US market share of new sales in the past few years is rocketing. Rumors are Apple may post ~13% of US sales in Q1 08. They were 3.6% not all that long ago.

    In the old days, Macs would run forever. I have a Mac II at the other end of my building running a Mass Spectrometer. It’s got a 5.25″ 80 MegaByte [not GB] hard drive which I need to updgrade. In the old days, we very rarely had a broken Mac, almost never in fact. On average we would pull them after 5 or so years when they became obsolete. I’ve got plenty around that are at pre-2000.

  41. Dude27 says:


    First, I’m not a Mac-Hater because I use two at home (one Powerbook Titanium and one Imac 20″ white)…

    and second, yes, I’m well aware of the other problems : poor DVDrom drives, overheating Hard Drive, Laptop keyboard too fragile, or bad mighty mouse concept (good at first but too fragile: the mini trackball fails on the long run !) etc…

    But yes, At equal price with a PC laptop, you GET MUCH MORE with a PC in term of power and usability… with Mac, the many extra bucks you pay are just for the hyped brand !

  42. uberbucket says:

    T’was a joke. There was a marketing campaign where Apple claimed to have the very first 64-bit desktops, which is patently false.

  43. @Spinfusor: is one of the thinnest laptops, not the thinnest.

    Anyways I’m not surprised at this false advertising of apple. Their products are inferior so they feel they need to advertise it as being better than it really is.

  44. Vulpine says:

    Honestly, I’m confused. I have owned two different iMac models and haven’t had an issue with either one not related to aging outside of the early video card driver issues with my current iMac 24″ Extreme model.

    That said, I’ve been using my 24″ iMac since its introduction back in Aug ’07 and find the display to be the brightest I’ve ever used with the sharpest focus of any, including CRTs. I have visually compared the images of the 20″ and 24″ iMacs side-by-side in the Apple Store as well as in places like Best Buy and cannot see any difference whatsoever.

    Maybe what this lawsuit contends is legitimate; I don’t know. But if there is no visible difference between the two LCD types, why should they even care? This sounds to me like an attempt by someone to discredit Apple and drive them out of business. If it is legitimate, then the lawsuit should name EVERY manufacturer who makes this kind of claim on an inferior product, not single out one over the others.

    Again, if the difference is unnoticeable, why is anyone squawking?

  45. nequam says:

    @The Marionette: More thoughtful specifics from an Apple hater. What problems have you had with a Mac?

  46. nequam says:

    @StevenBandyk: Your brother is a great example of the following phenomena: 90% of Windows users have never used a Mac, whereas 90% of Mac users have to use Windows at work every day. IMO this puts MAc users in a better position to compare the two.

  47. Riddar says:

    @uberbucket: Ah! Sorry, must get morning coffee before claiming to misunderstand posts next time.

  48. Xkeeper says:

    @Trai_Dep: Wow, you’re an Apple fanboy to a degree that I don’t think I’ve seen before.

    But hey, if you want your generic computer that looks exactly like every single other one out there that’s designed to fall apart/explode/stop working/need replaced in 3 years just for the “ooh, shiny!” OS, then by all means.

    For the record, none of the other (Windows-based) PCs I’ve ever operated have been “virus-laden” or “quasi-functional” — they’ve all worked, right out of the box, and for several years afterwards.

    Even most other computers I have to take a look at have something wrong that wasn’t directly related to Windows’s fault, either. But okay!

  49. Trai_Dep says:

    @Xkeeper: (cough) Vista. (cough)

  50. nequam says:

    @Xkeeper: Consumers Union would tend to differ with you greatly on your comment “that [Apple hardware is] designed to fall apart/explode/stop working/need replaced in 3 years just for the ‘ooh, shiny!’ OS” based on the fact that they consistently rank Mac well at the top of its reliability tests. I mean, it’s no contest.

    Plus, if you compare the rate of user adoption of new Mac OS versions with the rate of Mac hardware turnover (existing Mac users upgrading to a new machine) you’ll discover that that vast majority of users are upgrading their existing machine with the new OS without difficulty. On the other side — “Vista Capable,” anybody?

  51. Badgz0r says:

    Guys. Relax. It’s a fucking computer.

    Mac is fantastic for graphic and web design. PCs are phenomenal for enthusiasts and gamers.

    The only quirk about Macs is that the most vocal minority of their users all approach the ‘Mac Vs. PC Debate’ with a hugely elitist attitude.

    Then again, there are many among the PC users who talk trash to anyone and everyone on the basis of something as simple as typing ability or the ability to click faster. Same shit, different packaging.

  52. mariospants says:

    I don’t understand it: I show my wife an mp3 player with built-in voice recorder, greater a/v format support, more memory, fm receiver and costs $60 less than the comparable ipod but she STILL insists on buying the ipod. Yeah the generic was uglier but FUCK. If she ever bought a PC like this home I’d take away her credit card.

  53. mariospants says:

    Just checked []

    and lo and behold:

    Built-in 20-inch (viewable) or 24-inch (viewable) glossy widescreen TFT active-matrix liquid crystal display
    20-inch: 1680 by 1050 pixels
    24-inch: 1920 by 1200 pixels
    Millions of colors at all resolutions


  54. LUV2CattleCall says:

    [quote] *
    I don’t understand it: I show my wife an mp3 player with built-in voice recorder, greater a/v format support, more memory, fm receiver and costs $60 less than the comparable ipod but she STILL insists on buying the ipod. Yeah the generic was uglier but FUCK. If she ever bought a PC like this home I’d take away her credit card.



  55. ehrgeiz says:

    @Trai_Dep: “Neither does Dell, Gateway, Lenovo… Have to break the news to you: they don’t fab their own chips either. Your expectations for what a computer mfr does is out of date by, oh, thirty years. But stay happy with your ugly, virus-ridden, quasi-functional computer out of the box! “

    You know what I will enjoy, a fully functional computer out of the box and the 500-1000+ dollars I saved by not buying a shiny PC with a mac OS on it.

    Let me just state this again since you didn’t understand what I said, a mac is a nothing more the a dell/gateway/lenovo with a mac OS on it the guts of the mechine are no different then a PC. You are paying a huge mark up for NOTHING but a operating and a look.

    Looks like you are using that elitist attitude to the fullest! Good for you.

  56. Trai_Dep says:

    @ehrgeiz: You sound a lot like a (cough) small-statured (cough) man loudly proclaiming that a guy with a pinkie-sized appendage can satisfy a woman just as much as someone who’s normally-endowed.
    Work on that (or work on both), won’t you?

    PS: hate to be “elitist”, but “mechine” is spelled, machine, btw.

  57. Sanctus1765 says:

    Hey folks, nice discussion. For the record, I am neither a PC or Mac fanboy and I use both platforms at home and at work. I have used or purchased every iteration of Apple Computers since the first Apple PC and they’ve all had their pluses and minuses. I have also supported and repaired Apples and Macs since they’ve been around and, contrary to popular myth, Macs are just as likely to suffer various problems as their sisters, the PCs. It is true that there are not as many viruses written that effect Macs, but there are some good ones out there. The differences between the two platforms today are decreasing, as several posters here have alluded to. The bottom line is that if you have a specific application in mind that you are using such as Photoshop, Quark or Illustrator and you know how to use it on the Mac, you should get a Mac. The major drawbacks of the Mac platform are a paucity of third party software (though things are getting better), the cost vs. overall performance(always higher pound for pound), the cost of add ons and peripherals, (just do search for a beefy video card for the Mac and then search for its PC sister) and the cost of repair should your problem occur out of warranty. Fortunately for myself, I am able to do almost all repairs with no assistance although this is hampered by the difficulty of obtaining Mac replacement parts at a reasonable price. The Apple store in front of my office (5th and 59th) is a complete nightmare with a two-day waiting list for assistance! Macs are great, I love them and use them for many things, but they are not this superior creation that exists in Apple’s slick marketing fantasies. I look forward to the day when it is as easy to obtain parts for a Mac as it is for a PC and I can build my own just like I do all my PCs. For the record, none of my PCs or my Macs have any viruses, nor any stability problems which are not directly related to my own use or my own tinkering. Be well folks, and play nice!


  58. Chris Walters says:

    I write my anti-Mac posts on an iBook. I guess I’m just a contrarian.

    I was going to buy an iMac 20″ later this year, but now am seriously considering going the Hackintosh route via Lifehacker, just so I can source my own parts and control what hardware goes into my computer.

  59. fishiftstick says:

    Apple is like Esperanto–logically a better interface, just not the one 95% of the world uses. The technically superior product isn’t always what wins in the market.

  60. bmwloco says:

    20 inch Imac on my desk at work. Millions of colors. Windows XP runs rock solid on it with Parallels. Linux too.

    I don’t need any stinking beige box. My Mac does it all.