August 20th, 2007
My sorted story begins last weekend buying a new 20″ iMac to replace my aging iMac G5. I didn’t need the extra 4″ of screen real estate so the 20″ was my ticket. I was a little worried about the initial reports online about the 20″ display having color issues, so I went to the Apple Store and looked at both the 20″ and 24″ side by side. It was hard to get a good feel for them in the store, but it was clear the 24″ was by far the nicer display, but I thought the 20″ would be adequate so I happily walked out with one.
I got it home and right way I had concerns. I use a 23″ Cinema Display at work so I know what a good display is supposed to look like. I noticed immediately the iMac display was very washed out at the bottom, so much so the gray Finder window almost appeared white. I calibrated the display which increased the contrast and darkened it a bit but the bottom of the display was still washing out. To make matters worse, the top of the display was too dark. So the top was too dark and the bottom was too light. It basically looked like everything on the screen had a gradient fill. I created a sample solid color image and opened it full screen and it was obvious the display was not constant top to bottom.
The long and short of it is I returned it to the Apple Store and the Genius agreed the display had issues. He took my test file to the other 20″ iMacs around the store and they too had the color consistency problems. He thought I wouldn’t be happy with another 20″ so I ended up bumping up to the 24″ iMac just for the decent display.
Apple has apparently switched to the cheap TN LCD panel type for the 20″ iMacs (which are also used in virtually all cheap PC displays) but are still using the better IPS panel type in the 24″. The TN panel has very fast refresh rates, but the color and consistency lack compared to all other LCD types. Historically Apple has used IPS and PVA/MVA panels in all their displays from the iMac to the Cinema Displays (excluding the old 17″ iMac which also uses a TN display and looks bad). However, someone decided to go cheap on the new 20″ iMacs and it shows. On the one hand, Apple wants to position the iMac as a high end consumer machine, but then turns around and puts cheaper parts in it. I don’t get it.
This ultimately brings me back to wanting a Mac Mini tower so I can use any display I want with it. If Apple is going to use cheap components in their computers, I want the choice of not using it. With the iMac, it’s all or nothing. The Mac Mini is still too limited and overpriced (a 2.5″ drive with both RAM slots filled and a Max of 2 Ghz CPU). Which leaves the tower starting at a whopping $2499 which is simply unaffordable for a home machine.
The 24″ iMac is a relatively good deal for what you get and I’ll be happy with it. But I’d really like some more choice when it comes to Apple’s current consumer/prosumer offerings; especially if this decline in quality is what we can look forward to from Apple.
# posted at 8:34 pm by Will