Uneven iMac Displays

Test your aluminum iMac if it has a good or bad display


Added 2008-4-1: Apple being sued over iMac display quality!
“Dazzling displays: Your photos, movies, and games will come to life in rich, vivid color thanks to the new glossy widescreen display on every iMac. …delivering greater performance for everything from enhancing photos to playing games and more.”

This is how Apple describes the displays in the new aluminum iMac. But there seems to be a vast difference between the marketing promises and reality. Users affected by bad iMac displays report their experiences as follows (these are just a few excerpts out of dozens of statements in Apple’s own discussion forum):

“I’m a PC-to-Mac switcher and purchased a 24” imac about a month ago and returned it for a full-refund due to the obvious gradient.”

“I’m writing this as someone that is now on their fourth (!!!) iMac. [..] At first I thought it was great, and then I started going nuts because I could of sworn the left side of my screen was a different brightness and color than the middle and right side of my screen.”

I bought my new iMac 2.8 GHz 4 gig Ram, which I got running today […] and saw the obvious issue which has plagued so many machines of my type as well as the 20” ones written about in this forum.”

“I got a replacement for my 24inch also, and it is even worse than the first one, a bigger gradient and a lot of yellow at all corners… So this one is going back also… Big disappointment.”

“I just picked up the new 20” iMac today, to replace my old Core Duo 20” iMac, and when I got everything booted and got to the Desktop I noticed the icons appeared to be faded. I did a side by side comparison with my old iMac and the icons on my old iMac were very Bright in color compared to my new iMac.”

“Same thing with me; bottom of the display seemed washed out; icons in Dock were washed out; could not even hardly see the TextEdit icon in the Dock!”

“I went to the Apple store on Regent Street tonight, to return my silver imac 20” because of colour fading (darker at top of monitor). While I was there I ran a test on 3 of the 20” imacs and got the same result. The Apple guy agreed. This is in no way conclusive, but the 3 20” Imacs on display downstairs at RS and my own had the same problem.”

“I’m truely dissapointed in Apple! After reading the posts about the screen problems i decided to do some research in some local apple dealers. After being in 4 shops i came to the conclusion that the gradient issue is on all 24” models, including brown shades (first i thought it was fingerprints but then after taking a closer look it turned out to be in the screen!!!) The 20” panels are of a horrible quality, only if you sit straight in front it’s oke,as soon as you change the angle of view colors cha nge.”

“My 24” 2.8 Ghz iMac has a very noticeable vertical gradient on the display, where the left third side of the screen is much brighter than the remaining right side.”

The test

Use the test on this page to see if your aluminum iMac display suffers from the same “washed-out” or gradient problem that has been reported in several Apple related discussion forums. Many users report a disturbing, vertical gradient in the 20” iMac display and a horizontal gradient and a yellowish tint in the 24” display. There’s also substantial backlight-bleeding in both models. The backlight-bleeding problem is only visible in dark background situations, i.e. while watching a DVD movie with dark scenes (which probably every movie has).

To spot the iMac’s uneven display lighting in a store with overhead lighting and lots of reflecting lights in the glossy panel may be near to impossible if you don’t know where/what to look at. Backlight bleeding is even harder to see in store conditions.

On a bad 20” display the top will look darker than the bottom of the display as shown in the images below:
Uneven 20″ iMac Display

Uneven 20″ iMac Display

See here for more 20″ iMac photos with explanation.

A bad 24” display usually has a brighter left side and sometimes has a yellowish tint in all corners (the display on the image below doesn’t have the latter problem):

Uneven 24″ iMac Display

Select the type of iMac you’re currently looking at:

  • I have a 20″ aluminum iMac
  • I have a 24″ aluminum iMac

A new tab or window will open. Make the browser window as large as possible and compare the two grey areas. If those grey areas and the white text in those areas look identically bright to you – congratulations, you just may look at an aluminum iMac with a good display! If one area is brighter than the other or the white text is not as visible/bright as on the other side something may be wrong with your display. Please call Apple for assistance.

Some pictures on this page were taken without permission. Thanks go out to silvermac and Peter Mars, I hope you don’t mind :-)

10 replies on “Uneven iMac Displays”

  1. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with the uneven 24 inch Imac. I bought my machine 2 years ago and it has had 3 new screens, 1 new logic board and a new superdrive. It’s back to the service repairer again because the screen quality is not the same as when I originally received it. Today i was on the phone to Apple for nearly 2 hours with my issue (10 mins was actual customer relations time, the rest was listening to the apple music store!). Still no joy, still no computer.

  2. I have a 2009 model 24″ iMac 3.06GHz. There was a slight yellow tone, but that mostly went away when I calibrated the display. However, the backlight is uneven as shown in this photo I took:


    Be sure to read my comments under that photo.

    I also made a posting on Macintouch about this, and others who later commented seem to agree that the backlight even on the 2009 models is not consistent from edge to edge:


  3. I always thought that Apple stuff is overpriced. Now when I have bought one 24″ Imac aluminium I am convinced they are very overpriced. That infamous LCDs are from Samsung, and if you return display to Apple they will just send it back to Samsung without any cost for Apple. So why should they bother to make better displays? Samsung has problem not Apple, thay will just continue selling this crappy computer.

  4. Pingback: Refurbished 24″ iMac #1
  5. I’m waiting for my 5th iMac 24″ model now!
    All the units i have had have had bleed in one are or another. The 2 units made in the Czech republic on week 14 production did not exhibit the right to left brightness issue though. Both the week 5 China units I have had exhibited this isseu and worse bleed than the Czech units. I think if you have a W at the beginning of your serial number indicating a China build its the kiss of death for an even close to acceptable screen. I have posted about this issue on apples own site and Mcrumors forum…..lots of bad apples out there it would seem.

  6. Recently bought a 20″ Alu iMac for myself. I’m noticing the same issue; darker at top, lighter at bottom. From what I’ve read, it looks like the 24″ has a better screen in general and have less issues. The iMac is the only suitable product for me, so I’m going to have to see if I can exchange this one. Only problem is, I purchased through a buy now pay later offer, so I think Im stuck in a contract with this iMac! :-(

  7. I bought a new white 24″ iMac at the end of the year. It has the same problem as new aluminium iMac. Apple is going to replace the display.

  8. Why have none of the magazine reviews picked up on this and chased Apple about it.

    I too have the same problem on my 20″imac. 90% of us use a mac for Graphics/Photography – we need a decent display! Although the imac is not the top of the range it’s still considerably more expensive than a decent Dell with a fantastic 20″ display.

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