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Feedback on (mid-2007) 20in iMac Displays
Reports last Updated: 8/14/2007



This page is a catch-all for reader comments on the new iMac 20in displays, which some have complained had narrow viewing angles and washed-out color. (For the latter a custom display profile will help, but the viewing angle is limited by the LCD panel design.) The Aug. 8th news page (mirrored below) has copies of the Display specs from Apple on the new vs previous iMac models. The New iMac 20in model has 10° less Vert/Horiz viewing angle than the previous 20in. The 24in specs list 18° wider viewing angle than the new 20in. (However from some of the comments I wonder if those 20in panel samples even meet apple's 160° spec.) See below for info on new vs 2006 iMac 20in and 24in displays, 20in LG/Philips LCD panel p/n (from a 20in sample taken apart), notes on display calibration and more.

LCD Display Specs Comparison Mid-2007 vs late 2006 iMacs: (for those that missed it earlier this week when the issue first came up)
The new mid-2007 iMac Specs page shows the current 20in has slightly less viewing angle than the current 24in model and 10° less than the "late-2006" 20in iMac specs.

    Typical viewing angle
  • New 20-inch models - 160° horizontal, 160° vertical
  • Late-2006 iMac 20in - 170° horizontal, 170° vertical
  • New 24-inch model - 178° horizontal, 178° vertical
  • Late-2006 iMac 24in - 178° horizontal, 178° vertical

    Typical brightness:
  • New iMacs: 290 nits (20-inch models); 380 nits (24-inch model)
  • Late 2006 iMacs: 280 cd/m (20-inch model); 400 cd/m (24-inch model)

    Typical contrast ratio:
  • New iMacs: 800:1 (20-inch models); 750:1 (24-inch model)
  • Late 2006 iMacs: 800:1 (20-inch model); 700:1 (24-inch model)

The UK Apple site iMac specs page earlier this week had 170° for the 20in but has now been changed to match the USA site (160°).

20in iMac (new model) Display Comments/Notes/Specs (later reports first)

(8/14/2007)
Hi Mike, To add to the growing concern about the screen quality on the new 20" iMacs. I'm a designer and bought a 20" iMac on Friday. When I got it home I noticed the screen was darker at the top, fading to a lighter tint of that colour at the bottom. You can check this using a block of single colour filling the screen. As this was useless to design on I phoned Applecare to be told it was a fault (monitor calibration doesn't correct the fault) and to return it.
Before returning to the store I set up a quick test and ran this on the three 20" machines on the ground floor of the Regents Street store and they all produced the same fading result. The two 24" machines were absolutely fine. This is by no means conclusive, but if this is a universal problem (the Apple forums seem to suggest this is happening a lot and not just in London), for designers at least, these machines will be unusable as colour isn't remotely consistent from top to bottom.
With regards, Alex
London UK"

Could this be due to a difference in the assembly of the blacklight (variation in position/spacing ) or uneven pressure on the backlight/display? Regardless I'd personally choose the 24in model (larger screen, better viewing angle) instead of the 20in if your budget allows. (I've added Alex's comments to the previous page on new iMac 20in Displays which has notes/tips on display profiles to correct washed-out color, and notes/specs on new vs old/20in vs 24in viewing angles, etc.)

Update - a reader w/24in model wrote he's seeing the same variation (darker top/brighter bottom area)

"Hey Mike, Just wanted to let you know I received my 24" iMac today and I have the same problem as the 20" (earlier report above) the color fading at the bottom of the screen.
It's very noticeable with a dark background, almost like the light is leaking from the bezel.
I'm going to go to the Apple store Westfarms in CT and I'll let you know what they say.
-Steven M. "

I've not seen this personally but it almost sounds as if it's an assembly issue with some samples, but that's just my guess. I wrote another 24in owner tonight that had said his was (consistently) too bright to ask if he saw any variation like this.

" No, mine seems pretty good in general. It's essentially very similar in quality to my existing 23" Cinema Display although it's a bit sharper (due to the glossy finish I guess).
-Rob "

Another reply from a 20in owner:

(8/14/2007)
"Hi there, I read Alex from London's post (above) about the 20" iMac and mine has the exact same problem (I believe it's probably just an artifact of the cheaper panel type). The colors, even after being calibrated, fade dramatically about 4-5" at the bottom of the screen. For example, without calibration the Finder's metal window almost appeared white at the bottom of the screen.

I work on a 23" cinema display so coming home to the iMac's cheaper display is quite noticeable. I'm contemplating returning the machine and opting for the 24" with the much nicer display.
Cheers, Will"


(8/10/2007)
" Hi, Mike, I just bought the new 20" middle model ($1499) iMac last night. I think people are overreacting just a bit about the display quality.
It's true default color profile on the iMac really is ridiculously bright--to the point where everything is washed out, as people have mentioned. However, a quick calibration using "Expert Mode" (calibrating the native response and choosing a target Gamma of 1.8 at the end) quickly brought the brightness level to where it should be. (Note - I suggested changing gamma previously based on a creating a custom profile for a "washed out" (too bright regardless of monitor brightness control) on a Dell 24in LCD I bought a couple years ago. 1.8 is typical Mac gamma, 2.2 is typical TV/PC IIRC. I toggled between 1.8 and 2.2 (using basic mode, not expert) on that display again today and 1.8 is brighter/more washed out. 1.8 is typical Mac gamma, so default profiles may be too washed out/bright for some displays. I suspect this is true of these new iMac 20in models.-Mike) The panel now looks beautiful.

(Suggestion: Running through another calibration this morning produced too dark a result, I thought. I think it might be better to calibrate by night or in a dark room when your eyes are more sensitive to light.)

(I asked him to check the gamma again as 1.8 is brighter than 2.2. But he was referring to using Expert mode with a target gamma, not Basic mode.-Mike)
You're correct that lower gamma = brighter.
So a quick fix for the problem is to use Basic Mode calibration and choose 2.2 gamma.
But Expert Mode calibration is better. (I used SuperCal on my Macs in the past - even more control.-Mike) It lets you determine the native gamma of the display, and then compensate in order to match a target gamma. So when calibrating my aluminum iMac 20", the native gamma of the display was 1.34. This is very high, and the reason it is so bright/washed out. After determining the native display gamma, I set a target gamma of 1.8 (Mac Standard) and this has given me a very good result.

(summary of basic vs expert modes)
Basic Mode: You can choose between a target gamma of 1.8 or 2.2. (2.2 is darker.) However, you do not get to calculate the native gamma of the display. This means that you're not really getting 1.8 or 2.2. You're getting something brighter that that, because the native gamma of the display is brighter than expected.

Expert Mode: You start by calculating the native gamma of the display, then you adjust that gamma to reach a certain target gamma. The native gamma of my display is 1.34, and I specified a target gamma of 1.8. That means it had to add .46 to my display's native gamma to make it appear at a "true" 1.8 gamma. (This would be the same as choosing 2.26 in Basic Mode, if you could do such a thing. Basic Mode only lets you choose 1.8 or 2.2.)

As for the viewing angles--yes, they are not as good as the 24" model, but they are very typical for a TN panel. People should not bother fretting over 160 vs. 170 degree viewing angle specifications, (see new vs previous specs) as these sort of specs aren't very meaningful. A panel manufacturer might boast of 170 degree viewing angles, but the fact is all TN panels are pretty much the same in this regard. (I don't think the 24in uses a TN panel though, not sure about the 2006 model 20in, which had wider specs. From -some- of the complaints on the 20in, I wondered if there was more than a 10-18° difference though-Mike) So yes, there is some color shift when you move about, but sitting in front of the new iMac, now that it's been calibrated, the screen looks fantastic. (Provided you like a glossy screen, which I do.)

Just hoping to calm some of the jitters out there! So far the new iMac is wonderful--sleek and fast. And by the way, it does a great job playing World of Warcraft at 1650x1080 with high quality settings. :)
Thanks, Mark"

As for viewing angles, I wondered since day one how a 10° difference in specs made so huge a difference (vs old 20in) from some users opinions. I think the TN panels may not be as good in that regard, but I was surprised at the number of people that complained. Some had previously used the old 20in model and immediately noticed the difference.
And if the default profile is that washed out, I'm surprised the Apple store demo models used the default profile (without correcting it), when clearly some shoppers noticed the display was washed out. I guess employees just didn't notice or didn't bother to change it (or know how). (But see above for notes from a UK reader on inconsistent display issues he saw with 20in models that can't be corrected by a colorsync profile...)


(8/10/2007 - updated 8/11)
"I did not see any change after running the iMac Software Update 1.0.
(Dick had not mentioned any complaints with 20in iMac display previously so I asked for his comments on it-Mike)
I have the 20-inch 2.4 GHz unit and the display looks great.
Nothing washed out if you are in front of the unit. As you get off angle it starts to wash out but for normal use it is fine.
(he later wrote)
I did something this afternoon that made the display look more washed out than it did when I responded earlier. I just used the Display Calibration tool and it looks much better now. Bumping up the gamma settings really helped. Thanks for the tip.
(he later wrote)
as delivered from Apple the setting was 1.8 and the change to 2.2 made a significant difference. This corrected the washed out look.

What is strange is mine looked very good the first day out the box. The second day I noticed the washed out look and the calibration change to 2.2 fixed it. It will be interesting to see if the current calibration holds up.
Dick
20-inch iMac 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Put in service 9-Aug-07 -Dick "


A follow-up from Dan, who sent the first mail on this on Wednesday (copy below)

(8/10/2007)
"I went to the (new - 2 blocks away) local Apple Store and eyeballed both the 20in & 24in which had just been put on display.
Indeed the 24in looks as good as the former model. Alas, the glossy display sucks in most environments IMHO, and also in the opinion of several of the Apple Store employees who apparently had been getting negative comments previous to my visit. For me, a glossy display meant no purchase; the two 20's I bought were for my wife's daughters who won't complain about the great gift. I'm gonna buy a MacBook Pro and a Dell monitor to replace my old iMac 20 Core Duo.
-Dan N."


(8/10/2007)
"I spent some time in an Apple store yesterday playing with four 20in and one 24in iMac. I found the larger display to be fine. The 20in models were a disappointment. The 20" display was very washed out with poor color and blacks that were gray. I tried out some of the other color profiles but found none of them to help. (creating a custom profile may help with that - see below-Mike) I would think that the all-in-one iMac should be calibrated "right on" anyway at the start.
Tipping the monitor back about 30 degrees helped with the color. It is not a usable position. I understand that the new iMac (software) update download is graphics related. I hope it helps and was not on the machines that I viewed.
Bob T.
(Photo Galleries and Video Theaters) "

A software update can't affect viewing angles and from the later report above, it didn't affect the display color/profile. Creating a custom display profile has helped a bit however.


(8/10/2007)
"Hi Mike, I work in a Premium Reseller amb we recieved several iMacs this week. I unboxed three 20" (1x2.0GHz and 2x2.4GHz) and one 24" models and noticed that all 20" models screens are washed up and also have bad vertical angle vision, on all 3x20" had to recalibrate using System Preferences and corrected brightness and contrast quite well but not the angle vision problem. (that's panel/hardware related)
The 24" 2.4GHz model screen has a very high quality with a lot of contrast and doesn't seem to have those problems.
-Marc. "

I mentioned in yesterday's news that page 3 of the take-apart on the new 20in iMac listed an LG/Philips LM201WE3 (- TN?) LCD panel which some blamed for this. (Yes, its specs do list 160/160 viewing angle, but searching the web found good comments on Monitors that used that panel.) However sometimes Apple has more than one source for the same size LCD and different builds may have a different mfr's panel perhaps (I can't say for sure however).


(8/10/2007)
"Just wanted to confirm what others have been saying: the screen on the new 20" iMac is lower quality than the previous generation. My Mom bought a 20" a week ago Sunday, so we had just over a week with it. Once the new machines were announced, I returned the old model for her (minus restocking fee) and got the new 2.4GHz 20".
I immediately noticed a difference in screen quality, especially since the color profile the machine shipped with was extremely white (bright). Even after calibrating the image quality doesn't seem to match the previous generation.
But most of all, the viewing angle is noticeably inferior. Fortunately, she's not a graphics pro or geek, so it doesn't bother her. But I definitely notice it.

(I asked Jon if the viewing angle appears to be anywhere near what Apple lists for the new 20in (160 degrees V and H).
Regarding the display profile - I asked what was the default gamma setting. I remember when I first used a 24in Dell LCD (about 1/2 the cost of apple's 23in at the time) - it was very washed out/too bright and no monitor control brightness adjustment really helped that, however changing the gamma did using a custom display profile. (Typically PCs/TVs are set for 2.2 gamma vs 1.8 of typical macs in the past. The default mac OS profile may result in a washed-out display on some panels. If so try comparing the 2.2 gamma vs 1.8 using the Display prefs/color tab option. Or try Supercal for even more control - you can even tweak individual response curves.)
I do not have an intel Mac and I am -not- a graphics professional but I've had good results with a shareware utility called SuperCal. (It's linked in the FAQ's Display/Monitors section since I first used it back in 2001.)-Mike
)
The screen does seem to have a 160° viewing angle. However, there is quite a bit of color distortion as you move through the viewable field. That's not something I noticed while using the older generation machine.

I'm not sure how to find out the gamma of the default "iMac" color profile, but it's likely the Mac standard 1.8. Recalibrating the screen while using the same gamma results in a noticeably better image, but still not as good as the previous generation. As another user noted, the default profile should really look much better.

Like I said, I've tried recalibrating the screen twice now, using Apple's tool, and both times the results were much improved but still inferior to the previous generation. I may try SuperCal sometime in the future.
-Jon "


(from 8/8/2007 news page)
"Apparently I'm the only one who notices that the new iMac 20in (lowest cost) has a much less capable display than it's predecessor. (No you're not - you're just the first here to mention it.-Mike)
I just bought two and have them set up here in Milwaukee. (See below for display panel apple specs of new vs late 2006 iMac 20in and 24in. Also I've gotten another reply to this post on Thursday from a new 20in iMac owner not happy with his display in other areas.-Mike)

The vertical viewing angle is VERY narrow, just like the display on the 17" iMac making the new model very much less acceptable for many graphics applications. Lower cost but... Hopefully the middle 20" and 24" retain the high-quality displays found in the previous models. (My gut feeling is all the currrent 20in models would be using the same panel - but as in the past, they may have more than one source/mfr for the LCD panels and some may be better about this than others. See below for apple display specs comparison.-Mike)

A cynic might opine that Apple saw that it was loosing sales of Mac Pros to iMac 20in & 24in due to the high qulaity of the previous displays and now has "corrected" that problem.
-Dan N. "

I remember some complaints on brightness (too bright IIRC) from graphics professionals with early model 24in iMacs, but that may not be an issue in later models. (Note: for LCD displays too bright, try creating a custom colorsync profile and compare changing gamma settings - i.e. 1.8 (typical for Mac) vs 2.2 (typical for TV/PCs). Sometimes the default Display colorsync profile results in too bright/washed out look.)
BTW - a reader sent a note the Display viewing angle is listed on the mid-2007 iMac Specs page, which shows the current 20in has slightly less viewing angle than the current 24in model and the I've added the previous "late-2006" iMac specs (thanks Karl). I've also included a copy of the Brightness and Contrast specs of the 20in vs 24in. (But from his comments I wonder if the panel he has even meets the current specs.)

    Display:.....Typical viewing angle
  • New 20-inch models - 160° horizontal, 160° vertical
  • Late-2006 iMac 20in - 170° horizontal, 170° vertical
  • New 24-inch model - 178° horizontal, 178° vertical
  • Late-2006 iMac 24in - 178° horizontal, 178° vertical

    Typical brightness:
  • New iMacs: 290 nits (20-inch models); 380 nits (24-inch model)
  • Late 2006 iMacs: 280 cd/m (20-inch model); 400 cd/m (24-inch model)

    Typical contrast ratio:
  • New iMacs: 800:1 (20-inch models); 750:1 (24-inch model)
  • Late 2006 iMacs: 800:1 (20-inch model); 700:1 (24-inch model)

If any other reader has a new iMac (20in or otherwise) and cares to comment on the display (or other things) send an note





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