Apple customer collates 27-in. iMac display problems

Flickering, shattered screens lead iMac gripes, says data culled from Apple support forum

A large number of problems with new iMacs, especially the top-of-the-line 27-in. model, has prompted one user to create a site that tallies issues ranging from cracked screens to flickering displays.

Canadian Web designer Scott Pronych created the Apple iMac (Fall 2009) Issues site to track the problems, in part because his new 27-in. Core i7-based iMac arrived with a broken screen. By digging through Apple's support forum, Pronych identified 343 different users who had reported problems with their new machines.

Cracked screens have garnered the most attention from bloggers and the media. On Apple's support forum, customers have reported receiving iMac displays with shattered glass, most of the time in the lower left corner of the screen. The bulk of the cracked-screen problems have been reported by people who purchased a new iMac equipped with Intel's Core i7 quad-core processor .

Apple unveiled the quad-core iMacs, along with revamped dual-core models in both 21.5- and 27-in sizes, on Oct. 20 as part of a broad product refresh that also debuted a redesigned MacBook and a new Mac mini-based server.

The cracked screen issue was actually low on the list, with just 54 incidents out of the 343, or 16%. The most widespread problem was a screen that flickered, "tore" or just went black: 179 cases, or 52% of the total.

"That shocked me, too," said Pronych today. "But the thread is huge."

The support thread Pronych referred to had more than 1,000 individual messages as of early Monday, with a view count of over 144,000, easily the most read of those on the iMac forum discussing problems.

"I have been experiencing some problems with the all new iMac 27-inch display," said Jan Sampermans , who kicked off the thread on Oct. 27. "Screen distortion/flicker somewhere random in the screen (feels like it is more in the lower part) that looks like a horizontal bar of about 2-3inches just popping in and out of the screen. Screen will go completely black for a second and then come back on. Sometimes 2-3 times in a row."

Although many users who reported the flickering said Apple had exchanged their iMacs, some noted that they had gone through as many as three machines before getting a defect-free system. Others complained about the solutions Apple support had suggested, or said they had run into roadblocks.

"[The second] iMac had dust underneath the glass and a dead pixel," said Minsoo Kim Sunday on the "New iMac 27inch screen flickering/tearing/shutoff" thread. "Since it was a cluster of dust, I had a valid reason for it to be swapped and again, drove 40 minutes to the Apple Store.

"There, the genius told me that without saying sorry for any inconvenience I may [have] had, 'Apple will not exchange any further iMac for minor screen problem like this.' I was shocked. In the first place, the best reason why I wanted iMac 27-in is the screen, so without this, why the **** would I spend money on this?"

Kim was eventually given a third iMac, but that one sported shattered glass.

Pronych, however, remained a loyal Mac user. "I got a replacement, and it's worked fine," he said. "I haven't encountered any of the other problems people have been reporting."

The flickering display problem is not limited to the quad-core iMacs; of the 179 total cases Pronych documented, 94 involve dual-core iMacs, while 85 involve an i5- or i7-powered iMac. More than 81% of all the problems he cited, however, were for the 27-in. model; relatively few reports of issues with the smaller 21.5-in. iMac have been posted on Apple's support forum.

According to Pronych's analysis, more-recent iMac production runs have not exhibited as many problems as the Week 46 and Week 47 batches.

Customers can log their problem with Pronych's Web site by filling out an online form .

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the iMac issues that Pronych collated.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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