February 17, 2005 4:00 AM PST

Consumers see red over dead pixels

You've just blown $2,000 on a sexy new flat-panel TV, and it thinks there should be a little black pimple in the middle of Tom Cruise's face.

Good luck getting it fixed. That black spot is a dead pixel, a malfunctioning electronic dot among the millions that make up a typical display. And manufacturers of TV sets, notebook computers, desktop PC displays and other devices equipped with LCD screens vary widely in their policies on rectifying them.

"This is one of the things nobody ever wants to talk about in the industry," said Paul Semenza, an analyst at research company iSuppli. "The reality is that there are a lot of (screens) that aren't quite up to snuff floating around, and they end up somewhere."


What's new:
A pixel is a pixel--unless it's a bum pixel that renders images on your beautiful new flat-panel display less-than-perfect.

Bottom line:
Manufacturers of TV sets, notebook computers, desktop PC displays and other devices vary widely in their dead-pixel policies. But some consumer advocates say a zero-tolerance policy would serve customers best.

More stories on this topic

Sometimes they end up in your new notebook, as San Francisco engineer Rik Wehbring discovered a few years ago. The screen on his new Dell laptop turned out to a have a dead pixel.

Under Dell's policy, which considers a screen defective only if it has six or more faulty pixels, Wehbring didn't have a problem. To Wehbring's eyes, he did.

"It was definitely an annoyance," he said. "When it's your monitor and you're sitting 18 inches away, you definitely notice it."

Wehbring said Dell customer service told him he could send the screen in for repair, but he'd get a refurbished unit, and those were allowed to have as many as seven bum pixels. Instead, he took advantage of the company's 30-day return policy and sent back his laptop, later using the refund to gamble on another Dell. The screen on the new laptop was fine, but the initial experience left a bitter aftertaste.

"The real issue is truth and language--broken is broken," he said. "They were trying to tell me I was silly for believing a dead pixel is a bad thing."

Dell spokeswoman Mary Fad said the company developed its dead-pixel policy to be brief and comprehensible to customers. But Dell can be flexible in interpreting it, she said, realizing that some dead pixels are more aggravating than others. "It's something that's a little subjective," she said. "We try to work with customers on a case-by-case basis."

Dead pixels are the result of flaws in the glass sheets that go into displays. Inevitable glitches in the manufacturing process mean that some pixels don't illuminate properly--or at all. Display manufacturers can avoid most defects by scrapping bad sections of a glass sheet, but a few bad pixels usually crop up in other areas.

John Jacobs, an analyst at research firm DisplaySearch, said the prevalence of bad pixels in consumer devices tends to change with the display market. When supplies are tight, gadget makers

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Whole bunch of whiners quoted in this story
So if one, two or even a 5 or 6 pixels out of millions is bad they are getting bent out of shape? That's pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

As the article says, perfection comes at a price, would they be willing to pay say 20% more for their laptop if it was guaranteed to be free of dead pixels? I sure as hell don't want to pay 20% more to have a guarantee of no bad pixels.

If you get a dead pixel or two, if it bothers you that much buy another brand next time.
Posted by raitchison (103 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Okay, have you even had an LCD screen lose a pixel or more? I have, and it's quite annoying and how does changing brands do anything? It's called OEM and most are pretty much the same products. Luckily I haven't had any dead pixels on my laptop, as getting that replaced would be very annoying.
Posted by ca2kjet (14 comments )
Link Flag
You're intentionally missing the point.
A monitor is a device intended to display a signal as it is intended to be seen by the source. When the device cannot do that -- because of crummy (or lack-of) QA, or cheap/shoddy engineering practises -- it does NOT instantly shift blame onto the consumer.

Instead, it should put the vendor of the monitor at fault, holding them responsible for a DEFECTIVE piece of hardware someone bought.

The reality of the situation is that consumers -- for years -- have been FORCED to accept flaws in products, and they're PAYING for those flaws. There is an ISO standard (surprisingly not mentioned at all in this article) which defines what "class" an LCD display falls into based upon its defect count. Class 0 defines a LCD monitor with ZERO defects. No manufacturer at this point adheres to class 0 -- all simply ignore the ISO standard, or interpret it however they so choose. Tom's Hardware has a VERY good article on this.

The bottom line is that consumers are paying MORE MONEY for something that "possibly" can contain flaws -- when it comes to blowing multiple thousands on a LCD television or even an LCD monitor for your PC (such as from Apple), is it worth gambling? No. Cost shouldn't play a role either (i.e. a US$4000 LCD TV having more justification for complaints/returns than a US$1000 one).

If manufacturers can't justify the costs of producing flawless LCD products, then they should at least consider replacing products which a consumer complains has dead or lit pixels. For some people -- like my mother -- it's not a big deal, they simply don't notice the problem. For others -- like myself -- it's a *HUGE* focus, because I want a product to do what it's supposed to do, without flaws (regardless of why).

So please, think of the consumer before flippin' the jig next time.
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Link Flag
What's ridiculous...
What's ridiculous is people like you that are fine paying a new price from a product only to get a defective. One that has flaws in it like a well used or abused one.

Companies pray for idiots like you so they can clear out the defective cr*p that intelligent people don't want.

I for one will not tolerate a single bad pixel in any LCD device. If they want me to accept it then they need to discount the item 10% for each defective pixel otherwise they can damn will put out products that are as promised.

Posted by (336 comments )
Link Flag
Depends on what you use your computer for.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
Where can I buy your "reject" display
What percentage of displays get returned, I wonder? Vendors should resell returns at, say, 50% off. I've used CRTs with nicks and scratches in the glass obscuring quite a few pixels, and they're perfectly useable.
Posted by Not Bugged (195 comments )
Link Flag
Best Buy
Best Buy has a 1 pixel policy in their computer department if you have their service plan, regardless of the manufacturer's exclusions.

Well worth the $50 when you're dropping $400 on a new display. My girlfriend has already gone through one already.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
What about TVs?
Your claim applies to computer LCD products -- does this also apply to LCD televisions?

If not, seems more like a scam if anything...
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Link Flag
Best Buy?
Best Buy has a 1 pixel exchange? That would be absolutely AMAZING, if it were true. I worked for Best Buy for 2 years selling in the computer department and I can guarentee you that it is NOT 1 pixel, it's 3. Now if you doubt me, take out your little BB pamphlet they gave you when you purchased their little PSP plan and read it. More then likely either you got a return CSA that wasn't informed or was new, or you complained enough to get a new one. BB is notorious for giving into the "gracious" complainer. The nice person who complains all the way up the chain of command, until they get what they want. You wouldn't BELIEVE some of the things I've seen given to customers, all in the name of customer service.
Posted by cybercrist (5 comments )
Link Flag
LCD was never touted as 'flawless'
LCDs have been around for over a decade and now, the article comes up?
There are only a handful of LCD screen makers and motherglass. And they toss about +30% of their manufacturing right off the line (it used to be much higher %).
If you have a defective pixel(s) near the center, its generally given that you will get replacement. But if you have a single one, off the center, its tolerable. Read the fine print.
Benefits of LCD still outway most CRTs in clarity, less eye fatigue, less power consumption, less heat-generation and less space.
out of purchasing several hundred LCD screens and laptops, I've recalled two had issues that were returned without a problem. A third one had a defective pixel and that only showed up 6 months later (I can only assume it was never noticed until then). Its tolerable.
As for Tom Cruise and a dead pixel, big deal. Move along. Welcome better manufacturing and QC.
Posted by Below Meigh (249 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"As for Tom Cruise and a dead pixel, big deal. Move along. Welcome better manufacturing and QC."

But if we all just "move along" and let it go what motivation does the manufacturer have to improve QC standards?

The complaining consumers are what drive companies to improve their products.

Personally I wouldnt mind a bad pixel here or there (your right theyre very small and not always noticable) but sometimes they are very easy to spot.. especially since multiple burnt pixels tend to cluster near each other so it looks like someone blasted your screen with double-aught buckshot.

The nit pickers who would complain about a single burnt pixel on the farthest outer edge of the screen serve a purpose though that benefits all consumers. They prompt companies to strive to improve their products and policies.

So dont complain about the complainers ;)
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
Alienware is no good
Phone: (215) 569-5686
Fax: (215) 832-5686
Email: rosenfeldt@blankrome.com
March 3, 2005
Mr. Nelson Gonzalez
Alienware Corporation
12400 Southwest 134th Court
Bay 8th
Miami, FL 33186

Re: Customer Account No. 293034/Defective Product
Dear Mr. Gonzalez:
Please be advised this law firm represents Jay A. Vederman in connection with the above matter. On or about December 6, 2004, Mr. Vederman placed an order for an Alienware laptop Model 5500M. The approximate cost of this equipment was $4,300.00. On or about January 18, 2005, the laptop was delivered to Mr. Vederman.
On the initial powering on of the laptop, Mr. Vederman discovered that there was a malfunction in the screen. Apparently, one of the LCD pixels was not functioning and the result was a bright spot in the middle of the screen. Please note, that this condition existed on the initial use of the machine. It also must be noted that this machine was purchased by Mr. Vederman in reliance, on part, on Alienwares advertising that this particular laptop was a portable workstation. Mr. Vederman intended to use this machine for work with sophisticated graphics and similar applications. The defect in the screen is more than a mere nuisance as it is effecting the quality of his work with the machine.
Despite repeated calls to your Companys Customer Service Department, to date, Mr. Vederman has not received a satisfactory response. In fact, I understand that he was told that a certain amount of dead pixels could be expected with an LCD screen. Although this may be true, it is hard to believe that such a condition would exist on a brand new product. In todays competitive retail environment it is similarly hard to believe that your company would not simply replace the screen to insure customer satisfaction. To the contrary, it appears as though your companys customer support system is designed to frustrate a customer who receives a defective product.
We hereby demand that this situation be remedied immediately. Although Mr. Vederman has already lodged a formal complaint with American Express and is currently disputing payment on this product, he has also advised me to take all actions available to him at law or in equity against your company if this matter is not resolved. Please contact me or Mr. Vederman directly to make appropriate arrangements to have the unit repaired and/or replaced.
Very truly yours,

Philip R. Rosenfeldt
cc: Jay A. Vederman (via: e-mail)
Posted by jwindsurf (1 comment )
Link Flag
defective pixel(s)
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/daihatsu_c_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/daihatsu_c_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ubber geek (325 comments )
Link Flag
To Fix "bright dots" Pixel Problem
I have found that a Sharpie marker works well to cover a bright dot bad pixel. If your monitor/TV is out of warranty, then this may be your only recourse.

Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A bunch of WHINERS???
You've got to be kidding me. Is it whining when you have just
spent thousands of dollars on a product and it doesn't work
right? "Oh there are thousands of pixels..." yeah, and there were
thousands of dollars spent on those pixels. Whining, perhaps,
but with good reason.

Now, the only bad experience I've had was with a super cheap
Planar 15 inch that my dad bought, had a rather annoying pink
pixel right in the middle of the screen. Planar was great though,
within a few days a new monitor arrived with instructions to
return the defective. Which was well worth it; I say cheap, but
again what's the point in spending $300 on something if it
doesn't work right?
Posted by hatandglasses13 (68 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Want DRAM memory with a few dead bits ?
We would never accept a computer with a few memory cells (even one in a billion) dead.

Why should we accept dead pixels in displays ?

truth is, a sub micron defect can ruin a DRAM cell, the defect required to kill a pixel is an order of magnitude bigger (thus way easier to avoid). As soon as there will be enough pressure and people stop accepting defective panels being sold to them, industry practices will evolve and ZERO dead pixels will be the rule.

Until then, I stay with my desktop CRT.

(note : my notebook originally came with a dead pixel, I was lucky enough to have it replaced immediately when I asked)
Posted by My-Self (242 comments )
Reply Link Flag
you're an idiot
what kind of moron are you? there is a margin for error that is relative. the comparison you made is moronic at best. that is especially the case when you see that what is considered "negligable" in storage (hd) might be a byte or a gigabyte. In any given field there is an acceptable margin for error. the car analogy i heard earlier is just rediculous. while you can't drive with 4 wheels, you can certainly use your moniter without 1-7 of a million + pixels. that and the fact that your brain will automatically filter it out (ever look through a screen door?).

whine, whine, *****, and moan!
Posted by mortis9 (370 comments )
Link Flag
sub micron defect
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/daihatsu_cuore_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/daihatsu_cuore_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ubber geek (325 comments )
Link Flag
An alternative to whining
Instead of just complaining, maybe those consumers that feel so
slighted by dead pixels should sue the manufacturer,
distributor, etc. If they can't afford it, I'm sure come class action
lawyer would be willing to take up the cause.
Posted by dejo (182 comments )
Reply Link Flag
For what
While sueing people may be the national past time in america these days and Im surely not one to spoil the fun I have a question.

Sue them for what? Whats the charge?

They dont guarantee the screen to be flawless so cant be held liable if its not.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
Don't Buy Dead Pixels
I have long added a statement to all our corporate purchase orders stating that we will only accept displays with zero defects.

Consumers need to exercise their rights in this case of a willing buyer and a willing seller. Just as the manufacturers have the right to have policies, so do I as a purchaser. My policy is not to accept defective equipment.
Posted by whanafi (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
sad, but true...
I went through 3 $4000 Sony rear projection lcd tvs before
finding one with acceptable dead pixels (at least 8-10)... (Damn
straight I am gonna whine) It's a good reason to buy locally with
30-day return policy. Perhaps retailers can put some pressure
on manufacturer to get it right the first time.
Posted by Gloucesterman (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
$4000 Sony
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/mazda_3_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/mazda_3_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ubber geek (325 comments )
Link Flag
Dead pixel not a big deal?
So I suppose a few malfunctioning keys on a keyboard are not a big deal either? Heck who needs the A key anyways.

You know, it's this lackadasical crap customer service that is going to destroy what remaining production industry and sales industry that remains in our country (which is heavily embattled). Hope everyone is good at selling french fries. Wait, scratch that, the last thing I want is a policy that says missing beef patties are typical.

If I get a monitor with a dark pixel in the middle, it's ass is going back to the store for a full refund. Otherwise, that store will end up on my perminate blacklist (and yes, there are already a few). So at what point in time did we come to the conclusion that the Customer is no longer right and that they are just unlucky suckers that gave us money? PT Barnum would be proud with how business is ran these days.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
When I buy a monitor, I am paying for a digital display. Each pixel is supposed to display 16+ million colors. If a single pixel can only display one color (black or red for example), then the product is defective and should be returned. It's crazy that retailers are trying to convince consumers that multiple malfunctioning pixels are acceptable. It's not acceptable. A pixel here and there malfunctioning, occasionally, for a brief instance... that might be reasonable... but multiple pixels... fixed in place, malfunctioning permanently... totally unacceptable.

What's next... will they try to convince us that it's fine for our CPUs to screw up a few times per million calculations, so they can no longer be described as deterministic machines?

Having a glaringly obvious spot on a brand new device is unacceptable, let alone EIGHT glaringly obvious spots NEWEGG.com! Ridiculous!
Posted by Triynko (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
It all comes down to poor quality, and the manufacturer's lack of caring about it. Whether you pay $500 or $5000, the TV should not exhibit defects like this. I bought a Samsung 50-inch plasma TV 2 years ago for a decent price. Well, I loved the picture on it until last night when a single line of pixels went bad across the screen. I called Samsung and all they said was the screen was bad and that without an extended warranty I should just buy a new TV. I spoke with other repair shops, and they said the same thing. This is completely unacceptable to me. Two years and this Samsung TV goes bad??? It is a true lack of quality. If Samsung and other companies really cared about their customers they would either improve the quality of their products or extend their warranties to cover issues like this. We as customers should not have to buy the retailers over-priced warranties. To answer the person who said would I pay 20% more for a better made TV, yes I would. That's the problem today, everyone thinks that if consumer products are slightly more expensive, no one would buy them. I don't believe that. I think people are getting fed up with the cheap junk sold today at all price ranges. Note: the repair shops I spoke with said that it doesn't matter what you paid for the TV it can have this issue, so the 20% increase argument really doesn't make sense. IMO
Posted by gcaluori (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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