MacBook Pro with Retina display: Problems in every dimension


When Apple unveiled its first Retina MacBook Pro with the 15.4-inch model in June, it came with an all-new, slimmed down design, all-flash architecture, and its flagship Retina display with over 5 million pixels. Apple has built its reputation on quality, craftsmanship, and customer/user experience, but that hasn’t been the case with its latest lineup of MacBooks. What many consumers don’t know is that buying a new Retina MacBook means taking your chances with possibly receiving a unit that is subject to display defects, battery, graphics, and fan-related issues among other major stability problems. These widespread issues have received limited coverage in the press and many consumers claim Apple is failing to sufficiently address the problems by not informing consumers and employees.

Leading the reports of problems is one that causes burn-in or ghosting on the device’s display. The result is a support thread with over 364,769 views and, most recently, a class-action lawsuit in California that alleged Apple is failing to inform consumers of the issue. Users experiencing the problem eventually realized the source of the issue was with LG, one of Apple’s display suppliers for the new Retina MacBooks. Unfortunately, models with Samsung displays aren’t totally free from a myriad of other significant issues.

Apple described the image-retention problems on this user’s display as normal after two visits. The display was eventually replaced with a Samsung but continues to experience other display related problems. 

Problems at the Apple Store

Finally, after 4 LG screened rMBPs I give up!

The problems are severe enough that it’s affecting the buying experience for consumers, driving customers to opt for other devices, and forced me personally to stop recommending the machine. Not only is Apple not addressing the issues publicly, Apple retail employees and 9to5Mac readers confirmed Apple is failing to properly inform retail and repair staff of the problems…

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The problem at the retail level is a result of Apple’s failure to prepare its repair staff for consumers inevitably seeking repairs for the issues. For the LG display flaw specifically, Apple retail employees told us there are no guidelines in place for repair staff dealing with the repairs. In other words, the repair staff has no way of telling if replacement parts are LG or Samsung. This forces many customers to return three, four or more times for a repair or replacement. One 9to5Mac reader, Jason Smith, told us his account of going through nine replacements of the Retina MacBook Pro related to multiple issues:

I purchased my Retina Macbook Pro in November 2012 (2.6Ghz / 16GB / 512GB) and within 14 days the trackpad failed, took it into my local Apple Store where they ordered a new top cover and was told they would fit it within 3 days for me as it was in constant use.

The next day I had a call saying they have replaced the cover however for reasons unknown to them the Mag Safe had now failed and they were unable to power on the machine and recommended that a replacement machine was ordered.

When the replacement arrived it took a total of 3 weeks however the machine that arrived was the classic Macbook Pro rather than Retina, so another machine was ordered, when this arrived there was issues that the fans would spin up randomly and repeatedly when downloading a larger (200MB+) file, contacted Apple Care again to which they agree’d this wasn’t right and another replacement machine was ordered, this is now my fourth machine, It was also promised that Apple would be in touch regarding compensation for this, however to this day nothing has happened.

To cut a very long story short this has been going on now since November totalling 9 Replacement machines all with the same Fan Issue, hours of time on the phone to Apple Care, hours spent on the phone to ‘Higher Level Management’ until eventually an SMC update was released that solved the issue, on the last call to ‘Higher Management’ I was offered a Free Charger …. which was obviously laughable! Im still yet to receive any compensation at all.

Image-persistence-rMBPApple performs an image persistence test for displays exhibiting burn-in type symptoms, as highlighted in the internal Apple Care doc pictured to the right. However, that doesn’t address the LG problem specifically and leaves staff in the dark about having to perform multiple replacements in hopes of getting a Samsung display. It’s also the reason some customers are being told that faint image persistence problems are normal for Retina displays, as described above.

Apple isn’t informing consumers 

The display flaw alone has prompted a class action lawsuit in California that accuses Apple of failing to inform consumers about the differences with LG and Samsung displays in the new Retina MacBooks at the time of purchase.

“The performance disparity between the LG version and the Samsung version is particularly troubling given that Apple represents the MacBook Pro with retina display as a single, unitary product, described as the highest quality notebook display on the market,” the complaint said. “None of Apple’s advertisements or representations discloses that it produces the computers with display screens that exhibit different levels of performance and quality.”

Apple has a knowledge base article—last updated in February—on avoiding image persistence that now includes the Retina MacBook Pro lineup, but it doesn’t include information about the problem being specific to its LG-made displays.

Other issues with the Retina MacBook


Unfortunately for consumers with Apple’s new 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, the problems don’t end with the LG burn-in flaw. A number of other support threads and months of first-hand accounts from users indicate the machine is also experiencing other significant performance issues. The support threads and reports from users range from several graphics-related performance issues that cause frequent freezing and crashing to other display related issues also affecting Samsung displays, as well as problems related to fans and reports of significant battery life problems.

Apple’s 13-inch Retina model isn’t free from the issues, with reports of the same image retention issues, fan speed, and more.

Three out of three 9to5mac writers who’ve purchased the 15-inch Retina MacBook have had significant issues—and one of which required three replacements before getting a Samsung. All three devices continue experiencing performance-related issues, especially when running CPU intensive applications such as Logic Pro.

The new Retina MacBooks could be the most problematic for Apple since the introduction of the original during the transition to Intel in 2006. Early adopters of that device also experienced significant performance issues that ultimately resulted in a recall and warranty extension for hard drive-related problems.

Apple driving consumers to choose other devices 

While Apple is fixing the issue for some customers lucky enough to eventually land a Samsung-made display during the replacement process, reports of problems and bad experiences during the repair process are driving some to opt for other devices:

I want to know if you guys can help me decide if I should go for it or not, if these image retention and burn in and ui lag issues appear to be fixed with this new model or if it is still the same. If I don’t buy this one I’ll be getting the new Samsung Series 7 Chronos they showed in CES 2013, still not available in the market. Thanks a lot!

Failure to properly address the issue has also resulted in numerous other responses from customers now opting for Apple’s previous-generation MacBooks or notebooks from competitors.

Decided to go for the cMBP Hi-Res (2.6/8/750HDD) with a view to max it out with 2 x SSDs and 16GB RAM – and save a lot of cash too

Is Apple addressing it quietly?

Apart from the knowledge base article describing the problem as normal, Apple has not publicly addressed the widespread problems with the Retina MacBooks. That means any MacBook customers who happen to start experiencing issues with their LG displays or other components after their complimentary 1-year warranty is up will be out of luck.

Apple last week released a software update for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro that attempts to resolve some issues related to graphics, PowerNap, and fans, but, unfortunately, many of these performance-related issues still exist.

It is possible Apple could have aimed to address some of the issues with components in a minor refresh of the device last month, but that’s certainly not something that is clear to consumers purchasing the device. Apple upgraded a lot more than the CPUs it announced publicly, including tweaks to the SSD, I/O Board, Logic Board, and more.

Should Apple do more to address these undeniable issues for early adopters through a public response and or better preparing retail staff?

You can find out if your display is LG or Samsung by entering this line of code into Terminal. Model numbers with “LP” indicate LG, but models with Samsung displays have “LSN”.

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  1. Joakim Larsen - 8 years ago

    Before buying a Retina screen product from Apple, it may be worth taking a look at this thread:

  2. GK - 8 years ago

    There are also two other serious issues with the Retina MacBooks:

    – “Staingate”:
    – UI lage:

  3. Твой Сайт - 8 years ago

    Color LCD

    Samsung displays have ‘LSN'”


Avatar for Jordan Kahn Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.