Dell XPS 12 Display Issue FYI

stephen_az

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I was hoping to give a glowing review for a truly innovative convertible since I consider the XPS 12 to be second only to the Surface Pro for performance, flexibility, and portability, but the device has a fatal flaw that I have since learned is quite common. The high resolution displays in some units (possibly many) are extremely susceptible to image ghosting. By that I mean, the displays retain the outlines of bright images if they remain on the screen for more than a minute or two. If you own one, you can easily test whether yours has the problem by doing the following:

1) Set the Windows 8 start screen background to blue (pretty much the default).
2) Go to the Windows desktop, and set the color to something akin to the old XP blue or any comparable color. This is not necessary but does make the resulting issue easier to see in less time.
3) Pin a few items to the task bar, and add a couple icons to the upper left portion of the desktop.
4) Work on the desktop for few minutes with the task bar and upper left corner visible (five to ten minutes is enough). You can even just leave the desktop open and on the screen - no need to run anything as long as the desktop and task bar stay visible.
5) After five minutes (mine was no more than a minute after a few days), hit the Windows button to jump back to the start screen.
6) Observe the bottom of the screen that corresponds to where the task bar is on the desktop, and the upper left where you placed the icons.
7) If you have the display issue, you will see the faint to vivid outlines of the taskbar and pinned items, and the same of the upper left icons showing through as ghosts. These will fade in anywhere from a minute to up to ten minutes.
8) You can achieve the same result by opening a bright web page in a windows and then after a few minutes switching to a darker screen.

While some may think this is trivial, the above is just a test to demonstrate. It does have a real world impact on functionality. For instance, if you are working on a bright object in something such as Photoshop, you can be stuck with the ghosting when you switch to editing a darker image or switching to any darker view. On that subject, no one should have to wait for the display on a $1000 laptop to fix itself so that you can complete a task. Even more importantly, I confirmed with mine over the course of a week that the effect takes less time to be triggered the longer it is used and takes more time to dissipate. That suggests at some point there is a potential for a memory effect and permanently marred display.

I would write this off as just a single defective display except if you do a search you will find numerous complaints, with Dell's solution being to replace the laptops, sometimes with ones with the same problem. I also stopped by two Phoenix area Best Buys and checked their multiple demo displays and all had the same issue. I showed this to the staff in one store who were shocked by it and acknowledged it was pretty obvious if you were looking for it.

This would be unacceptable for a low end bargain machine but the XPS 12 is definitely a lot more than that. It is a performance laptop with a $1000 price tag. If you buy one (or already own one) I would recommend checking for the problem. It will not go away, will worsen with time, and is not limited to early production units. You should not have to live with the problem, or suddenly realize it is there after your warranty expires. As I said, it is also not just some trivial little test such as looking for a bit of backlight bleed that has no effect on actual use. This can impact actual use in very inconvenient ways.

WP_20130824_003.jpg

BTW, do not let anyone convince you it is common to all 1080P displays. While early MacBook Pros with Retina displays had a version of the same problem they have fixed it. The equally high resolution Surface Pro which I own is not susceptible to the problem at all. This is a Dell XPS 12 problem, not a universal high resolution display issue. After giving me the standard 20+ minute run around, Dell customer support also simply issued a RMA for a return and did not even try to convince me to exchange for another unit.
 
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Laura Knotek

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Thanks for sharing this information. This will be helpful for people who are looking for new laptops. I agree with you that this is totally unacceptable for something as high-end as the XPS 12.
 

stephen_az

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BTW, I have added a quick image of the problem. If you look at the bottom left corner, you can see the ghost image of the flag for the stardock start8 start menu still visible long after switching from the desktop back to the Windows 8 start menu. You can also see the light irregularities of the string of other task bar icons as well. The effect was actually more striking than it appears but the camera washed out the image and I needed to get the return to UPS so I had no time to take more shots,

View attachment 41211
 

yakhem

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The worst part is, that over time, it gets worse and worse and worse. The ghosting becomes more apparent, and happens quicker. I think it's a problem with Samsung displays in general, as they were the manufacturers for the XPS 12 displays, and both their phones and TVs have the same issue.
 

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