A long-running Mac complaint recently picked up quite a head of steam. Reddit posts, a Slashdot thread, and even items on Mac sites, such as MacRumors.com, explored the possibility a graphics card issue might exist with 2011-model MacBook Pros. At least one Apple Support Communities thread, begun by "abelliveau" on February 1, 2013, complains of a blue screen tint and horizontal distortion.
Other 2011 MacBook Pro users complain of similar issues, notably distortions, striations, and even system crashes and boot failures. Reported problems seem tied to 2011 MacBook Pros that possess discrete graphics cards. Some users experiencing the described failures state tinting errors and distortion problems are eliminated when switching to using the system's integrated video card.
Obviously, because the issue appears tied to the laptop's discrete graphics board, there is no easy fix. Some users report Apple's recommended repairs exceed $500 and can include replacing the motherboard.
Many people who have posted to corresponding Internet threads are upset that Apple is not warrantying the problem. If the problem isn't widespread and proves to be isolated to only specific users, Apple's position is understandable and defensible. But if, as some users and sites are now suggesting, the problem is more widespread (one Redditor states the Apple thread addressing the issue exceeds 200,000 views), Apple will have a problem on its hands.
Businesses buy MacBook Pros because their users require reliable laptops that can accommodate the challenging demands of graphic artists, scientific research, video production personnel, and similar tasks. In my experience, Apple hardware consistently demonstrates build capacity and component quality that make it reasonable to keep Mac systems in operation for an extended period of time, which I'll define as four or five years. If an apparent manufacturing flaw is found to exist with discrete graphics boards in a specific set of MacBook Pros that's lessening the expected lifecycle of a 2011 MacBook Pro to three years, the manufacturer should announce that repairs will be covered under warranty, at least for users who purchased AppleCare and extended limited warranty coverage to three years.
I've long advocated purchasing AppleCare when buying Apple laptops. In fact, I'm a big believer that it's smart to attach a three-year limited hardware warranty to any business-grade laptop. Users of 2011 MacBook Pros who experience video errors and who also purchased AppleCare should find their laptops still possess hardware warranty coverage. But users whose AppleCare coverage is now expiring, and even those who bought their systems understanding warranty coverage was only in place for 12 months, should probably be shown some grace if a manufacturing flaw is, indeed, found. Certainly, Apple has an opportunity to win newfound loyalty and goodwill by demonstrating it will stand behind its products, should a widespread GPU issue be found to exist.
Have you experienced this graphics card problem on your MacBook Pro? How do you think Apple should handle this issue? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.