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PowerBook G4 Ti screen resolutions problems under OS X 10.3

PowerBook G4 Ti screen resolutions problems under OS X 10.3

We continue to receive reports of problems with PowerBook G4 "Titanium" screen resolutions; specifically, issues where switching the screen's resolution results in a blue or gray screen. A report from MacFixIt reader Harrison Williams summarizes the information we've received nicely:

"I noticed this problem when first running Panther 7B85, and it persisted when I installed Panther the day it was released on my Ti667 VGA. From what I can tell, it is definitely a software issue, and not hardware related. First clues: the issue does not exist when running any version of Jaguar, as another person noted. The issue does not exist when booting from OS 9 either. Second, the system seems to have a problem identifying the display correctly. In System Profiler, the display is identified as 'CRT' when it should be 'LCD.' In what must be a related issue, color calibration doesn't work correctly. However, I discovered that by toggling the inverted display key command (ctrl-opt-cmd-8) after making an adjustment, I was able to accurately calibrate my display, but this is ridiculously tedious. Color Calibration, once again, works fine in 10.2.x and os 9. Also, all of these issues disappear with a second display attached while running Panther. The built-in display is still screwed, but resolution and bit-depth switching, full screen apps, color calibration, and all seem to work flawlessly on an external display, which seems to suggest that it can't be a hardware (graphics card) problem."

We agree with Harrison that the issue appears to be in software; however, it also appears to be a particular combination of hardware and software. Reader Will Webb has OS X 10.3.2 installed on a PowerBook G4 Ti 400MHz and a PowerBook G4 Ti 550MHz. The 400MHz unit does not have the problem, but the 550MHz model does. If the 400MHz unit is booted from the 550MHz unit's hard drive (via FireWire Target Disk Mode), it still doesn't experience the problem; however, booting the 550MHz model from the 400MHz model does result in the problem. So for Will, the 400MHz model never experiences the problem, while the 550MHz model always experiences it, regardless of the startup drive (assuming OS X 10.3, that is).

Although we've received a few isolated reports of similar problems with other PowerBooks, and even a few desktop Macs, the vast majority of reports of this problem have been with respect to the PowerBook G4 Titanium, and specifically the 667MHz mode (although a number of owners of the 550MHz model have also reported the problem). In fact, we've received reports from owners of other models of the PBG4 Titanium, such as the 400MHz model, who cannot replicate the problem.

(On a semi-related note -- PowerBook G4 Ti models experiencing video issues under Panther -- reader Erik Kennedy points out a thread on the ArsTechnica forums discussing an issue apparently affecting a number of users where their PowerBook screens are flickering since installing Panther.)

PBG4 Ti/Panther screen issues? Drop us an email at Late-breakers@macfixit.com.

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