RMAs of monitors jumped 50% in the last quarter due to failings in a TFT manufacturing process that has only recently been uncovered.
The dodgy panels were manufactured between 2007 and 2008 by JMC (formerly Nakatomi Semiconductor). Panel sizes range from 10" netbook screens through to 26" widescreen PC monitors and TVs.
HEXUS was anonymously tipped off about the unprecedented failures by an employee working in the returns section for a large retailer: "At first I was amused by the coincidentally large number of dead-pixel complaints we'd been getting in the past couple of months, but when the complaints didn't let up, my suspicion was aroused."
We went over the extensive complaints list received by our aroused tipster. The majority of complaints were about large numbers of frozen or dead pixels appearing on monitors with little to no warning. HEXUS was able to find the common denominator between all the monitor makes affected - panel maker JMC.
We contacted JMC with the evidence and spokesperson Holly Gennaro provided us with this response:
JMC has recently identified an issue affecting a small number of TFT panels manufactured using a particular fabrication process. In rare cases, transistor gates may break-down on the panels, resulting in stuck sub-pixels. The panels were manufactured between 2007 and 2008. We are working with OEMs to determine the exact product lines that may have been affected.
The company told us the failures were correlated with power-cycling, perhaps lending an explanation as to why so many pixels fail in a short space of time.
JMC provides panels to nearly 50% of PC monitor manufacturers and 40% of TV makers. It's not known what percentage JMC considers the "small number" of affected panels to be, but the leap in returns suggests it is significant. The potential cost to industry is as yet unknown, but a source in the industry hinted to us that it would be "****loads, now get out of my office!". There's talk of manufacturers revising their dead pixel policies to get around this issue.
Affected users are likely to notice a peppering of stuck pixels across the screen - somewhat more than the one or two stuck pixels that are fairly common on TFT monitors. They are likely to be visible on any page, such as this one, but we've put together a test page that can make it easier to spot them.
Given the disdain shown by many towards even a single dodgy pixel, there is likely to be uproar from people affected by this particular problem.
HEXUS urges its readers to be on the lookout for dead pixels. Do let us know if you think you've been affected.
Update: 1st April 2009 - 17:22
In response to HEXUS drawing this important matter to the attention of the broader audience, HEXUS has received interesting comment from various senior executives throughout the IT industry.
Hit page number 2 to read AMD and NVIDIA's take on this dead pixel pandemic...