Apple 27-inch LED Cinema Display Reviewby Anand Lal Shimpi on September 28, 2010 12:15 AM EST
I’ve been using a 30-inch for nearly as long as they’ve been around in the consumer market. And I went the multi-monitor route before then. I find that I’ve got enough windows open that need interacting with to fill up a single 2560-pixel wide desktop pretty well, but move to two smaller panels and my desktop usage just isn’t as efficient. I end up having one monitor that’s largely unused except for a couple of applications and another monitor that feels way too cramped. Balancing between the two just never worked well for me, so a single high resolution display made the most sense.
The problem with the 30 is that it’s just huge. It’s got an awesome resolution but I find that it’s more of a pain while gaming, particularly in first person shooters. I end up sitting too close and the display is almost too big.
Moving to the 27-inch panel I noticed several things. The display is much more compact. It doesn’t feel too small, and it doesn’t feel too big. Dare I say it’s just right. The change in aspect ratio is strange but not a deal breaker. Admittedly I wasn’t doing too much with the extra 140 lines of resolution I had on the 30” display.
The display feels a bit sharper than my old 30. The pixel density has gone up 8% from ~101 PPI to ~109 PPI. If you felt text was too small on a 30-inch panel, things aren’t going to get any better here. As a side effect of the display physically being smaller, I can actually sit closer to it than I could with the 30-incher without feeling like I’m being totally overwhelmed by panel.
Viewing angles are great. The IPS panel works its magic as well as you’d expect.
The backlight honestly takes the most getting used to. My 30-inch display is the original Apple Cinema HD display from 2004 and it used a CCFL backlight. The white LED backlit 27-inch panel just seems too cool, even when properly calibrated. The whites are very bright, but they feel a bit too harsh for me. If I dim the display then the rest of the colors get too dim as a result, I can’t seem to find a happy medium. I hear the situation is near perfect with RGB LEDs but Apple and most other manufacturers still use WLEDs for their backlights. You’ll see the impact this has on color gamut later on in the review. I spend most of my time in front of a CCFL backlit screen, but if you’re used to something LED backlit it’ll be a less of a shock.
I feel like there are two significant features missing that ultimately prevent this from being a truly great monitor: a RGB LED backlight and 120Hz support. The former makes the shift from a CCFL backlit LCD more of a tradeoff. The latter is just wishful thinking at this point honestly, but after Brian’s experience with the ASUS 120Hz panel I want it.
The rest of the package works relatively well. I’m happy with the webcam image quality and the integrated mic seems to work well. I love the convenience of the integrated MagSafe power connector and mini DisplayPort is a nicely compact interface, unfortunately these two features only matter if you happen to have a notebook that can take advantage of them.