Two years ago Apple introduced its first LED backlit Cinema Display. The 24-inch model updated the styling of Apple’s displays to match the unibody MacBook Pro’s ID. It also added features like a built-in MagSafe power supply and mini DisplayPort input, both targeted at owners of new Macs. Unlike most 24-inch displays however, the LED Cinema Display carried an $899 price tag at launch. Even today they are selling for over $600 used. By comparison, Dell will sell you a brand new 24-inch display for $259 or $539 if you want one with an IPS panel. Needless to say, Apple discontinuing the 24-inch LED Cinema Display makes sense. The company is generally uninterested in playing in value segments and I’m not sure there’s a huge market for $900 24-inch displays, regardless of what logo is on the back.

What is a lot more interesting however is the panel used in Apple’s 27-inch iMac. A 16:9 2560 x 1440 LED backlit LCD measuring 27” along the diagonal. Giving you 90% of the resolution of a 30” panel but in a more compact space. If you need more real estate than a standard 1920 x 1200 panel can give you and don’t want to resort to a multi-monitor setup, the 27-inch iMac was very appealing. There’s just one problem: it comes with a built in Mac.

What Apple has done in the 12 months since the release of the 27-inch iMac is separate the Mac from the display, leaving us with a 27-inch LED Cinema Display priced at $999.

Both the 24-inch LED and 30-inch panels are gone, the 27 takes their place in Apple’s display lineup. The new model is really an amalgamation of its predecessors. You get nearly the resolution of the 30-inch Cinema Display with the features of the 24-inch model.

Those features start with the styling. The 27 has a glass front, reminiscent of the unibody MacBook Pro, complete with its overly reflective glory. Unlike the Macbook Pro however, the 27-inch LED Cinema Display will almost exclusively used indoors. Most rooms/offices having some degree of light control (hooray for blinds) and the display is bright enough to make glare from other lights sources a non-issue. The glossy front does pose a problem while watching videos full screen however. If you ever had dreams of being an actor, expect them to be somewhat fulfilled as you find your face in any dark scenes or objects (e.g. black shirt).

The stand is a solid piece of brushed aluminum. You can adjust the tilt of the display but there’s no option to adjust its height. This can be a major problem if you don’t have a height adjustable desk. Apple has a tendency to build very targeted devices, if you don’t fit the target, prepare to be frustrated.

The 27 uses an IPS panel paired with an LED backlight. You lose some color gamut since Apple continues to use white LEDs vs. RGB LEDs, but you gain a more compact package and lower power consumption.

There’s an integrated VGA camera along the top of the screen, once again a feature missing from the old 30 but present in the 24. Along the bottom you have a mesh grill for the integrated 2.1 speakers that come with the display.

Apple 27-inch LED Cinema Display Specifications
Property Quoted Specification
Video Inputs mini DisplayPort
Panel Type IPS, white LED backlight
Pixel Pitch 0.233 mm
Colors 16.7 Million (24 bit)
Brightness 375 nits typical
Contrast Ratio 1,000:1 (typical)
Response Time 12ms
Viewable Size 27" (68.58 cm) diagonal
Resolution 2560 x 1440
Viewing Angle 178 degrees horizontal, 178 degrees vertical
Power Consumption (operation) up to 250W while charging MacBook Pro
Power Consumption (standby) <1 watt
Screen Treatment Glossy
Height-Adjustable No
Tilt Yes
Pivot No
Swivel No
VESA Wall Mounting Yes
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 25.7" (650 mm) x 19.35" (491 mm) x 8.15" (207 mm)
Weight w/ Stand 23.5 lbs (10.7 kg)
Additional Features 85W MagSafe Power Adapter integrated, 2.1 Speaker System integrated, 3 x USB port hub
Limited Warranty 1 year limited warranty
Accessories Breakout cable with miniDP, USB, MagSafe power, power cable
Price $999

Integrated MagSafe Power Adapter

Around back there’s a plug for power and a single cable that carries mini DisplayPort, USB and MagSafe cables within it.

The MagSafe connector can be used to charge any MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air with a MagSafe connector. It’s a very convenient addition to the display and obviously works very well if you are using the Cinema Display with one of the aforementioned notebooks. If you aren’t however, the short length of the MagSafe power cable is annoying. I’ve got a desktop and a notebook and I wanted to use the power from the Cinema Display to keep my notebook charged while I’m using my dekstop. Unfortunately this meant that I have to keep my charging notebook very close to the display input on my desktop as there’s only 10” of slack on the MagSafe cable (cable to connector, add another 1.5” if you include the connector in the length).

Mini DisplayPort, Only

Mini DisplayPort is the only way to get video into this monitor, which pretty much rules out any Mac made before late 2008. Even EVGA’s GeForce GTX 285 Mac Edition lacks a mini-DP port. I was forced to go back to my old GeForce GT 120 in my Nehalem Mac Pro to use the display (which works despite Apple listing it as compatible with only the 24-inch LED Cinema Display). Like many Apple products, if you have the right hardware the combination works flawlessly, if you don’t it’s just frustrating. Atlona is the only company I’m aware of that makes a dual-link DVI to mini-DP adapter. It sells for $149.95 if you desperately want the new Cinema Display and don’t have a video card with mini-DP out. I have yet to try it but customer reviews on Amazon indicate it works with the 27-inch iMac at least.

Integrated Audio

With MagSafe and miniDP out of the way we’re left with the USB connector on the cable. The USB connector plays two roles. First and foremost it is to connect the three USB ports on the back of the display to your computer. The second role is to connect the internal USB audio device to your computer as well. Driving the integrated 2.1 speakers is a USB audio device integrated into the monitor (DisplayPort audio is also supported). You get basic driver support for the controller under both OS X and Windows 7.

The integrated speakers sound better than notebook speakers, but worse than a good set of desk speakers. There’s very little bass and the highs can be a bit harsh at loud volumes. Then there’s the issue of where the sound actually comes from. The speakers point downward, a couple of bounces later and it sounds like music comes from behind your display rather than straight at you as is the case with standalone speakers.

The speakers can get loud. At their lowest setting I measured 47dB(A) sitting 2 feet away in my office (40 dB(A) ambient noise), but cranked all the way up the sound meter registered 87dB(A). The issue at high volumes is you really begin to see the limits of the speakers. There’s only so much you can do with speakers integrated into a display after all.

Again the speakers are a definite upgrade from what you’ll find in your MacBook Pro, but if you’re a desktop user with a decent sound setup they will go largely unused. While I used them over the past few days, I definitely missed my Klipsch Promedia 2.1s.

Built in iSight, Not Half Bad

Webcams are ubiquitous in Apple's notebook and desktop lineups, the 27 supports the family tradition with its VGA still/video camera complete with green LED to indicate when it's active.

Image quality is surprisingly good even in my not-so-brightly-lit office:

Applications like Photo Booth under OS X can rely on the LED backlit screen as a flash to help. There’s a mic along the top of the display.

I iChatted with Brian Klug and he said the mic sounded good in practice.

Also at the top of of the screen is an ambient light sensor. With the option enabled in software as ambient light increases, the screen’s brightness will decrease and vise versa. For the most part I found the feature worked ok but in my office I often found that the increase/decrease wasn’t significant enough to make a difference as the day turned into night. The sensor was never over active unless I was taking pictures of myself in Photo Booth. The flash before every photo bounced back, hit the light sensor and caused the display to dim significantly. Presumably you won’t be doing that all of the time and if you are, there’s always the option to turn it off.

Like all Apple displays there’s no OSD, everything is done in software. Under OS X this means you need to download the latest update for the 27-inch LED Cinema Display. Under Windows you need to download an update to Boot Camp 3.1. The good news is that the display works under Windows 7, the bad news is you need Boot Camp installed to get brightness control. The downloadable Windows drivers won’t work on a system without Boot Camp installed, in other words, on a normal PC you lose the ability to control brightness. Apple should make the 27-inch Windows control panel a standalone package and not tie it to Boot Camp. It seems as if Apple expects the only users interested in this panel will be those who already own an Intel based Mac. Self fulfilling prophecy much?

The Experience
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  • 8steve8 - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    I strongly disagree,

    this is the cheapest display on the market with a resolution above 2048 x 1152

    this is the cheapest LED IPS display on the market of any size. (other than the defunct apple LED 24")

    being LED it uses in the neighborhood of half the power at the same brightness as its closest competitor (the dell u2711).

    frankly on these notes alone it'd only have to be somewhat competitive in display quality to be highly recommended... the apple design and webcam/light-sensor/charger is just a bonus.
    Reply
  • 8steve8 - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    although yes, 16x9 is a fail for anything pretending to be a professional/workstation display. Reply
  • 8steve8 - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    (no edit button)
    ... but it's not only apple... everyone is doing 16:9, so can't really fault this display, you can fault the industry...

    i mean how many 16:10 LED displays are there? other than the XL30, i can't think of any....

    so while it woulda been nice, can't really blame this particular product...
    Reply
  • ijhammo - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    Lol - erm, how about if you don't like the monitor don't buy one?? There are plenty of alternatives.

    I didn't get the same warm and fuzzy feeling you did from the article and they certainly didn't give this monitor the Editors Choice award that they gave the Dell U2711...

    I think the thing to bear in mind is the target market for this monitor. It is after all called a 'Cinema' display (so it's 16:9) and it is squarely aimed at typical Mac owners (boo hoo, brightness doesn't work on non macs under windows). If you look at the stats it might not beat all the competition but it still a good all rounder and certainly has Delta Es below 4 which the human can't detect.

    Lets be honest - all technology is a compromise between cost and performance. If you want the ultimate quality expect to pay the ultimate price.
    Reply
  • v12v12 - Monday, October 11, 2010 - link

    PRAISE the voice of DISSENT! Finally... am I not the only person in here that doesn't get caught up by all the covert/deceptive/manipulative MARKETING that goes on at Anand? Don't get me wrong; I'm here EVERYDAY checking out the continually great, in-depth articles, BUT... Rumors and whispers of "Apple-fanboyism," continue to resurface, even after apparently being shouted down to Davy Jone's Locker... And here we have another one resurfacing, covered in fanboy barnacles!
    __It's almost like a Fox(entertainment)News hit piece of sorts; the lack of true comparisons, no pro & contrast, baseless facts and figures, but compared to WHAT? There's no real "review" going on here, it's merely meant to look like it; and who are these types of hit-pieces custom tailored to---why Apple’s own teeny-tiny cabal of “elite” consumers and their sponsors (tbh). For the rest of “us” out here, with logical as our guiding light; we can CLEARLY see right through all the smoke & mirror, fog and light shows being put on in this “review…”

    16:9 for $1000? Short cables for $1000? Here… let me explain; this is merely someone in Apple’s R&D dept who came up with the clever COST-CUTTING idea like, “hey boss, heh, heh…. If we cutesy up the cables with cheap silicone and monotone colors, this will visually and mentally confused the owners into thinking that anymore cable length is simply a waste, inefficient, and you know ‘bad’ for the environment; am I right? Heheh, heh, heh…” Yes you are---sniveling subordinate, said the bossman!

    Anyhow I completely agree; this monitor is nothing but a bone tossed to the ever expectant, shrude Apple fanboy. In reality, this monitor suits NEITHER the avid/enthusiast consumer, nor the PROFESSIONAL at all… What a wonderful example of market-saturation. This monitor literally serves NO PURPOSE other than to bait & switch idiots from their legal-tender… Anand, we love ya bossman, but come on, you’ve got to find better ways of giving your Apple fans (I own 2 Apple machines btw) the “elitism” fix they so desire, while also keeping Apple’s number in your little black-profit-book… Until then, those of use with sense and a SPINE, will continue to point it out for ya and the “elite,” until you remember that we’re ALWAYS watchin ;-)

    Ciao Anandtech staff! Lol

    _Funny, this piece got me thinking about just how did the “bite out of Apple’s-Apple” get started? My take; it all starts with a great idea… At 1st people show up to “Apple” with a big fat, WHOLE, juicy apple as their head… The boss, already a few bites into being at apple, sees these new fat-heads and thinks, “hrmm I’ve gotta put a stop to all this new ‘idea’ crap right now!” So he takes a “bite” outta yer Apple, and claims it for himself, BUT he too has a boss, who has a boss; they ALL want a bite of the Apple to claim as their own. Eventually up the line the biting goes until you reach THE BOSS; Jobbo-the-Hut! Being that he’s the last big Apple head and there’s nobody to take a bite from his Apple, he comes up with the brilliant idea of cutting a “bite” like shape out of his own Apple. Seeing this mysterious bite out of the head hancho’s head makes everyone feel that missing some chunks here and there is actually “cool,” and “better” since even the big-guy is missing some crucial cells as well… And thus the cycle of “elite, but lacking” becomes the status-Quo at “Apple.” THE END…*poof* (Copyrighted!)
    Reply
  • gstrickler - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    As someone with fairly sensitive eyes, I've encountered many monitors that were too bright for me, especially when trying to use one in a less well lit environment. I had to give away a Dell monitor (to my father) because it was painful for me to use it with the room lights turned down. 200nits is uncomfortable to me in normal room lighting during the day, anything over 100 is uncomfortable at night. Many of the monitors on your list would be painful for me to use. Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    Not a good offering from Apple, I expected a lot better. The only thing positive about this monitor is the pixel size. Thanks for the article, now we know.

    ;)
    Reply
  • Kidster3001 - Friday, October 01, 2010 - link

    I've been using a 1st generation Apple Cinema 30" display for several years now on my Windows gaming PC. Using a 3rd party app called ACD (Apple Cinema Display) I can control the brightness and everything else.

    p.s. 16:9 is for movies. I would not want to go from 1600 vertical to 1440. It really is a huge factor in serious gaming.
    Reply
  • MWG - Friday, October 01, 2010 - link


    I'm using a Sapphire Vapor-X HD 5870 with Windows 7 Home Premium.

    Key is to use Catalyst Control Center to control the brightness.

    'Graphics' > 'Desktops & Displays' > Configure Desktop > 'Properties' > 'Color' tab

    Purchased a Startech 6 in displayport to mini displayport adapter for $8.98

    Really happy with the monitor.
    Reply
  • richardbalboa - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    Glossy only is a joke. At least give people the choice.
    DP port only is cutting corners IMO, and I have a 2010 MBP.
    Non adjustable stand on a £900 monitor is an insult. Maybe Apple will start selling adjustable desks soon.
    Cables a good idea but too short. The magsafe wouldnt look half as attractive if Apple didn't try to rob £70 each for them on their own.
    Tech specs clearly nowhere near a match for the u2711 and that has so much more built into it to justify its cost.

    Despite all this, if it was £600 or £700 I'd be tempted. But not at £900, forget it.

    Add this to the fact that Apple have now discontinued the 30" - their only other matte display and you can only drive that with the awfully flawed (and again, overpriced) Mini DP to dual dpi piece of junk from a MBP.

    Looks like Dell or NEC will be getting a large portion of my cash soon.

    Apple - start listening to your customers or you will lose them. I don't know what % of graphics people prefer matte displays but I'm willing to bet it is at least 50%. Get over the shiny stuff and leave that for the iPads and iPhones. GIVE PEOPLE THE CHOICE. Pros know what they want and no amount of your marketing glitter will convince them otherwise - they will simply just walk away from you.
    Reply

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