When reviewing hardware, we often run into the scenario of limited diversity; dozens of manufacturers send us hardware that differs from everyone else's design by a different color PCB or bezel. Every once in a while, however, we have the pleasure of looking at something that is completely different than anything else currently available on every level. When Apple wanted us to look at their newest 20" Cinema display, we knew that our opportunity to look at something so unique in the displays market would be a rare occasion.

In fact, the 20" M9177LL Cinema displays are so unique that Apple really only has a single Tier 1, 20" wide screen competitor - Dell's UltraSharp 2005FPW. The move to wide screen computer displays has been a slow one. Unlike digital TVs, which are mandated to be HD capable by a certain year based on their screen size, regulatory committees do not enforce similar directives on PC displays - and rightfully so. Obviously, high definition media such as DVDs utilize wide screen dimensions; most PC content remains relatively optimized for traditional 4:3 screens. Web content, for example, is still largely fixed at 1024 pixels wide. Games, however, are starting to pick up on wide screen formats (World of Warcraft, UT2004) and anyone who has done any video or photo manipulation can assure that you wider displays make for much more immersive content creation.

As unique as Apple's Cinema display might be in the world of 19" to 21" flat panel displays, it shares the same LG.Philips panel as the Dell UltraSharp 2005FPW. There happens to be only a single panel manufacturer capable/willing to mass produce wide screen, high resolution flat panel displays for the PC market. Since these two displays are so similar, we thought it only necessary to review both side by side. Several sources have claimed that the 2005FPW had numerous discoloration problems and generally poor image quality. Obviously, if one of our displays demonstrates imperfections, we would expect to see both displays to be flawed. However, the Dell and Apple displays utilize different backlights, so we are open to the thought that there will be some dissimilarities between the units. Let's take a closer look at our 20" displays.

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  • Weezard - Wednesday, May 4, 2005 - link

    Okay, sounds good.

    So if I buy this monitor, Ill just have to plug it in, and it will work with widescreen and all - on my Windows XP system with 9700Pro?

  • Pastuch - Wednesday, May 4, 2005 - link

    "Does my Radeon9700Pro support this monitor?"

    A 9700pro is an excellent videocard for this monitor if you dont plan on playing games like Halflife 2 or WoW. The 9700pro's DVI signal will work perfectly, however you should install the latest ATI driver from

    "but what about resolution options, DDC (or what its called - the function that delivers 16:10 widescreen). "

    DDC or whatever you had in mind does not deliver a widescreen display. If you install the latest ATI drivers you will see that the standard windows graphics profiles in display settings have 1680x1050x32. The ATI driver has the ability to force 720p or 1080i but it is not necessary.
  • Weezard - Wednesday, May 4, 2005 - link

    Hi, nice review.

    I do have a few questions about the Cinema Display.

    Does my Radeon9700Pro support this monitor? It has DVI output, but what about resolution options, DDC (or what its called - the function that delivers 16:10 widescreen).

    Is this a plug and play monitor, when running Windows XP and Radeon 9700Pro? Is any software needed before using it with a Windows OS?

    Thank you.
  • wrack - Wednesday, May 4, 2005 - link

    One thing I forgot to ask Kristopher,

    Which graphics card and processor was used to carry out this review..? I can't find 1680x1050 resolution option on my graphics card.
  • wrack - Tuesday, May 3, 2005 - link

    #54 Electonic circuits always tend to attract fine dust.
  • nortexoid - Sunday, May 1, 2005 - link

    dust acts as an insulator? the monitor is standing vertically so the only place dust would gather is on the top, not on any of the electronics. or do you lie your monitor face down on a glass desk and work from underneath the desk? i know it's gaining ergonomic popularity, but i thought only in malawi.
  • Spacecomber - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    This is the kind of review that I'd like to see become the standard for comparing LCDs. Pick an assortment of LCDs that are using the same type of matrice panel(TN, IPS, PVA/MVA) and compare these monitors to each other. They don't have to be using the exact same panel, as in this case, just one based on the same technology. This will provide the reader with something much more like an apples to apples comparison than the apples to oranges comparision that you will get otherwise. (Sorry, about the Apple pun.)

    With all three (or four) types of matrices having such distinctive strengthes and weaknesses, you pretty much have to decide which of these patterns of characteristics will best match how you use the computer and then go looking for that particular type of matrice in a panel.

    The questions for the reviewers then becomes how well does a particular display cope with it's inherent weaknesses, as well as how well does it emphasize what should be its relative strengths.

    For example, in this Anandtech review of IPS panel displays, one of the main problems for IPS panels to overcome is a relatively low contrast ratio, which can affect how well it reproduces black; so, this specification is one that should be given particular attention in the review, especially the subjective analysis.

    Response times are always a point of emphasis in LCD reviews, and with IPS screens, as was noted in the review, you should expect to see the relatively modest black-white response time made up for by the fact that response times stay relatively consistent, even when changes in shade become smaller. (That is why I was confused by this statement, regarding motion blur, in the review, "...two states that are very close to each other take less time than two states further apart from each other, which results in pixels that are not just delayed in a uniform manner, but at several different speeds across the entire panel depending on the hue". I thought that it was with states that were closer together that you saw the slower response time, due to the voltage differential being so small in these cases.)

    In sum, I'd like to see more LCD reviews start with what is known about the panel that is being used (such as is detailed in this very good xbitlabs analysis, and use this understanding to provide a framework for comparing LCDs in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Essentially, while there is no one LCD monitor that is as well rounded for many purposes as is a CRT, anyone buying a LCD will be looking for the one that imposes fewer compromises on the them and for compromises that impinge less on how the screen will be used by that particular buyer.

  • KristopherKubicki - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    nortexoid: Dust acts as an insulator. Wrapping your DSP in a warm cuddly blanket will probably make it fail prematurely.

    glennpratt: Unfortunately I cannot quite vouche for the fact that aluminum really acts as a heat sink on this display. The housing is completely smooth and does not really create additional surface area for heat dissapation. Aluminums ability to transfer heat well only helps if there is additional surface area for the sink to come in contact with air.

    In reality, the reason why Apple can get away with a beveled design without any passive exhaust has more to do with the fact that the inverter is housed in a separate brick from the display. Samsung does this too in many of their high end displays.

    Anyways - I think Apple just picked Aluminum for looks.

  • glennpratt - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    The Apple is made of aluminum which may have affected their decision to leave out the vents (aluminum transfers heat much better the plastic.)
  • nortexoid - Thursday, April 28, 2005 - link

    What do you think damages a electronics more: dust falling on them or high temperatures?

    I'd rather vents in the back of my monitor to prevent higher temperatures than have it completely sealed to keep out that horribly destructive nuclear fallout.

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