Final Words

I think the more compact 27-inch form factor is the right package to deal with greater than 1080p resolutions. Thirty inch monitors are great if you need more than 1920 x 1200 on a single panel but they’re bulky and don’t have a particularly great pixel density. The 27-inch 16:9 panel in the new LED Cinema Display is a nice alternative.

The styling is impeccable however Apple made two sacrifices in order to design such a pretty display. The first sacrifice is the glass covered panel. It looks great but glare can be a problem. Apple has generally avoided the problems associated with glare by outfitting its glass displays with ridiculously bright backlights/panels; the 27-inch LED Cinema Display is no exception. Glare is actually even less of a problem indoors since its easier to control light, and the bright display is more than enough to compensate. The issue of glare actually has to do with watching dark scenes in movies on the screen. You’ll see your reflection in dark scenes or even in objects like a suit jacket in an otherwise well-lit scene. It’s very bothersome at first, but you can get used to it if you absolutely must. While I don’t mind Apple’s glossy MacBook Pro screens, I’m less sold on their use for a desktop. Perhaps this is because I don’t watch a lot of TV/movies on my notebook and more on my desktop.

The second sacrifice is the lack of a height adjustable stand. You can tilt the Cinema Display but you can’t move it up or down. Apple even has the gall to suggest simply adjusting the height of your workspace if your monitor is too high/low. This wasn’t a problem for me because I actually bought a height adjustable desk a while ago (a properly adjusted desk helps fend off carpal tunnel in a major way), but I recognize that the vast majority of desks out there don’t let you change their height. Whether or not the lack of height adjustment will bother you really depends on your choice of desk.

The integrated speakers are a nice touch. They’re good enough to get the job done if you’re space constrained and a significant step above what you get in a notebook. Compared to a good set of desk speakers however they obviously fall short.

Cable management is beautifully handled. The single cable carrying MagSafe power, USB/audio and video keeps desk clutter to a minimum. Being able to charge your MacBook/MacBook Pro/MacBook Air is awesomely convenient. This is the sort of proprietary Apple design that the company has employed for decades, the difference is now Apple has the marketshare for it to actually be useful. The cable length is a bit limiting to how you can setup your desk so keep that in mind before getting too excited.

As a monitor the 27-inch LED Cinema Display is very bright. Black levels are average for a high end panel and as a result we noted middle of the road contrast on the display. Color reproduction out of the box isn’t that great, but calibrated the display is good.

Color gamut is the bigger issue thanks to the LED backlight. You get a power efficient display, but you also lose a chunk of the AdobeRGB 1998 color gamut. RGB LEDs would solve this problem but they are costly (and power hungry) to implement. Apple wanted a thin display (ruling out CCFL) and presumably wanted to stay below $1000, which ruled out RGB LEDs for the backlight.

If you’re used to notebook displays, the 27-inch LED Cinema Display will still be a step above. But if you’re moving from a high end desktop panel you may actually take a step back in color quality. Coming from using mostly CCFL lit panels, I found the whites to be too harsh on the 27. Color and brightness uniformity are both very good.

Overall the new 27-inch LED Cinema Display isn’t the knockout I had hoped it would be. You get 90% of the resolution of a 30-inch display, in a more compact package. The ability to charge your notebook (if you’re a modern Apple user) is a nice convenience as well. And at $999 it’s actually more affordable than most 30-inch LCDs. With a 120Hz panel and RGB LED backlighting it could have been both forward looking and near perfect, instead what we have is a display that’s good, but not great.

Power Consumption
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  • kukuuu - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Ive heard that windows doesnt work and thus there might not be gaming from my pc. Also the minidisplay issue means ,im not sure about it at al :( Reply
  • bcron - Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - link

    Hello,

    First of all: thanks for your test – it is by far the best I could find!

    I have the first version of the 30" Cinema Display and would like to buy a new display. I am using my 30" primarily for image and video processing, and photo printing (with an Epson Stylus Photo R3000).

    My question is: Do you think that the 27" is better, worse or equal to the 30" (first version) for photography and image processing? (I am not talking about the glare/nonglare-discussion but only about colour accuracy for image editing and photo printing)

    From what I´ve seen from your test the 27" seems to have a better colour space: 83.16% vs 72.96% for the 30". (By the way, is there a way to measure the actual color space of my display? I have a DTP94 colorimeter and use iColorDisplay and basiCColor, but I could not find an option to measure the colour space in percentage of Adobe RGB)

    At a setting of 100cd/m2 (for photo printing) the 27" has a deltaE of 2.2. But in this diagram there is no comparable value of the 30" display.

    Is 2.2 good enough for professional photo printing? I do know that there are better displays but what I do not know is: how big is the difference, eg. compared to a deltaE of 1.1 really – in terms of human perception?

    Thanks!

    B.C.
    Reply
  • dffs - Thursday, December 11, 2014 - link

    There are several things wrong with this monitor. First, of course, the price. Other monitors, such as the Dell UltraSharp 27, appear to use the same screen, and have a street price of nearly half of this one. Although the aluminum case is lovely, it seems impossible to justify the price differential. Second, its height is not adjustable. This is a serious drawback if, for example, you want to use it as an external monitor with an iMac. Third, a good monitor needs its own color controls, featuring RGB sliders. The only way to adjust colors on a Mac monitor is by that exceedingly lame Colors section of the Displays control panel. It's high time Apple gives us something better. Reply

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