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.

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  • Hln98 - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    Does the system fonts on this appear too small like the iMac 27 inch? I have the Apple 24 inch LED now and love it since I can see the font. I want to get the new 27 inch but if it's like the iMac 27 inch, I will pass.

    Please confirm.
    Reply
  • Ogopogo - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    I guess the Apple premium (perhaps excepting accessories) has really gone away over the years. Now all the major manufacturers have the same business model - a little distinctive design then outsource to Asia - so prices come back a wash. I remember when Apple wanted $1-2k more for their 30" monitor than anyone else. Now this comes in cheaper than the Dell U2711. Reply
  • Juddog - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    I don't understand why the manufacturers are pushing for such high density displays - for me, 1920 x 1200 at 27 inches is the ideal resolution. Mostly because of font sizes and such, 2560 x 1440 just makes things seem too dang small.

    I don't known if it's a factor of getting old, but most people I work with seem to think the same.
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    It's because things just look better at a higher DPI. If the fonts are too small, change the font size. Windows 7 has great support for this. My old 17" CRT (I'm too picky to use a TN panel LCD, and too cheap to spend $1000 on a nice IPS LCD) is 130dpi and things just look so much clearer when I run Windows at 125% font size. The number of apps that don't recognize the setting is much smaller than it used to be. Pretty much all apps that were released in the past 5 years support high DPI.

    I can actually see large differences at 12pt between fonts like Arial, Cambria, and Verdana, where on 96dpi they were very slightly different.
    Reply
  • DanaG - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    I have a high-dpi display, and can't use any desktops, because they all have crap DPI.

    <link removed because the damn comment system thinks this comment is spam>
    Anyway, it was "rant-hdtv-has-ruined-the-lcd-display-market-or-i-want-my-pixels-and-dpi-now"

    See my comment near the bottom.

    "This comment is apparently spam and we do not allow spam comments."

    What the hell, Anandtech? What sort of garbage do I have to put in my post to get it to not count as "spam"? How about more random words? Damnit...
    Reply
  • n0x1ous - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    I wish someone would make a 30 inch 2560 x 1600 TN so I could actually afford one. Im surprised Asus or Alienware or one of those doesn't get with some OEM and make a $500 30 inch TN for us gamers who don't need all the perfect viewing angles/colors etc......

    I am ready for more rez (currently on 19x12) but just can't stomach the 10 benjamins to get to 25x16
    Reply
  • Tros - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    I disagree, strongly.

    Your display is just as important as what video card you have driving it, simply because if you're in dark corridors, and the viewing angle makes more of a difference than the video card, then the rendered picture is worthless. Likewise, vibrant colors tend to get a faster response from the brain than colors that are washed out and leave the image ambiguous without looking at it for a few seconds.

    I've got two solutions:
    1) Go with a projector. Variable screen size, plus a low resolution to keep frames high.
    2) Stick with the stuff in your price range.

    It's this kind of demand that gets us huge, high resolution screens, with images worse than current solutions.

    I'm disappointed with this offering from Apple, because it really is all-glitz and not much substance. As a consumer, I expect to pay a price and get a superior product. And I acknowledge that the price is ridiculous, but at least I don't have to play the "mixed bag" game. I am not wow'ed by the ability to pay a lower price and get something "like good". That's not Apple-like at all.
    Reply
  • TegiriNenashi - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    Second it. The price of 30" has been frozen at ~$1200 level for what, 3 years already? Those who claim that the cost of IPS panel is high, should look no further than LCD TVs, which prices steadily declined in all size categories. Today one can buy two good-enough 46" TVs (they are IPS!) for a price of one 30" monitor. Reply
  • BZDTemp - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    It's harder to make more pixels perfect so some of the cost is found there but it's also a question of to little a market so that mass production effects are limited.

    To many people are simply content with what they got and the majority looks at screen size vs. prices and then get the terrible TN panels. It's like in the old days with CRT's where most people ran them at 60 Hz because that was Windows default not knowing good screens could do so much better.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    Disagree. TN technology starts to really hit limitations at around 24", when you get bigger than that you start to lose uniformity and the sweet spot for viewing gets that much harder to find. A 30" TN panel would look awful. Reply

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