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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  • chukked - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    very impressive review Anand, Thanks.

    but this is a cinema display review so response time is of prime concern.
    with 12 ms response time i am sure it is having a lot of blurr.
    is this the reason you have skipped the response time/ blurr/ ghost tests ?
    Reply
  • ijhammo - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    unless I imagined it, wasn't there a screenshot of ghosting? Reply
  • ijhammo - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    i cant find confirmation that the 12ms quoted on the Apple website is GtG time - it just says 12ms (typical) Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    does anybody know if there is some kind of after market screen coating available to make glass screens a bit anti-glare?
    you know, something that actually works...

    i love the idea of the LED backlighting because they look closer to the brightness of an old CRT to me, and i never felt "shocked" by that amount of brightness. (i find most LCDs to be extremely dim)
    so what i'm saying is, i know that there are matte finished alternatives out there (like the 27' Dell that looks nice), but if i want LED backlighting, it doesn't seem like there are any options.
    Reply
  • svarog - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    While this review is generally up to the usual high standards I've come to expect from AnandTech, what's up with the lack of a comaprison to the competition in the conclusion? There is a burgeoning market in the 27" high-res monitor space, and from this article it appears that customers would be better served choosing a non-Apple product...? Reply
  • Drag0nFire - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    Looks like the U2711 looks like the better value here. Same IPS 27in goodness, but without the glossy screen, limited input options, and unadjustable stand... and roughly the same price.

    Seems like this deserves mention in the conclusion?
    Reply
  • 8steve8 - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    the u2711 costs 10% more, has no webcam, no ambient light sensor, and uses a ccfl backlight which means the display uses almost twice the energy for a given brightness, it's a no brainer to buy the apple. Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    don't forget that you lose control over the monitor without bootcamp, so it only really works on macs. at least that's what i undstood from this article. Reply
  • 8steve8 - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    what is desperately needed is a comparison of power consumption at a given brightness....

    comparing max brightness power is useless since displays don't all have the same max brightness ,,

    a graph of all displays' power usage at 200 nits or whatever would be ideal.

    just like performance per watt. we want brightness per watt, or maybe brightness per pixel per watt, or brightness per sqr inch per watt....

    at the very least, a calibrated brightness comparison would be appreciated.

    thanks.
    Reply
  • seapeople - Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - link

    I don't generally hop on the "Anand is an Apple fanboi" bandwagon, but articles like this make me wonder. If you look at the data so painstakingly ignored throughout the article, it's obvious that this Apple monitor gets thoroughly trounced by the competition. It doesn't excel at anything (except it's about the third brightest and has the ability to reach brightness levels so low they'd only be usable in the middle of a deep cave) and it gets beat handily in most of the color/contrast ratio measurements. It doesn't even impress much with power consumption -- yes it's the third brightest, but it also uses a lot of power compared to the competition, and the min brightness power consumption doesn't even matter, because how are you going to get an extension cable all the way into the middle of a cave? Of course, if this was a normal PC based product, Anand would give us the relative power consumption at a certain brightness compared to the competition, but then I'm sure doing so wouldn't impress as much as showing how little power this thing draws when it's so dim and shiny that birds would be flying into it if you left the window open.

    What else have we learned? Well now that Apple has done 16x9, it's cool! Anand actually praised the loss in vertical pixels, with a comment of how he probably didn't use those pixels anyway. See how efficient Apple is! They know exactly what we don't need better than we do. What else don't we need? The ability to use a $1000 monitor with 95% of the computers in the world and be able to adjust the brightness. Not only can't you use this monitor with a Windows computer, but it doesn't work with older Macs unless you get a special adapter. I'm surprised that adapter isn't sold by Apple.

    What is there to make up for all these issues? A BUILT IN CHARGER FOR YOUR MACBOOK! OMG!!! Think of all the desk space I save with this 27" monitor now that I don't have to use a separate charger for my macbook. It even gives me 10" to spare, so I don't actually have to physically solder the macbook to the monitor for it to charge. Thank you Apple! It's also convenient that the monitor has no vertical height adjustment, so I don't have to worry about pulling my 10" charger cord off my macbook. Now as long as I don't want to set my macbook on the other side of the monitor...

    The proof of the bias in this article is how warm and fuzzy it makes you feel about this product despite the obvious shortcomings. I subconsciously want to buy this monitor now. Anand has done this to me. I logically read and comprehended the data that told me why I shouldn't buy this (especially since I don't have a Mac), but because any direct comparisons to the superior competition were avoided, and the few unique Apple nuances were played up throughout the bulk of the article, I now just have this feeling that this Apple monitor is a great buy. And so do most of the people responding to this article. Thank you Anand. Now I'll probably have to go buy this monitor and hook it up to my PC and be forced to painfully watch my own reflection during Diehard as the monitor sears my eyeballs with its unadjustable atomic blast level brightness. Then I might as well buy a Mac and an Ipad to go along with a brand new Iphone so I can facetime with people I don't even like.
    Reply

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