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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  • Valleyvalley - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    I really don't understand why all the so-called professionally keep bashing glossy screens. I mistakenly bought a matte screen after reading such reviews and it is horrible. Because the black level is not great, and because the coating is not smooth, reading text is painful. I have to make the font size much larger than normal to be able to read clearly and smoothly, which essentially doesn't take advantage of the high resolution much. As a result I am returning it. If you go to the review section on Amazon about Dell U2711 you'll see similar complains. After this experience, I decide to go with the market choice instead of listening to any of the so-called professionals and I would never touch a matte screen again, althought I will not necessarily buy the Apple LED. Professionals would like to think that because they learned such and such, they can somehow tell people what looks better. However, in reality that is totally rubbish and it is still up to the consumers to decide what looks better and what products will succeed. Professionals also would like to think they are smart and people are idiots easily swayed by marketing strategies, and they are so enthusiastic to convince people something like "what looks better in your eyes". I would say marketing clearly playes a role but in the end most people are not idiots and they know what they are seeing and can compare the effects using their eyes.

    Glossy is not a joke. It has clear advantage of black and white levels, more vibrant colors, and there are even comparisons online of glossy and matte screens under sunlight, with the glossy screen reflective but still visible and vibrant, but the matte screen totally washed out. It is more of a debate and personal preference. If you google "glossy vs matte" you'll find that it is not so one-sided. There are many people who don't know what glossy is and what matte is and they just believe in their eyes, and there is nothing wrong with it and they are not idiots. At the end of the day it is what matters, right? How can you win people's eyes. Those numbers of color, constrast, etc. are meaningless to most people. A picture is worth a thousand words. People can use their own eyes to make a choice. Don't be too self-confident in telling people what to do. It is really not Apple who doesn't listen to its customers because Apple is a product, and needs to win customers and it is doing pretty well so far. It is the so-called professionals who simply don't like to change and they don't, and simply have no need to listen to Apple's customers because they don't make any products and they just like to do stuff the good old ways.
    Reply
  • kenpmason - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Your comments regarding matt vs glossy screens ignore a critical spec--dot pitch. The Dell U2711, which I've been using for a year now, has what I believe to be the smallest dot pitch available on the market today, 0.233. Most other screens have 0.250-0.300-- in other words, coarser. If you take a given rez and spread it over more real estate, then the dot pitch has to increase.

    People who "believe in their eyes" also tend to gravitate to screens with overly vivid (or lurid) colours. This can easily be seen when comparing low-end HDTVs to high-end ones. Similarly, glossy screens are more impressive at first glance, but over time they wear out their welcome.

    Please comment!
    Reply
  • richardbalboa - Monday, October 04, 2010 - link

    In 35 years on this planet I cannot once remember ever going to the cinema to watch a film on a glossy screen. Reply
  • datajerk - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    Any chance you'll post your tuned display profile? Reply
  • Valleyvalley - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    I really don't understand why all the so-called professionally keep bashing glossy screens. I mistakenly bought a matte screen after reading such reviews and it is horrible. Because the black level is not great, and because the coating is not smooth, reading text is painful. I have to make the font size much larger than normal to be able to read clearly and smoothly, which essentially doesn't take advantage of the high resolution much. As a result I am returning it. If you go to the review section on Amazon about Dell U2711 you'll see similar complains. After this experience, I decide to go with the market choice instead of listening to any of the so-called professionals and I would never touch a matte screen again, althought I will not necessarily buy the Apple LED. Professionals would like to think that because they learned such and such, they can somehow tell people what looks better. However, in reality that is totally rubbish and it is still up to the consumers to decide what looks better and what products will succeed. Professionals also would like to think they are smart and people are idiots easily swayed by marketing strategies, and they are so enthusiastic to convince people something like "what looks better in your eyes". I would say marketing clearly playes a role but in the end most people are not idiots and they know what they are seeing and can compare the effects using their eyes.

    Glossy is not a joke. It has clear advantage of black and white levels, more vibrant colors, and there are even comparisons online of glossy and matte screens under sunlight, with the glossy screen reflective but still visible and vibrant, but the matte screen totally washed out. It is more of a debate and personal preference. If you google "glossy vs matte" you'll find that it is not so one-sided. There are many people who don't know what glossy is and what matte is and they just believe in their eyes, and there is nothing wrong with it and they are not idiots. At the end of the day it is what matters, right? How can you win people's eyes. Those numbers of color, constrast, etc. are meaningless to most people. A picture is worth a thousand words. People can use their own eyes to make a choice. Don't be too self-confident in telling people what to do. It is really not Apple who doesn't listen to its customers because Apple is a product, and needs to win customers and it is doing pretty well so far. It is the so-called professionals who simply don't like to change and they don't, and simply have no need to listen to Apple's customers because they don't make any products and they just like to do stuff the good old ways.
    Reply
  • Valleyvalley - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    These comments are not for the author of this review. I think the author did a good jobs and provided little opinion of his own, which is a good thing. These comments are mainly for the previous comments.

    My suggestion: if you care reading text online, etc. a lot, double check the Dell U2711 or any other matte screens before buying, though I know that is difficult as DELL doesn't have physical stores like Apple. From my personal experience, reading text is a lot easier on a glossy screen and that is very important to me, much more important than being a little reflective or 16:9 and such and such.
    Reply
  • Johnmcl7 - Saturday, November 20, 2010 - link

    I'm not calling myself a professional nor am I one to jump on the bandwagon, while I don't despise glossy screens as some do I prefer matt screens and can see why reviewers prefer matt screens as well.

    There's no doubt a glossy screen has a 'wow' factor that a matt screen doesn't which in turn is no doubt responsible for the popularity of glossy screens. However I find that works against it for image or video work as the image looks a bit 'fake', it's not unlike a P&S camera with boosted contrast and saturation. Again it makes the DSLR netural image look flat but the DSLR image is more accurate and better to work with.

    For text I don't have any problems reading a matt screen, I find the opposite as there's no worrying about getting the angles right to ensure there's no distracting light reflecting off the screen and getting in the way.

    I do have the Dell U2711 and think it's a superb monitor, it's always my first choice to work with when possible. I also have the Studio XPS 16 with the RGB backlit monitor which is also extremely good but it's difficult to ignore the irritating reflections from it's side to side glossy panel.

    John
    Reply
  • Valleyvalley - Monday, December 06, 2010 - link

    No. Matte is not more accurate. It is only slightly more accurate to a photographer's taste because it somewhat mimics the uneven and un-smooth surface of a printed picture. For the majority of people who don't even print out their pictures that often and just watch them on a monitor, share them online, etc., Matte==FAIL! It just looks worse. Reply
  • Valleyvalley - Monday, December 06, 2010 - link

    And you enjoy reading the DELL text only because you didn't put it side by side with the Apple 27 inch LED with the same resolution. I bet anyone can tell it is less smooth than this Apple display. Reply
  • smartvmusa - Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - link

    Hey, I am lover of Mac product. Its a nice information about 27" LCD Display.

    Thanks
    Smartvm
    Reply

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