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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  • Razorjackman - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    Why are all the displays from 24" and below relatively inexpensive, while the +27" seem to be disproportionately expensive?

    I'm still using a HannsG 28" from 2 years ago for $400.00. I expected to get larger or denser for less by now.

    Does Moores Law apply to monitors?
    Reply
  • B3an - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    Because theres loads of cheap crappy TN panels in displays 24" and under, which i'd never even consider buying. Most old cheap CRT monitors would have better colours.

    When you move to 27" and especially 30" you start getting some quality IPS panels.
    You dont just get a larger display with more pixels, you get a vastly better image too.
    Reply
  • B3an - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    ... You also get better viewing angles as well. Reply
  • Alexstarfire - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    True, but they were saying even the IPS panels for the 24" were $539 and up. Says so on the first page. A near doubling in price for an extra 3 inches isn't very compelling. Though, I don't know if the two 27" monitors they talk about are the cheapest for 27" monitors. Reply
  • hughlle - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    Partly to do with who they are aimed at i guess. A lot of the folk opting for these high end 30" displays as opposed to just whacking an LCD tv on their desk, are using it for high end audio, graphic design etc, professional use you might say, so can be expected to spend the premium. Reply
  • TegiriNenashi - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    I'd suggest there is a category between high end 30" and mainstream 24". There is something wrong with the market when 24" TN is <$250 and 30" IPS is >$1000 and there is nothing in-between. Reply
  • juncture - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - link

    These people also forgot to mention the HUGE difference being the resolution.... Try to find a 24" that has the same resolution as the $1000+ 27"-30". How was this not mentioned in this argument? Reply
  • plonk420 - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    seconded .. it's either crap dirt cheap TNs for me ... or IPS (but preferrably oLED). i hope i never spend more than $140 on a TN again...

    (posting from a dying CRT ... with TN+Dell *VA as secondary)
    Reply
  • plonk420 - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    seconded @B3an Reply
  • Targon - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - link

    It has to do with yields and the production costs. It is far easier to make a PERFECT four inch display than an eight inch display, just because there is a smaller chance of dead or stuck pixels. As the size of the screen goes up, it just becomes that much harder to make a display without any problems.

    As time has gone on, with the older technologies, it has gotten easier to make larger panels that don't have problems, but now we are seeing newer technologies that raise the difficulty again.

    When you got that 28 inch display, was that a 1080p or 1080i, or 720p? These days, the LED technologies are where a lot of the focus is. Then you have the move from 60Hz to 120Hz to 240Hz. 3D is also creeping in as something that will push costs up.

    Two years ago, the cost of a 23 inch panel was MUCH higher than it is today, and you are seeing displays that could not do 1080p going away. So, now that 1080p is the norm for flat panel displays, the question is when better displays will become the norm on the desktop.

    We also have a problem with what integrated video can handle. The Radeon 3300 integrated video for example will handle 1280x1024 decently, but starts to have a bit of a problem at 1920x1080 when it comes to basic games and such. So, before the mainstream consumer can make decent use of higher resolution displays, the base level for GPUs needs to go up by a bit more to make the experience properly "smooth".

    Remember, prices come down when the manufacturers can expect high enough sales volumes to allow the drop in price to still provide a good profit. So, how many 1920x1200 displays would sell at $300 compared to 1920x1080 displays selling at $210? How about going up from there, would the general public pay for a higher quality display if their computer couldn't push the pixels well enough at the higher resolutions? Even on the gamer front, would you be willing to pay $400 for a 23 inch display with a higher resolution since the higher resolution means lower framerates?
    Reply

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