The Experience

I’ve been using a 30-inch for nearly as long as they’ve been around in the consumer market. And I went the multi-monitor route before then. I find that I’ve got enough windows open that need interacting with to fill up a single 2560-pixel wide desktop pretty well, but move to two smaller panels and my desktop usage just isn’t as efficient. I end up having one monitor that’s largely unused except for a couple of applications and another monitor that feels way too cramped. Balancing between the two just never worked well for me, so a single high resolution display made the most sense.

The problem with the 30 is that it’s just huge. It’s got an awesome resolution but I find that it’s more of a pain while gaming, particularly in first person shooters. I end up sitting too close and the display is almost too big.

Moving to the 27-inch panel I noticed several things. The display is much more compact. It doesn’t feel too small, and it doesn’t feel too big. Dare I say it’s just right. The change in aspect ratio is strange but not a deal breaker. Admittedly I wasn’t doing too much with the extra 140 lines of resolution I had on the 30” display.

The display feels a bit sharper than my old 30. The pixel density has gone up 8% from ~101 PPI to ~109 PPI. If you felt text was too small on a 30-inch panel, things aren’t going to get any better here. As a side effect of the display physically being smaller, I can actually sit closer to it than I could with the 30-incher without feeling like I’m being totally overwhelmed by panel.

Viewing angles are great. The IPS panel works its magic as well as you’d expect.

The backlight honestly takes the most getting used to. My 30-inch display is the original Apple Cinema HD display from 2004 and it used a CCFL backlight. The white LED backlit 27-inch panel just seems too cool, even when properly calibrated. The whites are very bright, but they feel a bit too harsh for me. If I dim the display then the rest of the colors get too dim as a result, I can’t seem to find a happy medium. I hear the situation is near perfect with RGB LEDs but Apple and most other manufacturers still use WLEDs for their backlights. You’ll see the impact this has on color gamut later on in the review. I spend most of my time in front of a CCFL backlit screen, but if you’re used to something LED backlit it’ll be a less of a shock.

I feel like there are two significant features missing that ultimately prevent this from being a truly great monitor: a RGB LED backlight and 120Hz support. The former makes the shift from a CCFL backlit LCD more of a tradeoff. The latter is just wishful thinking at this point honestly, but after Brian’s experience with the ASUS 120Hz panel I want it.

The rest of the package works relatively well. I’m happy with the webcam image quality and the integrated mic seems to work well. I love the convenience of the integrated MagSafe power connector and mini DisplayPort is a nicely compact interface, unfortunately these two features only matter if you happen to have a notebook that can take advantage of them.

The New Cinema Display Color Quality
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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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