If you're looking for a compact, affordable monitor, Apple's latest Cinema Display isn't it. Replacing the 24in and 30in monitors in Apple's line-up, the huge 27in model looks remarkably like an iMac on a diet, and comes with a glossy 2560 x 1440 panel.
Lug it onto a desk and a few things are immediately apparent. It may be big, but it's also very attractive. It keeps its enviable figure thanks to the use of LED backlighting, and the matte aluminium frame and glossy black bezel give it a style nothing else we've seen can match.
It's also more consumer-focused than your average high-end monitor. An iSight webcam nestles discreetly in the top bezel, and there's a three-port USB hub and 2.1 speakers. While they can't match a good external set, their 49W of combined power provides the volume and clarity to make movies and music perfectly listenable in a living room. The webcam and inbuilt microphone deliver fine images and audio quality, too.
As is often the case with Apple hardware, the minimalist design proves limiting. The stand only tilts, and there's a single captive cable sprouting from the rear, terminating with Mini-DisplayPort, USB and a MagSafe connector for directly charging an Apple laptop. If you're hoping to use the Cinema Display with older Apple hardware, or a PC for that matter, you'll need to invest in third-party adapters. The cable is also way too short; if your computer is under your desk, it just won't reach.
And in Apple's quest for simplicity of operation, there are no onscreen displays or menus of any kind. If you need to adjust brightness, you'd better be using a Mac: there's no PC software provided to allow for any adjustment. A quick Google search will find you a relatively straightforward Boot Camp-related workaround, but Apple could have included a driver CD.
Thankfully, image quality tests with our X-Rite i1D2 colorimeter proved that most people will have very little desire to tinker with the Apple's performance. With a Gamma of 2.2, a colour temperature of 6,503k and a brightness reading of 118cd/m2, the Cinema Display comes right out of the box requiring little, if any, adjustment. Colour accuracy is pretty good, too. An average Delta E of 2.2 puts it a whisker in front of the Dell UltraSharp U2711; it's accurate enough for all but the most colour-critical of users.
Again, though, it's not perfect. Raising the screen brightness to its maximum setting delivered an impressive 421cd/m2 luminance reading, but also caused the colour temperature to soar to 7000k and raised the average Delta E to 2.7. Other concerns arose on examination of the black level and white saturation tests on Lagom.nl: the darkest greys were barely distinguishable from black, while the lightest greys suffered from a noticeable red tint.
The IPS panel gives wide viewing angles, but the glossy, reflective finish is another potentially divisive issue. Still, if it came to a choice between that gloss and the grainy anti-glare coating of the Dell, we'd probably lean towards the Apple.
Professionals may take umbrage at the lack of adjustability, but as a high-quality TFT for Apple users, the Cinema Display retains some appeal. Good image quality, great looks and some rare strong speakers all combine to make the $1299 asking price look almost reasonable.
This article originally appeared at pcpro.co.uk