The 27″ Apple Cinema Display: Is It Worth $999?

In July of this year, Apple announced the 27″ LED Cinema Display and, as most of us would expect, it isn’t a cheap piece of hardware.

Apple has a reputation for producing high quality products – and no one can deny that. There is often a good amount of discussion as to whether they mark their prices up simply because they know the Apple fans will pay for it, or because their products are actually superior to their competitors.

Right now, Apple sells only one computer monitor – the 27″ LED Cinema Display. It specs out (we’ll get into that in a bit) very well and comes in at a beefy $999. In the day of bigger and bigger displays and cheaper and cheaper prices, Apple goes against the flow here a bit by staying at a higher price point.

The question is, do you get what you pay for?

The Specs

Apple tends to focus on building high quality products that are also beautiful. The latest Cinema display is no different. Here are the technical specifications:

  • Screen size: 27 inches (diagonal viewable)
  • Screen type: TFT active-matrix LCD with in-plane switching (IPS)
  • Resolution: 2560 by 1440 pixels
  • Colors: 16.7 million
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Viewing angle: 178 degrees horizontal; 178 degrees vertical
  • Brightness: 375 cd/m2
  • Contrast ratio: 1000:1
  • Response time: 12 ms

This looks like a lot of “tech talk” here (and it is), but I’d like to point out a couple important features of the LED Cinema display.

Resolution

The maximum resolution of of the LED Cinema display is 2560 by 1440 pixels. That is a super high resolution and definitely narrows down the number of direct competitors. There are many 27″ (or larger) displays available from other manufacturers that are much cheaper, but this is a key ingredient where many fall short. Displays in the $300 range will fall into the 1920 by 1080 pixel range at best.

You may argue that resolution doesn’t really make much difference to the average user, but this is a very significant difference. Consider this: viewing a a high resolution photo that is 2560 by 1440 pixels (it would fill the screen on the LED Cinema Display) on a 1920 by 1080 pixel display would cut off about 25% of the image. That would be around a 4 megapixel image – which by today’s standard is pretty small.

To the average user, I would still say that the larger screen resolution is a fairly big deal. To the photographer or graphic artist, it is absolutely a big deal and probably a huge selling point. A screen resolution of that size just makes life easier. There’s no doubt about it.

IPS

You’ll also notice from the technical specs above the screen type is listed as a TFT active-matrix LCD with in-plane switching (IPS). There’s a lot of technical jargon there, but the big thing to notice is that the Cinema Display uses IPS.

This is a technology that displays the liquid crystals a bit differently, to greatly increase the viewing angle – Apple says 178 degrees both horizontal and vertical. Because of this, the color values are also more true as viewing from a slightly different angle won’t change the color. Screen lag was initially a problem with the technology, but that issue has been resolved for the most part in recent years.

This is a big bonus for professional graphic artists out there, but probably not as big of a deal to more standard users. This is another feature that you won’t get with a similar sized, but much cheaper, display.

Design and Construction

Apple puts a lot of time and thought into how their products are designed. Even if you’re completely anti-Apple, I don’t think you can argue against this. If you’ve owned any Apple device you will notice the high quality of construction.

This display is a hefty 23.5 lbs. Not that weight is necessarily an indicator of quality, but I know we’ve all picked up some device that looked really great but ended up just feeling cheap and light when it was in our hands.

As with all Apple products, there is a lot of attention to detail. The Cinema Display is a beautiful, sleek piece of hardware that looks great sitting on any desk. It is a little difficult to put a price on style necessarily, but that is certainly where some of the cost is justified here.

I realize this is somewhat a matter of taste, but I would argue that Apple puts more thought into the style of their displays than their competitors selling similar products. It is a differentiating factor and therefore is worth a premium price. A thoughtful design is worth something.

A Mac Companion

This display was built to be a perfect companion to your MacBook, Mac Pro, iMac, or Mac Mini. It comes with a three in one cable that has a MagSafe power connector, a mini DisplayPort connection, and a USB connection (there are 3 USB ports on the back of the display).

This thoughtful integration is big selling point to someone who already owns an Apple computer (especially a MacBook). The display also has a built in iSight camera and iMic microphone. This is something you won’t see very often on competing displays.

Comparisons

Dell UltraSharp U2711

Dell UltraSharp U2711

Initially it seems like there are a plethora of displays to compare to the Apple LED Cinema Display, but that really isn’t the case. True, there are lots of LCD displays in the 27″ range, but there are very few with the same core features.

One is the Dell UltraSharp U2711. It has the same native resolution, and also the in-plane switching technology (IPS). This is a very solid display and seems to be well loved by many in the tech community.

It is priced at $1,099. That is $100 more expensive than the LED Cinema. The only gripe I’ve seen with this one is that more thought was put into the function than the design. Not a bad thing necessarily, but why not get both if you can.

Another is the NEC PA271W. Again, same resolution and also with IPS. This one comes in at a retail price of $1,399. Now that is a whopping $400 more expensive than the LED Cinema display. The technical specs are pretty comparable, but you could say that this one comes with a few extra bells and whistles that the Cinema does not.

Conclusion

The Apple LED Cinema display is an expensive display, there is no question about it, but as we’ve seen it isn’t even the most expensive of it’s category. I’ve seen a lot of comments around about this display being incredibly overpriced and not worth it. A common argument would link off to some $250 Vizio display, which for its own purposes is I’m sure a solid display, but really not at all a fair comparison.

There are very few displays that offer the same core features that the Cinema Display does, and with it being priced toward the lower end of that group, I’m not sure you can say that it’s overpriced.

You could argue that is not worth it to you personally, and that could definitely be true, but to say you can get the same quality of display for a few hundred dollars just isn’t accurate.

I’d seen a good amount of discussion centred around the Cinema Display, and I decided to do a little research and come to my own conclusion. So here it is…

If you’re a current Mac owner, work in a profession where high screen resolution and true screen color is important, and can afford it, I think it is a no-brainer. The 27″ Cinema Display is an affordable, technologically advanced, beautiful, and functionally designed display.


  • http://pupmup.com Rick Roberts

    I wish it had HDMI so that I could pair it with an Apple TV for the perfect minimalist video setup.

  • http://www.miknos.com Alexei

    Usually who bashes Apple products never had one.

    • Michael

      No, my dad has one and it was not anywhere near worth the money that he paid for it. Just because it costs twice as much and has a pretty logo doesn’t mean it’s better.

      • CK Dexter Haven

        I think you’re struggling with causal relationships. It costs “twice as much” AND it’s better. No one is claiming it’s better BECAUSE it costs more. If you’re missing out on the reasons why it’s better, i’d wager you’re just not the type of person who is sensitive to such matters of quality.

        It’s like the guy who asserts a Mercedes or BMW or Aston Martin isn’t “not anywhere near worth the money” because they don’t do 2, 3, 4-times more than a Ford Taurus.

        As for the “pretty logo” remark, i don’t know where to begin. Please don’t fault Apple for placing a premium on quality industrial and graphic design. Where i come from, that’s a PLUS. In fact, it’s absolutely inexcusable for the other companies to NOT pay critical attention to those issues. Those other companies produce goods i would never want in my home. So, yah — i’ll pay a bit more for products that are made by people with design integrity, people who actually believe in innovation, and people who don’t cram crap components into an ugly shell. Rant over.

  • Anonymous

    “To the photographer or graphic artist, it is absolutely a big deal and probably a huge selling point”.

    To them ( photographer or graphic artist) the possibility to calibrate the display correctly will be as much important as the resolution (maybe even more …).

    And the calibration of the NEC took about 10 minutes with a Spider 3, for the LED Cinema Display I’m still waiting ….

    • AlsoAnonymous

      Not trying to argue, but I honestly don’t understand … can you not just calibrate the display using the System Preferences, going to the “Display” section and adjusting the colour calibration?

      I may be missing something, as I’m neither a photographer or a graphic artist (my artistic talents are more in the audio department)

      • http://ExposedPlanet.com Harry, ExposedPlanet.com

        The calibration which is meant in the comment above is different, usually involving a specialized colour reading device, such asthe Spyder or Xrite.
        ‘Normal calibration’, just makes the screen look better to you, but the colour calibration using these devices makes the colours and lights/greys more accurate.

        This is very important as this way the printed photos will be much more similar to the ones on the screen. So even if your photos look great on the screen, the colours could be completely ‘off’,resulting in strange-coloured prints, just because your monitor was un-calibrated.
        Cheers,Harry

    • http://vinaganda.com Fred

      “To the photographer or graphic artist, it is absolutely a big deal and probably a huge selling point”.

      I don’ t know, but what I know is that all my photographers friends, and I mean “professionals”, spend their time insulting my glossy Macbook screen, claiming that it does not respect the colors.

      • http://ExposedPlanet.com Harry, ExposedPlanet.com

        I own both Mac as well as PC stuff and both have their merits.
        All IPS monitors are actually the best type to have for colours, but you must calibrate them first (see comment above).

        This one is pricey, but as the review correctly stated,within the normal 27 inch IPS range for this resolution.
        But a glossy display is an no-go for me and for many other photographers. I rather look at my images than at myself :)

  • http://twitter.com/garbaczd David Garbacz

    I worked in a computer lab on Purdue University’s campus that had equipment readily available for students or staff to come in and capture and edit video footage via attached firewire DV decks. The Mac Pro’s that had these attached to them had the older generation of Cinema Displays (the all silver ones) but honestly I would still be happy to have one of those in my home.

    The overall monstrous viewing size mixed with an unparalleled viewing angle (as noted) and crisp color make it hard for any other monitor to come close.

    The price does turn away a lot of people (including myself) but with any of the Apple products, you’re buying a truly great piece of hardware and it’s worth spending the extra cash for something that will last for years to come.

  • http://www.prestigewebdesign.nl Leon Demeijer

    Really nice article, I’ve been waiting for an honest review for quite some time now! Would really like to buy it, just have to wait what Santa will bring me this December ;)

  • http://www.ohnojono.com/ Jono

    Good comparison piece.

    Noted something interesting when I was taking a look at the Dell U2711 on the Australian Dell site (http://www1.ap.dell.com/au/en/home/monitors/monitor-dell-u2711/pd.aspx?refid=monitor-dell-u2711&s=dhs&cs=audhs1) where it retails for $AUD 849 – significantly less than the $AUD 1299 asking price for the Cinema Display. Plus the Dell comes with a few extra features – several different inputs, inbuilt memory card reader etc. Plus the screen is anti-glare which is a plus in the book of any photographer or designer.

    So as much as I have lusted after the Cinema Display (particularly because of the inbuilt MagSafe plug to power my laptop) I won’t be spending my money on it.

    • http://www.ohnojono.com/ Jono

      On closer inspection the U2711 is not LED backlit.

      • Eric Mantooth

        Exactly, the U2711 uses a CCFL backlight which is superior to white LED backlights. The 27″ Cinema Display uses blue LEDs with a yellow phosphor coating in front to create a fake white backlight, which reduces the display’s gamut. Most LED monitors use this type of setup, and it’s inferior to CCFL as far as color quality is concerned. RGB LED backlighting (individual red, green, and blue LEDs combined to produce white light) is used in very high end displays and is the only thing I would consider besides CCFL.

        Considering an LED backlight as a plus is a mistake. It probably won’t matter for some users, but there’s no reason to leave a better monitor (like the U2711) just because it doesn’t have an LED backlight.

  • Ed

    Having recently purchased this screen I can tell you that I love it. In fact that only complaint I have is about that cables. First the cables are permentally attached, so you can’t change them or remove them. But that isn’t the part that really annoys me. I have Mac pro that sits on the floor and the stupid cables are too short to reach it. So if you do end up buying one of these ands your computer is on the floor, be sure to pick up a mini display play extension cable. I got mine from monoprice for under $10. Also it was definitly designed for MacBooks. Haing the desktop also means there is an unused MagSafe connection under my desk. There is no way to remove it. One positive thing about the cables is that there is no brick.

  • http://kurtzenter.com Alex

    I got the DELL a week ago, and I got it new for 760 EUR. There are so many options and inputs, there is no reason getting the Apple. Well there is one: You like the look and “need” it on your desk.

    • http://www.twitter.com/evilmeteor Jaime

      You do realize that’s more expensive than Apple’s offering right?

      • http://designlovr.com ximi

        Not really. Considering that he is from Germany and the Apple Cinema Display costs 1099€ there he saved quite a bunch of money.

  • http://studentmacreviews.com Phillip

    Are there any displays in the$400 range which may fall short on the resolution but still the good design was there and could be somewhat comparable far as size and quality?

    • http://www.mikekey.com Mike Key

      Not in the 27 inch range, and might be able to get lucky on a newer 24inch Mac Display, but I snagged a 23inch Cinema Display for my wife on ebay after watching probably like 40 auctions, lol to get a deal at 220$.

      I bought myself one week ago a 30 inch display that was a year old Apple Cinema Display for 700$. Which has a higher resolution and display area than the above 27. And no glare!

    • Siv

      If the 27 inch size is absolutely necessary, there are plenty on monitors in the US $350 range with 1920 x 1080 resolution. They are not of the highest quality in build/picture display, but are more than sufficient for most of us.

      If 27 inches is not needed, go in for ~25″ lcds with the same resolution (better pixel density) and are led backlit.

      I personally use:
      New Egg to find monitors that suit my preference (more filtering options than amazon):
      http://www.newegg.com/Store/SubCategory.aspx?SubCategory=20&name=LCD-Monitors

      and
      Amazon to read reviews and compare prices.

  • Tuomas

    The thing I don’t see mentioned is the ultra-glossy sheet of glass Apple has attached to te front of their beautiful IPS panel. Seriously, what’s the point in that? Or at least, where’s the matte option? Most competing displays are available in matte.

  • Bruno

    And the Delta E?

  • Adam

    I bought the 27″ Cinema Display a month ago and it is worth every penny. The colors on it are amazing.

  • skzskz

    glossy sucks!

  • http://www.dontshitme.com.au Don

    I say the only consideration is whether you can afford it, it doesn’t matter what you do for a job, if you can afford it, get it.

  • Anonymous

    Owned a iMac 27″, as beautiful as it gets there are flaws. And to me it’s quite serious ones, the famous yellow tint problem etc. But of course there might not be any of this problems on the Cinema Display. I still love my iMac, just hope they fix the screen problem soon so they can do a proper replacement.

    • Rob

      The cinema display uses the same panel like the 27 iMac. Dont think they are producing two different tfts same size…

  • http://www.thegraphicmac.com Jim

    I got a 30″ Dell LCD (IPS) nearly two years ago for $999. Unless you really need that iSight camera, Apple’s LCDs are overpriced. Don’t get me wrong, they are nice, but most people I know would rather have the 30″ LCD for the same price.

  • Rick

    I like the idea of a large IPS LED backlit monitor quite a lot. Apple’s the only real player here (or at least they were when I was looking at displays a few months ago). Everything else has issues. The Dell U2711, for example, has a lot to be said for it, but it’s also quite power hungry.

    Unfortunately, the high gloss screen on Apple’s display means that it’s not worth it to me at even half the price.

  • http://sharpwebsolutions.com Damon Sharp

    I bought the 24″ cinema display from Apple’s online refurbished store about a year ago and saved a few hundred dollars. I absolutely love it, haven’t had a singe issue with it, and consider it a great purchase. If the new 27″ model is as good or better than the one I have and you can find one of them refurbished, it’s really a no brainer. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

  • http://fairheadcreative.com Adam Fairhead

    I miss my 30″ ACD … If I didn’t move around so much I’d definitely pick up either a refurb 30″, or this lovely new 27″. Probably the latter.

  • http://www.inhouse-advertising Dominique

    I purchased a 27″ iMac a few weeks ago – if the cinema display is anything like this – it is worth every penny. The colors are crisp, the real estate value awesome – i can have multiple windows open. If your a graphic/photographer professional you will be quite happy!

    • http://www.rzdesign.nl Ricardo de Zoete

      Wouldn’t it be ‘smarter’ just going for the iMac 27″ instead of a MacBook Pro + 27″ Cinema Display? I understand that people don’t need two Macs and only want a bigger screen, but still, when looking at all priced that decision would be the ‘cheapest’ one I think.

      I own a MacBook Pro 13″ myself, and I have it hooked up to a Samsung SyncMaster XL2370 which looks great imo. And when I need a big Mac with a27″ screen I would definitely go for a iMac 27″ and not a expensive extra screen for my laptop.

  • Jeff Foster

    GLARE! How was the major defect of all Apple Displays ignored? As a designer and heavy user, I still stick to buying used previous Apple Displays. The glare on all of the new monitors render them useless if you care about your eyes and/or head.

    • http://www.mikekey.com Mike Key

      Jeff I couldn’t agree with you more. I recently sold two 24inch cheaper displays to purchase a 1yr old 30inch Cinema Display and went without a monitor for a week. Forcing me to do all my work on my Macbook Pro. I love my Macbook Pro, but I never realized how bad the glare was till I had to use it in my office everyday.

      Glass displays are beautiful, but, the glare is insanely annoying.

      • NoCool

        Indeed. But Steve Jobs think that glare monitors are COOL, so…

        Coolness is going to kill Macs

      • http://ExposedPlanet.com Harry, ExposedPlanet.com

        That’s what you get when you let stuff be designed by people who like to look at themselves rather than by people who want to use the gear ;-)

  • Vincent Klaiber

    Is there anyway to say really when they will come out with an updated screen, how far away is USB 3.0 and intels new system? Feels like these products gets update every year.
    Great article btw!

  • Anderson

    I wonder how the article owner constructed this text by excluding from it all the points in which the Cinema Display fails terribly, those being: having no HDMI, the freaking glare and the lack of all other in/out interfaces. I guess this is how you build a tendencious liar text. It’s Interesting to see how SJobs is a mule, which wants us to live by his rules, completely narrowing our options to what he thinks it’s best, I guess thats when you give up Apple for something else. I want to use my freaking standard HMDI stuff for god sake.

    • Paul

      HDMI is only 1920×1080 Resolution. You can not get the 2560×1440

  • http://osxdaily.com macwilly

    $999 is just too much for a screen alone if you ask me, for the price I’d rather get an iMac 22″ or a Mac Mini + Dell 24″ LCD

  • Katie

    I just purchased this monitor. However I had to get a $300 video card to be able to support this monitor.
    I have a 2008 MacPro tower (just a couple yrs old) and it was not compatible with the minidv port. So in order for it to work I had to get a new video card and miniDV port installed. So if your looking at getting this monitor. Keep that in mind if you own a mac that was made in or before 2008.
    It is an amazing monitor!! I just wish the Apple store would’ve told me the specs. I still would have got it, but it took a week to get everything up and compatible.
    Its great and I LOVE IT!!!! I wouldnt go with any other brand.

  • Pingback: Best of AppStorm in November | Mac.AppStorm

  • Supriya

    Does anyone know if there is an LCD display comparable to the 27″ Apple Cinema Display that is just smaller in size? Like 21 or 24″? Can you still get the 24″ from Apple and does it have the same 3 in 1 cable (to connect to MacBook Pro, etc)?

    Thanks!

  • http://www.macewan.org Robert MacEwan

    I’m buying one because to maintain a consistent look in my office. As far as I’m concerned it’s worth the $500 or so extra but that’s just me.

  • Raymond

    I hit pawn shops all the time in Texas and ran across this monitor with the box. It was marked $799, and was scheduled to be marked down to $639 on 9/6/11. I got it for the marked down price, plus an additional 10% off for using their debit card. So around $575 plus sales tax. Love it so far. Only bad thing is I don’t have a warranty, but I know Apple products, it’ll last me a long time…..

  • lisa

    It is overpriced and to Alexei I own an imac 27” just because some people don’t like the prices doesn’t mean they cant afford it, So did they really need the cords to be attached what was the point and yes the glossy screen is killing me , i have to put the display light at zero and had anti glare added to my new glasses. they only cost 100 but plus the glare it was a whooping 400, thank Jesus for insurance cuz it was just 160 they do help alot. I do need a display but unless i no want to carve my eyes out with a piece of glass im sticking with non apple monitors until its changed.

  • http://www.myarticlenow.com/2012/05/26/You-surely-Have-to-Try-The-Nike-Oxygen-Jordan-Shoes/ cheap air jordans

    I was very delighted to discover this site on yahoo.I wanted to say thank you to you with regard to this good post!! I certainlyloved every little bit of it and I’ve you bookmarked to look into new stuff you post.

  • http://Lublin|Termoizolacjelublin|ociepleniaPiankaPURlublin Mariano Perine

    I and also my guys were actually looking through the best tips and tricks found on your website and then immediately got a terrible feeling I never thanked the site owner for them. Most of the young boys had been absolutely joyful to study them and now have in truth been making the most of those things. Thank you for actually being considerably considerate and also for obtaining this form of nice subject areas most people are really needing to understand about. Our sincere apologies for not expressing appreciation to you sooner.

  • Edward Levy Smith

    After having grey smudge display issues and dead pixels on my 27″ imac, having three units replaced under Applecare, I opted to sell and get a separate monitor and tower. The 27″ Cinema Display is just It as working awesome for about a year and a half then grey streaks started to appear inside the screen. A tech confirmed it was inside the LCD Panel, after replacement all was well, then the power supply failed. So for me personally it was not worth the money. In fact it’s cost me considerably more with multiple trips to and from an authorized Applecare center, and downtime for work as I use my Mac for work.

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow