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.


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.


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.


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.


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.