Apple LED Cinema Display (27-inch review: Apple LED Cinema Display (27-inch

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MSRP: $999.00

The Good The Apple LED Cinema Display's high resolution and screen coating gives it not only great performance in movies and games, but also in everyday tasks. The monitor works seamlessly when connected to a recent model MacBook, and provides a charging station and three USB ports. And it just looks really slick on a desktop.

The Bad Thanks to Apple's decision to only include a Mini DisplayPort connection, the LED Cinema Display can only be used with Macs from late 2008 and on. Also, the display lacks ergonomic features and more-granular customization options. Some users will not appreciate the overly reflective and glossy screen.

The Bottom Line As a desktop display and USB extender, the 27-inch Apple LED Cinema Display works wonderfully; however, for $1,000, there are better monitors that offer more options, including PC and Mac compatibility.

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7.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 9
  • Support 5

Let's get right to it. If you're considering purchasing the 27-inch Apple LED Cinema Display, know that you'll need a Mac with a Mini DisplayPort connection in order to use it. If you only own a PC or older Mac, you're out of luck.

Not that the display's aesthetic appeal and fantastic performance won't inspire some to make the plunge right into a new Mac. Movies and games look great on the display, but what impressed us more was the way it handled fonts. Thanks to its glossy screen coating, fonts have a smoothness we've rarely seen, which makes doing everyday tasks almost as appealing as watching a movie. Almost. Also, the display works nearly seamlessly with our compatible MacBook Pro, including a MagSafe connector that charges the laptop as long as the monitor is plugged in.

Unfortunately, the same glossy coating that provides smooth fonts is also highly reflective. And don't plan on adjusting the display beyond tilting it back 10 degrees, as no other ergonomic option exists.

So $1,000 is a tough pill to swallow for a display with such a focused intended use, especially with the availability of other monitors like the Dell UltraSharp U2711, which has slightly better performance and is only $100 more. Unless you find some kind of adapter, though, you likely won't be connecting it to your MacBook.

PC users will obviously want to steer clear of the 27-inch LED Cinema Display; Mac desktop users would be better served with the Dell and its numerous customization and ergonomic options. MacBook Pro users willing to pay the price won't be disappointed with the LED Cinema Display's performance and synergy with their laptop of choice.

Design and features
Design-wise, the 27-inch Apple LED Cinema Display is, for all intents and purposes, a larger version of the 24-inch LED Cinema Display the company released in 2008, with a few changes. Those changes include an obviously larger screen, a much higher 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution, and an ambient light sensor. The ambient light sensor automatically adjusts the screen brightness depending on the amount of (you guessed it) ambient light in the room. Other extras found on the 24-inch model are retained here, including a built-in camera and microphone, built-in 2.1 speakers, and three USB ports located on the lower back left.

The monitor's chassis, including the back of the monitor and its foot stand, is the same smooth metallic gray seen on the 24-inch LED Cinema Display and Apple's Macbook Pros. The panel is 2.25 inches in full depth and about 25.6 inches wide, making it as wide as the 27-inch Dell UltraSharp U2711, although about 1.2 inches shallower. The bezel, flush with the screen, is 1.1 inches wide on the right and left sides, and the distance from the bottom of the bezel to the desktop is 3.6 inches. The foot stand is 7.4 inches wide, 8.2 inches deep, and the monitor hardly moved when we knocked it from the sides. This is in part thanks to the flatness and width of the foot stand, but also the display's heavy 24-pound weight.

If you own a MacBook from late 2008 or later, you'll be able to connect the 27-inch LED Cinema Display to your computer via Mini DisplayPort, otherwise, um, no. Like the previous 24-inch monitor, Apple refuses to offer DVI support for PCs and owners of older Macs.

The display includes a 10-degree back tilt as its sole ergonomic option, with no screen-height adjustment, pivoting, or swivel offered.

Calibration options in OS X include brightness, color temperature, gamma, and contrast controls. The interface for the latter can only be accessed by turning on expert mode from the Display Calibrator Assistant.

Design highlights
Connectivity Mini DisplayPort
Ergonomic options 10-degree back tilt
Resolution 2,560x1,440 pixels
Aspect ratio 16:9
Audio Built-in speakers
VESA support No

Feature highlights
Included video cables Mini DisplayPort
Backlight LED
Panel type H-IPS
Screen film Glossy
Number of presets n/a
Overdrive No
Picture options Brightness, Contrast
Color controls Color temperature
Gamma control Yes
Additional features Three USB ports; built-in camera; ambient light sensor

DisplayMate Performance: We tested the 27-inch Apple LED Cinema Display through its Mini DisplayPort input, connected to a MacBook Pro running both Snow Leopard and Windows 7. The display posted a composite score of 97 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests--only 1 point lower than the Dell UltraSharp U2711.The display excelled at nearly every DisplayMate test we threw at it, achieving performance as good or sometimes better than the U2711. The only glaring performance problem we noticed was in our High Contrast Streaking and Ghosting test. This tests a display's ability to accurately display an image when large changes in contrast are present, such as a bar graph. We saw very apparent ghosting in the bottom level of this test screen; however, it should be noted that we didn't see evidence of this during real-world usage.

Text: In text, we saw no color problems with black text on a white background. Fonts were visible down to a 6.8-point size, and thanks to the screen coating on the monitor, the fonts have a smoothness unmatched by the Dell UltraSharp U2711.

Movies: We tested the 27-inch Apple LED Cinema Display using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." Movies had an impressively low black level and no noticeable color tint problems. Colors were accurate without looking drab.

Games: Because of our intimate familiarity with World of Warcraft (WoW), it remains the best tool for judging color quality and vibrancy in games. WoW had a vibrancy and level of color saturation seen only on a few monitors before, for example the Dell UltraSharp U2711 and Samsung PX2370.

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