Product Survey: 30'' LCD monitors

Apple Cinema Display HD 30 inch

Cinema Display ''HD'' In Name Only?

The components of the Apple and Dell screens are almost identical except for one detail. Dell has made its monitor HDCP Ready and Apple has not. This saves Apple about $5. However, it prevents the monitor from displaying certain upcoming Blu-Ray movies.

More specifically, this screen is not HD Ready, and there is a risk that it will only be able to read HD movies in SD, Standard Definition, or, the equivalent of current DVDs. We find it hard to understand this choice, because the Apple monitor is much more expensive than the Dell, and this is in complete contradiction with the monitor's name. Moreover, the smaller sizes in the Cinema Display line have the same problem. We therefore asked Apple the reason for this non-compatibility and here was their one line response: "It is not (HDCP ready), like the majority of current screens and the totality of screens of this generation." Hmm...

As for the quality of SD movies, it is good on the condition that you put some distance between yourself and the monitor. If not, like all screens that rely on IPS technology panels, you will be bothered by shimmering that is very noticeable in color gradations. Either way, this disappears with a distance of 5 feet.

The Apple Cinema Display screen is superb. Nothing hangs off the back, and there is a single cable for connection to an external casing. Two other cables, one for the peripheral and the other for the computer, come out of this.  The computer cable is divided into three: DVI, USB and Firewire. It is a practical design. 

So, is all of this more attractive than Dell's offerings? Not necessarily.  It all depends on taste and your equipment.  It will be in a Mac user’s interest, despite the higher price and impossibility of vertical adjustment, to buy the Apple because of how well it will mesh with your existing configuration (it went well with our test G5).  Apple users are likely to enjoy the fact that this monitor has no buttons.  Adjustments aren’t made on the screen but rather directly through the computer, and only Macs are compatible for these types of tweaks. Gamma, contrast, and fine tuning of colors can only happen on a Mac computer.

An amazing screen, but not for graphic artists.

We used our test Apple computer to view and edit photos.  In complement to the tools provided by Apple, we also calibrated the screen with our colorimeter.  Once this monitor is adjusted, it is superb, without any color dominance, contrary to what some people experienced with the first 20 and 23 inch series from Apple.

There is no white halo on the sides or dark area on any part of the panel.  However, we do not recommend this screen to graphic artists or for those who really count on color fidelity.  Like the Dell 3007WFP, the HD 30-inch Cinema Display has a big problem with brightness homogeneity and the monitor we received was 30% brighter on the upper left hand corner compared with the opposite corner. On one side, white was at 242 cd/m² and black at 0.4 cd/m². On the other, we measured 309/0.5 cd/m². In the middle of the panel and the area where we tend to calibrate the screen, white was at an intermediate 290 cd/m².   For games, personal photos, writing code, or making spreadsheets, this doesn’t matter and the variation is unnoticeable because it is spread out. However, for those whose profession is to display and manage exact colors, they may be surprised when changing the position of the photo on the screen. In the end, this is quite bothersome.

For games, we preferred installing the Apple screen on our Dell computer. It’s configured in SLI, while the G5 is not.  In addition, there are more games for the PC. Once everything is connected, we were literally immersed in the game; swallowed up by the image.  You will have to take a step back, however, for two reasons: to see the entire screen and avoid constantly turning your head, and to not be bothered by afterglow.  For the latter, this is indeed noticeable, but from five feet away it disappears and shooting our adversaries becomes a real pleasure!

Apple Cinema Display HD 30 inch
  • Design, style
  • Software adjustment suite for Mac
  • Number of standard profiles offered
  • Very easy to create a new profile even without a colorimeter
  • Non HDCP compatible
  • Non vertically adjustable
  • More expensive than a Dell screen
  • 35% difference in brightness between two corners of the panel
  • No accompanying PC software