Apple Cinema Display (27in) - Design and Features

By Benny Har-Even



Our Score:


Design-wise, Apple's latest Cinema Display is naturally very similar to the 27in iMac. It features the same luxurious aluminium frame and has a glass front that extends from edge to edge. It looks expensive, which of course, it is. The main difference is that the silver section underneath, which on the iMac contains a computer, is absent. Remarkably, the 20.7cm depth (with stand) is exactly the same as that of the 27in iMac, though that reflects more on the engineering feat the iMac represents than any qualities of the LED Cinema Display.

The Apple logo has been moved into the black bezel, which is the same size all the way round and contrasts well with the rest of the display. Naturally (this being Apple, after all) there are no unsightly buttons, with all adjustments made in the OS. The major disadvantage comes when hooking up consoles and the like, where you're basically stuck with the monitor's presets and no scaling. Hooking it up to a PC is also far from ideal, but more on that later.

At the top of the bezel sits a webcam with a built-in microphone - or iSight, to use the preferred Apple nomenclature. If you hook up to a Mac, any decent application will let you choose whether to use the camera in the screen rather than your laptop, to avoid the person at the other end having to view you from an awkward angle.

Hidden in the base of the display are two downward-firing speakers, which Apple describes as 2.1, implying some sub-woofer style action. The specs are given as 49W, so more powerful than the 17W listed for the iMac. Volume was certainly not a problem, and there was notable bass response - though decent dedicated speakers will naturally give you even more, as well as a clearer middle and top end. However, for integrated speakers this is as good as it gets.

In terms of ports, there are three USB connectors, though these are located right round at the back, which is inconvenient if you have to frequently connect and disconnect something.

The power plug is located centrally towards the rear, is circular and is coloured the typical shade of Apple white, unlike the boring black plastic oblong of regular plugs. There’s a circular cut out in the stand for the plug, and it doubles up as a cable tidy. Beneath this there’s a tiny Kensington lock to secure the screen, which on an expensive and desirable item such as this is a sensible inclusion.

The only other feature on the rear of the monitor is the captive cable that contains a mini-Display Port plug, a USB port and a pass-through MagSafe power connector. The latter means that you can power your Macbook from the monitor, saving you having to trail another cable across your desk. If you’re using a Mac, it makes for a very neat system, but if you’ve got a machine that doesn’t have DisplayPort, then there’s no way of directly connecting to the Cinema Display. You can use a third-party adaptor, but it isn’t supported by Apple, so if you have any problems, you’re on your own.

Another issue with the Cinema Display is that, as with the iMac, there’s no height adjustment or screen rotation; you just get to tilt the screen forward and back from between -5 to 25 degrees, which is the same adjustability found on the cheapest budget monitors. Whether that’s an issue is of course, up to you, but it's certainly something we lamented as we would have preferred it slightly higher up on our desk. What's more, balancing a screen such as this on a book would seem to be a rather philistine thing to do.

Hamish Campbell

February 8, 2011, 1:08 pm

I think you mean 'beautiful, stylish, intelligent and with a shockingly nerdy laugh'.


February 8, 2011, 1:34 pm

20.7cm deep! Sounds like a monster.


February 8, 2011, 3:05 pm


20.7cm is the depth with stand. The screen itself is a lot thinner, thankfully :)

Review amended to clarify that point, cheers.


February 8, 2011, 3:32 pm

10/10 for design and it's not height adjustable, I want what you're smoking!


February 8, 2011, 4:49 pm

Maybe height adjustment is classed as a 'feature' =;-)

On a serious note though, Apple do offer a Vesa mount kit for the Cinema Display, and hooking this up to something like an Ergotron LCD mount would give you height adjustment. Downsides would be that you'd lose the aesthetics of Apple's own aluminium stand, and the total cost of the screen, Vesa mount and arm would probably be excruciating!


February 8, 2011, 4:52 pm

@Martyn - Possibly this comes under features, and would explain why it got 6/10 for this?

Benny Har-Even

February 8, 2011, 5:17 pm

@Martyn Don't smoke! Of course you could argue it's part of the design, and I'm sure you will, but I viewed height adjustment as a feature and marked the display down accordingly for its absence.


February 8, 2011, 6:14 pm

Word of warning to anyone considering this, if you have sensitive eyes then avoid it. Ive taken one back as it felt like it was burning my eyeballs from the inside. There is a lot of talk on various forums, inclusing apples own, where people have had to return macbooks, imacs etc as they all have LED screens. Luckily I got a full refund from JL, which was a surprise! I would advise anyone considering a mac or this screen to spend at least 30 mins looking at and using one in a store like JL to check if you one of the small percentage of people who are sensitive to LED backlighting. I use an HTPC now with an LCD screen with no problems at all. It took me a few weeks for my vision to return to normal. This is an issue with the technology, not Apple. Best to be sure before you spend a lot of £££££.

Geoff Richards

February 8, 2011, 6:25 pm

@mooface - could you elaborate on what the problem is please? If the LED backlight is too bright, surely you just turn it down...

I can't for the life of me think of why LED backlight should cause people problems where CCFL backlight doesn't (they're both LCD screens)


February 9, 2011, 12:19 pm

A low mark for features should affect the design marks, leaving something out to achieve aesthetics is bad design.

On the purpose of what a monitor is for, viewing content and to a lesser extent connectivity (on which point this is soundly thrashed) does the Dell beat this?


February 9, 2011, 2:48 pm


Yes, the only (arguable) advantage the Apple has from a practical standpoint is its LED backlighting (producing less heat, allowing slimmer designs and using less electricity).


February 9, 2011, 5:00 pm

Ardjuna, what about the fact that it has a built in webcam, decent quality speakers and a power supply for the macbook range? Is that not an 'advantage', arguable or otherwise? This makes it quite an attractive prospect, surely, for people with a macbook looking for an external monitor.


February 9, 2011, 7:43 pm


Indeed, though for the price difference you can afford to get a far better, adjustable HD webcam and some decent, slimline speakers, they won't look as nice and result in more clutter. Your point about Macbook integration is also a good one, and as mentioned in the review, the Cinema HD makes sense if you're operating within a Mac 'ecosystem'. I hence amend my earlier statement to "One of the few advantages" :D


February 9, 2011, 8:48 pm

@Geoff Richards - Google 'led backlight eye strain' or visit the apple forum and search 'hurt eyes' or 'sore eyes' and you will find a lot of comments about it. I did a lot of reading before finally returning my MB pro. There is no solution, if you are sensitive then you need to avoid it. Apprently, LEDs cannot be dimmed. The screen can, but its not the brightness that is the issue.

One of many: http://forums.appleinsider....

evan fotis

February 18, 2011, 10:26 pm

Does it offer an OSD for correcting colours & even calibrating, or all has to go through the Mac videocard software?

If so, I wouldn't be so sure about the first part of your statement:

"we’d be happy doing photographic or any other kind of work on it all day long."

Especially as it also has a highly reflective surface as you have clearly stated.

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