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Apple Cinema Display (27in) - Image quality and Verdict

By Benny Har-Even



Our Score:


To test the display we used a recent, DisplayPort equipped Macbook, and the first thing we noted was well, ourselves. The glossy coating on the display makes for a highly reflective surface, and our face was all too often visible - never a good thing. If you do want to use the Cinema Display with dark material such as films, you’d best dim the lights.

That aside, out of the box, image quality was excellent. Right from the off, whites were punchy, text sharp and clear yet easy on the eye, and colours vibrant. When you do tilt the screen you can be sure that there’s no colour shift either vertically or to the side - viewing angles on this H-IPS screen are no problem, at 178 degrees side-to-side.

Our first move was to run through the calibration routine in Mac OS X, but we only had to make very minor adjustments to the default image. Apple's OS instantly recognises the Cinema Display and brightness can be adjusted by a slider in Display preferences. There’s also a check box to enable a light sensor that adjusts brightness automatically according to ambient conditions.

If you were to connect up a PC, you’d be forced to use the graphics driver control panel, which won’t enable you to directly adjust the backlight. To do so you’d have to install Boot Camp 3.1 drivers on a PC, so expect some fiddling around.

Maximum brightness for the screen is listed as 375 cd/m2 and in a typically-lit office we had to reduce it down a little to work comfortably. Contrast ratio is given as 1,000:1, and we could make out all the 32 steps in the Lagom contrast test.

Moving to the Black-level test, we found black levels to be good, though not outstanding - we had to move to maximum brightness to see each black square, though at least they were very smooth and noiseless. Subjectively, colour uniformity was excellent and in terms of motion, we didn't notice any overt ghosting despite the screen's 12ms response time.

Overall, we have seen better quality, and if you’re a very demanding professional looking for the last word in image quality then this LED Cinema Display may not meet with your approval. For everyone else though, it's an excellent display, and we’d be happy doing photographic or any other kind of work on it all day long.


The 27in LED Cinema Display offers all the aesthetics you’d expect from Apple, married to generally excellent image quality. However, reflections from the glossy screen may rule it out for some. It’s also expensive, especially compared to Dell’s equivalent U2711, which offers a whole host of additional connectivity options, far greater adjustability, internal processing, an anti-glare, matt finish and a more extensive colour space for less money. If these caveats aren't an issue for you, Apple's simply gorgeous aesthetics and slim metal build might be enough to win you over, though it makes most sense if you work and play in an all-Mac environment.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Value 6
  • Image Quality 9
  • Features 6
  • Design 10

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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