There’s something wrong with Apple’s new aluminum Cinema displays.
I’m not a graphics guru with sub-pixel eye sight. However, I like quality merchandise and Apple’s recent Cinema line of flat panel displays were about as good as it could get. In January 2003 Apple announced the relatively affordable 20” Cinema Display at $1,299. I bought one. Then another.
Man was it nice. Crisp. Clear. Clean. Frankly, even the 23” Cinema HD Display didn’t look any better than the new 20”. Remember, I’m talking about last year’s display. I could sit in front of those displays 12 hours a day and never get eyestrain. It was almost like reading from a glossy magazine. The 20” clear plastic Cinema display was that good.
I was hard pressed to imagine how a display could be much better.
Time marches on. Once a new aluminum PowerMac G5 hit the office, the clear plastic 20” Cinema looked sadly out of date (how’s 18 months for planned obsolesence?). Then Apple announced the new updated aluminum Cinema displays; they matched the G5s perfectly. Specifications? About the same, so far as I could tell.
Once the local Apple Store got a supply of the new aluminum 20” and 23” displays in stock I dropped by for a look. Boy were they nice looking. Interestingly, the smaller 20” display took up less space than the 20” display it replaced (by my standards, the best flat panel you could buy). The new 23” Cinema HD display was the same space as the previous 20” so I bought that one.
Imagine my surprise. Apple’s new 23” Cinema HD display didn’t look as good as the 20” display it replaced.
The 23” display isn’t as as crisp, as sharp, doesn’t have the same vibrant colors, or the same contrast as the older 20” display.
At first, I thought it was just me and my aging eyes. When I brought it up to a local Apple Store rep, he said they’d noticed the same thing. Others had noticed it, too. He even pointed out that a number of Apple web developers had decided to stick with the older models. Same with a few video producers. They all agreed; the color was better on the older 20” display.
There’s something wrong with Apple’s new Cinema displays. They just don’t look as good as the older ones.
Or, so I thought.
Yes, I know how to calibrate. I’ve been doing it for years. To make nice-nice with the Windows world and video, I keep gamma at 2.2 (PC standard) instead of Mac’s 1.8. Still, no matter what setting I tried or how much I messed around with the System Preferences, the new 23” Cinema HD display did NOT look as good as the older 20” model.
Perhaps it was just my display. Since we were upgrading a number of machines we added another 23” Cinema HD display to match a new G5.
Same thing. However, it matched perfectly the other new 23” Cinema HD display but just didn’t look as crisp, sharp, or “good” as the older model it replaced.
Reps from the local Apple Store didn’t have an answer. They’d even tested both, side-by-side and said their conclusion was the same as mine. The older display “looked” better than the newer aluminum encased display.
Granted, there are both pro and con with the new displays vs. the older displays. First, the aluminum case is great. The display will tilt up and down. Big improvement. The outside frame is half as thick as the clear plastic it replaced. Big improvement.
Believe it or not, the aluminum display DOES swivel. Whereas the clear plastic displays were firmly entrenched where you set it, the aluminum base will actually swivel left and right with ease.
It’s not an iMac swivel arm, mind you. But it moves easily and doesn’t seem prone to scratching fine wood.
The addition of USB 2.0 ports and Firewire ports to the back of the display is a stroke of genius (and necessity). However, the new displays are DVI only—no ADC connector. Frankly, I miss ADC. It’s a shame the rest of the display industry couldn’t wise up and adopt a standard that’s good for the user for a change.
The new Apple Cinema displays require a small power brick (adapter) and their own electrical outlet on the power strip. That’s about the only negative I could find. They look great.
Except that the old Cinema displays look better.
Feeling bad enough about shelling out $1,995 for a display that looked worse than the one it replaced, I decided to conduct a few tests.
First, I did a screen save of a couple of web pages on each display; the new aluminum 23” Cinema HD display, and the older clear plastic 20” Cinema display.
I was surprised at the results.
To check out the images and the conclusion, Click Here, or click on Page 2 below. You’ll be surprised at the results, too.
Here we go. Comparison details between the new aluminum 23” Cinema HD display and the older 20” clear plastic Cinema display.
I chose two web sites; USAToday.com, and News.com. Both have photos, graphics, jpg images, and gif images. The saved images below are 256 color gif images. There was virtually no difference between displays when viewing jpg photographs, so I thought the color difference might just be related to gif’s only.
First, the image saved from the old 20” clear plastic Cinema display…
All things considered, not a bad image from a web page (USA Today). Now, view the same image captured from Apple’s new aluminum 23” Cinema HD display…
For a better comparison and to see the images full size, Control-Click, select “Open Image In New Window.”
What’s surprising is that the image saved from the new 23” aluminum Cinema HD display looks BETTER than the old 20” clear plastic Cinema display.
That’s the opposite of how the displays look side-by-side. For whatever reason, the contrast of the old displays is more appealing to the eye (at least most eyes who could see the side-by-side differences) than the new display. Is it possible that there’s a “Kodachrome effect” going on with the displays? You know, everything looks better with Kodacrhome film; just not realistic.
However, the new display appears to be a more accurate rendering of the actual images. It’s subtle, but it’s there. What’s wrong with Apple’s new displays? They’re accurate. So accurate that they don’t look as “good” as the older displays.
And there’s no ADC connector.
Oh, one more thing. The “HD” stands for high definition. Plug a good DVD into the new G5s with the 23” Cinema Display and you’re in for a visual treat. This is the way video was meant to be viewed.
What’s wrong with these new displays? They’re good. Very good. So good that realistic doesn’t look as good as the previous display’s Kodachrome effect.