Apple Cinema Display 20-inch

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Say hello to the Cinema Display. Apple have been developing displays for their own systems since the early Mac years and as always take a smart minimalist approach to their designs.

If you haven’t seen the gorgeous designs of the Apple Cinema Display (ACD) then prepared to be wowed by the pixel by pixel perfected screen Never before has such a smart looking display been coupled with a tier one LCD panel.

From digging around I could see that most other reviews state that the panel used in the ACD is the same as that used in the Dell 2005FPW. However despite Dell looking to have the upper hand on paper, the ADC clearly blows it out of the water. The ADC clearly wins when it comes to a flawless design that makes you want to buy more of these screens and bigger ones too.

At 1680×1050 for the 20-inch model, which is what I’m writing this review on, its pure enjoyment and this is the smallest model! The lowest brightness setting on the ADC is about as bright as the brightest setting on my MacBook Pro, so you don’t have to worry about clarity and vision. It’s always there when you need it with contrast ratios that make designers drool and artists faint.

The thin bezel surrounds the screen and the entire casing is made of anodized aluminium with iPod white material down the sides. On the right hand side you’ll find the touch-sensitive brightness buttons and the power button. The unique characteristic of this display is the materials that are used to construct it. It makes the screen seem as though it floats in mid air. The display stand again made out of the luscious metal makes turning and tilting an ease. You require only a feather light touch to move this display. As always with Apple products, the back is just as important as the front. This is no exception. The hinge that attaches the display to the stand looks impossible. A round cylinder at the back is the only contact that the display has with the stand and this also allows the display to effortlessly tilt up and down. Images of the iMac G4 come to mind when you view this floating display.

A single cable comes out and splits of at the end to the mains adapter, Firewire and USB cables. This equates to less mess and a genius idea for cable management. One thing I found this great for is the removal of tangled wires behind your screen but it also introduces problems if you’re going to plug this screen in to a portable device such as a PowerBook or MacBook Pro. The cable coming out of the display goes in to a white power block and then splits of in to power on a separate cable and on the other cable splits of in to the DVI, Firewire and USB cables. So if you have your portable on your desk, you’re going to have to bring the whole power block, Firewire and USB cables up on to the desk with you. Whilst these displays probably were designed with the PowerMac desktops in mind, they’ve compromised ease of use for owners of their PowerBook/MacBook Pro range which feature DVI support for the 30-inch ADC. This could easily be resolved by splitting the cable before it hits the power block so you can just bring the DVI cable to the laptop.

Windows users don’t have to worry because the display does work if your graphics card has DVI and can handle 1680×1050 resolutions. This is tried and tested on both the PowerBook and MacBook Pro and believe it or not, a Windows machine.

I won’t forget to talk about performance. Multimedia playback is amazing with DVDs. The colours are natural and very sharp thanks to the high native resolution. At 1680×1050 this is probably the key to the picture quality because I’ve rarely seen a non high-definition picture as clear as this before. The contrast ratios are amazing for a matte display with rich blacks and brilliant whites; this will prove to be invaluable for those who deal with photographs. Still image quality will stun you with sharpness, as I experienced when viewing photographs taken on my Canon PowerShot S3 IS. Brightness will definitely not be an issue and for night time viewing you may want to lower this otherwise you’ll be blinded by the strength of it, however the ability to have high brightness means that day time viewing when in direct sunlight or well lit conditions, wont introduce any problems. Movie playback from a distance is also where the high brightness setting will come in to play here.

The panel is rated at 8ms which is more than acceptable for a panel of this size. You often find that 20-inch LCDs only have a 16ms response time at best. This is to do with how quickly each pixel can respond to changes in colours. The lower the millisecond rating, the faster it can change colour, thus ensuring a smoother and clearer picture. This is not so important when it comes to general tasks such as your productivity suites or photo editing. The millisecond rating does become important when you talk about video and 3D performance.

At 16ms, DVD video playback is relatively smooth and you’ll rarely see ghosting occur but in 3D graphics performance won’t be so good and you’ll notice some ghosting cropping up in fast moving scenes. In general, the lower the millisecond rating, the better really, this would mean faster response times to your 3D graphics especially games that feature fast scenes (Quake, Doom, Need for Speed, etc, etc) and for video playback clarity it’s always best to minimise response rate so that you see what the director intended for you to see. Ghosting can also cause headaches for some people such as when browsing text, but this is rarely a problem anymore with 16ms or below being the usual rating for panels today.

I could go on more but all I can say really is if you’re looking for the best LCD display on the market, then look no further because the Apple Cinema Display in its 20, 23 and 30-inch incarnations should definitely be the first place to look. A solid construction and ingenious design coupled with an amazing screen means superb picture quality in a frame that will wow you, your friends, family and your next door neighbours. This state-of-the-art display gets the TechCast Recommended Award.

2006-05-24 Onwah Tsang

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