Apple Cinema Display 30-inch

I finally got the guts and courage to plunk down the cash for the 30-inch Apple Cinema Display back in December, deciding to treat myself to an early Christmas present.

Having previously bought and reviewed the 20-inch model no less than 7 months before, I decided to sell on the 20-inch and put the funds towards upgrading to this monstrous behemoth of a display. Satisfied that the design and everything about the Cinema Display was perfect, but I was not satisfied with it being only 20-inches when I knew that a 30-inch model existed. As much as I hated doing it, it was time to get the plastic out again and join the 30-inch club.

There’s plenty of 30-inch screens from the dedicated HD TV models to the monitor-only versions but what makes the Apple Cinema Display stand out is the eye-popping, higher than high-def, 2560 x 1600 resolution. Considering that a lot of displays out there are probably running 1280 x 1024, this Cinema Display is perhaps the grand daddy of all monitors.

It supports to 16.7 million colours with a 400 cd/m2 brightness, 700:1 contrast ratio and 14 ms response time. Looking at those figures, there are better out there as the Cinema Display has not been refreshed for sometime now.

All Cinema Displays have the same distinct and minimalist look with a thin aluminium bezel and a gorgeous stand that allows the monitor to defy gravity. At certain angles, the display looks as though it’s floating in mid-air and when you come to tilt or turn it, it further reinforces that idea.

Tilting all 30-inches of this display shouldn’t be this easy or smooth, but it is! A one hand touch can very easily tilt this display up and down as its specially designed hinge at the rear, which again when you look at it is incredible because it looks as though the base is attached not by screws or glue or anything like that, but by an incredibly strong magnet, because at the point of contact of the base and the monitor itself there’s a round cylindrical hinge that looks as though it barely touches the LCD panel.

Apple not one to drop the ball when it comes to creating a design statement, really have pulled out all the stops for this one. Even the back looks magnificent, and how many monitors can you say that about? Typically what you’ll find is a mass of cables and loads of ventilation grilles that builds up dust the moment you get it out of the box. The Cinema Display for starters doesn’t have any ventilation grilles and it seemingly has just one cable coming out the back that loops through the laser cut hole in the base.

The truly remarkable design also features touch sensitive buttons on the right side of the display that control brightness and the power. In standby mode, the display uses the consistent theme of a bright white LED in the bottom right corner that is only apparent when its on.

You will find two USB 2.0 and two FireWire 400 ports at the rear of the display that connects via a single USB and FireWire cable to either your desktop or notebook. I have mine connected to my MacBook Pro whilst it sits on the Griffin Elevator but you can use the entire line of Cinema Displays with a Windows PC as well, providing your graphics card is up to the job of driving a 2560 x 1600 resolution display.

As long your graphics card can support dual-link displays via DVI then you should be fine. VGA is supported through the use of the DVI > VGA adapter, but you simply wouldn’t be doing this display justice by using that.

With DVI, you get nothing but a clear crystal sharp picture with amazing colour reproduction and is bright enough to give you a tan when it’s on its highest setting.

For the sake of cable management, Apple have decided to integrate the 4 cables in to one that splits at the end. The cables you end up with are the DVI, power, USB and FireWire connections that fit in to either your desktop or notebook.

There are some slight disadvantages to this design idea, in that if you’re connecting this display to your notebook, you’re going to have to either sit your notebook underneath your desk near the power plugs, which is highly unlikely or you’re going to have to put up with the big white power brick sitting on your desk since the cables that break out are restricted in length, so the power brick is always close by.

This is probably one of the most annoying things about the design but one that could easily be rectified by changing the way the cables leave the main cable part. So I’ve had to compromise and accept the fact that I will always have to have that power brick taking up room on my desk. Now admittedly the Cinema Display power brick is no where as ugly as the typical big black blocks that you typically find, it’s an all-white rectangular block that has an iPod-white finish.

With the display being 30-inches it’s only natural for it to consume more power than its smaller brothers. Operational power consumption according to the specification comes in at 150 Watts with a 3 Watt standby rating. This is in line with what other display manufacturers are producing with a similar spec so make what you will out of this info.

I was quite surprised to find that even the PowerBook G4 had the capability to drive the resolution of the 30-inch display so I was quite happy to connect the DVI cable straight in to the side of my MacBook Pro and then booted the machine up.

Mac OS X has a closed notebook option so you can leave your notebook display closed and use the external monitor as your primary desktop. You can of course use the notebook display as a secondary display, if for whatever reason the 30-inches is still not enough.

With professional video editors, film makers, graphics artists, pro photographers in mind, Apple have designed their range of displays to work best in these applications and they do truly deliver on this promise as my photos look stunningly beautiful, showing up every single bit of detail. Colour reproduction is very accurate with its high contrast ratio, sharp vivid colours are displayed and with a bit of monitor calibration using the built in wizard you can adjust the default brightness and contrast levels that Apple set for OS X.

This calibration can be done by going in to System Preferences > Displays > Color > Calibrate. Select Continue and then select 2.2 Television gamma and straight away, you’ll notice that your blue OS X background has just become that bit more richer and ‘bluer’ than before.

Unlike any other LCD monitor you’ll use, the sheer size of this screen is enough to satisfy even the most hardcore multi-taskers out there. With a massive 2560 x 1600 resolution, you’re going to experience a whole new level of desktop computing with this display and what better operating system to have on it than Mac OS X. Running applications like iPhoto are an absolute joy to use and watching 1080p content reproduces some of the sharpest and most rich animations you will ever experience.

With its recent price reduction, the 30-inch Cinema Display can be had for a bargain price (in comparison to what it used to be) of £1199. It lacks some features and qualities that its rivals have but the minimalist design and simplistic look makes up for all of that plus more.

Perhaps these price reductions are a signal that a potential update is coming down the line? If so, I would like to see an improvement on the cabling system so that it works better for its portable range of Macs as well as the inclusion of more connections such as Component and HDMI and even perhaps a TV tuner?

This screen is aimed at professionals in the scientific or photo/videographic world but there’s nothing stopping you from picking up this display if you want something this big, just be prepared to clear out some major desk space to make it work. If you need an extra push in convincing yourself to plunk down the cash for this display, then check out the link at the top of this review where they show some enlightening facts to running with a larger display.

2007-04-27 Onwah Tsang

7 comments - why not add yours

  • Phil Barker says:

    Thanks for the great review & pictures of the Apple 30″ Cinema Display – I’ve had my eye on one for a while now, even though I currently have the 23″ model! Still not sure I can justify the price, but I’m tempted to treat myself as on 30th May it’s my 30th Birthday, so what better day to get a 30″ monitor! :o)

    Posted on 17th May 2007
  • oni says:

    “Thanks for the great review & pictures of the Apple 30? Cinema Display – I’ve had my eye on one for a while now, even though I currently have the 23? model! Still not sure I can justify the price, but I’m tempted to treat myself as on 30th May it’s my 30th Birthday, so what better day to get a 30? monitor! :o)”

    – Thanks for your comments and glad you like the review! You should go for it, especially since the prices have dropped this monitor is great value for money! The 23-inch will grab a good price on eBay, they hold their value well.

    Posted on 17th May 2007
  • Phil says:

    I have the 30″ apple cinema Monitor and love it, I Live in Alaska and shoot allot of northern light photos that I want to print out, but what I seen on the screen and what gets printed don’t look the same, I’m looking at buying a better print and maybe a calibration tool any suggestion?

    Posted on 12th October 2008
  • oni says:

    @Phil: I’m not aware of any callibration tools that are designed specifically for the Cinema Display. If you’re running a Mac, there are some options in the Display preferences that allow you to adjust the settings. As for printers, I haven’t used any of the recent models, but I’ve always relied on Canon’s line of printers.

    Posted on 12th October 2008
  • Pedro says:

    I just bought the 30 inch display and I have one question. I use it as a second monitor connected to my macbook pro but the size of the windows when I drag them to the display is huge and I hate it. I want the windows and text to be the same size of the laptop. I have tried to play with the settings but have not been successful. Any ideas?

    Posted on 2nd August 2010
  • techcastoni says:

    @Pedro: It doesn’t sound like you’ve got the display configured correctly. You might have the 30-inch display mirroring the resolution of your MBP. Go to System Preferences > Display and untick any options for display mirroring and make sure the Cinema Display is set to 2560 x 1600.

    Posted on 3rd August 2010

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