Is a 24″ Cinema Display For Your MacBook Worth the Money?

Apple’s new notebook-oriented 24-inch LED Cinema Display is certainly a glorious piece of equipment. If you’re not up to speed, this 24-inch LED-backlit 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution glossy-finish widescreen unit includes a built-in iSight video camera, mic and speakers in an elegant, thin aluminum and glass enclosure stylistically consonant with the new unibody MacBooks and the aluminum iMac. Designed specifically for use with the unibodies, the LED Cinema Display also includes an integrated MagSafe AC power adapter and battery charger, plus three self-powered USB 2.0 ports and the new Mini DisplayPort allowing unibody MacBook users to quickly connect and power their notebooks and favorite peripherals.

The 24″ Cinema Display is mounted on an aluminum stand with an adjustable hinge that makes tilting the display easy and convenient. The downside? This puppy has a suggested retail price of $899. Ouch! If you can afford that comfortably, more power to you, but I think most of us will swallow hard before coughing up 900 bucks for a monitor — even a super-monitor like the 24″ Cinema Display.

JkOnTheRun’s James Kendrick announced last week he’s going to sell his 17″ MacBook Pro and switch to a new aluminum MacBook as his primary computer, so he wants to buy a big external monitor to use for for desktop mode duty. I’ve been musing about a somewhat similar strategy for my own next system upgrade. I’d love to have a 17″ MacBook Pro to replace my wonderful old 1.33 GHz 17″ PowerBook G4, but I find 17-incher prices, even for Apple Certified Refurbished units, too hard to justify rationally for what I do with computers.

David Wegener at Mac laptop specialist reseller Wegener Media suggested that a more sensible solution might be to buy a smaller screen Apple laptop and connect it to an external monitor — such as a 15″ MacBook Pro paired with a refurbished DVI 22″ panel, which David says is his personal preference. Wegeners can currently supply refurbished 22″ HP DVI displays with tilt option for $219, and this setup offers more portability with the 15″ machine but serious Desktop real estate with a 22″ panel at your workstation. For more information on the refurb displays, send a query at Wegeners’ contact page.

James Kendrick says he ordered one of the new Apple 24″ Cinema Displays, primarily because he knew it would work well with the unibody Mac, but it turned out to be back-ordered, which elicited some sober second thought, and he canceled that order, explaining “The more I thought about the high cost of that Apple display the harder it was for me to justify paying it. There are many third party monitors available today that sell for less than $400 and it’s just lunacy to pay $900 for an Apple-branded monitor. So I canceled the order and now I’m looking for a good alternative…”

I completely agree with that reasoning. A unibody MacBook with the 24″ Cinema Display would be a nice rig (still no FireWire, though), but money has to be an object.

Kendrick says he’s leaning toward a sub-$400 Samsung 24″ display that he’d like to confirm will work well with the new MacBook and is soliciting user reports and recommendations from readers, feedback from which I will be following with interest with a nod to my own system upgrade deliberations.

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