I understand Apple withholding of cool features like FaceTime and bluetooth multitouch trackpads to fuel demand and excite Mac users every few weeks with a new toy, but display technologies are universally exactly the same. So where is a 30″ LED Cinema Display?


Today, Apple sells just one monitor and in September, it’ll be selling two. But is it too little, too late when competitors already have an edge on a yet-to-be released, smaller upgrade?

The history of Apple’s flat panel monitor offerings is pretty dry, but as we’ll see, shows a pattern. Apple’s first LCD was a 15″ monitor that came in July 2000 and had a max resolution of 1024×768. It was a beautiful, very expensive display that weighed 12 pounds and had a viewing angle of 120 degrees. Soon, similar models in 17- and 22-inch configurations arrived. Finally, in 2002, we long-time Apple fans were caught drooling over the 23″ Apple Cinema HD display that pushed a 1920×1200 pixel resolution and was available directly from Apple for $3499.

Design-wise, updates have also been rare. Even after Apple went all aluminum with its PowerMac G5, and more recently, its Mac Pro, the plastic and translucent Cinema Displays remained unchanged. It wasn’t until June 2004 that Apple updated the design and went aluminum with displays bearing the same Cinema Display name in 20-, 23- and 30-inch configurations costing $1,299, $1,999 and $3,299 respectively. You were paying about the same as you did back in 2002, but for slightly larger monitors in sleeker packages with a viewing angle of 170 degrees and a much higher brightness (400 cd /m2 versus 200 cd /m2 in the old models). These monitors were pretty good, but still insanely expensive compared to comparable monitors from Viewsonic and Dell.

In October 2008 (nearly two years ago), Apple released the 24″ LED Cinema Display with a 178-degree viewing angle, IPS display and a 100:1 contrast ratio besting the previous model that only offered 700:1. The 20″ and 30″ Cinema Displays with old specs are still readily available, but only from eBay and a few resellers, so Apple is technically selling one monitor to replace a previous offering that included three: a 20″, 23″ and 30″ model. What gives?

Yesterday, that changed when Apple announced that a 27″ LED Cinema Display will go on sale in September for $999.

Where is the 30″ Model?

We don’t cover non-Apple news very much, but yesterday, HP released a new 30″ display that leverages IPS technology and has a 7-millisecond respond time, which is two times faster than Apple’s current 24″ display for $1399. The HP offering is only $400 more than Apple’s 27″ display that isn’t even shipping yet. What’s the holdup, Apple?

I covered the past Apple offerings because it’s obvious that Apple takes its sweet time with display releases, but there’s absolutely no need. I understand its withholding of cool features like FaceTime and bluetooth multitouch trackpads to fuel demand and excite Mac users every few weeks with a new toy, but display technologies universally offer exactly the same function.

Apple’s CRT, LCD and now LED monitors are exactly the same as monitors from every other manufacturer aside from the pretty aluminum-and-glass casing and nice additions like MagSafe ports or a built-in webcam, but Apple somehow charges a premium on identical technology (something we’re all used to as Mac users). Apple gains nothing by holding back on larger monitor releases. The fact that Apple released a 24″ model in October 2008 and in September 2010 is finally getting around to releasing a 27″ display gives me the impression that we’ll see a 30″ LED Cinema Display with a $1999 price tag sometime in July 2012. Of course, I’m doubtful of that, but the Adam of 2008 would have laughed when you told him he’d be waiting two years for a 27″ LED Cinema Display.

My point is that Apple’s withholding of larger monitors only makes power users like me buy a monitor from another manufacturer. My 30″ Dell 3008WFP that I bought two years ago has a higher contrast ratio, response time and brightness than Apple’s unreleased 27″ LED Cinema Display with a similar viewing angle. It also uses IPS technology which Apple acts as if it invented or as if using it is, somehow, cutting edge. The truth is, the 30″ Dell monitor released three years ago that costs only $1599 has the exact same specs as HP’s $1399 30″ that came out yesterday and will probably have the same specs as Apple’s $1999 30″ LED Cinema Display that may come out sometime in the next 24 months.

What Apple is doing is making pros buy monitors elsewhere. I wish the 30″ display sitting next to my iMac was an Apple-branded one and not a Dell, but I need the screen real estate and Apple has left me hanging.

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  1. Apple is discontinuing both the 24″ and 30″ monitors. 27″ is your only option once existing stock of the older ones runs out.


    1. Yep. However, in September, they’ll be selling two, “until supplies run out” on the 24″ model.

      A follow up post from us should be, “why isn’t Apple giving us a choice when it comes to monitors?”

      Are they certain that all users want a 27″ monitor for $999? Providing a smaller option for college dorms would be key and I still want a 30″ but we have no clue when that will be happening.

  2. I must’ve skipped the part where the 24″ LED was being discontinued. That brings up a question I’ve wondered since it’s release back in 2008: Why are they not upgrading the iSight to compete with external HD webcams?

  3. they better make the 27″ cheap! because id rather pay few more hundreds and get the 27″ imac instead where i get a display with a built in computer!! and i can think of so many uses too!
    just like the 30″ being sold for 1799 and you can get 27″ imac is 1699 so, why pay more for something that has one purpose?

  4. You realize that the 27″ has the same horizontal resolution of the both the old 30″ and the HP 30″ you reference above (slightly smaller vertical because it is 16:9 instead of 16:10)? My guess is that Apple is moving all their displays to higher DPI over time (108 vs 100).

    1. That’s another point I wanted to make. Apple displays have always been lower DPI than competing manufacturer displays. Dell 15.4″ notebooks have had insane pixel density (136 to 150 PPI) for years and Apple is just now adding a high res “option” to their portable line.

      100 to 108 is still very low.

      Yeah I realize that but 30″ is a perfect size no matter what but the res is maxed out at 2560×1600 due to bandwidth issues. Maybe I’m talking over my head on that one. I’ll do some research and follow up.

  5. sure.. i see your point… but i’d like to also add that apple’s monitor is much more high tech in many different ways. the new 27″ monitor does have light sensors, built in speakers, an isight camera.. and of course.. has the design and brilliant looks of apple. i’m definitely buying this new monitor, replacing my old 30″ display… and its pretty much just for the looks and the extras…

    1. There are higher tech options coming out from “less design centric” companies like HP and Dell for far less money. A display is to enhance the experience and not just look pretty. Maybe that’s anti-apple but good design helps us do work more effectively and if I can do better work for less price, I’ll go with that option even if it is an ugly plastic HP monitor :)

      1. Really? ‘Far less money’? Really? Like the $1099 27″ IPS panel from Dell without the isight, light sensors and single cable laptop connection?

        Honestly, this entire post just sounds like whining. Obviously Apple has decided that there isn’t enough money in it for them to make a 30″ IPS monitor right now, especially when the vast majority of their users would be just as well served with the new 27″. So you don’t get the exact monitor you want from apple and you had to buy it elsewhere? Big frickin deal!

        Stupid porsche wouldn’t sell me a high performance pickup truck so I had to buy one from Ford! MORONS, LOSERS, The world is ending and Porsche is dying due to bad management! AHHHH!!!

  6. So for those of us that like things to match as much as possible… can you recommend a good/better monitor to match my 27″ iMac?

    1. erm… I’m going to make a radical suggesting and recommend the new 27 inch monitor they just announced (you may have heard of it from places like THIS post). It’s the same exact panel used in the 27 inch imac, minus the computer for a cheaper price of course.

      1. Since the entirety of this post was pretty much talking about the cost/benefit ratio of Apple displays vs. other displays, I figured that someone would understand that I was looking for alternative source. I’m sorry I didn’t spell that out in black and white.

      2. Since the entire post was talking about the cost/benefit ratio of Apple’s monitors to other models, I figured people would understand that I was looking for an alternative source. Sorry for not spelling this out in black and white. Thanks for your radical suggestion.

    2. Hi Nic. Dell has some great monitors. http://dell.com/outlet is full of dirt cheap monitors. That’s where I bought my 30″ Dell 3008WFP for like $1100 and it’s performed very well.

  7. I don’t care what Apple’s monitor choices are. If they’re all glossy then it’s no choice for me. I’m perfectly happy with my Dell 3008WFP: it’s less expensive than Apple’s outgoing 30″, better, and I don’t have to pay a surcharge to get 3 years of warranty. Apple can keep their mirrors, whether it’s one size or many.

    1. seriously! why are they making stuff glossy?? i do a lot of photo processing and i love my matte apple display. its sad that there isn’t a matte apple display anymore. the next best thing is probably high-end NEC or eizo if you want to go for perfection. but the costs are scary!!!

  8. This article brings up something I’ve wondered, for many years. My main computer, an original Power Macintosh G5, has been running an Apple 20″ ADC display since I received it in October 2003, and has also been running a 17″ Norwood Micro, since about 2006. The difference is night and day: the Apple display is not only brighter, but the blacks are blacker, the whites are whiter, and the color is, in a word, *perfect*.

    How does your Dell display (or the HP one, for that matter) stack up to the Apple offering? I’d also love to get a 30″ display, but as much as I’d hate to lose the 160px of height on Apple’s new 27″, I’d lament even more having to skimp on quality, warranty, ColorSync, etc..

    Finally, just for the record: this is DEFINITELY not a flame. I’m going to be upgrading my display pretty son, and I honestly want to know how they compare. I, too, would prefer an Apple display, but if there’s something better out there, I’m all for it.


    1. I don’t know if it’s totally appropriate but hothardware.com has mostly unbiased computer hardware reviews. They put apple against some stiff competition and they never have a lean to one company versus another. Their forums are excellent places to get great advice from hardware geeks who will give you straight up advice on monitors for their specs and not because they look good on a desk. Good luck!

    2. I calibrate my Dell 3008WFP using a Spyder3 Pro colorimeter. The result is always within a fraction of a percent of 6500K (most recently 6501K). Unlike the Apple 30″, the Dell provides RGB controls for more precise handling of the calibration process at the hardware level. Furthermore, it holds it’s calibration very well over time. Usually when I check it each month, no changes are needed.

  9. This is amazing. A clear, concise, and frank estimation of an Apple product’s pros and cons. An actual reference to other manufacturers that may offer something better for less. No Reality Distortion Field.

    Unless I’m two levels down in the Reality Distortion Field and I’m only meant to think that I’m not in a Reality Distortion Field. Oh dear.

  10. erik winterland Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    go to the apple store and buy a 30 inch display, $1799.00 ships in 24 hrs????


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