Blog Post

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.

15 Responses to “Is a 24″ Cinema Display For Your MacBook Worth the Money?”

  1. MacDEAD

    This monitor is not under any circumstances worth 899$. I was provided this monitor from my work, so I didn’t have to pay for it. However, whenever I have to do any intensive graphics work, whether photography, video or etc. the calibration is so far off from using what I get from my Asus monitor that is both larger and far less expensive that it is clearly that this monitor is a rip-off.

    For the 899.00, this is what I can get:
    1. Asus MT276HE – 399.00
    2. Bookendz Docking station – 149.00 (USB, Power, Video)
    3. Bose Companion 3 Speakers – 199.00

    And still have enough money left over to buy a bluetooth keyboard and mighty mouse. Or another Spyder 2 to calibrate the Apple Monitor with.

    Basically this is a highly overpriced monitor, that is nothing special outside of the fact that it does look good.

  2. The reason I AM getting a 13.3″ MacBook ($1749) and a 24″ cinema display ($899) is because I want those 3 extra USB ports that are always on even when not plugged into the computer. I also want the secondary iSight and Mic for getting a better angle, AND it has a reeeeally nice set of speakers WITH a subwoofer at the bottom so it’s more like a MacBook to iMac converter than a regular moniter.

    I plan on using it for photo editing and gaming and I suppose just regular use while in my computer room.

  3. Buy two of the 22″ monitors that the article mentions. $900 for a monitor is an insane Apple Tax.

    Also, good luck using that $900 monitor in any environment that requires a KVM. Yes, there are adapters to take it to VGA, but how many cables do you really want between your monitor and computer?

  4. #8 Patrick:

    I am a Graphic Designer.
    I like Glossy Displays.

    The whole blabla about “inaccurate” colors by Glossy Displays is plain simple bs.


    “Matte” closer to “paper gray”.
    Yesh, right. A back light – light emitting – thing is close to paper.


    The Anti-Reflection layer on the matte screens make the screens acutally less sharp.


    The new Cinema Display has no Glare Layer on it, but real glass put over it.
    That’s a big difference to to the normal glare screens.

    It’s an S-IPS panel, which performs very, very well and can be calibrated to be a very good mid range screen – when high would be like 1600$ for a 24″ for production.

    In my oppinion, with all the extras – usb hub, mag safe power, great sound, iSight, S-IPS etc. I would go for a Cinema anytime over one of the underperforming Dell 24″.

    Though I’d certainly like to see an UGRA test on one of the Cinema Displays.

  5. I’ve recently bought a Samsung 2443BW, it’s tiltable and quite a good screen for less than 300 euro’s (I guess that’s around 400-500 dollars?)

    I had been thinking about buying the Apple Cinema display, but when I discovered the price was more than twice the price of ‘normal’ (read: all the rest of 24 inch monitors) I radically changed my opinion and immediately bought the Samsung.

    Off course, the Apple Cinema Display is the top of the bill and I would’ve paid a lot of money for it, but what’s with this exhorbitant price? I really think it’s too much, even for a LED display.

  6. I got a ViewSonic VX2250wmb 22″ widescreen with built-in webcam and mic, expecting it to work with my 10.5 Mac Pro. Well, turns out the webcam does work, but not the mic. No drivers. Frustrating since the ViewSonic pre-sales team said it “should” work. Now they’re saying “of course the mic won’t work on any Mac” and are surprised the webcam works. Sheesh.

    Turns out I’m having trouble finding any monitor except for the expensive cinema displays that will say for certain their webcam and mic will work with Leopard.


  7. One thing that wasn’t noted is that it has an S-IPS panel in it. It’s one of the few 24″ displays on the market with that kind of panel. I think Apple screwed up by making this a glossy screen because the panel behind it is capable of much better color reproduction than your average display and that’s something that graphics designers care about. Graphic designers also don’t like glossy displays.

    The other monitors with this type of panel in this size are also much more expensive so I think Apple is actually offering this at a very competitive price for what you’re getting. Designers who want the color might just deal with the gloss in order to save a few hundred bucks and get some added convenience in terms of connectivity with their MBP.

  8. I have the older 23″ ACD but then I don’t use laptops anyway.

    I also think Lon is spot on in his assessment of this article. Blogs are supposed to be brief but this is hardly an article at all.

    Arguments that *could* be made for this screen, that aren’t mentioned here:

    a) it’s a far better screen than any of the lower priced competitors, despite the fact that you might think others “look the same.”

    b) it is also a USB hub

    c) it also contains a better sound system than your average set of desktop speakers.

    People don’t think twice about throwing a hundred bucks at some crappy plastic speakers or half that at a passable USB hub, so there is a lot of added value in there.

    Finally, putting on my “old person” hat …

    A good monitor has *always* cost well *over* a thousand dollars, (sometimes just under on sale.) I bought an NEC 3FGe for about that in the early 90’s on sale. The best you could get at the time. Also money is worth a lot less now. A thousand dollars in the early 90’s is like 1500 today in terms of consumer goods. I also bought the 23″ ACD for about the same price (heavily discounted and refurbished as well).

    This monitor is (brand new!) 900 bucks, so it’s actually cheaper by quite a bit, than the ACD’s have been in the past. It’s the best screen you can buy and it has lots of extras. It’s also custom fitted with your new laptop in many ways like the built in intelligence and so on (also not mentioned here).

    I think it’s actually worth the money and if I was foolish enough to use laptops, I would buy it in a heartbeat.

  9. Yeah $900 is far too much to spend on a display. I recently bought the new 2008 MacBook 2.4ghz love it so far very portable and very powerful. But I’d still like to get a Dell 22inch display when I’m at my home office and I’d like to at least spring for the Apple bluetooth keyboard (which I think is overpriced but eh).

  10. I can’t even make an argument to spend $900 on a 30″ display. It’s just too much money for a display. Dell makes an excellent 24″ LCD (as long as you get an UltraSharp model, not the other ones they sell). Samsung is also excellent. You can get them for even less if color accuracy and perfect sharpness aren’t critical.

  11. MacLuvver

    I’ve recently been fortunate to upgrade my previous 20″ Cinema / 15.4″ CoreDuo 2.16MHz MacBook Pro combo to the newer setup (24″ LED Cinema + 2.8Ghz MacBook Pro with 128MB SSD). The only way I was able to justify it was as a deductible “work expense”, & I agree that the cost is a little too far into the stratosphere for average home use. But man, is it sweet!! I carry my laptop to & from work every day, & at home I like to have a bit more of a “pseudo-desktop” configuration (i.e. I use a bluetooth keyboard & mighty mouse with the setup). As it currently stands, it feels as fast as any desktop I use in other places (granted I’m not playing too many graphics intensive games). As stated, there are other “comparable” displays at much more competitive price points, but the full Apple setup is hard to beat in terms of compatibility, features, & system integration (& overall Wow factor). Also, I can’t remember many times where friends would walk by my home office & drool when I had my old Dell monitor !!


    Lucky in Canada

  12. I’m using a 24-in. Cinema display while on contract to Apple, and it’s gorgeous — as long as it’s in its native, highest resolution. Since my older eyes have trouble with smaller type sizes (like such as appears in the Finder), I wanted to lower the resolution. Trying that resulted in highly pixellated text, even just one setting lower than the highest.

    So, unless you have great eyes, stay away from the Cinema Display.