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My MacBook Air's New Best Friend: Apple 24-Inch LED Cinema Display

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macbookairleddisplay1MacBook Air, the skinniest of all the Apple (s aapl) machines, has been my computer of choice since the day I bought it. Rarely have I regretted owning the featherweight laptop, but when those regrets do crop up, they’re typically around the lack of storage space — for at times, the 128 GB SSD isn’t enough. My other big complaint: The 13-inch screen isn’t big enough for optimal productivity. Well, Apple has silenced me by releasing a new 24-inch LED display monitor.

The $899 device takes its design and performance cues from the newly redesigned line-up of unibody MacBooks. Apple says that the 24-inch glossy, widescreen, LED-backlit display is the first to be designed to work exclusively with Apple laptops, part of the company’s move to whittle down its desktop line and increase the emphasis on its portable products. From that perspective, the new display makes perfect sense.

When I first got this monitor to review, I didn’t much care about it. After all, monitor is a monitor, right? But once I hooked it up with my MacBook Air, my opinion changed. In less a minute it turned a skinny MacBook Air into a devil of a machine. (Check out this review from sister site jkOnTheRun, which uses the display with a MacBook.)


The monitor comes with a Magsafe power adapter, USB cable and Mini DisplayPort, a standard feature on all unibody MacBooks. With three extra USB ports, it helps overcome another one of MacBook Air’s shortcomings. I use one for charging my BlackBerry Curve, one for keyboard and the final one for a backup drive. And much to the chagrin of my colleagues (who by now are sick of me blasting Roxy Music), the display’s built-in speaker system overcomes the tinny sound that comes from MacBook Air’s single speaker. I turned on the sound to the max and the speakers didn’t disappoint. And at any given time, I keep open iTunes, at least two browser windows, Skype, Adium, Net News Wire and Textmate — so I love the bright and crisp extra real estate that the new screen brings.

There are ways to improve this monitor, such as including a built-in Ethernet port so I could plug my computer into the corporate network without having to use Wi-Fi. And perhaps get rid of the glossy screen. Similarly, it would be nice to make this monitor work with some of the older MacBooks and other laptops.

Bottom line: The new display allows the MacBook Air to be your only computer.

27 Responses to “My MacBook Air's New Best Friend: Apple 24-Inch LED Cinema Display”

  1. Adam

    I have a Macbook Air (first Generation) and the 24″ display does not work because of the mirco DVI standard. The worst part is that Apple does not have any converters and because is a proprietary interface, no one does. So I’m stuck with a 24″ monitor that I can not use. My wife go the new MacBook Air and she is happy.

    Does any one have any advice.


  2. I have this setup and it changed the way I use computers (at work and home). I connect to Ethernet by the USB-to-Ethernet adapter. In addition I use the wireless keyboard and mouse. I love the system and I am willing to pay a little more for the features, e.g., Ethernet permanently attached to the monitor, and the greenness of an LED display. LED is more expensive, but much better.

    In addition I backup to my work servers using rsync upon arrival and when leaving, which only takes a few seconds. I no longer worry about losing data or syncing multiple machines. At home I plug in the same way.

    I take the Air with me (almost) everywhere since it is so light.

  3. Angus Dei

    Multiple issues here. This is a consumer device, and right now Apple has NOTHING for pro audio and video applications. I don’t give a hot flying flapjack how good the speakers are, I’m going to be monitoring through Tannoy or Turbosound pro audio units. Please give me a monitor with NO SPEAKERS. I don’t want to pay for something I’ll never ever use.

    Where is the really large display? The 30″ Cinema HD is history, as is the 20″, with no replacements in sight. I assume they are coming, but what the heck?

    Beautiful shiny display. Pity that glossy displays stink to high heaven. If Apple doesn’t give me a matte display surface, buh-by, I’ll get my first non-Apple display since I used PC’s back in the Windows 3.1 era. Wait, scratch that, the old 30″ units will plunge in price when they are replaced, so I’ll buy them off of “that auction site.”

    It used to be that Apple made artists at least a secondary priority. What happened there? Now everything they make seems to be aimed at college students and trust fund slackers.

  4. Adam Jackson

    I think if you have an MBA, the 24″ is perfect but I’ve always given startups hell when I enter into their offices and they’re using Apple monitors. These days, they’ve wised up and Dell monitors are becoming more popuarity because they’re sometimes 50% cheaper than Apple’s offering.

    At work, I have a 2.93Ghz MacBook Pro (15″ w/ 256GB SSD). I have it hooked up via DisplayPort to a 30″ Dell 3008WFP monitor. It has DisplayPort, DVI and HDMI. Yes 30″ seems like overkill at first but it’s a totally new experience. Additionally, my 30″ was only $1099 ($200 more than apple’s 24″). I got 10+ ports, 6″ extra space and it’s still all aluminum and very fashion forward design.

    Just sayin…. Dell is the way to go in my opinion.

    • Adam

      This is the first Apple display I have considered buying… to be honest, I don’t care much for their other models. I love how this has turned my MBA into an only device. Now if I could get the 256 SSD for my MBA that would make life better.

      PS: I tried the 30-inch and to be honest it was too much for me. I am not sure if I can handle that much real estate.

      • Om, it is hard at first. It takes about a week to get used to the 30″. I found I had to relearn how to look at my screen. Learn how to not focus on all of the screen at once. Your peripheral vision comes into play. You’ll be more visually active, like driving rather than reading a book. Try investing the time. You’ll get the savings later. Multi-tasking gets redefined.

        Shortly will be running my 30″ flanked by two previously shelved 20″ 1200×1600 (rotated 90) via a USB DisplayLink adapter (hub friendly). Running at 4960×1600 will again take some relearning, but the efficiencies gained will be another jump forward. Freaky part is you could do this of your tiny MBA!

  5. It is a nice setup and offers typical good design from Apple. For my money however, I opted for a Samsung 24-inch 1920×1200 external display. I got it for around $300 refurbished and use with my MacBook and external Bose speakers. I definitely have more cables in the way with this setup, but for 1/3rd the price, I can live with that. ;)

  6. $900 for a 24″ monitor? Are you serious? I would not pay more than $250 for such a monitor. A $650 premium for the Apple brand… sorry, not going to happen in my world. It’s fun to be elite… but not that fun.

    • Nicholas

      If I may say, that you would be lucky to unload a Windows box for more than fifty bucks (I jest slightly) after 6 months of use, whereas several years down the road, a Mac retains a good chunk of its value. As with buying an overpriced, snooty BMW, they just so happen to have a market after the shine wears off.

      I have an Air, version 1.0, and it was a great purchase. It is light, reasonably fast, and when I present everybody wants to lick it. So there!

  7. “After all, monitor is a monitor, right?”

    You, will have exactly this same experience hooking up any small notebook to any larger screen and USB hub. Almost.

    “first to be designed to work exclusively with Apple laptops”
    That is because apple products are the only ones to have forced this mini-display port. Another way to write this is to say “only monitor in the world that can work with apple laptops with out an extra-cost adapter”.

    Here is the problem. If you like going to 24″, why not go to 30″? Now the “almost” part. Now you will have to use Apple’s mini-display port to dual DVI adapter for $100. You will quickly discover that it doesn’t work. Please read the feedback on the apple store. It doesn’t work. Even the regular mini-display port to DVI adapter gives me a lot of digital snow.

    Apple is forcing near-proprietary mini-display port technology that doesn’t work. Plus it is less capable than the original display-port standard or rival HDMI. Please do some journalism around this.

    • ChrisS totally agreed on the Apple’s mini-display port to dual DVI adapter not working. I think the only people I can recommend this to: people with Macbook air or Macbooks. I love my MBA too much and this helps overcome all its shortcomings.

      On Apple’s use of proprietary technologies — well that’s what they do. I think good tip on the display connections standards… we should write a blog post around that.

  8. I just got this as well…. cord could be a little longer and the screen changes colors a few times a day from a cool color profile and back … this issue is documented by many other users on apple forums…. other than that, the color is so much better than my previous dell 2408 wfp… worth the extra money without a doubt. love this monitor.