I have been using the much maligned Studio Display every day for just under two months…here are my thoughts.
What’s all the fuss about
The Apple Studio Display rarely causes an ambivalent reaction. It’s a Marmite product, it would seem – folks either love it or hate it in equal numbers. In its favour is that it is typically Apple in its engineering and aesthetics, and is also stunning to look at. On the downside, it’s super expensive, for what is, after all, essentially old panel technology.
Apple discontinued the last affordable display, the Thunderbolt Display, in 2016. Since then, the choice we had, for an Apple badged monitor, has been the £6000 Pro Display XDR.
If you have read any of my older blogs, you’ll know that my daily Mac for the past six or seven years has been a 2015 5K iMac. In moving from that iMac to the Studio Display, in reality, I should not have noticed much difference. But the improved quality of the new display, truly surprised me.
The 2015 iMac screen had developed darkened corners and there was the odd ‘flat spot’ for want of a better term, on random parts of the display. I got used to it, and ignored it, but in honesty, it’s a flaw that should not be there. This new Studio Display, though, I’m happy to report, is outstanding, and blemish free.
Whilst it does not claim to be 100% colour accurate, to my eyes, it is damned near! The colour is deep, vibrant, and even across the entire screen. This panel seems to be a return to the glory days for Apple.
The elephant in the room
We may as well get this out of the way now – the webcam. On a display that costs £1499, the on-board camera is, frankly, a disgrace.
Upon release, Apple quickly became aware of an issue. How it got through the final rounds of quality control, I have no idea, but somehow it did, and Apple kept telling us the ensuing firmware updates would sort it.
Well, the releases have come and gone, and sadly, there was precious little improvement. Realistically, how could it? It is clearly a hardware issue. There is enough space in the Studio Display’s chassis to have used any camera they wanted, pretty much. But, they chose to go with a cheap, inferior option, which at this price point, is inexcusable.
After the latest firmware updates, I can report the colour is less orange, the framing is improved, and Centre Stage is a little better. They are all incremental improvements, though – overall, it is still woeful and bordering on unusable. I talked about the camera issues in this video.
So far, I have been using the Logitech C920 webcam, but have just traded up to the Brio Ultra HD 4K camera which is only £130. It is money I’d rather not have had to spend, but, I see it as a good investment. I am spending more and more time online interviewing guests for my podcast, Minus Sixteen, so buying a better camera, seems worth it to me. Apple…we expect better!
Still the best out there
As much as some would have you believe there are some serious contenders to the Studio Display’s crown, Apple, still have the market cornered. The Samsung CJ971, the Dell S2719DC or even the Huawei MateView 28 – inch monitor, all have their strong points.
However, none offer the wide P3 colour, True Tone technology and support for one billion colours that you get with the Apple Studio Display. And also, now, add superior quality to that list.
I recently had the opportunity to directly compare my Studio Display to the 5K LG Ultrafine. The results were closer than I had expected, in honesty. But, they are no longer available, which means in the 5K market, Apple are still out in front, almost by default. Speaking of availability, Apple continues to have supply issues with their Studio Display. The ongoing chip shortage means, that if you were to order one from Apple today, it would not arrive until mid, or late August.
The hidden ‘gems’!
Apple are past masters in the art of making us want more. Let me come back to the price once again – it is £1500 and that, is a vast sum of money. At that price, it should be complete in every way – yet it is not.
For your money, you will only get a basic tilt adjustable stand. If you want to have the luxury of a height and tilt adjustable stand, you’ll have to fork out an additional £400! The same is true when it comes to the ant-reflective Nano-texture glass treatment. For something that seemed to be included on the cheaper LG Ultrafine, you’ll be asked for yet another £250 to have it on your Studio Display.
Is it me, or at this premium price point, should we expect these options to be, well, not options, but included?
A word to the wise – if I were buying again, I’d go for the vesa mount option, and buy an after-market mount.
One area that Apple do deserve credit for, is the six-speaker audio set up. As much as you’ll be wasting money replacing the webcam, you will save money on not needing to buy any external, desk speakers. They deliver a pleasing, easy listen. They are reasonable across the entire frequency range, and the soundstage, is more than adequate.
At the same time as buying this Studio Display, I also bought the 16–inch MacBook Pro. The display on the MacBook Pro has ProMotion technology for adaptive refresh rates of up to 120Hz. Once you have got used to the smoothness of that display technology, you want it all the time.
Whilst I realise that the pinch-point for running ProMotion on the Studio Display is currently the Thunderbolt connector between it and the MacBook, I am expecting that to be addressed in future iterations.
We have heard that a ‘pro’ version of this Studio Display is on the horizon. If those rumours come to be, it will be interesting to see if they have conquered that technology, for their even more demanding pro users.
The extra brightness, up from 500 nits to 600 nits makes such a massive difference, that is hard for me to describe in words. The overall quality is all you’d expect, and the colour performance, as I said, nearly perfect.
But – it is £1500 in its most basic form. At that price, it is hard for me to recommend it to every one. If your needs are basic day-to-day office work, or content consumption, then may be one of the other displays I mentioned earlier may be better suited for you.
For those wanting the best, and have the funds available, then yes, this Studio Display will not disappoint.
Apple did not help their cause with the options list. If the Nano-textured screen and tilt/height stand were inclusive, it would be much easier for me to justify. And also, we must not ignore, that even at this price, you will almost certainly want to buy another webcam.
I am, undeniably, the target demographic for this monitor. For starters, I love Apple, and it’s ecosystem, and my workflow requires some degree of colour accuracy.
I am still happy with the purchase, and even more happy I managed to find one in the UK. It is a conversation opener and scene stealer. It’s just gorgeous from every angle.
I have used it every day, for hours at a time, and can testify to its quality and usability. But before parting with your cash, first take a look at availability and be honest about what you are looking for from your display.
If you do get one, though, or are using one – let me have your thoughts. Are you happy with it too?
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