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Why can’t we just be satisfied with Studio Display? The 1st affordable display in an age

The Apple Studio Display is barely 2 weeks old, yet already we are not content, it seems.

Studio Display

When I was watching the Peak Performance event live, nearly two weeks ago, there was one standout announcement for me. Don’t get me wrong, an iPad Air with an M1 chip is very impressive. The iPhone SE 3rd generation is a hugely important product in Apple’s global marketing strategy. And the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra chip is groundbreaking.

But, as impressive as all those items were, the one product which really garnered my attention was the brand new Studio Display. For years, like many, I have yearned for a spiritual successor to the Thunderbolt Cinema Displays that were discontinued over five years ago. My lineup includes a 5K 27-inch display, which, clearly, is in no need of an external display, but I also run with a 2019 15-inch MacBook Pro. This soon is to be laid to rest, as it were, with an M1 Max 16-inch looming close on the horizon. But the laptops very much do benefit from larger monitors.

Is it just me?

Now, excuse me if I am a little delicate and protective of my years, but let’s say I have had few birthdays, shall we! I am of that generation, and attending eyesight, that just dislikes the idea of working on small screens. In my mind’s eye, I have images of young creatives flicking around on a trackpad and creating masterpieces on small, portable laptops while sitting in coffee shops. I wish, I mean, I really wish, that was me, but sadly, it is not. Geez, I need all the luck, good fortune and aides I can lay my hands on to be even approaching creative! I have used my MacBook for the last two years an increasing amount, and for much of that time, it has been hooked up to an HP monitor. I refuse and hate to put the MacBook in to clamshell mode, as the display is just too gorgeous, but equally, the array of monitors on offer have not been the best. Of course, until now, that is.

Now, whilst I patiently wait for my panel to arrive, I have been noticing increasing discord on YouTube and Twitter about what Apple have delivered. It does put me in mind of spoiled children, it really does.

How long have we wanted a mid-priced Apple made monitor? Finally, they deliver, pretty much, everything we had asked of them, yet still, it is not enough.

Would it ever be enough?

Sitting in a glass house must be a lovely position from which to view life. What do I mean? Simply that, Apple were, in retrospect, always on a hiding to nothing. Since last year’s release of the MacBook Pro’s, I believe Apple have shown they have listened. All the points, ports, and pixels that users had grumbled about, Apple have reacted to and given us back. Be that SD card slots, HDMI ports, 120 Hz mini LED screens or an affordable display, they have gone back to delivering on performance and working for the professional once more. Apple, are, a company very much on point currently. That is not just an Apple fan talking, either. What they have achieved, or indeed, are still achieving with Apple Silicon has turned the market upside down. So, as the crescendo of voices raises in a cacophony of disappointment, let’s just, for a moment, step back and….breathe! Let’s appreciate what they have delivered. Two weeks ago, if you had dreamt this monitor up, you’d have been accused of it being a flight of fancy. It is, pretty much, everything we had been clamouring after. So, that makes we wonder, can our appetites ever be satiated?

We want more K’s!

Why not, 6K was one of the first complaints. Well, price is the main point of consideration here. Let us not forget that the voice of the masses demanded a mid-priced, affordable panel. Apple were working to that demand. They already have the best of the best with the high end, 6K 32-inch panel for the ultra-serious professional. But not all of us have £6k for 6K! The easy option could well have been to give us a ‘stretched panel’. 4K at 27-inches would have saved the pounds, definitely, but the pixel-police would have been out in force. I think the companies decision to squeeze in 14.7 million pixels at a resolution of 5120×2880 with 218 pixels per inch was a smart move.

This panel has a P3 wide colour gamut and support for 1 billion colours. That should not be underestimated or overlooked. The meticulous calibration at the factory ensures all their devices leave the factory with the same colour pre-sets. It’s just one reason creative professionals love them. You can rely upon the fact, that the images you create on your iPhone or iPad will be faithfully reproduced on your laptop or desktop.

The brightness, too, was increased to make working on these panels, more comfortable. Being increased from 500 nits on the iMac 24-inch panel to 600 nits on the Studio Display again, was all worked in on budget.

For many years now, Apple have been working to bring us very nearly an HDR experience on our displays. We have become accustomed to True Tone Technology making our pixel creative experiences, day to day, that much more comfortable. But, that is almost the point – we expect that level of engineering, rather than giving credit for it. With all these small, yet ingenious developments, they have taken what is actually an EDR (Extended Dynamic Range) panel, to make our eyes & brains very nearly believe what we are watching is HDR. OK, so it is only a backlit LED display and not mini LED. That luxury, I believe, will be coming, though. If you really ache, at your very core for a mini LED Studio Display, then before the year is out, I do believe, your wish may well be granted.

Two letters to strike fear in to you – LG

For years now, Apple’s panel partner has been LG. The Ultrafine series of monitors have been there. Comparing what we have now, though, should really be the Clarion Call. With continued, build issues, poor finish, port unreliability and wi-fi issues, the LG never truly cut-the-mustard.

As ever with Apple and this display, in an almost Porsche like manner, it is the bolt-on extras that surprise me. Nano texture, is an odd one. It does its anti-reflective job, but is a proper pain to keep clean. Then we have the stands. The stand it comes with is the same as you’d find on the 24-inch iMac. So, it tilts, but that is it. If you want a height adjustable stand, though, you’ll have to dig deeper in your back pocket and find another £400. Now this, from the company that heralded in flexibility with the stands on their earlier iMacs, seems a little rich (no pun intended) to me. And don’t forget, if you do want that option, to tick the extras list at the point of purchase. It is totally not a retro-fit option. The irony of the fact that this lack of swap out after purchase, comes from the very same company that made changing straps on an Apple Watch so easy and almost necessary, has not failed to strike me, though.

Could do better?

Overall, I do think Apple should be applauded for the Studio Display. Could they have improved it in some ways? Possibly, yes, I have already covered the stand, but maybe they could have included the M1 chip inside rather than the A13 Bionic chip. As I understand it, the processor, was only in there to run Centre Stage. That looks so much better on the iPad, even with the same camera, I can only think it is to do with the chipset. I am not sure what impact this would have had against cost, but it would almost certainly have improved the webcam experience. I am certain, by now, you’ll have seen the somewhat mixed reviews the camera has received. It is odd that Apple let that quality control slip. Surely, of all issues, that one was almost literally staring them in the face! Apple is aware of the issue and are currently working on either a firmware or software update. A little embarrassing sure, but a fix, of some sort at least, is on the way.

Again, don’t forget the other bits and bobs we got thrown in to this monitor; three noise-cancelling microphones, and pretty reasonable speakers too. This monitor, beautifully styled, solidly built and well-equipped, is more than a monitor, it is almost half a computer.

Give them a break

Here’s a thought. Rather than shouting about what they have not done, or overlooked, how about a tiny round of applause for what they have done. We clamoured for a display, of good quality and packed with Apple style. On that, they have delivered at a fairly affordable price point. If this was a school report, I think they deserve an A+.

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Originally published at https://www.talkingtechandaudio.com/blog on March 21, 2022.

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