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Apple Studio Display First Look

Posted on Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

Dave!When the order was placed for my new Studio Mac and Studio Display for work, the lead time was two weeks for the display, then two months for the computer. But the display never came. Instead it got extended out to the same date as the computer since Apple (wisely) wanted to ship displays for other customers whose computers were available. Which would have been great, except that my computer shipped early, leaving me with two weeks having to use a terrible old monitor that was kicking around the office.

But now the display is finally here, so I'm able to add my thoughts (my comments on the Mac Studio are here).

Studio Display from Apple.

If I were to summarize it all, I'd probably say something like "A high quality display which comes at a (relatively) good price." And I should probably start off talking about the pricing, because that's the most controversial topic in front of me. The thing is $1,600. Which is darn pricey for a 27-inch display... but a frickin' bargain for the 5K 27-inch display that Apple is selling. Which is to say that if you need 5K resolution, this thing is cheap. If you can get by with 4K, this thing is expensive for your needs. I mostly use my machine for graphic design, so the 5K is a nice thing to have... but not critical. But there are other features you get for the money that makes it a (relatively) good price for my needs.

DESIGN BUILD
The thing that you rarely have to worry about when it comes to Apple is how their stuff looks. There are exceptions, of course (the "sunflower" iMac looked stupid and the "trash can" Mac Pro had embarrassingly bad functionality), but most of the time anything you buy is guaranteed to be stunning, functional, and well-engineered. The Studio Display all all of that. It's tooled from aluminum which is both durable and beautiful. The stand design looks simple and elegant (this is where most manufacturers screw things up). The glass is not anti-glare (unless you want to pay $300 to get "nano-textured" glass) but isn't so thick that you're getting weird double-reflections. The base model allows you to tilt the panel towards you or away from you at a fairly large angle of motion (if you want a height-adjustable stand, that's an additional $400). There's no headphone jack to be found, which makes sense considering there's one on the Mac Studio computer (albeit IN THE BACK!). Overall, I'm quite pleased... though I am puzzled by how thick this thing is. It's about double the thickness of my iMac at home, and that has a whole computer inside of it! This is likely what was required for the awesome speaker setup, but it is odd. Though it's also kinda nice because it adds some heft to it so it's less likely to be bouncing around.

PICTURE QUALITY
There is no denying it. This thing is gorgeous to look at. With its 5K resolution, there are no "jaggies" happening anywhere on anything ever. Then you add it's vivid, flawless color fidelity, and it's just like looking at a hi-res back-lit photograph. As with other Apple Devices, it has the ability to monitor the light in your surroundings an adapt to it using Apple's "TrueTone" color correction. And then there's the brightness, which can be turned up so high that it feels like you're getting a suntan. There's absolutely nothing about the picture quality for me to be critical of. It's perfect as I knew it would be.

AND REGARDING 5K...
Because the pixels are so frickin' dense, you can fit a lot more stuff on the screen and still have it be perfectly crisp and legible. I love this quite a lot... EXCEPT... it can really suck when you have apps which don't allow you to enlarge the GUI elements. All the Adobe apps make this easy. As do a lot of my apps. But Apple's very own Mail app, for example? I can only find a place to make composing emails with a larger font. There's no way to apply a "universal zoom" to all your inbound emails. So most every time I receive something, I have to manually bump up the type so I can read it. It's just a tap or two on the "Command" key plus the "+" key, so it's not a huge deal... but even Apple's Safari browser allows you to set a default zoom for every site you visit. It's cumbersome, but at least you only have to do it once! It would be great if there was an option to set a minimum font size on these apps so it would be handled for me with zero need to do anything.

SOUND QUALITY
For whatever reason, Apple decked this thing out with six high-quality speakers that sound frickin' amazing, considering how the small amount of space that they're occupying. Even more impressive is that Apple is up to their "spatial audio" tricks to make you feel as though the sound has enveloped you. It's a pretty nifty trick, though some sound sources work better for this than others. Blade Runner 2049 (my benchmark for checking surround sound quality) sounds glorious. Not that I'll get to hear it much. Obviously I can't blast the sound while at work, so the audio experience will be lost on me because I have to use headphones so as not to disturb my co-workers.

CAMERA
When the Studio Display was first released, it was savaged by people saying that the webcam was horrific. This turned out to be software-related instead of anything to do with the hardware, and it was fixed before my display ever arrived. I find the camera quality to be outstanding (assuming you have a good internet connection). One of the newer features from Apple is "Center Stage" which allows you to walk around the room and have the camera follow you and automatically zoom in on where you're at. This is darn cool, and accomplished by using the wide-angle lens of the camera to soak in a large area... then zoom in to where the focus point is. What's particularly nifty is how it can recognize if there are multiple faces so it can shift the lens to make sure everybody is in-frame. I'm just happy that it's 12 mega-pixel, because apple has historically had awful resolution web-cams that have been embarrassing for far too long.

PORT ARRAY
There may be no headphone jack, but you do get three downstream USB-C ports in addition to the lone upstream thunderbolt port that plugs into your computer. A high-quality Thunderbolt cable is included. Interesting to note that this upstream port also acts like a 96W charger if you're plugging it into a MacBook or something (nice!).

IN CONCLUSION...
Overall I'm thrilled with the Studio Display. I'm even more thrilled that my work coughed up the $1,600 instead of me. Because if I were buying this for myself I'd have been a little upset that wanted a non-glare screen and a height-adjustable stand weren't included (that monitor is a whopping $2,300!). Even so, $1,600 for a 5K display is still getting you a lot of bang for your buck assuming 5K resolution useful to you (if 4K is good enough, you'd likely be better served by a less-expensive option). I've read that inside this thing is essentially a full A13 Bionic Chip inside which runs a full version of iOS. This is likely so that it can do the Center Stage shenanigans. Which is fine, except it sure seems like dramatic overkill. I would have been just as happy if they would have dropped this and took $100 off the price.

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Categories: Apple Stuff 2022Click To It: Permalink
   

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