Widescreen monitors — Size still matters

Ian Yates
15 July, 2007
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When AMW lab last looked at the 30” Apple Cinema Display (ACD30), along with competitive models from other vendors, we also had to borrow a late model PowerMac G5 with “dual-link DVI” support on its graphics card. This time around Apple loaned us a MacBook Pro notebook. This portable powerhouse had no trouble driving the 30” monster display at its maximum 2560×1600 resolution. And you can still use the notebook’s built-in screen while displaying a different image on the 30” LCD alongside.

For graphically-oriented professionals, a MacBook Pro for the road, with a whopper screen and some extra storage for the studio, might well be the best fit-out you can buy. Of course if money is no problem, or you don’t require portability, or if you want to drive two of these displays at once, you’ll need to spring for a desktop-bound Mac Pro. The good news is the price of these very large display panels has been falling since we reviewed them last year, which will make it easier to afford that Macintosh upgrade at the same time.

Apple would now like you to pay $2798 for one of these 30” displays, which is a whopping $1127 discount compared with the price asked a year ago. However, as always, it pays to look at what else is on the market to do the same job, and this year there are several more vendors competing in the high resolution 30” LCD display market. AMW lab collected 30” displays from Samsung, Dell and HP to compare with the Apple offering, and we also looked at slightly smaller displays from both NEC (26”) and Dell (27”). All the 30” LCD displays can handle 2560 x 1600 resolution while the smaller monitors peak at 1900 x 1200, which is the same resolution offered by Apple on its even smaller 23” Cinema Display at $1399.

Real estate. Any display with a 30” diagonal size makes its presence felt immediately you open the carton. Now that these things are made using LCD panels instead of glass tubes, one person can easily lift and locate them, but make sure you clear some serious real estate on your desk before attempting the manoeuvre. These displays are all designed to be driven at their maximum resolution — if you just need whopping big writing you can achieve the same result buying a similar-sized TV with computer-input facility for a lot less money. If you live inside Adobe’s Creative Suite or Apple’s FinalCut HD Pro, then you already know what you’d do with this sort of real estate.

For example, you can have a double-page spread of an A4 magazine open inside InDesign and you can clearly read and edit the text, even at 8.5 points, without zooming. It has never before been this easy to see the knock-on effect of text changes across several pages. Audio editors will also appreciate being able to view multiple tracks at once, as well as having easy access to palettes without having to hide or move windows around. Photoshop mavens will be able to edit individual pixels. If video editing is your bag, Apple would like you to buy two of these monsters, one for editing and all the effects palettes you can possibly imagine, and another one alongside as your preview device, instead of dragging a broadcast quality HD monitor onto the desk. Everything in this review can display HD content at full resolution.

None of the four 30” LCD displays we reviewed can accept any input source other than their DVI sockets, so no, you can’t use them as a replacement TV unless you route the TV signals through the Macintosh first. They all support resolutions about twice that required for HDTV so it would be overkill if your intention is to upgrade your TV and your Mac display by writing only one cheque. Of the two smaller screens, the NEC offers a VGA port in addition to its DVI ports, but the Dell 27” lets you connect almost anything to the display. With the addition of a set-top box the Dell 27” can do double duty as a TV replacement, albeit more expensively than a vanilla TV.

On test. Looking at any of these monitors, the quality and colour of the display is simply stunning — it only takes a few days before you start to think 30” is just about the right size for a display panel. Apple’s “floating in space” design is certainly chic, matches your other brushed aluminium toys from Cupertino, and the asking price is now the second-lowest on offer. Despite asking for even less money, Dell also includes camera-card slots on the side of the display, which could be a very handy feature if you are using the monitor in a photographic studio.

Although the others displays extend your USB ports to the monitor from the back of your Macintosh, you would still need to provide your own separate card reader. Only the Apple monitor extends the FireWire ports to the monitor, which could well be a crucial decider if you regularly need to connect a camcorder or similar device to your Macintosh. Because they aren’t designed to replace TV sets, none of these units came equipped with remote controls – there’s nothing to control remotely except the power switch anyway, except for the “baby” Dell’s multiple inputs.

Australian Macworld’s buying advice. If you want the most real estate you can get, and you want it right in front of your face for creative work, any of these 30” displays will more than satisfy. If you need to match your décor with your other Apple acquisitions you won’t be disappointed with Apple’s 30” Cinema Display and your financial penalty is now much lower for remaining loyal to the fold. However, the other vendors provide swivel and height adjustment while Apple only provides tilt, which might be important in some work environs. While HP would like you to pay an extra $200 above the Apple price for a fully adjustable stand, Samsung and Dell give you the same capacity with a price below Apple’s. Dell is still asking less than al the other vendors and the price includes delivery. Which is hard to ignore.

Samsung 305T

Ports DVI, USB x 4
Cons Single DVI port
Pros Tilt, swivel and height adjustable
Rating 4
Type 30" Widescreen LCD
SRP AUD$2499
Distributor Samsung 02 9957 5655
Ian Yates

Apple Cinema HD Display

Ports DVI, USB x 2, FireWire x 2
Cons External power pack, single DVI port, tilt adjust only
Pros Comes from Apple, includes FireWire ports
Rating 4
Type 30" TFT LCD
SRP AUD$2798
Distributor Apple 131 622
Ian Yates

Dell Monitor 3007WFP - HC

Distributor Dell 02 8972 5061
SRP AUD$2399
Ports DVI, USB x 4, Camera card reader
Cons Single DVI port
Pros Tilt, swivel and height adjustable
Rating 4.5
Type 30" TFT LCD
Ian Yates

HP LP3065

Cons Price
Pros Tilt, swivel and height adjustable
Rating 4
Type Flat Panel Monitor
Ports 2999
SRP DVI x 3, USB x 4
Distributor HP Australia 1300 304 889
Ian Yates

NEC Multisync LCD2690WUXi

Ports DVI x 2, VGA
Cons No USB extension ports, lower resolution than 30" displays
Pros Tilt and height adjustable
Rating 3.5
Type Flat Panel Monitor
SRP AUD$2299
Distributor NEC 02 9877 2333
Ian Yates

Dell Monitor 2707WFP

Ports DVI, VGA, S-Video, Component, Composite, USB x 2
Cons Lower resolution than the 30" models
Pros Tilt, swivel and height adjustable, multiple input sources
Rating 3.5
Type Flat Panel Monitor
SRP AUD$1499
Distributor Dell 02 8972 5061
Ian Yates

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