Actually, Apple’s Studio Display Is the Big Deal

Finally, a Mac-friendly monitor

Key Takeaways

  • The Studio Display name dates back to 1998.
  • Its A13 chip lets old Intel Macs enjoy modern Apple Silicon-only features. 
  • The price is barely more than that of rival 5K monitors.
The Apple Studio Display next to a MacBook computer.

Apple

Forget the insane new Mac Studio. The real star of Apple's new product lineup is the 27-inch Studio Display. 

For Mac owners, buying a monitor was complicated. You either opted for the huge (in size and price) 32-inch Pro Display XDR to get proper integration with your Mac, or you settled for a third-party monitor from Dell, LG, or somebody else. And they may be great monitors, but they usually come in plastic cases, with all kinds of weird compromises for the Mac user. But now, after eight years in the wilderness, we can finally get a proper Apple monitor for our Macs. And our iPads. And even our PCs. 

"Personally, my favorite feature of the new Studio Display is the simple fact that Apple is back in the mainstream monitor game. Although the Pro Display XDR is an amazing piece of hardware, at $6,000 with a stand, it was far beyond the budgets of a large number of Mac users," software and web developer Weston Happ told Lifewire via email. 

Studio Line

This new monitor resurrects the Studio Display name, last used in its fantastic 2004 15- and 17-inch displays. It uses the same 27-inch panel as the discontinued 27-inch iMac and iMac Pro and adds USB-C ports, several microphones, even more speakers, and the 12 megapixel FaceTime camera from the iPad range. To operate all these fancy extras, the Studio Display also contains the A13 iPhone chip.

That chip turns the display into a little iOS computer and powers the fancy effects. These include Center Stage, where the webcam follows you around the room and zooms to fit when people join or leave you; Spatial Audio, which makes faux surround sound from six speakers, and some noise-canceling tricks with the microphones. The result is great for watching movies, making Zoom calls, and even shooting videos.

"I'm hoping this monitor will make the filming process easier because I can eliminate the 'middleman' camera and capture video directly with the monitor," marketer Clair Jones told Lifewire via email. "[Center Stage] is a real game-changer for content creators and will remove my need for multiple camera angles and shots. It's just so versatile! I can also use Siri voice commands to remotely start recording, stop recording, and other handy functions."

Why offload this to an internal chip instead of letting the computer do the work? Because it lets you use these features with old Intel-based Macs, and not just the Apple Silicon Macs that already have these features built-in. Worth noting here is that while the Studio Display will work with a Windows PC, it won't get these frills. The speakers and camera work like the normal dumb speakers and cameras in any computer monitor. 

Mac Friendly

Despite all these excellent features, the main appeal of this display is more basic. That is, it works perfectly with the Mac. You can use the media keys on your Mac's keyboard to adjust volume and brightness. The monitor won't display an annoying "No Input Signal" warning every time your Mac goes to sleep. And, if recent changes to Apple's Macs are anything to go on, it will wake instantly, instead of wallowing for 5-10 seconds before it realizes what's going on, like the otherwise excellent Dell I use with my Mac. 

Photograph at work on Mac Studio

Apple

Finally, we get to resolution. There are almost no 5K monitors on the market. Pretty much everything is 4K, apart from the LG Ultrafine 5K, which uses the same panel as this device, and costs $1,300. 

Why 5K? Because it lets Apple make the on-screen elements—windows, text, icons, menubar—the correct size for easy viewing. At 27 inches, 4K makes all these elements a little too big. At 5K (5120-by-2880 to be precise), they are sized exactly double what they were on old pre-retina (2560 x 1440) iMacs from a decade ago.

This means each pixel can be exactly double to a 2x2 retina "pixel." That makes everything razor-sharp. 

The new Studio Display might not have miniLEDs, HDR, or other modern features found in the latest MacBook Pros, but that's fine. It's a solid, great-looking screen that doesn't fight the Mac. It loves the Mac. Now—if only there were a way to plug in a Nintendo Switch…

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