Closest monitor to Apple Cinema Display?
December 13, 2011 1:46 PM   Subscribe

What is the closest monitor I can get to the Apple Cinema display that's not $1000?

One of the most important things to me is a good experience reading text and code. I get a lot of eye strain when looking at my current monitor (Acer X223W, 23") for long hours. I'm not exactly sure why, but I notice that my eyes seem to fare better when looking at any Apple monitor - iPad, Macbook (2011), iMac. In fairness though I don't stare at the Apple displays nearly as long as the Acer. For work I have Lenovo laptop paired with the Acer and that's where the marathon sessions happen. I've been leaning towards some kind of IPS LED monitor but that's not set in stone as I'm not that knowledgeable about different criteria to consider. The monitor will be plugged into my Windows 7 work laptop primarily. I'm looking to go somewhere between 22 - 27". My budget is up to $500 although I might have some flex if I thought it could magically help the eye strain.

I try to do other things like keep the room as well lit as possible, turn down the monitor brightness a bit and take lots of breaks to look away, but I think the monitor quality is key too.
posted by fx3000 to Technology (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The older (pre-LED) Apple Cinema Displays were essentially identical to Dell's UltraSharp series, that may be a good place to start.
posted by Oktober at 2:11 PM on December 13, 2011

The biggest difference you'll notice between IPS and the TN film LCD you have now is in viewing angles. I don't believe poor viewing angles generally cause eyestrain, but everyone is different. IPS, MVA and PVA monitors have much better color characteristics and viewing angles than standard TN film, but again, I don't think those things cause eyestrain. They're more likely to cause me to say "This monitor looks like crap!"

Also, Apple doesn't make its own panels, and certainly has no monopoly on quality monitors. Take a look at the HardOCP display forum for discussion on high-quality monitors.

Regardless of which LCD you get, make sure to turn the backlight down even further, as in my experience, excessive brightness is the primary cause of eyestrain. Small text sizes can also be a problem. Try bringing the monitor closer to your face and/or increasing the text size slightly.

Good luck!
posted by cnc at 2:25 PM on December 13, 2011

As above Apple's are simply high-quality monitors sold at a very very very high price, nothing special. I use a HP ZR24W at work and the color is absolutely amazing, miles past the cheap Acer flatscreen I have at home. Not sure eyestrain, though.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:27 PM on December 13, 2011

(I mean, the color on this HP is so good that I edit videos at home, and when i see them here at work I'm like "Whoa- is that mine??" The colors just look fantastic.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:29 PM on December 13, 2011

For $500 you won't come close to what the Apple Cinema display gives you. However, I 2nd the Dell UltraSharp series as one of the best mid-price monitors out there.

I use the U2410 and love it with my Windows 7 machine. It's as good as my MacBook screen, just larger. Dell has it for $500. Don't confuse it with the 2412M, which is cheaper, but isn't as bright.
posted by johnn at 2:30 PM on December 13, 2011

For $500 you won't come close to what the Apple Cinema display gives you.

This is absolutely untrue. The HP mentioned by drjimmy11 is outstanding- to my eyes just as good as the apple display- and is less than $400.

Apple displays are the Monster Cables of the monitor world. Expensive for the sake of being expensive and to hoodwink people into believe that they're superior. Scam.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:04 PM on December 13, 2011

Apple displays are the Monster Cables of the monitor world.... Scam.

Um... That's funny, because to my eyes, it's coming up in the same price range as the other monitors on the market with that resolution, especially considering the connectivity and built-in webcam.

Blanket statements are fun, though, aren't they?
posted by supercres at 3:36 PM on December 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have a Samsung LED monitor at home and am very happy with it - it can certainly stand up to the Apple Cinema Display I use at work. If there's anything it can't do, I don't know what it is and I'm certainly not paying an extra $600 for it (and I do photo work and am picky about color). I did a bunch of research before buying it, and the Dell UltraSharp and the HP mentioned above were generally very highly recommended as well.
posted by ella wren at 3:38 PM on December 13, 2011

The aforementioned HP ZR line (all IPS) of monitors is a fine alternative, the 24" model fits within your budget. I'm pleased with the ZR27W, the lack of an OSD is annoying but then I just stare back into the vast expanse of space and it's not so bad.

LG makes the panel in both the Cinema Display and ZR (at least the ZR27W) lines. The Apple makes much less sense on a Windows machine as you'll need to scrounge for a Mini DisplayPort connector (a non-trivial expense) and changing the brightness requires Boot Camp.
posted by llin at 4:05 PM on December 13, 2011

remember that the size of the screen is really the number of pixels, not the dimension of the panel. So, a 22in 1920x1080 panel will have much finer resolution or "pixel pitch" than a 24in 1920x1080 panel. I find that for reading text, the pixel pitch really makes a difference, so I recommend any 22in 1920x1080 (i.e. 1080p) IPS/PVA panel like say, this Dell UltraSharp for $239.

The only downside of 22in is that default fonts will be smaller on the screen. The other factor for eyestrain is proper positioning having full 178 deg viewing angles makes this less of an issue, but proper height can make a big different... luckily the Dell above is also height adjustable.
posted by at 4:55 PM on December 13, 2011

The Wirecutter recommends a dell for $350ish.
posted by shothotbot at 4:55 PM on December 13, 2011

at my previous workplace, I used Dell UltraSharps pretty much exclusively; when I switched jobs, I got the HP ZR24w (also mentioned here several times), which was a bit cheaper than the 24" Dell US and just as good. (actually, somewhat better. the stand on the HP goes up way, way higher than the Dell ones do, which makes it easier to line it up with the iMac it's connected to.) the only thing I regret about it is that the hard drive in the 24" iMac it was hooked to went out and I used that as an excuse to upgrade to a 27", so I'd really rather have the 27" version instead.

both Dell and HP make higher-end screens (UltraSharp and ZR series) that use LEDs for the backlight. the HPs are the ZR2x40w (where x = 0, 2, 4 and 7, depending on screen size) and they're comparable price-wise to the older CCFL-backlight screens. (the ZR2440w is the same $425 that the ZR24w is.) going LED may help more than you think; you don't mention it, but if you have issues with fluorescent lighting, keep in mind that screens that do not explicitly say they have LED backlights are using fluorescent lights instead. most of Apple's screens have been LED-backlight for a good bit now - all the iMacs have been for since the 22" and 27" models came out, and so have all the iOS devices (I believe), so I'd wager a bet that it's really the backlight being different that is causing you to have less eye strain. the CCFL that runs the backlight in older/cheaper screens is not too far off from the tube lights in overhead fixtures or the CFL that you plug into a lamp, so they flicker a bit. some folks are more susceptible to that than others. (in addition to that, the LED screens tend to get brighter, have better color representation, and have nearly no warmup time when they've been off for a bit. my ZR24w literally takes about a minute to catch up to the 27" LED-backlight iMac if they've been off for a while.) Acer doesn't say what kind of backlight you have on your existing screen but it's almost certainly not LED.

one explicit recommendation: don't buy the Apple screen. it's an excellent screen and actually not bad price-wise ($999 for a 27" 2560x1440 LED-backlight IPS panel that also hey has a USB controller, Ethernet port, laptop charger, sound and a webcam built in!) but unless your Windows computer happens to be able to magically sprout Thunderbolt ports you simply aren't going to be able to hook it into your computer. TB is not backwards compatible like that; only going computer-to-DisplayPort display. the refurbished mini-DisplayPort versions are expensive enough that you might as well buy a new HP or Dell display instead, which will likely have exactly the connections you need for your existing computer on it (i.e., DVI or VGA, and not mini-DisplayPort, which you more than likely do not have).
posted by mrg at 5:45 PM on December 13, 2011

I've been ridiculously happy with this LG LED backlit monitor. It's got a cinema mode, LED, HD 1080p, really crisp display, and is 27". The store I got it at (at the link) has it for $400.
posted by Houstonian at 6:56 PM on December 13, 2011

You can look into hp monitors. Hp's ips monitors tend to have the exact same panels that apples have but can run cheaper .
posted by majortom1981 at 4:54 AM on December 14, 2011

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