Equipped with an A13 processor to enhance the image captured by its built-in 12MP camera and six speakers for outstanding sound, the Apple Studio Display 5K monitor is full of good surprises.
A little over two years after the release of the Pro Display XDR monitor, Apple decides to release a slightly more affordable model to accompany the release of the Mac Studio (a hormone-boosted Mac Mini). This Apple Studio Display monitor replaces, in a way, the Apple Thunderbolt Display removed from the shelves in 2016. It has all the good ideas, but not all of them, since it does without the Ethernet port, for example. Apple is content to offer only USB-C ports. For the rest, we find a 27-inch IPS slab displaying a very high definition of 5120 x 2880 px in 16/10 format, a powerful audio system consisting of six speakers, a 12MP webcam, three microphones and an Apple A13 processor used for sound spatialization, camera face centering and activation of the Siri voice assistant.
The Apple monitor doesn't really have a competitor on the market, since it is mainly aimed at Mac users with its exclusive features (Say Siri, Spatial Audio, camera centered frame function). For the others, there are very good monitors sold at lower prices, like the Asus TUF VG28UQL1A with its 28-inch Ultra HD 144 Hz panel and its HDMI 2.1 connectivity compatible with Xbox Series S/X and PS5 consoles. If you are looking for design, you can look at the Asus ProArt PA279CV (27 inches, IPS, Ultra HD, 60 Hz), the MSI Creator PS321QR (32 inches, IPS, 144 Hz, Quad HD) or the Huawei MateView 28,2 (28 inches, 3:2 format, Ultra HD+, 60 Hz).
Sober and elegant, the design of the Apple monitor is clearly reminiscent of the iMac M1. As always with Apple, the finishes are impeccable.
As on the iMac, the glass panel is directly glued to the aluminum chassis. On the other hand, there is a perforation on the top edge to dissipate the heat of the internal components.
Originally, the Apple Studio Display only offers tilt adjustment between -5 and +25°. To have the height adjustment of 10.5 cm, you must opt for the optional stand. Finally, the monitor can be compatible with a 100 x 100 mm VESA mounting system, but you have to choose between the standard stand or the VESA kit when ordering. It is assumed that the VESA kit will also be sold separately later, but not at launch.
Like the front panel, the back of the monitor is very uncluttered. Only the connectors are on the left, oriented perpendicularly, and the power cable in the center. The hole in the middle of the stand is also used for cable management. Surprise! A third microphone is placed at the back of the monitor.
The connectivity is unfortunately oversimplified since the Apple Studio Display only offers a Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) input compatible with USB-C DisplayPort (DP Alt Mode) ensuring compatibility with PCs using USB-C for display and three USB-C ports (10 Gb/s) for peripherals (USB flash drive, hard drive, Ethernet ...). This monitor does not have a traditional HDMI input, nor a DisplayPort or mini-DisplayPort input. There is no headphone output or USB port. On the other hand, it has a very powerful six-speaker audio system, three microphones with ambient noise cancellation and support for the "Say Siri" function, which allows you to use the voice assistant Siri hands-free (on a Mac only). Good point, the Thunderbolt 3 port delivers 96W and can therefore charge all Apple laptops without any problem, even the 16-inch MacBook Pro - the most greedy.
The Apple Studio Display embeds a 12MP ultra-wide angle (122°) camera with a ƒ/2.4 aperture. As on all Macs, a green LED present on the right of the camera indicates that it is filming. The capture quality is well above what is usually found on monitors. The ultra-wide angle of 122° is also impressive compared to the competition, often limited to 90°. It also makes sense with the "Center Frame" feature that allows you to refocus the shot on the face or faces on the screen. This feature exists on other models, but on the Apple monitor, this "centered frame" function quickly reframes the image on the subjects. Note that it only works on the Mac. As for the image quality, it is rather average. It does better than other built-in webcams, especially in daylight, but it struggles a bit in low light.
Our Apple Studio Display is equipped with the nano-textured anti-reflection filter, but which has the merit of being impressive. We measured the reflectance rate at only 9.9% of glare against a mirror, the best figure in our lab, all displays combined; the iPad Pro 12.9" 2021 M1 gets 27%, the iPad Air 2019 is content with 23% and only Samsung TVs equipped with a specific anti-reflection filter like the Samsung QE65QN95A go down to 19.9%.
With its 27-inch panel, the Apple Studio Display is very comfortable on our standard 140 x 60 cm desk. The stand is only 16.8 cm deep, leaving plenty of room for the keyboard. The latest versions of Windows and macOS operating systems handle 5K definition correctly and allow 200% scaling to a Quad HD equivalent. Text elements are large enough to be readable and the image is sharp. On the other hand, the native definition of 5120 x 2880 px on a 27-inch panel (that is 217 pixels per inch (ppi)), is almost unusable without scaling.
Note that photo editing software such as Photoshop handles this scaling perfectly in the interface, but displays the images using the native definition of the panel; photo editing enthusiasts thus benefit from a very high level of detail.
Colors and contrast
Not surprisingly, Apple does not fail to its reputation and the monitor is perfectly calibrated right out of the box with the Apple Display profile (P3 - 600 cd/m²). The temperature curve is perfectly stable with an average measured at 6790 K, very close to the 6500 K of the video standard. The same is true for the gray levels: the gamma curve is stable with a perfect average of 2.2. Finally, the average delta E is measured at 1.2 - well below the threshold of 3 below which the eye no longer perceives the difference between the nuances - translates into colors displayed perfectly faithful to those sent by the source. No color exceeds a delta E of 3. Once the brightness is lowered to 8 to obtain a white close to 150 cd/m², the image quality remains identical, with even a color temperature a little more accurate (6740 K). So there is no need to calibrate this screen with a dedicated probe.
The native contrast of 1070:1 is somewhat behind that measured on the Asus TUF Gaming VG27AQ and the Iiyama ProLite XUB2792QSN, which is above 1200:1. It is average for an IPS panel, without being bad. In any case, this is far from the contrast found on the best VA monitors on the market, such as the Philips Momentum 436M6 or the MSI Optix MAG271CR, which benefit from a ratio higher than 4000:1. The darkest scenes and black flat areas appear grayish, especially in a dark room. However, this is not a problem in daytime use. The maximum brightness measured at 602 cd/m² allows good visibility even in daylight. Unfortunately, this monitor is not HDR compatible. At Apple, the HDR compatibility is only ensured on Oled panels (iPhone) and LCD screens with a Mini-Led backlight system (iPad Pro 12.9 inches, MacBook Pro 14 and 16 inches and Pro Display XDR monitor).
The average white uniformity variance is 10% on this 27-inch panel. There is no noticeable variation in brightness to the eye. We didn't notice any light leakage in the corners or clouding on our test model. The IPS technology also offers very good viewing angles and there is very little variation in brightness or colorimetry when you move away from the viewing axis.
We checked that the Apple monitor doesn't use pulse width modulation (PWM) to adjust brightness, so it's flicker-free and won't cause headaches for those sensitive to flicker.
We connected the Studio Display to a desktop PC with a GeForce RTX 2080. The monitor is then listed as G-Sync compatible without being certified. However, on an Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 laptop with an RX6800S graphics card, the Apple monitor is not marked as FreeSync compatible. Apple does not even mention this compatibility.
We measured the non-volatility time at 13.5 ms. This is a very average dwell time for an IPS monitor. In comparison, the Asus TUF VG27AQ with its 144 Hz Quad HD panel is only 8 ms. Even more responsive are the VA models for gamers (Samsung Odyssey G7 27 and 49G9) measured at 4.5 ms. In practice, this 12 ms afterglow time results in a blurred effect behind moving objects. Finally, we measured the input lag at about 11 ms (at 60 Hz). So there is no delay between the mouse action and its repercussion on the screen.
With the brightness pushed to the maximum (602 cd/m²), the Apple Studio Display consumes 56 W. This value is reduced to 23.5 W once the brightness is set to 150 cd/m² on our test pattern. The relative power consumption then reaches 117 W/m². This is much higher than the average observed on other monitors tested (100 W/m²) and is mainly explained by the high resolution of the screen, which does not allow much light to pass through and therefore requires the backlight to be pushed. At minimum brightness, the Studio Display consumes 15 W for a brightness of only 4 cd/m².
The Apple Studio Display is a good screen with near-perfect image quality right out of the box, but it suffers from limited contrast, a consequence of using an IPS panel. The audio system delivers outstanding sound for a monitor, and the webcam produces a good image for a monitor. Finally, the nano-textured anti-reflective coating of our model is also amazingly effective. However, Apple's monitor is clearly targeted at Mac users and will have a hard time finding a place for itself elsewhere; this is due to a lack of connectivity (no HDMI input), a refresh rate limited to 60 Hz and the absence of height adjustment (available as an option).