23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display Profile
Over the years I've
probably spent a few thousand hours in front of CRT type displays of
varying quality and relatively few at an LCD. So with my Mitsubishi CRT's
at nearly 3-years old and showing signs of their age I found myself in
the market for replacement. The question I put to myself was: do I
purchase a new pair of CRT's or make the move to LCD?
To help me make an
informed decision I questioned numerous highly respected Photoshop
workers but found opinions to be divided. If I was looking for someone to
help make my mind up there were plenty but I could also find others to
change it. Some suggest that for colour critical work LCD's don't
cut-the-mustard - viewing angle, evenness of illumination, contrast
ratio, colour accuracy, etc are all quoted as reasons for not using them.
Others take the opposite view and suggest that many of these issues have
either been resolved or could be overcome with only minor alterations to
my working environment. I'm not near smart enough to argue with either
camp but in the few short hours (approx 50 in 12 months) I've had using
high-end LCD's it was clear that the full story wasn't being told - by
There's no question
that the very best CRT's can cost significantly less than the best LCD's.
Furthermore, I don't doubt that for someone needing the ultimate in
colour accuracy the CRT is likely to be the only acceptable option.
However, my eyes and so my own experience in front of LCD's from
Apple and Formac told me that there was much to be gained and relatively
little (ignoring my hard earned cash) to be lost. By early August 2002 I
had all but made my mind up to purchase the 22-inch Apple Cinema Display
along with a new Apple G4 Power Mac but then decided against - instead I
took a leap of faith (some say it was a moment of insanity) and ordered
the 23-inch Cinema HD Display. I say faith because I could find nobody in
my area that actually used one and so had no opportunity to
try-before-I-bought. The 23-inch display arrived with my new Power Mac in
early October and at time of writing this review I've been using it for
just over a month.
Moment of Truth
So why did I go LCD and
why so big? There are a number of reasons and some very specific to me
and my work environment.
A twin CRT setup
(image and Photoshop tool palettes) takes up an incredible amount of
desktop space - the 23-inch LCD is only 24 inches wide and a total of
(including support leg) 6.5 inches deep.
With the high
brightness level and contrast ratio I can put the lights back ON -
meaning I don't need to live in a cave anymore.
There is NO glare
from the LCD - my CRT's had low glare glass but it wasn't worth a jot.
On low-end LCD
displays users can experience severe colour shifts if images are viewed
even a little off-axis - even compared to the 22-inch Cinema Display
Apple has reduced this problem on the 23-inch model. All Apple displays
deliver a minimum 160-degree viewing angle both vertically and
horizontally. You really do need to make significant head movements for
the angle of view issue to cause a problem.
Connection to the
Power Mac is via Apples proprietary all-digital
ADC cable which means that an additional power supply isn't
signal between the computer and the Apple LCD display produces
undistorted screen images every time. Since there is no need to convert
the digital signal to an analog form there is no image degradation.
Furthermore there is no geometric distortion such as pin-cushion,
trapezoid, etc. Degauss isn't required and the list of advantages goes
The 23-inch display
incorporates two pressure sensitive buttons for Brightness and a combined
Power/Sleep function. On the rear is a pair of USB ports. The Brightness
control actually calls up the apple Display control panel from the
Operating System and operates in software. The default setting is around
60% and when measured using my Eye-One spectrophotometer this equates to
a luminance level of around 120 cd/m2
(actually the optimum value for an LCD). Obviously as the display
ages and the backlight performance declines this value will reduce. My
initial impressions of the Cinema HD Display would be that the images are
"Stunning" - i.e. sharp, bright and vibrant colour. After
calibration the black to white gradients are very smooth and devoid of
the colour streaks/casts and posterisation. My CRT based legacy images
appeared spot-on if not a tad over-sharpened and this pretty much
confirmed the accepted wisdom that at the CRT's are considerably softer
than LCD type displays. Colour accuracy at the level I work at
(non-professional) has proved to be more than acceptable.
Typically the larger an
LCD panel gets the more difficult it is to maintain even illumination
across its full surface. We've all read of light and dark patches in the
corners and how this can impact upon our ability to apply accurate colour
and tone edits to images. Unfortunately the Apple 22-inch Cinema Displays
I'd previously tried certainly exhibited a greater variation than
my CRT's. That said the 17-inch units were a lot better than the 22-inch
versions. However, when measured across the full display area I find that
the amount of variation from centre to edges for the 23-inch HD display
is significantly better (at delta-E less than 3) than either of my CRT's
(delta-E as high as 6). Dead or stuck pixels is another area that can
plague LCD's and so far I've not found any but if others are to believed
they will eventually arise.
Compared to my 19-inch
Mitsubishi CRT's the the image is razor sharp, there is NO flicker. My
CRT's were set up for 1280 by 1024 pixel resolution and the screen shot
shown below (left) should give and indication of the amount of additional
desk top space provided by 1920 by 1200 pixels. It's worth mentioning
that driving an LCD at a resolution other than its native value will
result in VERY soft images and text. You also need a graphics card
capable of producing 1920 by 1200 pixels and not all can.
One of the
plus points often mentioned for LCD's is the reduced power requirement.
For many users this has little meaning but power is measured in watts and
more watts means more heat. The graph shown above (right) compares
typical LCD and CRT displays. Recall that I had two of these CRT's on my
desktop and this has been replaced with just one LCD display. The benefit
to me isn't just measured in heat output but the complete absence of
screen flicker at the periphery of my vision - thus reduced eye-strain
often claimed that LCD's do not offer a wide enough colour gamut.
However, this is a fallacy as the the screen shot below show. I've
measured the colour gamut of the Cinema HD Display as only marginally
less than that of my CRT's. Apple LCD's are factory set for Gamma
2.2 and a colour temperature of approximately 6500Kand should
therefore fit well within most Photoshop users requirements.
Plot Comparing CRT and Apple LCD Display
systems ColorSync automatically identifies an Apple LCD display and
creates a profile based on information obtained from the display itself.
Whilst not perfect this profile provides a reasonable
representation of the display's colour reproduction capabilities. A more
accurate user defined profile can be created using the Apple Display
Calibrator Assistant and a tutorial on its use can be found
ultimate colour accuracy we can use an external measurement device
such as the
ColorVision Spyder or
three of which are reviewed elsewhere on this web site. These tools have
been designed to measure the colour output from an LCD display and create
an accurate profile. The big weakness in all current LCD displays is
their relatively poor black level. Typically a CRT can get as low as 0.3
cd/m2 but even the best LCD's can only achieve just under 0.5
cd/m2 when set to maximum brightness. This means that LCD's
are probably not suitable for those who need black levels as low as those
mentioned above I've now been using the 23-inch Cinema HD Display for
just over a month. I was very pleased when it first arrived and my
opinion hasn't changed. I've had no difficulties with colour shifts, poor
neutrals, shadow posterisation, rainbowing and all the other issues that
plague the low end units. For the price of the Apple 23-inch LCD I could
have bought two of the new Sony Artisan 21-inch Self Calibrating CRT
displays which by all accounts are better than CRT's costing 3 times as
much again. Nevertheless I made my decision and am VERY happy with the
results to date.