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The Source for Mac Performance News and Reviews

Cinema Display

Reader Review: Apple's Cinema 22" LCD Display
By David Saraceno
Review date: 2/28/2000
Updated 2/2001 for notes on DVD Player 2.3/widescreen
Updated 3/2/2000 for additional owner comments


NOTE: This review covers the DVI interface Cinema Display (original model). In summer 2000, Apple changed the interface on all their LCD displays (Cinema and 15-inch model) to their new proprietary ADC version which only works with the graphics port on summer 2000 and later G4 Towers and G4 Cubes. There are no 3rd party ADC connectored Mac Graphics cards to date, and the ADC connector has to supply power to the monitor, so older Macs do not have the motherboard 28volt connector for this, even if you were to buy an Apple BTO/OEM Graphics card with an ADC port. There may still be some DVI interface Cinema displays at some dealers, but they are getting rare. Remember to verify the interface type before you buy. For more info on DVI port graphics cards and an ADC to DVI adapter, see my DVI compatibility list which also includes notes on DVI (graphics card) to ADC (cinema display) adapter/kits. (For comments/notes on PC DVI graphics cards that work with Cinema displays - see the bottom of the page for info.)

DVD Player Update: Included with the full OS 9.1 CD version is DVD Player v2.3, which fixes the widescreen Movie issue noted in this review. (No need to use the Fkey trick anymore.) Presenting video with a widescreen movie now shows properly.


Background:
When we first heard about the Apple Cinema Display, we were impressed by its video capabilities, but thought its price was just too rich for our tastes. But a trip to MacWorld SF in January definitely changed our minds. The Cinema Display was absolutely beautiful. It appeared well-constructed, and we were impressed.

When we returned from MWSF, we called the Apple Store, and tried to order the Display along with an AGP/G4. Apple indicated that no Displays were available AND we couldn't order a machine and Display separately. Nor could we have the machine shipped pending receipt of the Display. Orders could only be placed WHEN the Display was available.

We were told to wait to the end of January when we'd be notified that the Displays were available. We learned that they would be available at 7:00 a.m. west coast on January 31st. When that Friday arrived, I called my representative, placed an order for BTO 450 and display just after 7:00 a.m.

To my surprise, the display and cpu arrived on Thursday, February 6th via UPS.

Initial Impressions:
The display was packaged very, very well. The box was fairly large, and included soft packing, a cover over the display, and Styrofoam. The display is quite heavy - about fifteen pounds, thin, and well constructed.

Setup:
Once unpacked the display unit consists of a power cord, a power "pod" similar in size and appearance to an Airport station, the display, and a four foot long cord that separates into a DVI plug for the computer, USB connector, and a specialized connector that fits into the power pod. There is an on/off switch in the lower right underside of the Display, and two USB connectors on the back.

Rear View
Rear View
(USB connectors at left)

Warning! You should plug the Display cord into the powerpod and connect the power cord to an outlet BEFORE you plug the DVI plug into the AGP DVI connector in the back of the Mac. A certain amount of static electricity is present and this procedure minimizes dangerous discharges. [There have been reported failures from not following the directions included with the Display regarding connection order-Mike]

Plug connections
Display Connections

Power Pod
Power Pod

Once connected, the display appeared fairly quickly. I didn't notice any inconsistent brightness as reported by other reviews. End to end and top to bottom revealed consistent brightness with no apparent dead pixels.

Use:
Most of my work is high-end animation and digital video that necessitates ADB hardware keys for Electric Image, After Effects, Boris Red, and FormZ. I have an iMate USB to ADB converter, and ran the four ADB dongle chain off one of the USB plugs in the back of the display. I attached a MacAlly USB keyboard with a MS-Intellimouse optical to one USB port on the back of the Mac, and attached the USB plug of the Display to the second USB plug on the Mac. I experienced very few difficulties using the ADB hardware keys with this arrangement. When dongle wasn't sensed, it usually related to a failure to make certain there were tight connections.

Final Cut Pro on Cinema Display
Cinema w/Final Cut Pro

As I said, the Display is bright without any dead pixels. On one occasion, I saw one pixel that appeared red in an otherwise black display, but it wasn't a problem or noticeable. Reviving a "sleeping" monitor was almost instantaneous. When the monitor would go to sleep using the energy saver, a simple mouse or key click almost immediately brought it awake -- unlike my 20 inch Apple multiscan which took up to ten seconds or more.

The default resolution is 1600x1024. Lower resolutions produce slightly blurred text consistent with most TFT displays, but nothing that was difficult or annoying.

Power and Brightness Switches
Brightness & Power Switches

The on/off and brightness switches worked flawlessly. The AGP video port includes a VGA out along with the DVI plug, but I don't think it will support a second monitor even if one was required. [ It doesn't-Mike] I'm certainly not going to test it. Although there is a four foot long plug leading to the computer inputs, I wish Apple would separate the plugs to permit extensions for the power receptable, DVI plug, and USB connectors.

I've also learned that ViewSonic will soon release a DVI-based flat panel, but I don't know whether any DVI monitor will work with the Apple DVI interface AGP video card.

Final thoughts:
When you buy the Apple Cinema Display, you're not just buying one of the best, if not the best, TFT monitor on the market today. You're buying a piece of art that is a stunning representation of what video technology should be. At $4,000.00 the display is expensive, but for the right user, it is absolutely one of the best pieces of art/technology available today. One gripe however is that the Display does not include inputs for S-Video or composite, so you can view television on the computer. In addition, Apple's DVD player will not display widescreen options. Other than that, this thing is what is the best about Apple.
-David Saraceno
4DLawTM

Important Note on Graphics Card Compatibility: [Info from the FAQ's Displays and Monitors topic area and Graphics Card Reviews]

Apple's current (Summer 2000 and later) LCD displays require an ADC graphics port that is present (and powered) only with Summer 2000 and later G4 Towers and G4 Cubes. For original DVI interface Cinema Displays (and DVI 15" LCD models), the following is a list of the graphics cards that have DVI interfaces (Info updated Dec 2000):

    About ADC/DVI Adapters: The Apple Store (and some CompUSA's I hear) sell the Belkin ADC to DVI adapter cable (appx. $39.95 plus shipping) that allows using a DVI display with a new G4 Tower/Cube that has an ADC graphics card. To date there is no DVI card to ADC display adapter however since that would require an external power supply for the ADC monitor.

    DVI Port Graphics Cards:

  • The original Rage128 Pro AGP cards (that shipping with the pre-summer 2000 G4 AGP systems - Summer 2000 and later cards have the ADC interface which is not compatible with DVI without an adapter).

  • The retail ATI Radeon AGP and PCI Graphics cards also have a DVI port, and work fine with the DVI Cinema Display. See the Video articles page for a full review of the Radeon Mac Edition graphics card.

  • The 3dfx Mac version (only) Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 cards have a DVI port. (Reviews are here of the Voodoo5 PCI and Voodoo4 PCI mac cards, but 3dfx went RIP in early 2001.) Note however that 3dfx is reported to be selling out to Nvidia, so future driver udpates, etc. are not assured. As noted in my Voodoo5 PCI card review, there is no scaling to full screen on lower than native resolution modes when using the DVI port on any driver/rom update released to date (late Dec 2000).

  • Promax's dual output AGP card based on the Matrox G400 Max was originally set to have an addon DVI output adapter, (it has not shipped yet) but again that card requires an AGP slot Mac (only the current G4 systems have an AGP graphics card slot) and the DVI Module is not available as of Dec 2000. For info on the card, see the video articles page graphics card section for a review of the initial shipping version. (No DVI addon module as of the review date however.)

  • DVI Graphics Cards to ADC Monitor Adapters: See the Displays/Monitors section of the Frequently Asked Questions for DVI/ADC adapter/kit info (two models available - lowest price one is $149.95 from Dr.Bott).

For PCI slot Mac owners (no AGP slot) the best choice for DVI Cinema Display compatibility should be the PCI ATI Radeon card (due to ship in January 2001). Although the Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 have DVI ports, the fact the company may be closing and the lack of DVI scaling are drawbacks. Formac (www.formac.com) is said to be working on an addon DVI option for their Proformance III card. (A full review of the Proformance III is on the video cards page.)

All previous PCI mac graphics cards with a digital LCD output used a different standard that does not work with DVI displays (more info is below).


About the DVD Player Issue: (Update: Included with the full OS 9.1 CD version is DVD Player v2.3, which fixes the widescreen Movie issue noted below. As of summer 2001, DVD player v2.7 is the current version.)
Several readers asked Dave to explain the comments on the DVD Player issue with the Cinema display:

"Mike:
The DVD issue relates to the inability of Apple's DVD Player 2.0 to display a proper 16x9 display when running widescreen DVD movies. Simply, when you launch the DVD Player, it does not present the widescreen option when moving through the screens to show a DVD movie

This the following is a quote from a "workaround" that I downloaded called CinemaDVD "Solution."
[Download it here]

The CinemaDVD "Solution"

CinemaDVD is a quick hack that enables proper fullscreen DVD viewing, with some imperfections. The proper solution is for Apple to release an updated DVD player application, something that they haven't done in the four months since the Cinema Display was announced.

CinemaDVD does its magic by convincing the Apple DVD Player that it's running on a 4:3 screen that's larger than the actual screen. For example, if you're running the DVD player at the Cinema Display's standard 1600x1024 resolution, CinemaDVD will make the Apple DVD Player think that it's running on a 1600x1200 display.

However, it appears to be impossible to "shift" the player's image to the center of the physical screen. As a result, the DVD image is offset towards the bottom of the display. For most DVDs, this is only a minor inconvenience. However, for DVDs with aspect ratios below about 1:1.89, it is possible that part of the bottom of the image may be cut off, and you'll be back where you started.

Basically, you install a FKey in your Fonts Folder, and follow a procedure when launching the DVD player with a DVD in your drive.

I tried this afternoon, and it works, but it is an inelegant solution.

I understand that Apple has released version 2.1 of the DVD player with the new G4s, but it isn't available for download. If some user would e mail me the latest version, I'd give it a try.

This snafu is annoying, but not critical to my needs. We really don't use the Cinema Display for playing DVD movies, although we certainly aren't adverse to it.

If there is a shortcoming with the Display, it's inabillity to accept S-video or composite input. I believe that the 15" version DOES accept ancillary inputs [ only the previous VGA models, the current DVI 15" LCD does not have them and owner said. I suspect this is due to the fact the DVI models have no analog/digital converter that was required for the VGA (analog video) models. -Mike]. For $4,000.00, I would appreciated a couple of other options, but it's not too much of a complaint.
Best regards,
Dave Saraceno "


Another Cinema Display Owner Comments:

"Howdy Mike,
Long time reader, first time emailer.

I recently purchased an Apple Cinema Display with a Power Mac G4/400 from the Apple Store. I read the review of the ACD today on your web site, and thought you might appreciate another bit of input, along with some comments about the state of digital audio on the Mac.

Unlike David Saraceno, I *did* purchase my ACD with DVD viewing in mind. I had seen this spectacular display at MacWorld San Francisco in January, and when I had scraped up enough money to order one from Apple, I did it without a second thought.

I agree with everything David said, with a few exceptions. I have been over my ACD with a magnifying glass to search for blown or irregular pixels, and I haven't found one. Considering the immense dimensions of this active matrix of 1.64 million pixels, and the fact that my Bronze Keyboard G3 laptop came with four blown pixels in a relatively meager field of 786,432 pixels, the quality of the ACD is beyond reproach. (I did send my G3 in to Apple, and although they kicked and squealed and squawked, they did replace my PowerBook's display with a flawless unit.)

The ACD is by far the finest computer display I have ever used. Unlike even my beautiful G3's TFT screen, the ACD has a completely uniform appearance to both eyes at almost any viewing angle. Some LCDs have such restricted viewing angles that they appear different to each eye, which can be very disconcerting. Not a problem with the ACD.

I was very concerned about the color gamut of the ACD, which Apple had claimed was a true 24-bit display. My G3 laptop demonstrates the limitations of its screen most clearly in the Photoshop HSV color picker. On a CRT, this color picker has a smooth, uniform gradient which fades from one hue and saturation and value to the next without banding. On my G3, although there's no banding, there is a large triangular region which has the same color and saturation and value, making it impossible to pick colors within that range accurately. Not so with the ACD. Although its color picker seems to have a larger region of dark values in the HSV color picker, its gradient is apparently smooth and uniform. The display lives up to the billing: it really can display 24 bit color.

DVD playback is excellent when the Apple DVD Player is in the foreground. I too have experienced the strange aspect-ratio squashing when widescreen DVD video is played in the "Present on full screen" mode is in use. Unless you try the widescreen video hack described at the end of the other review, you can get an accurate aspect ratio WITHOUT presenting the video on the full monitor by simply shift-dragging the lower right corner of the DVD window as far as possible. While the menus, titlebar and window border prevents you from expanding the window wide enough to stretch the image to both sides of the display, at least the actors' heads aren't flattened. I do hope Apple fixes this in the next release. I'm surprised it got by their quality control, though. Hire a few videophiles for DVD QA, Apple! True anamorphic widescreen support couldn't be that hard to do.

But the best thing about this display is the awe it inspires in those poor, benighted PC folks. I had my ACD delivered to work, and set it up on my G4 in my office to make sure it had arrived in good shape. Without exception, everyone who walked by my office uttered a variation on "Oh my God!" when they spied the ACD on my desk. Now I know why Apple insists that customers buy a Mac when they get this display from the Company Store: it is the best possible advertisement for their hardware design ethic. The Apple Cinema Display is beautiful, and worth every penny.

All the best,
Jeff Johnson "


(Added 3/2/2000) Another Cinema Display owner comments, this one not so lucky as far as bad pixels:

"Hello Mike,
Just read your review, and wanted to comment on my own experience with the Cinema Display.

Lik e many, I thought "How could a monitor POSSIBLY be worth $4000?? " and so I was getting ready to order a G4 system with the 21" Studio Display, but then I had the opportunity to see one up close, and it changed (more precisely, blew) my mind... I called Apple from my cell phone on the spot, and was able to switch the order before they shipped it. (Phew!)

To put this in perspective, the machine I ordered was a G4/500 with 27GB ATI drive, Zip, SCSI, 1GB of RAM (from ChipMerchant, $929), and still the display cost more than the computer itself. However, the Cinema Display is truly a thing of beauty, and worth every pixel, imho. (Only 0.25 cents per pixel, that's not so much, is it?)

The brightness, color and uniformity are spectacular, and of course the sharpness is LCD-perfect. However, there are a few partially dead pixels that show up on a black background (two dark red and one dark green, plus a constel lation of perhaps 20 pixels that are very slightly dead), and one "schizophrenic" pixel (for lack of a better term). Using Photoshop and the pencil tool to empirically calibrate the "deadness" of these pixels, the brightness they exhibit on a black background is roughly 80 (out of 255) for three of the pixels, and around 10-20 for twenty or so others.

The one goofball pixel appears to take on the average value of all the pixels in its column, so on an all-white or all-black screen, you won't notice it. But if the screen is all white with a black patch in the vicinity of this pixel, it stands out white (and vice-versa in the inverted case). I'm not sure if these problems are enough to warrant a replacement of the entire screen, but I'll look into it. (It's survivable, but for $4,000, is perfection too much to ask??)

I suggest the call Apple or take the display to an Apple dealer. In the past, I believe 5 bad pixels or several touching were criteria for a replacement. Certainly as many as he indicates should be cause for a replacment in my opinion.-Mike ]

The G4 is very sweet, with System 9.0.2 installed, not a single crash so far... The new revision of the G4 processor does fix a bug I had encountered in earlier G4's, where an Altivec graphics code sequence I wrote would throw noise into the L1 cache and corrupt the image data. I don't know if all the current G4's use the latest revision of the chip (rev 2.8), but it's definitely something to look for, and the main reason I waited for the new 500MHz chip.

This sounds like the software bug that Adobe fixed in their updated PS 5.5 altivec enabler/plugins (the twirl/distort filter bug). I've not heard of any cases where errata affected anything like this, unless the chip was overclocked (the L1 cache corruption issue affected only 500MHz G4s according to Motorola last fall. Later steppings (revs) of the G4 addressed this which is why there are now 500MHz versions available. -Mike]

That's all I can think of for now... Looking forward to more reviews of the latest hardware!
Ben Weiss "




Related Links:

  • Site with the DVD Player Fkey fix for widescreen DVDs

  • PC Graphics Cards with Cinema Displays: (Summer 2001 Update:) I have personally seen a DVI Cinema display work with a Gainward/CardExpert GeForce3 PowerPack !!! (the "!!!" is part of the name) purchased from NewEgg.com for $339 in summer 2001. (The Gainward/CardExpert Geforce3 card has DVI, VGA and VIVO ports.) Although the Cinema Display's 1600x1024 native resolution is not listed on the box (or at their web site) as a supported mode - it is an option with the card (Windows 98SE even identified the monitor as a "Cinema Display"). The card worked flawlessly with the Cinema Display - even the DOS boot text was visible (not so on some other cards according to reports). For ADC Cinema displays, you'd need a DVI to ADC adapter like the Dr.Bott DVIator to supply the 28V power for the ADC display - DVI Cinema displays have an AC adapter for power. The Hercules Prophet III (Geforce3) is also said to work, but I have not personally seen this.-Mike
    [Previous info follows]
    See http://www.coffeehaus.cx/widescreen.html for details on how some DVI interface graphics cards were made to work with the Cinema DVI display. (The Summer 2000 and later Cinema displays are ADC interface however and won't work with any DVI graphics card without an adapter kit with 28V power supply. See the Displays/Monitors section of the Frequently Asked Questions for DVI/ADC adapter info.)

  • Apple's Cinema Display page

  • Apple's Cinema Display Specifications and Features pages.

  • For reviews of graphics cards, DVD decoders and other video related articles,
    see the site list of video page.



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