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Reader Review: Apple's 17" LCD Display
By Dieder Bylsma
Review date: 6/29/2001
(Updated 10/8/2001 for 2nd report on PCI Radeon w/Adapter comments)

The Apple 17" LCD Cinema Display is even more beautiful in person than it is on Apple's web site. Having seen it in person on a shop floor, I realized it was the intermediate LCD display that I've been waiting for Apple to produce since they first introduced their Apple Studio Display 15" LCD some 4 years ago. The stunning 22" was too big for my budget and my desk, while the new generation of Apple Cinema Display 15 LCD monitors did not offer much of advantage over my existing 15" LCD display. Getting an ADC 17" CRT monitor was an option, especially at its current price point, but the sheer size of it compared to the LCD display options made it less appealing. The one advantage that a CRT display has traditionally had over LCD displays was its colour fidelity. This is no longer as much as an issue as before. More on that later.

Profile View

So what do you get for your money?
You get a 15 pound monitor that is incredibly sharp, incredibly bright and incredibly thin in an easy to carry and rugged box. Unpacking and connecting the monitor took about 3 minutes. The first thing I noticed when I turned it on was that it is so bright that even in full daylight ~50% brightness level in the Monitor control panel is more than adequate. As with all Apple Display Connector monitors, there is a minimum of cable fuss involved in setting up the monitor. The only cable visible has the USB, LCD power supply and digital video signals all combined in a tidy package. If you have a desktop mac (Cube or Tower) that has been released since August of 2000, you can use the monitor with the built-in AGP card. The ADC connector is, as noted elsewhere on this site, a different connector than the DVI Connector Apple used on the Cubes and Towers prior to August 2000. If you have an AGP Mac, I believe you can order an ADC AGP video card from Apple, or get from DrBott a powered DVI-ADC adapter to connect to the AGP DVI card or other video cards (such as the ATI Radeon AGP/PCI model) that also have DVI outputs. For more information on this option, check out the FAQ (Displays/Monitors section) listed elsewhere on XLR8yourmac.

Before I purchased the display I wasn't sure how 'big' it really was in comparison to the Apple LCD Studio Display 15 (pre 'Cinema Display') that I was using. The picture below gives an indication of how much bigger it is than the previous generations of LCD displays. For point of comparison, the middle display is 'Revision B' of the Apple Studio Display 15 (which is NOT a DVI display, but instead is a VGA display also capable also of displaying television signals too). On the right hand side and cropped is a Powerbook Pizmo. Both the displays are rated at 1024 x 768. Because of the stand, the top of the 15" LCD display can go slightly higher than the top of the new LCD 17.

Comparison of displays
Comparison of LCD Displays

Compared to the two other LCD displays shown in the comparison photo (the Powerbook LCD is not completely shown), the 17" display is simply stunning in its colour fidelity, sharpness and brightness. This does not mean that the other two are slouches in any way, but simply that this display is astonishing in its own right. With a standard Active Matrix LCD display such as the Powerbook shown here, there is a noticeable shifting of colours as you glance up or down the display or as you adjust the display's viewing angle. This is much less of an issue with the LCD 15 monitor, and is practically non-existent in comparison with the LCD 17. As I type this on a white page with black text and move the position of my head, the white changes slightly to a 'creamy white' colour only at the extremes of vertical viewing (i.e. almost directly above or directly below), while it changes ever so slightly as I view the screen from the farthest extremes, but is nonetheless well within reason. The colour saturation is fantastic as well.

Software Controls:
Software controls for the monitor are practically non-existent. As the signal is digital, there is no need for adjusting the tracking (as it was with my LCD 15 monitor), nor is there any need to adjust geometry since the monitor is an LCD display. On the far right of the screen at the bottom is the power/sleep button. Touching it while it is on has the same effect as pushing the power button on the front of the machine. Depending upon the Advanced Energy Saver control panel settings, when the computer is on it will either put the machine into deep sleep, or have no effect at all. Likewise, when the machine is turned off, touching the power button on the display turns it on. This is handy for those using Apple Pro Keyboards which no longer have a soft-power on key and don't like reaching down to push the tower's power button.

The far left hand side has a 'brightness' button that brings up the monitor control panel and allows you to adjust the brightness. Brightness at 100% is extremely bright, while brightness at about 40% is still very comfortable on the eyes.

Software install:
With the monitor you get a CD of software to install. Without it Apple warns that all sorts of bad things might happen, potentially requiring the user to unplug the entire computer to reset it and the monitor. Among the issues noted that would happen if you don't install the software included is a screen remaining black on waking from sleep ( solution: unplug the computer's power plug and reconnect), and garbled text or black screens on startup or resolution changes. The installer CD comes with two folders, one with the installer for MacOS 9.1, and one with the installer for Mac OS X. A simple double-click launches the installer which promptly warns you that it will update the firmware of your installed ATI or nVidia video card and after agreeing to that, it installs the software and a one-time-only firmware updater which is run once. Note that in order to take advantage of the firmware updater that you must be using MacOS 9.1. The ATI firmware updater updates the ROM of the OEM AGP Rage 128 pro and the OEM AGP Radeon to version 136 (as verified by Apple System Profiler) and the nVidia 2MX AE to version 1038F. I do not know what specific changes are made in these ROM/Firmware updates but based upon the MacOS X comments in the ReadMe file, I am guessing that it adds additional support information for the non-native resolutions of the display. I have not run any benchmarks to see if the ROM update improves performance.

Are there any catches?
I can think of three minor issues in total.
First is the issue of monitor resolutions, but this is no more of an issue with the ADC 17 LCD as with any other Apple LCD monitor. Because an LCD display has only one 'true' resolution, any other resolution changes have to be handled by faking the resolution to be changed. The display loses sharpness at any resolution other than 1280 x 1024, but this is inherent to any LCD display that is not operating at its native resolution. For each of the three alternate resolutions, 640 x 480, 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768 there are two modes, one with black bands at the top and bottom of the display, and the other with the display stretched to fill the entire screen. Nonetheless, the alternate resolutions are still very useable.

Listing of Resolutions

Secondly, another minor quibble is that although the display has a built-in USB hub (on the same USB bus as USB port #1 on the computer) which provides enough power for Apple Cube Pro Speakers according to the sales brochure, the ReadMe warns that using the built-in hub for that purpose will result in sub-optimal performance of the speakers.

The third minor detail is that due to limited desk space, I really appreciated being able to have my keyboard farther away from me and almost directly under the 15" LCD display which was possible since it hung from its own tripod. This is not possible with the ADC 17 LCD. All things considered though, these are really minor quibbles with an amazing display.

This monitor rocks. It's bright, it's sharp, the colour fidelity is incredible for an LCD display and in my view is approaching the colour fidelity of high end CRT displays. It is well worth its $999 price tag.
-Dieder Bylsma

Compatibility Notes:
Like all of Apple's current line of displays, this monitor has the Apple Display Connector, which includes both power and video signals (as well as USB). Apple notes an ADC graphics card is required. (Only Summer 2000 Gigabit G4 towers, Apple G4 Cubes and 2001 G4 digital audio tower systems have ADC port graphics cards and the 28Volt power supply/AGP slot connector required for ADC graphics cards.)
There is another option however if you have a graphics card with a DVI output connector (i.e. ATI Radeon PCI or AGP card, or Voodoo4/5 PCI cards) and assuming there are no issues with resolution mode support, etc. with retail cards. DrBott makes a DVI to ADC adapter (w/separate power supply) that currently lists for $149.95. GeFen also makes an adapter but the price was about twice that of the DrBott adapter last I checked. Both adapters are listed and linked in our FAQ's Displays/Monitors section for future reference. Also see below for a copy of the 17" Display Readme file for notes about the software updates (which includes Nvidia/ATI firmware updates) and the fact you should not connect the Cube's USB Speakers to this display.

Comments/Issues with DVI/ADC Adapter and Radeon PCI using 17" Apple Display:
(added 10/8/2001 - assuming he's using the recently released ATI ROM update flashed in the PCI Radeon card. See our ATI ROM update feedback page for reader reports on that update. )

" Apple Studio Display 17" works with ATI Radeon retail PCI version in G4 (PCI Graphics) using Dr. Bott ADC-DVI adapter set. There are a few tiny video artifacts which seem to be from the drivers and not the hardware, as the artifacts only show up in certain situations, like specks of black missing from opening application icons in the dock.
If anyone sees this same effect, you'll know what I mean. OS 9.2.1 works fine with the display. Time to ditch my old CRT!
Andrew Watters"

Update: On 10/9 Andy wrote that DrBott is going to replace the adapter as they think there's a problem with it - but later wrote that the problems he saw were not fixed.

" Mike, I regret to report that getting a new Radeon PCI card did not solve my artifacting problem; having tested the display, DVI-ADC adapter, and Radeon independently now, I am completely stumped. The only thing I can think of is that my other PCI cards or the video driver are causing the artifacts. It's a sad day...
Andy Watters"

(From the 7/10/2001 news page - before the latest ATI ROM update was released)
A reader sent a note about using a DVI/ADC Adapter (the $149.95 Dr.Bot model noted above and the FAQ here) with the Apple 17" LCD. He notes issues with lower resolutions since the drivers/firmware update could not be applied to the Radeon PCI card:

" My Sony Trinitron monitor was fried by lightning (turned on, plugged into surge protector, computer off). So, of course, I needed a replacement 17" monitor, and I just had to have the Apple flat panel-except, I have a beige desktop G3.

I have already installed a Radeon PCI card, so I bought Dr. Bott's DVIator adapter. Setup was a snap, and the Apple flat panel 17" Studio Display works fine out of the box.

Two issues-the Apple monitor software can't be installed, because it "will not run on this computer". The intermediate resolutions of 800x600 and 1024x768 are both unusable without the software.

The native resolution of 1280 x 1024 is incredibly sharp and clear, but the text is too small for 50 year old eyes. A aptch or fix whereby an easier resolution like 800 x 600 could be displayed would be great.

Kudos to Dr. Bott for a fantastic adapter.

I suggested he try using TomeViewer to see if that would extract the software extensions from the installer. However past reports here even with OEM cards noted that until the firmware update was applied, switching to lower than native resolutions resulted in corrupted screens.

The Studio 17" LCD Readme File:

" About Your Apple Studio Display

This document contains important late-breaking information about your display.

  • For optimal performance of the Power Mac G4 Cube USB speakers, plug them into your computer USB ports, not the monitor USB ports.

    IMPORTANT You must install the software on this CD for full functionality of your display.
    Possible problems if the display software isn't installed

    If you don't install the display software the following problems can result:

  • After you wake up your computer from sleep, the screen may remain black. If this happens, shut down your computer and unplug the power cord. Then reconnect the power cord, start up your computer and install the display software.

  • When you start up your computer, the startup screen may temporarily appear in a small window or items on your screen may look garbled or missing. In order to fix a garbled OS X startup screen, you must run the Display Software installer for OS 9, while your system is booted into OS 9.

  • When you change resolutions, items on your screen may become garbled or your display may go black.

  • The brightness slider may not apear in the Monitors control panel (OS 9) or the Displays pane of System Preferences (OS X).
    April 20, 2001 "

  • Other Photos:

    Front View
    Front View

    Rear View
    Rear View

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