Is The New Apple Studio Display Worth $1,599? We Found Out For Ourselves

Is The New Apple Studio Display Worth $1,599? We Found Out For Ourselves

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Apple’s Studio Display monitor is effectively an iMac with the computer part ripped out — and for some, that could be a very good thing. This high-end display packs a gorgeous 5K screen for creative work and casual binging, but it really stands out with an excellent webcam, microphone and speakers that allow it to serve as an all-in-one home office powerhouse.

However, all of that functionality comes at a steep $1,599 starting price, and it has a few notable drawbacks compared to some cheaper monitors. So is the Studio Display worth the splurge? Here’s what I think after using it as my main work (and play) monitor for a week.

A premium monitor for creatives and WFHers

The Apple Studio Display combines a gorgeous 5K screen with an excellent webcam, microphone and speaker set for video calls and multimedia.

The who, what and how Who it’s for: Apple’s Studio Display is best suited for creatives who want a high-quality 5K screen for serious photo and video editing. It’s also great for anyone who works from home, thanks to an excellent integrated webcam, speaker set and microphone. It’s primarily made for Mac users and using it with a Windows PC won’t give you access to all features.

What you need to know: The Studio Display packs a 27-inch 5K Retina screen, which is great for both creative visual work and binging your favorite TV shows. It also gets you a 12-megapixel camera with Center Stage, a six-speaker sound system and a three-microphone array, all of which impressed in our testing. The Studio Display connects to Macs and PCs via Thunderbolt 3, and can even charge up your MacBook while connected.

How it compares: The Studio Display isn’t nearly as expensive as Apple’s $4,999 Pro Display XDR, which has a larger and sharper 32-inch 6K Retina display. Despite its bigger size and better resolution, the XDR lacks an integrated webcam and speaker set and doesn’t even ship with a stand, so you’ll be choosing between a versatile prosumer display and one designed for heavy duty visual work. The Studio Display is pricier than competing 5K monitors like the $1,296 LG UltraFine 5K, which also has an integrated webcam and speakers.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The Studio Display has a clean, minimalist design that looks like a 27-inch iMac with all of the fat trimmed off. The svelte 14-pound display was relatively easy to lug over to my desk, and its sleek silver exterior makes a nice compliment to the Mac Studio I’ve had tucked under it for the past week or so.

Apple’s 27-inch monitor packs four USB-C ports in the back: One Thunderbolt 3 connection for hooking up your Mac, and three downstream USB-C ports for things like peripherals and storage drives. The monitor worked instantaneously with both my Mac Studio and 14-inch MacBook Pro via the included Thunderbolt cable, and was even able to fast-charge the latter (about 50% of battery in 30 minutes) while I had it connected. The Studio Display also worked well with my Dell XPS 13 complete with the same camera, speaker and charging support, though certain features — such as Center Stage and Spatial Audio — are exclusive to Macs.

I found the Studio Display’s ports sufficient overall, and appreciated the three USB-C connections for charging up my iPhone 12 Pro and Beats Fit Pro while I worked. Still, it would have been nice to have an HDMI connection, which would add some extra value to the Studio Display as a mini 5K TV for use with streaming sticks and boxes. And if you’re a power user that switches between multiple machines on the same display, note that the Studio Display can only connect to one computer at a time via the lone Thunderbolt 3 port.

I tested the base Studio Display with a tilt-adjustable stand that offers 30 degrees of movement, and rocking the display back and forth as needed felt smooth and secure. I just wish you didn’t have to pay an extra $400 for a tilt- and height-adjustable stand, which adds about 4 inches of height adjustment. And if you want to mount the Studio Display to a wall, desk or arm, you’ll have to buy a separate $1,599 VESA mount adapter option.

None of these stands or adapters are removable or interchangeable, so you’ll have to make sure you get the model that fits best with your setup from the start. This is especially disappointing considering that cheaper monitors, like our top 4K pick in the $589 Dell UltraSharp 27, offer all of these adjustment options in one — plus the ability to pivot to vertical orientation.

A beautiful 5K screen for work and play Mike Andronico/CNN

The Studio’s 27-inch 5K Retina panel is a thing of beauty. Even just scrolling through Twitter and typing up documents on the Studio Display was a delight, thanks to deep blacks and strong contrast that made text look satisfyingly inky. But Apple’s monitor really shines once you dive into some high-resolution pictures or fire up your favorite TV show.

When browsing through a Photos gallery shot on professional cameras, I was immediately struck by the bold hues and staggering amount of detail I could make out. A shot of a woman laying in a bed of flowers was bursting with eye-popping reds and greens on Apple’s monitor, which also allowed me to see the most minute facial details — down to individual pores and beads of sweat — when viewing close-up portraits. Everything from a purple, starry night sky to a dramatic orange sunset looked captivatingly colorful, something that should give photographers a great canvas for viewing and editing their shots.

The Studio Display was just as impressive when it came time to kick back and binge some TV. I could make out every bead of sweat and scraggly gray hair on Tom Hanks’ face when streaming Finch on Apple TV+, and the show’s muted oranges and reds looked appropriately dystopian on Apple’s monitor. An 8K nature video on YouTube looked especially arresting on Apple’s monitor — the lush greenery and vibrant blue skies popped off of the screen, and everything from the individual scales of a snake to a lion’s whiskers came through in vivid detail.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The Studio Display remained impressively bright and viewable throughout my testing time, and I didn’t notice much glare on its glass display. If your workspace is heavy on harsh environmental sunlight, you can upgrade to a nano-texture glass option built specifically for minimizing reflections for $1,899.

Apple’s monitor also packs a variety of display presets you can toggle in the settings menu (including HDTV Video, Digital Cinema and Photography), ensuring that professional photo and video editors can properly work within the color range that their projects require. You also get the same True Tone technology found on the latest iMacs and MacBooks, which allows the display to automatically adapt to the room you’re in to provide the most accurate color temperature possible at all times.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The Studio Display will make your photos and videos look great, but it’s more than just a pretty screen. This monitor’s built-in webcam, speakers and microphone are all exceptional, making the Studio Display an all-in-one multimedia monster that could be the only accessory you need on your desk.

The Studio’s 12-megapixel ultrawide camera is one of the best webcams I’ve ever used, capturing the finer details of my messy beard while making my skin tone and clothing look bright and accurate. Even the Logitech C920 — our favorite webcam — couldn’t keep up with Apple’s integrated camera, producing shots that looked washed out and less detailed by comparison.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The Studio Display’s camera also supports Center Stage, the same auto-framing technology that you’ll find on the latest iPad Pro and iPad Air. It’s a really neat party trick to see in action, and did a good job following me around and keeping my face centered — even when I stood up —  during Zoom and WebEx calls. While I can see Center Stage being distracting for some folks on the other end of a call

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