The Studio Display was launched alongside the new Mac Studio, with both products aimed at creative professionals. While the Mac Studio handles the computing side of things, the Studio Display – which as the name suggests, is a companion product to the Mac Studio – is the screen. As our best monitors for photo editing buying guide shows, a good monitor is an essential tool for creative professionals, especially those working in visual mediums, and there's some stiff competition out there.
Apple is no stranger to making pro-grade screens, however. Not only has it been fitting products like the MacBook Pro, iMac and iPad Pro with best-in-class displays for years, it’s also made high-end monitors, such as the Apple Pro Display XDR screen. So, while the announcement of the Studio Display was a bit of a surprise, it also makes sense. With the all-in-one iMac 27-inch computer now being discontinued, and no successor likely for a while, there’s a general sense that the Mac Studio and Studio Display are going to be the alternative.
Whether or not that comes to pass won’t be clear for a while, but the Studio Display offers some unique features that along with Apple’s experience making professional displays, means many creatives will be thinking of buying this screen.
Studio Display: price
Apple’s last monitor for creative professionals, the Pro Display XDR, grabbed a lot of attention for its incredibly high price tag of $4,999 / £4,700. Thankfully, the Studio Display comes in at quite a bit cheaper than that, but with a starting price of $1,599 / £1,499, this is still a very pricey proposition.
There are plenty of 27-inch monitors out there that cost a fraction of what Apple is asking for with the Studio Display, so this is a screen that needs to seriously impress to justify that price.
One of the biggest criticisms people have with Apple is the fact that there are sometimes hidden costs associated with its products that usually come included in the price in rival products, and that’s true with the Studio Display. While the Studio Display does come with a stand (which shouldn’t be surprising, but Apple didn’t include one with the more expensive Pro Display XDR), it only allows you to adjust the display by tilting it. You can also choose to swap the stand for a VESA mount, which is useful if you want to attach it to a wall or already have a stand, but many other monitors come with both options, which makes Apple’s forced choice between the two feel a little tight.
If you want to adjust the height of the monitor – and why wouldn’t you? – then you’ll need to pay an extra $400 / £400, a pretty substantial extra cost for something that, once again, comes with most other monitors for free.
You can also configure the Studio Display to come with a nano-texture glass, which helps eliminate glare and reflections. The model we review here doesn’t feature that, and the screen is very reflecting, sometimes distractingly so. This means the nano-texture option may appeal (and it certainly works well on previous devices that we’ve tried with it), but it will cost an additional $300 / £250.
This means an already-expensive monitor can quickly become even more pricey.
Studio Display: features
As the price hints at, this isn’t your standard monitor, as Apple has packed it with some interesting features, many of which you’ll probably find are quite useful (though whether or not they justify the higher price is another matter entirely).
Unusually for a monitor, the Studio Display comes with a built-in webcam and studio-quality mic array. These days we’re increasingly relying on video calls, be it talking remotely with co-workers, pitching to clients, or simply keeping in contact with friends and family, so having a high-quality webcam and microphone is extremely important. So, the fact that Apple has included a webcam in the Studio Display is certainly a selling point, especially for people who are working remotely.
The webcam is boosted by the inclusion of the A13 Bionic chip. This is a feature included in iPhones and iPads, and it offers some smart features to the Studio Display. When it comes to the webcam, the A13 Bionic offers a feature known as ‘Center Stage’, which uses artificial intelligence to keep you centred when using the webcam – even if you move around (we found the feature a bit creepy when we reviewed the iPad Pro M1 11-inch). The A13 Bionic also helps improve low-light performance as well.
The A13 Bionic also works with the built-in speakers of the Mac Studio to offer special audio via Dolby Atmos. While this doesn’t compete with a physical Dolby Atmos surround sound setup (with speakers placed above you, as well as around you), it offers an impressive level of sound that you wouldn’t expect from built-in monitor speakers.
You can also use Apple’s virtual assistant Siri with the Mac Studio, giving hands-free voice commands, which is a nice touch, though not everyone will find it that useful.
While these features are nice to have, none feel essential. There’s also the fact that you’ll need to use a compatible Mac or iPad to use them. If you have a modern Apple device, this probably isn’t an issue, but people with older Macs and MacBooks that can’t run macOS 12.3, or anyone who uses a Windows 10 laptop, for example, will not be able to make use of them, which is a shame.
Studio Display: design
The design of the Mac Studio is reminiscent of the 24-inch iMac from last year, but without the choice of colours. As this is a professional product, it only comes in a single colour: silver. Still, it looks smart and will fit in nicely with your other Apple products.
As you’d expect, it's stylish and minimalist, with straight edges, and it does make us think how nice it would have been to see a 27-inch iMac in this design. Maybe in the future that’s what we’ll get.
As we mentioned earlier, we had the standard screen without nano-texture, and especially when it’s off, you can see just how reflective the display is. Along the top of the screen are vents for keeping the Studio Display cool, and on the back are the ports.
This is where the Studio Display’s minimalist design arguably goes too far, as rather than a range of inputs we’d usually see in a monitor, such as HDMI and DisplayPort, there’s just four USB-C ports, and only one of them is actually the input.
If you’re planning on plugging in a MacBook or a Mac, this won’t be an issue, and a nice feature is that the Studio Display will also charge your device while it’s plugged in, saving you from having an additional cable cluttering up your desk. The other USB-C ports allow you to plug peripherals in, essentially turning the Studio Display into a USB-C hub which is handy, especially if your device doesn’t have many ports.
But, if you have a device that uses HDMI for its video output, which many laptops and desktop PCs do, then you’re going to need an adaptor, which isn’t included.
It’s also worth noting that the power cable is fixed to the Studio Display, rather than removable, and that may have implications for installing it in certain locations.
Studio Display: performance
The Studio Display offers a decent level of performance with bright and vivid image quality, and viewing angles were particularly good. If you want a monitor to show off your work to lots of people at once, this is useful, though the glossy finish of the screen meant that distracting reflections were an issue.
But the performance of the Studio Display didn’t wow us, which is a shame considering the steep asking price. The lack of HDR support (high dynamic range) is baffling, to be honest, with cheaper monitors supporting it. Not only does this make images look more vibrant and can also help with colour accuracy, but many films and TV shows are filmed in HDR. If you’re a video editor who is working on HDR footage, which many will be, you won’t be able to see the HDR effects on the Studio Display.
This omission will instantly make the Studio Display less attractive – or downright unviable – for some. The Studio Display also has a max refresh rate of 60Hz, and while this is pretty standard, there are a growing number of monitors that support higher refresh rates, such as 120Hz and above (see our best gaming monitors guide for some options).
The new MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch models both have ProMotion technology, which offers adaptive refresh rates of up to 120Hz, which makes for a much smoother experience. The MacBook Pros also offer HDR and increased contrast thanks to their mini LED technology, and this makes the Studio Display’s performance feel a little lacklustre. It definitely feels odd that if you have a new MacBook Pro 14-inch and you plug it into the Studio Display, you’ll get worse picture quality.
The picture quality is by no means bad, but it doesn’t reach the heights we’ve come to expect from Apple, and especially for displays of this price tag.
The web cam quality has also come under scrutiny. While we found that it was fine – though not exceptional – in brightly-lit situations, many people have noticed that the quality can be quite poor. Apple has stated that this is a software issue and a fix is underway. While it’s not a deal breaker, it’s still disappointing.
Should you buy a Studio Display?
The Studio Display is an interesting product from Apple, but one we feel is a little bit of a misfire. The lack of HDR and high refresh rate support is a blow, and the limited port selection means this is a monitor that won’t be appealing to many people. If you’re a video producer, in particular, we don’t recommend this screen. Try one of the best monitors for video editing instead.
Image quality is decent, but for the full effect you’re going to want to invest in the nano-texture screen. The added AI features are nice, but inessential, and they only work with modern Apple devices.
If you’re a content creator that is fully invested in the Apple ecosystem, then we can imagine the Studio Display being a decent investment – as long as you have the cash. For other people, though, there’s better alternatives out there.
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