swissmiss readers: what monitor to buy?


I need to finally buy a bigger monitor that I can hook up to my laptop. Let the research begin. I am wondering: Is it worth spending the extra money on an Apple monitor? Am I just paying extra for looks or are they really better than, let’s say, a Dell? Do you work off your laptop+extra monitor? What do you recommend?

43 Comments leave a comment below

  1. Apple makes some good monitors, but you pay for the aesthetics. Dell uses (or at least used) the same panels as Apple in their UltraSharp series of widescreen monitors. I use the UltraSharp 2005WFP myself (now replaced by the 2007WFP), and I couldn’t be happier. The colors and sharpness and contrast is very good. It’s not a low end monitor, and the price reflects it. Still, worth every penny. Also available in 24 and 30 inches (mine is 20). Good luck on making a choice!

  2. Tina, the Dell Ultrasharp monitor that I have hooked up to my MacBook Pro uses the same exact screen that the Apple Cinema Display uses, supposedly. I have had it for a year and a half now and it’s great. It doesn’t match my MBP as well as the Apple monitor, but I grabbed the 20″ widescreen Dell for around $250! Occasionally, and other sites like it will have crazy coupon codes for the Dell monitors.

  3. I’ve been on a 24″ Apple monitor for the last two weeks and am in HEAVEN.

  4. I’m very happy with a Dell 2007WFP on my macbook Pro.. for now.. i hope to upgrade to a 24″ Dell in future..

  5. I’ve used laptops with external screens all day almost every day for the past couple of years, and would recommend it as a great way to work. I try to make sure I can swivel the screen (turn it from landscape to portrait) if it’s not big enough to display a full portrait A4 sheet comfortably when in landscape mode…good for portrait photo editing and because web pages (especially blogs) tend to be long rather than wide, good for web browsing as well.

  6. we’ve got a dell 2407wfp, their 24″ monitor, hooked up to our macbook. we do miss the aesthetic of apple’s aluminum enclosure, but feel that the dell make up for it in value and extras.

    the real estate, brightness and clarity of the dell is wonderful, as is the built in card reader. it’s also nice that the dell has inputs for other components – with the flip of a switch, we can be playing guitar hero on our playstation2.

    another tip worth mentioning is that dell offers additional warranty service – we have a five year plan on the dell, compared to apple’s three year.

  7. When I accidentally switched from PC to Mac, I was cautious. The PCs sounded better on paper, but the actual and total experience of owning and using my iBook was undeniably better in every way than that of any PC I had used previous (Sony Vaio can compete, but still doesn’t match Apple’s total experience).

    I imagine the same holds true for Apple’s displays: even if the tech specs are comparable, the thought that goes into an Apple product is very evident once you are actually using it.

    However, there are far fewer concerns when it comes to attaching an external display than there are with the core hardware your are working on. I just bought a high resolution 17″ MacBook Pro, so, with plenty of extra pixels, I’ve since ditched my extended desktop. When I used to have a two-monitor setup, I just used an old, beige, “MaxTech ‘Low Radiation'” CRT monitor. I kept my palettes over there on Mr. “Low Radiation” and my work on my sharp, beautiful built-in Apple display.

    I was happy and I spent nothing to do it.

    Of course, a prettier display is nice, but not Apple. …unless you plan on having an open studio or something and you want to impress your friends.

    You might look at
    which has a generalized buying guide, explanations, and even recommendations specific to graphic designers toward the bottom.

  8. I couldn’t be happier with my refurbished Apple Cinema display that I hook up to my Macbook. If you do decide to go the Apple route, check out the refurbs, it could save you a few bucks. I actually bought both my laptop and display from the refurb store, and got incredible deals, and they still come with a one year warranty.

  9. Another vote for the Dell monitors. Great image clarity and color with a really nice price point. If you can swing the extra cost the Apple counterpart *is* a little sexier on the desk, but the Dell still looks good.

  10. Here’s a really technical answer for you which hopefully helps…
    The apple cinema displays and the current dell 30″ display use S-IPS LCD panels built by Philips, some of the dell displays (the 2007WFP) use these displays also – which provide the best color reproduction.

    Currently the dell 2407WFP and some of the 2007WFP’s use a Samsung PVA screen, which provide good color reproduction, but not as good as the S-IPS displays. The kicker with the dell 20″ screens is that you don’t know which type you’re going to get.

    Some of the more inexpensive displays typically use TN film, which are very responsive (good for things like gaming), but have poorer color (typically 6-bit instead of 8-bit) and should be avoided.

    Depending on how color sensitive your design work is should help you decide whether it’s worth the premium for the extra little bit in color. Personally, I feel like the Dell displays are a great value, and provide some nicer ergonomic features – I don’t believe the apple displays provide height adjustment.

    Hope this helps!

  11. Another vote for the refurbished Cinema Display. $749 for the 23″ is within shouting distance of competing models and I have a theory that refurbs might be actually be more reliable because they’ve been combed over by a trained technician, as opposed to someone on a factory line.
    I don’t delude myself that it’s functionally better than a Dell but it LOOKS better on my desk and that’s important to me. On the other hand, you can get a 24″ Dell that pivots from landscape to portrait for $80 less.
    I wouldn’t pay that much attention to the specs. Apple makes good monitors and if color sensitivity is a big deal you undoubtedly already have calibrating tools.

  12. Your work space already looks beautiful, why tarnish it with a PC-esque monitor? Another vote to a cinema display. I have the 23″ and love it.

  13. I have a Dell 21-inch monitor hooked up to my MacBook Pro, and this Dell does a VERY bad job representing gradients. Like, shockingly bad.

  14. With Apple, you’re paying for looks, compatibility, ease of use, simplicity, and performance. With the others, you save some money, but gain buttons, logos, chrome, plastic, and more buttons.

    The refurb route is a great way to save, and I’ve found the refurb bits I have to be just as good as the new items.

    With regards to size, select the Apple display that’s right for you, and then buy the next bigger one. You can never have too much screen real estate. As for using one screen for palettes and the other for work, I did that for a few years. The head tilting and turning isn’t worth saving the extra few hundred dollars. Just buy the 30″ and be done with it. You’ll be very pleased in the long term.

  15. Apple 23″ gets my vote. I work on the 30″ all day and it’s fantastic, but expensive. The 23″ looks just as good if not better and has ample room to MOVE. You won’t regret it.

  16. Cinema Display 23 or 30. Some advice: Buy online at the Apple Store. I sent two back because of pixel issues, and they were great about that. Door to door replacement. Also, get Apple Care! That takes you from 1 to 3 years on being covered.

  17. I work on a 20″ Dell 2005WFP I got a few years ago, hooked up to my 12″ Powerbook. I love it. Colors are true, and gradients are beautiful.

    It has always worked flawlessly and I have never had a problem connecting any computer or other device to it.

    Since both Apple and Dell source the EXACT same Samsung-manufactured LCDs, you are paying for the box it comes in and what kind of things you can hook up to it.

    When I bought mine here were the factors:

    Apple: $800, Sexy Alumninum, built in USB/Firewire hub,DVI only
    Dell: $400, Black Plastic, built in USB hub, VGA, DVI, S-Video, Component (RCA), Picture-in-Picture, Picture-By-Picture, and a rotating swivel (can use screen in portrait mode, great for posters and long documents).

    Dells are the best bang for the buck in my book.
    But the Apples are beautiful…

  18. Dell monitors are very good and cheaper than Apple’s. The Apple monitors are very good and look better. Buy the Apple monitor. You know you want to. It’s ok.

  19. The Apple branded monitors are overpriced and have a midland service history. Apples policy on what are an acceptable number of bad pixels within hours of warranty ending are unexceptable.

    Samsung makes some great LCD panel displays with a great warranty and terrific color reproduction and nice contrast ratio. Depending on your video chip-set, you’ll also get a fair range of refresh rates depending on your desired screen resolution.


  20. Another Dell vs. Apple point — if you’re planning on using more than one computer with the monitor (or if you want to use it to watch TV or movies), the Dell monitors will support that with a slew of connections, the Apple monitors won’t. My 2000FP (about five years old and still going strong) has DVI, VGA, S-Video, and composite video. While I rarely use the video connectors (although we did replace our TV with one of these temporarily), I often use the DVI and VGA connectors to allow me to have two machines running at once.

    You can do the same thing (and better), with a KVM switch, but they’re expensive for DVI video and until very recently have been pretty buggy. Also, PC laptops often don’t have DVI outputs (and don’t generally support both DVI and VGA), so you need VGA to use them.

  21. I’ve been in the same situation. Own a MacBook and ended up buying a Cinema Display 23″. Absolutely love it! My desk is situated in the middle of a big room and the monitor is visible from all angles. I know it sounds kind of irrelevant but the BACK of the Cinema is gorgeous. It’s like a sculputure in it self. Even though it’s a big display it very elegantly presents itself.

    Honestly, I think the real difference’s in the details. All the little facts that don’t show up in the tech charts. The Apple display is dead silent. All heat dispence is via the aluminum and not via fans. The cord materiel is classic Apple. The three buttons on the side’re touch sensitive. The little light on the front’s very subtle and unintrusive. And you can’t beat the foot for aesthetics!

    Consider why you fell in love with the MacBook Pro’s design in the first place – and think display.

    . johan

  22. the samsung 244T is where it’s at. best monitor i’ve ever used …

  23. The Apple displays are top notch and they look amazing. It would be a travesty to hook up a Dell monitor to your beautiful mac. And for a person who appreciates great design, I can’t see you committing such an awful sin.

  24. I’d wait till it’s on special, which happens frequently, and buy the Dell, maybe the 27″ 2707WFP. Yes, the case design doesn’t look quite as nice – they’re not actually that bad, though – but discounted they’re almost half the price of the Apple 30″. As much as I love Apple, their displays are way overpriced. Also, the Dells come with a 3 year warrantee (hear that, Apple?).

    I’d then spend the savings on a good hardware calibration tool. Seriously, I’m amazed that so many designers don’t bother to calibrate their monitors – no wonder their on-screen results never get close to matching their proofs! I’ve got an Eye-One 2 which is great; if you do a lot of printing you may want to take a look at the new Spyder3Studio, which includes a dedicated hardware device that generates printer profiles by scanning printed patch targets. These things are amazing, wish I could justify getting one!

  25. This is the one piece of equipment you’ll actually “look at” outside of the computer store (or Web site where you order it, as the case may be) – and you’ll look at it every single day. With that in mind, I really feel it’s one case where beauty plays a role in computer hardware design. If this is your “window to the world” shouldn’t it be the best window you can find?

    The Apple displays are undeniably gorgeous and certainly of some of the highest quality available. I have a 30″ display at work and I can say they are worth their weight in gold. It will literally change the way you work on the computer. I would also recommend the refurbs. They have the same warranty as the new ones so what’s not to love?!

  26. I recently got a 22″ Samsung monitor to go along with my Mac. It’s got 3000:1 contrast ratio and looks freakin’ gorgeous. Only $400 too, or so my boss tells me :)

  27. I bought the 30″ apple display about 6 months ago and like those above believe that it is a must have. I use it primarily off my 17″ macbook pro and coudln’t imagine life without it. Buy one you’ll see.

  28. With my Powerbook I use an Eizo monitor. My wife uses a Samsung which has the added bonus of being able to swivel to allow convenient reading of long text docs. Both look great too if that is a primary concern.

  29. With my 12″ PowerBook, I use a Samsung LCD. The additional screen real estate helps a lot especially when you have lots of open windows (and don’t want to minimize/hide any). Also helps a lot when you’re working on something and would want to refer to something else while typing/designing.

    Go for the Apple Cinema Displays if you have the budget. The extra cost isn’t just for the supreme design, but also for the unparalleled calibration with Mac machines.

  30. I’m on a 23″ Cinema Display and must say that I’m very disappointed.
    It has problems with very light grays: try a smooth transition from black to white and you’ll see (I changed it once but problem remains; I tried it on an other computer, too).
    Colors are very different, warmer, if compared to my macbook.
    Anyway: the design is great once turned off…

  31. I have 4 apple 20″ cinema display on my design company, excelent highlights and color. A freelancer webdesigner of mine bought a 20″ DELL but dreams to upgrade to a 20″ cinema every day.

    Yes the DELL/APPLE viscerals parts are the same, but if a designer can’t see why design counts/costs extra $ something’s wrong in here (a blog about design & aesthetics). The extra $ is a pain in the ass of course if you don’t have it, then buy DELL. BUT the next time a client of yours says that your work is very pricy good luck on telling him the extra credits he gets by getting you instead of the “DELL designer next door” :). design is luxury, but people can live without it.

    Best of luck, buy the 20″ apple :)

  32. I have a Samsung. Design is nice. Colors were off at first, but they calibrated nicely. A little app Samsung has on their website is called MagicTune it powers the calibration and does a fine job.

  33. I’d go with an Apple Cinema Display. I have 3 23″ ACDs, two at home, and one at the office; I use them with my MBP 15″ (in clamshell mode, i.e. without the built-in display).
    While the Dells certainly are cheaper, and almost certainly just as good technically, you’ll probably regret not having the gorgeous design of an Apple screen… remember that you look at it all day long.

  34. Apple screens have too many quircks, especially the reds seem to be hard to control (lack of hardware controls…sucks), power supplies that constantly break…not worth it in my opinion.

    If money’s no object, go for quality, buy an Eizo. They’re expensive, but definately the best next LaCie you can get. Otherwise get a Dell.

  35. Dell annoys and bugs me a lot, but I’ve been very happy with the two Dell LCD monitors I have. Nice warranty too- I believe they’ll ship you a replacement immediately and then you ship back the defective monitor.

  36. Here’s a nice spec comparison link to review the various features of the Apple Cinema Display line I’ve been using Apple displays for both work and home for over 5 years now and highly recommend for anyone doing “all-day” work with a screen.

  37. Thanks everyone! I really appreciate all your advice! Amazing how tech savvy you all are. I love it! 1000 karma points to all of you! *tschatsching*

  38. i use an EIZO FlexScan S2110W on my MacBook Pro. it’s one of the best you can get (except LaCie) when it comes to colors and contrast. I also like about it that it has the same resolution as my internal mac book display so when you use both screens at the same time you’re not getting confused with different resolutions.

  39. I use a wacom cintiq at work, and at home I desperately want it!! If you use Photoshop, it really is addicting. Expensive, but wonderful.

  40. Dell 24″ Widescreen

    It took me forever to switch to an LCD as I am super anal about my colors. This is the first display that I could work with and I absolutely love it. The Apple displays are great as well (they use the same glass).

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