Apple Studio Display Review – New 5K display for your Mac

The Apple Studio Display is one of the few 5k monitors on the market and, in combination with a Mac, offers both a lot of image sharpness and a large work surface. The Studio Display looks high-quality and has various useful features, such as a webcam and good speakers. The display has excellent color tuning right out of the box, which is combined with high maximum brightness and good uniformity. However, the lack of height adjustment in the ‘basic model’ of the Studio Display is incomprehensible. A pity is the lack of HDR support, which makes the screen less future-proof. In addition, the screen is quite pricey, even if you compare it with previous 5k screens.

Pros

  • Excellent color reproduction out of the box
  • High 5k resolution
  • Wide brightness adjustment range
  • Built-in webcam and excellent speakers

Cons

  • Height adjustment is not standard
  • No HDR support
  • Unusable with Windows PC
  • Expensive compared to other monitors

At the same time as the Mac Studio, Apple is releasing a new display. The Studio Display is the spiritual successor to the Apple Thunderbolt Display, which has been discontinued since 2016 . Since 2019, there has been the Pro Display XDR for those who want a real Apple monitor, but at 5300 euros, it is very expensive even by Apple standards. In recent years, customers with shallower pockets have relied on LG’s UltraFine 4K and UltraFine 5K, sold through Apple Stores and specifically intended for use with a Mac.

With the Studio Display, Apple now has its own screen in the range that, in terms of price, better fits most computers that the brand sells, including the Mac Studio. The screen has exactly the same screen diagonal of 27 “and resolution of 5120×2880 pixels as the LG monitor. The starting price is 1779 euros , where the LG 5K screen in recent years cost between 1200 and 1400 euros with the cheapest provider.

(Too) simple design

The housing of the Studio Display looks high-quality. The display is largely made of aluminum, which feels a lot sturdier and looks nicer than the simple, dark gray plastic of which the aforementioned LG screen is made. The design, with rounded corners and straight side edges, is very similar to that of the latest-generation iMac, but the housing of the screen is a lot thicker. The connection range is as minimalist as the design: one Thunderbolt upstream port with 96W power delivery, enough for Apple’s most powerful MacBook Pros, plus three downstream USB-C connections. These are only suitable for peripherals; so you can’t loop through screens on it. The power cable attached to the screen can be pulled out with a trick, but that’s not officially the intention and it also uses a non-standard connector on the screen side.

Like the LG Ultrafine 5K display, the Studio Display is completely focused on use with macOS. There is no OSD on it. Separate brightness control for the screen appears in macOS for setting the brightness, while the color range can also be set in the software. With a Mac that works perfectly, but for Windows users, this monitor is unsuitable, even if your PC has Thunderbolt. On our Dell XPS 15 9570, we couldn’t even adjust the brightness of the screen, not even with programs that normally do this via DDC/CI.

Particularly disappointing is the absence of a height-adjustable stand on the standard Studio Display model. For 1779 euros, the panel can only be tilted. A height-adjustable stand costs 460 euros extra, an amount for which you can buy a complete, luxurious 4k monitor. You can add your own stand if you choose a VESA adapter when purchasing, which costs nothing extra compared to the standard foot, but also means that you can no longer get or use the standard foot with the screen. Also, Apple’s own height-adjustable stand cannot be added after purchase.

Strangely complicated hardware

The stand may be bizarrely simple for the amount you pay for the monitor, in other respects, the Studio Display is strangely complicated compared to a standard screen. Apple has not built in a simple scaler chip, but an Apple A13-soc with 64GB storage, the same combination as in a current Apple iPad. Reportedly, it even runs on iOS 15.4, like the tablet. The screen is cooled by two large fans. Although these were not disturbingly audible in practice, we would have preferred passive cooling. Most other screens don’t have fans either.

Like the iPad, the Studio Display has a 12-megapixel webcam with an ultra-wide-angle lens, which software zooms and pans to keep faces in the frame: “Center” in Apple terms. The Studio Display also has three microphones for noise reduction. As many as six built-in speakers produce the stereo sound of more than decent quality, which you can’t say about most monitors. In addition, an advanced light sensor is included to support the True Tone feature, which allows the screen to automatically adjust not only its brightness but also its color temperature to the ambient light. You won’t find that luxury on other PC monitors.

As with other Apple displays, there is a glass plate in front of the screen. Shiny glass with an anti-reflective coating is available as standard, but for an extra 250 euros you can also opt for glass with a nano texture, which would work even better against reflections. According to Apple, the etched coating should solve a drawback of the traditional matte coating on LCDs: the shimmering haze that is especially noticeable on solid colors. Although the coating does indeed look slightly different than the average matte LCD panel, we also saw the shimmer on the Apple screen. If that effect bothers you, Apple’s high-tech solution won’t help. In addition, you should clean the Studio Display with nano texture with a special cleaning cloth to avoid damage to the surface.

Image quality test results

We performed a series of measurements to assess image quality, as usual using a Spectral C6 colorimeter, an X-rite i1 Photo Pro 2 spectrophotometer, and Portrait Displays Calman Color Calibration software. In the graphs below, the Apple Studio Display has a red bar and the LG Ultrafine 5K display has a blue color. The other monitors in the charts have 4k resolution and are often much cheaper than the Apple screen.

The LG Ultrafine 5K display already has a particularly high maximum brightness and the Studio Display goes slightly above that. Both screens can also be set very dark. Thanks to the exceptionally wide brightness range, you can use the monitor comfortably in almost any environment. The Studio Display uses an IPS panel and in terms of contrast, this yields the expected value of approximately 1000:1. Some luxury 4k IPS monitors are able to produce a higher contrast and LCD monitors with VA panels or OLED screens are even capable of much higher contrast.

Like almost all Apple devices with a screen, the Studio Display can display almost the entire DCI-P3 color range. In combination with macOS, the color reproduction is more than excellent and clearly better than with the LG screen. The average color and gray deviations, expressed in an ΔE score, are both below 1. All partial scores are also far below the value of 3, above which a color deviation is easily observable. Due to the good color management in macOS, sRGB content is also shown with the correct color saturation, as you can see in the picture opposite, for which we used a set of different test patterns. The red, green, and blue color points in the triangle are almost exactly in the right place. Few displays are as well-tuned right out of the box as the Studio Display,

Unlike many monitors at the moment, the Studio Display does not support any form of HDR display. Now the HDR image quality on screens that cost the same as the Studio Display is often not good enough for serious use. On the other hand, we recently saw Apple lead the way with very advanced mini LED panels for its MacBook Pro laptops and iPad Pro 12.9″. With the Studio Display, Apple makes conservative choices when it comes to the display panel, no matter how technically complicated the rest. If the Studio Display stays in the shops as long as the LG 5K monitor, that could turn out to be a miss.

The Apple Studio Display turns out to be one of the more uniform displays we’ve measured, considering both the uniformity of white and the uniformity of black. In the backlight photo we took, there is a bit of backlight bleeding at the bottom of the screen. It also applies that this measurement specifically says something about our review sample. Another copy may give different results here. Good uniformity is of course something you expect from a screen that is marketed at a high price, so in that sense, it’s a good sign that our test sample is doing relatively well. In terms of viewing angles, the Studio Display does a bit below expectations.

We measured the response times on all screens in the optimal overdrive mode, but nothing can be set with the Apple Studio Display without OSD. Although there is a bit of overdrive, judging by the slight over- and undershoot, the response times are still very slow, even for a monitor that isn’t geared toward gaming. Looking at the energy consumption, the Apple monitor appears to be a lot more efficient than the LG model. In that regard, the Studio Display also does remarkably well compared to 4k monitors in this overview, which in principle have an advantage with their larger pixels and therefore higher light transmission of the panel.

Conclusion

With the Studio Display, Apple has a new screen of its own that will fit in well with most computers that the brand sells in terms of design. The Pro Display XDR was also not out of place in that regard, but it is very expensive even for the average Apple fan. The Studio Display isn’t exactly cheap either. The screen is hundreds of euros more expensive than the LG UltraFine 5K screen with a comparable image panel, and for the price of one Studio Display you can put up to four 4k monitors on your desk. There are very few other 5k displays on the market, so in a way Apple can ask what it wants for this display. With a 4k monitor, you sacrifice image sharpness or work surface in any case.

Apple has provided the 5k panel with excellent color tuning, which is better than most other monitors we’ve tested, including the LG monitor. The screen can be adjusted both very bright and very dark and has an above-average uniformity. The other image properties are not much better in every area than with a much cheaper monitor. For example, the contrast is limited to the usual value of around 1000:1 and there is no HDR support, which other screens in this price segment usually offer. Given the high price, we secretly hoped for a mini LED backlight, which could have taken the image quality to the next level. This is certainly true because the rest of the Studio Display does house particularly complicated hardware: a complete system-on-a-chip, tens of gigabytes of memory, an advanced webcam, and speakers. What should certainly have been part of the standard equipment, given the price, is a height-adjustable foot. It remains very disappointing that Apple asks hundreds of euros extra for this.