Apple Studio Display Review: A Beautiful Yet Expensive Display for Creative Pros

Apple‘s Studio Display is a sleek, stunning 27-inch 5K monitor aimed at creative professionals who want a high-quality external display for their Mac. Released in early 2022, this display packs impressive features like a 12MP webcam, studio-quality mics, built-in speakers, and the powerful A13 bionic chip.

However, with a starting price of $1599, it doesn‘t come cheap. So is the Apple Studio Display worth the high price tag? Let‘s dive in for an in-depth review.

Design and Build Quality

At first glance, the Studio Display looks like a headless 27-inch iMac. It features Apple‘s signature aluminum unibody enclosure with ultra-slim bezels, giving it a distinctly modern yet familiar aesthetic.

The all-metal body feels sturdy and durable, weighing in at just under 10 pounds without the stand. The premium fit and finish we‘ve come to expect from Apple is very much present here.

However, Apple made some controversial choices regarding ergonomics and adjustability. The standard version only supports tilt adjustment, while a height adjustable stand is a $400 add-on. And even with the upgraded stand, options for rotation, swivel or VESA mounting aren‘t available out of the box.

Considering the Studio Display‘s premium price, the lack of ergonomic flexibility is disappointing. You‘ll have to shell out extra for the tilt-adjustable stand or VESA mount if you want more positioning options.

On the plus side, the display has a smart cable management system, with the permanently attached power cable routed through the aluminum stand for a clean look. Port selection is also generous, with one Thunderbolt 3 port and three USB-C ports for connecting peripherals.

Display Performance and Picture Quality

The 27-inch 5K Retina display on the Studio Display measures 5120 x 2880 pixels, giving it a super sharp 218 PPI pixel density. It‘s the same excellent panel used in Apple‘s 27-inch iMacs from previous years.

Out of the box, the Studio Display delivers superb color accuracy, covering 99% of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut. Apple also pre-calibrates each unit at the factory for color fidelity.

In addition, the display includes various built-in color profiles to choose from, depending on your workflow:

  • Apple Display (P3-600 nits)
  • HDR Video (P3-1600 nits)
  • Digital Cinema (P3-500 nits)
  • Design and Print (P3-500 nits)
  • Photography (P3-160 nits)

You can further fine-tune the calibration if needed. Overall image quality is excellent, with accurate colors and plenty of brightness – up to 600 nits peak. Text also looks razor sharp, thanks to the high pixel density.

However, there are some downsides too. Most glaring is the lack of HDR support, a surprise omission at this price point. Contrast is also limited compared to mini-LED displays, with no local dimming feature. And it maxes out at 60Hz refresh rate, lacking support for 120Hz ProMotion.

So if you‘re looking for the ultimate HDR viewing experience, the Studio Display leaves something to be desired. But for color critical SDR work, it delivers impressive accuracy out of the box.

Webcam, Microphones and Speakers

One unique highlight of the Studio Display is the 12MP ultrawide camera, which supports Apple‘s Center Stage feature. It automatically pans and zooms to keep you in frame during video calls.

Image quality is decent but far from class-leading. In fact, it‘s essentially the same webcam from the 24-inch iMac, which received some criticism for noisy and grainy video.

Still, it outperforms most integrated laptop webcams. And for casual video conferencing rather than live streaming, it gets the job done. Lack of a webcam privacy shutter is an oversight though.

Far more impressive is the microphone setup – the Studio Display features a high quality three-mic array with voice isolation tech. You‘ll sound crystal clear during video meetings and calls.

The six-speaker sound system is equally remarkable, with forceful bass, detailed mids and clear highs. And Spatial Audio support via Dolby Atmos provides a surround sound experience.

Audiophiles may want to connect dedicated external speakers for critical music listening. But for everyday use, the Studio Display speakers are fantastic.

Performance and Features

Under the hood, Apple equipped the Studio Display with the A13 bionic chip for enhanced performance. As a result, features like Center Stage tracking work smoothly without overtaxing your Mac.

The A13 also enables "Hey Siri" voice control. You can access Siri commands using the Studio Display‘s mic and speaker system. It even works when your Mac is asleep or powered off.

As mentioned earlier, the single Thunderbolt 3 port provides up to 96 watts of power delivery to charge your MacBook. And with USB-C connectivity, you can hook up cameras, hard drives and other accessories using the side ports.

One software limitation is that most settings adjustments require a Mac. Options like brightness/volume control, calibration, Siri access etc. are not available when connected to a Windows PC. Still, you get a fully functional (albeit plain) external monitor experience on non-Apple machines.

Who is it For?

The Apple Studio Display targets creative professionals who want a premium 5K canvas for creative work, especially those already in the Apple ecosystem. Photographers, video editors, 3D animators, developers – essentially any Mac power user would benefit from this monitor.

Of course, with the $1599 starting price, it is out of reach for many buyers. Even budget-conscious creative pros may want to consider more affordable 4K alternatives like the LG Ultrafine and Dell Ultrasharp monitors.

Additionally, the average consumer looking for a Mac external display has plenty of cheaper options offering better value. So this is by no means an affordable purchase for most folks.

But if budget is not a concern and you want one of the finest 5K monitors money can buy for color-critical creative work, the Studio Display fits the bill nicely. Despite some missing features like HDR and ProMotion, image quality and calibration are top-notch for high-end SDR usage.

Throw in excellent built-in mics and speakers, smart software integration with Macs, and a striking design, and the Studio Display makes its case as a professional creative monitor worth considering for Apple fans.

The Bottom Line

The Apple Studio Display is an impressively designed 27-inch 5K monitor with gorgeous image quality and some seriously innovative features rarely found in external displays.

You get razor-sharp pixel density, fantastic factory calibration, a sleek aluminum enclosure, a 12MP webcam, studio-quality microphone array, a six-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio, the A13 Bionic chip for enhanced performance, and 96W charging for MacBooks.

However, lack of HDR, ProMotion, ergonomic flexibility, and the steep $1599 starting price dampen appeal for some buyers. More affordable 4K alternatives like the LG UltraFine offer better value for money.

But for creative professionals who crave gorgeous 5K visuals, excellent SDR color accuracy, and best-in-class integration with Macs, the Apple Studio Display is a compelling option despite the lofty price tag.

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