I can already hear some of my PC readers crying, “Apple fanboi!” And rightly so. Although, it was never my intention to be one of those guys. I made the switch to Apple just over 3 years ago, after growing tired of the upgrades and OS re-installs that coincide with running a PC. Now, all the computers and every hand-held media player in my household is made by Apple, and I don’t hear anyone complaining. Best of all – I don’t have to play the roll of computer tech on a regular basis. But I recently decided that I could live without my (glorious) Apple LED Cinema Display, and ordered a 27″ Dell monitor to replace it. Here I am a couple weeks later, sitting in front of my ACD and the Dell is back in its box, ready to be returned for a full refund.
Why Switch in the First Place?
The main reason I wanted a different monitor, was to have the ability to use it for other purposes than just work. The LED Cinema Display only has a Mini DisplayPort input, and I don’t know any devices aside from the latest MacBooks that use that. I was looking for a bit of flexibility, and was willing to sacrifice aesthetic quality and simplicity to get it, or so I thought. The Dell monitor I purchased came equipped with HDMI, Component, and even DisplayPort inputs. So, I was definitely covered in terms of it being compatible with other devices. Then I realized the HDMI port was bunk. And so the downward spiral began…
My first Mac was the last of the white generation iMac. It had a 24″ screen, and I found the image quality to be quite good. That was until I purchased my second Mac this past summer – a 15″ MacBook Pro and a 24″ Apple LED Cinema Display. The LED panel is simply glorious! Colours are extremely vivid and rich, and the brightness is outstanding. Even on the MacBook Pro – the brightest I can stand is 4 notches down from full. The glossy screen is not ideal, by any means. Especially on the MBP. But it does contribute to the beautiful picture, which was immediately evident when I first hooked up the Dell monitor. “What’s that bit of noise there?” and, “Is that as bright as it goes?” were questions I asked myself repeatedly over the course of the 2 weeks I was running it. That and, “These colours can’t be right.”
Colour Profile Hell
One of the great things about using an ACD with one of the new MBPs, is the ease of use. It has a combined cable which includes a power connector, Mini DisplayPort, and USB. There is no options menu on the ACD. Hell, there isn’t even a power button! You simply wake your Mac and it fires up. In System Preferences, there are options for managing the colour profile for each display – the MBP‘s built-in display, and the external ACD. I found the default profile for each to be spot-on. And since the default gamma was changed to 2.2 in Snow Leopard, there has been no need to create a custom profile.
The Dell monitor was a different story entirely. In fact, I don’t think I ever managed to get it right after 2 weeks of constant use, and fussing with. The fact that you have a colour profile for the Mac, and the monitor separately, does not help. Just when I thought I had it right, I noticed things rendering differently across browsers and apps. At best, colours still weren’t perfect. Red was not as red as it is on the ACD. And overall it felt more washed out and flat, compared to the ACD.
While the Dell monitor included more options in the way of inputs. The ACD has a built-in iSight (webcam) and microphone, which I use more than I realized. Every time Addison comes down to my office, she hops on my lap and asks to, “See self, Dada?” all excitedly. It was a real bummer trying to tell her we couldn’t, as she bounced on my lap waiting for her adorable smile to show up on the screen.
A Quick Re-cap
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of the Dell versus the ACD, shall we?
- Bigger screen size (27″)
- Multiple inputs
- Built-in card reader
- 1 extra USB port
- Ugly, cheap plastic enclosure
- Doesn’t sit perfectly level (leans to the right)
- Lower image quality
- Screen not as bright
- Max resolution is the same as ACD (1920×1200) despite the screen being 3 inches bigger
- Colour profiles a nightmare to match
- Cables are hard to insert since the inputs are pointing down
- Clumsy OSD options menu
- HDMI input didn’t work
- MBP wouldn’t wake from sleep after switching inputs
- No built-in webcam or microphone
I’m not saying I’ll only be buying Apple products from here on. But I will definitely be taking all of this into consideration when I’m weighing my options in future. And of course, will avoid taking steps backward if I already own Apple products I’m happy with.