With nearly identical specs as the 5K Retina display released eight years ago, and having a similar design as the current iMacs, the Studio Display appears to be just that, but with a few added features. 

Is Apple trying to push surplus hardware on an eager customer base looking for a mid-range solution?

Are there any other options on the market that are better?

Let’s find out together. 

Apple’s Studio Display

The Apple Studio Display sure looks like an iMac, only it’s powered by an A13 Bionic chip. So maybe consider it a 27” iPad?

It has a 5K resolution with DCI P3 Color at 99% coverage and 600 nits in brightness. 

“Sounds familiar? That’s because they are,” says Quinn Nelson of Snazzy Labs

He goes on to point out that the specs of the Studio Display are nearly identical to the 27” 5K iMac from eight years ago, only brighter to qualify for HDR certification, and running the A13 Bionic rather than an Intel processor. 

Apple Studio DisplayStudio DisplayCredit: Apple

Nelson continues to say that the specs also match the nearly six-year-old LG UltraFine 5K display. The only real difference is that the Studio Display has an aluminum chassis, not a plastic one like the LG. It also has a 12MP camera and uses the A13 processor for image processing. 

Throw in a Thunderbolt 3 port and a nice six-speaker Dolby Atmos sound system, and you have a better product. 

Consequently, you can understand why the Studio Display costs $1,599, a hundred dollars more than the LG, but really you end up paying $2,000 when you add $400 for the height-adjustable stand (I’d just use a stack of books).

Nelson also goes on to point out that outside of Apple and LG, there are no other companies on the market who see the value in making a 5K monitor and have opted to improve the look of their 4K monitors instead.

“There are 4K monitors with far more impressive specs, for less money,” Nelson says.

So what monitors would fit that bill? 

Alternatives to Apple

Nelson points to the Dell UltraSharp 32 4K USB-C Monitor, which is half the price of the Studio Display or the LG UltraFine. It has a somewhat similar color gamut with 95% DCI-P3 and 99% Rec. 709 color coverage for life-like color.

Dell U3219Q UltraSharp 16:9 IPS Monitor

  • 3840 x 2160 4K UHD Resolution (IPS) Panel
  • DisplayPort + HDMI + USB Type-C Inputs
  • 1300:1 Static Contrast Ratio
  • 400 cd/m² Brightness
  • 178°/178° Viewing Angles
  • 5 ms Response Time (GtG)
  • 1.07 Billion Colors
  • Built-In USB 3.0 Hub
  • VESA Compatible
31.5 Inch

Ben-Q also makes a pair of 4K monitors that are very popular. These are the PD2725U ($950) and the PD2700U ($450) respectively. 

While both are HDR supported, the PD2700U isn’t VESA compliant. But it’s also $500 cheaper. 

BenQ DesignVue Designer 27"

  • 27" In-Plane Switching (IPS) Panel
  • Thunderbolt 3 | HDMI | DisplayPort
  • 3840 x 2160 @ 60 Hz Native Resolution
  • 1200:1 or 1300:1 Static Contrast Ratio

The PD2700U doesn’t have Thunderbolt and only offers 80% of DCI P3 coverage. So that isn’t going to work. However, the PD2725U is worth the extra cost to get 95% of DCI P3 and better Adobe RGB coverage.

Asus has the ProArt Series, which takes its color gamut very seriously. The Asus ProArt PA279CV has upwards of 100% DCI P3 coverage, making it better than Apple’s Studio Display in that regard. It isn’t VESA certified for its HDR support but at $500, it’s a bargain that would be a pretty solid secondary monitor offering. 

ASUS ProArt Display

  • 27" In-Plane Switching (IPS) Panel
  • HDMI | DisplayPort | USB Type-C
  • 2560 x 1440 QHD Resolution @ 75 Hz
  • 1000:1 Static Contrast Ratio
  • 350 cd/m² Brightness
  • 178°/178° Viewing Angles
  • 5 ms Response Time
  • 16.7 Million Colors
  • DisplayPort Out | 65W Power Delivery
  • Integrated Speakers & USB Hub
27 Inch

Lastly, there’s the Lenovo Creative Extreme. The advantage it enjoys over Apple’s Studio Display is that it has mini-LED backlighting, which fans had hoped for in the edge-lit Studio Display. The Creative Extremes claims to have over 1150 dimming zones and a 1,000,000-1 contrast ratio. Plus, it enjoys 100% sRGB, 99% DCI-P3, and 78% BT.2020. 

At $3,500, that makes the Creative Extreme a better alternative to Apple’s ProXDR display rather than an affordable alternative to the Studio Display.

A Siren’s Song Out at Sea

The bottom line is that while Apple’s Studio Display is a bargain within the bubble Apple fans live in, it is largely based on older technologies, rather than being future-proofed for what’s coming. And there will be better offerings down the road. 

In the meantime, don’t be lulled by the siren song of serendipity in the Apple ecosystem. Unless you just like how it looks on your desktop.

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