Apple Studio Display review: The best monitor for your Mac
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  • 25/05/2022
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Apple Studio Display review: The best monitor for your Mac

Screen Size: 27 inchesResolution: 5,120 x 2,880Refresh Rate: 60 HzInputs: 3x USB-C, 1x Thunderbolt 3Dimensions: 24.5 x 18.8 x 6.6 inches (with stand, height tops out at 23 inches w/ optional height-adjustable stand)

The Apple Studio Display ($1,499 to start) is here, and it looks fantastic. This is the first monitor Apple has launched since the Pro Display XDR ($4,999) in 2019, and the Studio Display delivers many of the same benefits in a smaller, more affordable form.

Like the Pro Display XDR, the Studio Display offers useful features for creative professionals, including a range of reference modes and P3 wide color gamut support. But it also has unique features that any Mac user can enjoy, like a killer (for a monitor) six-speaker sound system and a 12MP ultrawide camera that supports Apple's Center Stage feature, courtesy of an onboard A13 Bionic chip.

Apple Studio Display review: Price and availability

The Apple Studio Display goes on sale March 18, though you can already pre-order one via Apple's website. The price starts at $1,599, though that bumps up to $1,899 if you want a Display with nano-texture glass, which cuts down on glare.

You can order the Display with either a stand or a VESA mount for wall- and monitor arm-mounting. However, the default stand only lets you tilt the display back and forward about 30 degrees, which makes it hard to work into an ergonomic workstation. You can pay extra to get a Studio Display with a tilt- and height-adjustable stand, but it'll cost you an extra $400.

I'm over 6 feet tall and thus quite grateful Apple chose to send us a Studio Display review unit with standard glass and the upgraded height-adjustable stand. You can buy the same display for $1,999, though frankly it's outrageous that Apple⁠—a company that makes a show of prioritizing high-quality, well-designed products aimed at making customers' lives easier⁠—can't manage to sell a display without charging $400 extra for the option to adjust the height.

Do check out our showdown between the Apple Studio Display vs Pro XDR Display, and which you should buy.

Many of the best monitors on the market cost less yet have more options for height adjustment, which seems far more kind to customers and their spines. The Gigabyte Aorus FI32U, for example, is an excellent 32-inch 4K gaming monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate, a range of options for adjusting its tilt and height, and it costs just $999.

Also, you should know that Apple claims the Studio Display is only compatible with specific models of MacBook and iPad running macOS Monterey 12.3 or iPadOS 15.4 (or later). Here's the full list of compatible products, per Apple:

Apple Studio Display review: Design

Even the best monitors on the market don't offer features like a built-in 12MP ultrawide camera, a six-speaker sound system, a triple-mic array and an A13 Bionic chip. The Apple Studio Display packs all that into an elegant, professional-looking slab of screen and metal dominated by a 27-inch, 5K screen surrounded by a black bezel just over half an inch thick.

The Display measures 24.5 x 18.8 x 6.6 inches and weighs 13.9 pounds, though if you get the model with a height-adjustable stand it's about 3 pounds heavier (16.9 pounds) and you can adjust the height to anywhere between 18.8 and 23 inches. As much as I hate that you have to pay $400 for this seemingly basic feature, I have to admit that the mechanism for adjusting the Display's height up and down feels smooth and easy to use, yet sturdy enough to last for years.

The Studio's camera is embedded in the center of the top bezel, and unfortunately features no physical privacy shutter. There are also six speakers (4 force-cancelling woofers, 2 tweeters) built into the display that are capable of delivering spatial audio, as well as three microphones. Apple claims these are studio-quality mics that are good enough to make you not regret recording your next demo track in front of a monitor.

Apple Studio Display review: The best monitor for your Mac

Around the back of the Studio Display you'll find a permanently attached power cable routed through a cutout in the stand, which is always a nice touch. On the lower-left side (looking at it from the rear) are three USB-C ports and one Thunderbolt 3 port, which you can use to drive the Studio Display from a compatible Mac, MacBook or iPad. It delivers power too, so if you hook up a MacBook or iPad it can charge the device while in use.

Apple Studio Display review: Screen

The 27-inch 5K(5,120 x 2,880 pixels) screen on the Studio Display looks beautiful in person, displaying over 14.7 million pixels at a density of 218 ppi (pixels per inch).

The Display also supports the P3 wide color gamut and comes pre-configured with a range of reference modes that creatives can switch between as projects demand. These modes adjust settings like white point, gamma and color space, so unless you have a good reason to mess with them you're best off leaving it on the default setting. However, the Studio Display lacks support for the HDR Video reference mode, which makes sense since the Display can't display HDR (high dynamic range) content.

The Studio Display also can't match the 120Hz ProMotion adaptive refresh rate available on a number of other Apple products, including the 2021 MacBook Pros and iPad Pros. This is disappointing, as I'd started to get used to the smooth scrolling afforded by a faster refresh rate. And of course, if you want to display more than 60 frames per second (say, while playing a high-intensity game or editing high-fps footage), you won't be able to on the Studio Display.

Regrettably we haven't yet had time to run Apple's latest monitor through our full gauntlet of display tests, so I can't say for sure how good the Studio Display's color accuracy is, or whether it really delivers on Apple's promise of achieving brightness levels of up to 600 nits. Stay tuned, as we'll soon finish running the Display through our testing regimen and will update this review with the results.

What I can tell you is that it gets quite bright if you crank the brightness up, more than bright enough to use even in direct sunlight. Colors look accurate and really pop once you turn the brightness up. Games like Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous and Total War: Warhammer II look great running in 5K on this monitor, and when I streamed shows like The Wheel of Time I felt like I was watching them on a fancy TV, not my Mac. Of course, the high-quality sound coming out of the Display's speakers probably helped create that illusion.

Apple Studio Display review: Speakers

It's rare for us to devote a whole section of a monitor review to sound quality, but the Apple Studio Display is a rare breed of monitor. The six-speaker sound system built into the Display sounds amazing to my ears, with crisp, clear vocals and some surprisingly heavy bass. I listened through a few Mountain Goats albums and a smattering of other stuff on Spotify via the Display's speakers, and honestly they're the best sound system in my apartment right now.

Perhaps that's not saying much since I'm no speakerhead (until now the best sound system in my apartment was my LG C1 OLED), so let me put it another way: the speakers are my favorite feature of the Studio Display. They're so good I regularly went and sat down in front of the Display just to listen to music, though you have to go easy on the volume because this thing gets loud. When I cranked it up to max I quickly heard my upstairs neighbor get up and walk out of the room. Maybe it was a coincidence — but I'll be on my best behavior around them the next few weeks, just in case.

The Studio Display's speaker array also supports Spatial Audio via Dolby Atmos, which basically means supported music and videos can sound like they're happening around you instead of just on the monitor. Apple's spatial audio tech is already available on a range of devices, and since Apple Music offers a good selection of tracks with spatial audio features I listened to a lot of those while testing the Display's spatial audio quality.

It's a neat feature that does make things sound more immersive, for lack of a better word, but it definitely didn't make me feel like I was hearing things all around me. Instead, the best way I can describe spatial audio is as though sound was originating from a point about six inches in front of the Display, rather than directly from it. Sound projects more, and feels deeper and more impactful, but even when I was watching a live visualization of how specific parts of a track were "moving" around behind my head, I couldn't trick myself into hearing the sound as though it was actually coming from behind me.

Apple Studio Display review: Webcam

The 12MP ultrawide camera built into the top bezel of the Studio Display is excellent, and I was quite happy with the quality of both the images and video it captured of me during the review process. That's a rare thing for me to say about any webcam, but it's not a rare thing to say about an iPad camera, which is effectively what's built into the Studio Display since it has the same camera as the recently-released iPad Air (2022).

Like the iPad Air (and all modern iPads) the Studio Display also supports Apple's Center Stage feature, which intelligently crops and zooms the camera during video calls to keep you in frame as you move around. The Studio Display can do this thanks to its ultrawide camera and onboard A13 Bionic chip, which handles the necessary processing.

I've used Center Stage a few times now on various Apple devices, and it's a cool feature that you really don't need to care about at all unless you spend a lot of time moving around on video calls. On iPads it seems a little more useful since the camera is on a portable device you can set up for wide shots or to show specific scenes or processes (say, while walking a family member through a recipe); on the Studio Display it feels a bit less useful, just because I rarely found a good reason to walk around in front of my monitor during video calls.

Apple Studio Display review: Interface

We typically like to give you a heads-up about how navigable and useful a monitor's interface is, but Apple's Studio Display doesn't have one. In fact, it has no physical interface to speak of: no buttons or knobs, not even a switch to turn it on. When you plug it in to an outlet you may see it briefly flicker to life and display a "..." symbol as it searches for connected devices, but it will otherwise stay dormant.

The only way to interface with the Studio Display is to plug a compatible device in and switch it on, at which point the Studio Display powers on as well. It doesn't just have to be an Apple device, either: I was able to plug an Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 gaming laptop into the Studio Display via USB-C and use Apple's monitor as a secondary display in Windows 11 with little trouble.

Note, however, that Apple says the Studio Display must be connected to a Mac in order to download and install firmware updates.

Apple Studio Display review: Verdict

The Studio Display is a great monitor, one that delivers a lot of the value of Apple's $5,000 Pro Display XDR in a much more affordable package. With its excellent camera, fantastic speaker setup and gorgeous 27-inch 5K screen, this is easily one of the best monitors for MacBook Pro owners seeking an external display.

However, if you plan to use it with non-Apple computers the Studio Display loses a lot of its value. Despite its onboard A13 Bionic chip it's pretty helpless without a computer to drive it, and if that computer isn't running macOS or iPadOS you'll have a hard time using the Display to full effect. When it's not plugged into compatible Apple hardware, the Studio Display is relegated to being an overly expensive secondary display.

But if you're a Mac user, this Display is made for you. I think it's well worth the $1,499 asking price, though I dearly wish Apple wouldn't charge $400 extra for the convenience of being able to adjust it up or down a few inches.

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