If you’re a fan of the 27in iMac, but don’t want to give up the portability of your MacBook Pro or expandability of your Mac Pro, Apple thinks you’ll love its new 27in LED Cinema Display. The display is basically a 27in iMac without the computer, matching the iMac closely in both specifications and design.

Aside from the few inches of aluminium found on the bottom the iMac’s screen, the Cinema Display shares the same aluminium stand, black border, curved corners and edge-to-edge glossy glass cover. Like the iMac, the display has built-in speakers and iSight camera.

The Cinema Display lacks many ergonomic adjustment abilities. The screen can tilt forward and back, but there’s no way to raise or lower the screen, or rotate it into a portrait mode. A VESA mount (£35) is available, allowing the screen to be mounted on a wall or a more ergonomic stand. OS X’s Displays Preferences recognises the LED Cinema Display and offers standard or 90, 180 or 270 degree rotation options.

Also identical to the iMac are many of the display’s specs. Both use an IPS panel with LED backlight, 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution, 178-degree viewing angle, 375cd/m2 brightness, 1,000:1 contrast ratio and 16.7 million colours. It’s worth noting that many professional-class displays have moved to 10-bit panels offering billions of colours.

On the back of the display are three USB 2.0 ports, a Kensington lock slot, connectors for power, as well as a captive cable with a three-headed multi-plug with Mini DisplayPort, USB 2.0 and MagSafe power connections. Although adaptors for connecting Mini DisplayPort monitors to DVI-equipped Macs exist, Apple doesn’t officially support using the LED Cinema Display on anything but Mini DisplayPort Macs running OS X 10.6.4 or later. It should work with older systems using an adaptor, but if you run into a problem, you’re on your own.

Colour control

The Cinema Display has no buttons. To adjust brightness, you can use the buttons on your Apple keyboard or open the Displays System Preferences pane and move a slider there. You can also turn on or off the ambient light adjustment through Displays Preferences. Other controls, like colour temperature and target gamma, can be accessed through this menu by clicking on the Color button and the Calibrate button. We’re not big fans of the “squint-and-try-to-make-the-Apple-logo-blend-into-the-background” calibration scheme that is still in use with the Mac, and colour professionals will most likely prefer a display with greater control over individual colours settings.

We looked at the display side-by-side with an iMac, as well as with some higher-end displays. Using out-of-the-box settings, the display is bright but not overblown, with very pleasing colours. Photos looked great, the glossy screen adding depth to dark areas of the image. We didn’t find any uniformity issues, dead or stuck pixels or light leakage problems.

The whites and greys on the display were a bit blueish at default settings. Using a Datacolor Spyder3Elite, we calibrated the display to 100cd/m2 and 6,500 degrees Kelvin, and achieved more neutral greys, it also helped bring out a little more of the shadow details in our test photo. The display’s viewing angle was very good, with little loss of contrast or shifting of colours when moving either up or down, or left to right of centre.

Of course, since the display has a glass front, glare can be an issue. Your workspace may not be suited to a glossy monitor and the glare could be distracting on such a large display.

OUR VERDICT

Apple’s 27in LED Cinema Display makes a good companion to any Mac with a Mini DisplayPort connection, but is especially well suited to portable Mac users who can take advantage of the MagSafe power connector and the display’s USB ports to attach keyboards and other peripherals. Its glossy screen and lack of easily accessible colour and ergonomic adjustments might turn off some users, though.