The LED Cinema Display is aimed at an altogether different audience to the company's design professional customers of yore. While it shares the same touches of sleek styling and impeccable build quality found in its pro products, this comprehensively featured panel is more for the home consumer who wants a well-designed, great looking display with the minimum of cables.
It's designed solely to work with Apple's new unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops, along with the MacBook Air. Recognising that more than 70% of all Macs sold are now laptops, the company has obviously decided to create something a little special just for this sizable chunk of its customer base.
A single cable stretches from the panel to an Apple notebook, terminating in three connectors - a MagSafe plug for power, Mini DisplayPort for video, plus a single USB plug. A suitable Apple laptop sited alongside the display thus needs no separate power connection, and by taking up the USB option, an extra three USB ports become available from the panel's rear hub.
Duplicating the features on the MacBook itself, the LED Cinema Display has a tiny iSight webcam discreetly hidden in the screen's bezel, and a mic just above that, for use with Apple iChat or Skype web conferences.
Two speakers are hidden below the screen's bottom edge, supplemented by a rear-facing bass speaker on the back of the panel. The result is a wide and spacious stereo soundstage, relatively clear and detailed with enough bass coverage to overcome the typical screen's leaning towards a thin and tinny sound.
Image quality is very good, if not in the professional league. Colours are rich and naturally saturated without being overtly Technicolor, and reasonable black level rendering allows you to differentiate most details in dark corners. And with the help of the purer white LED backlit, whites stay clean and bright.
Text rendering at tiny point sizes remains legible and crisper than you'd find on an entry-level screen, and viewing angles are good enough that you won't be compelled to stay head-on to maintain convincing colour fidelity.
Where the panel falls short in usability is with the same problem that blights the new 13in and 15in notebooks, namely the use of a high-gloss panel finish. As with the new notebooks, this turns the display into an effective but unwanted looking glass in most daylight conditions.
Reflective mirror-like screens are a divisive issue, which will at once separate some potential buyers. But as a one-stop solution for new MacBook owners looking to expand upon existing screen space, the LED Cinema Display works flawlessly. It adds more pixels, up to and beyond Full HD coverage, and also gently augments existing speaker performance. The quality of fit and finish are truly second to none, highlighting Apple’s remarkable attention to detail.