At Apple’s March event, the company announced the Studio Displaya new 27-inch external monitor that starts at $1,599 – a huge price drop from the company’s only other monitor, the Pro Display XDR, which starts at $5,000.
The Studio Display announcement is big news for many who have been waiting for Apple to come up with a replacement for its popular Thunderbolt display, which launched over a decade ago and was finally discontinued in 2016 when Apple completely removed from display activity. In the tech industry, I know many product designers who refused to give up their Thunderbolt displays, limping along with them despite their limited resolutions and outdated ports, in hopes that Apple might eventually release a successor. .
When Apple dropped the Thunderbolt display, it left a big void in the market: there’s hardly any all-in-one display that combines a monitor with a webcam, microphone, speakers. and USB ports in one product. The LG Ultrafine was pushed by Apple as a solutionbut build quality, reliability, and connectivity fell short of the Thunderbolt display, despite the more modern USB-C port.
When the tech industry shifted to full-time remote work in 2020 due to the pandemic, I was surprised at the lack of great options for all-in-one external displays when shopping for a new monitor. . With USB-C appearing on nearly every modern computer, promising high-speed connectivity, display support, and charging all on a single cable, I expected surveillance companies attempt to recreate the success of the Thunderbolt display. But I found few options when looking for one and ended up ordering a simple 4K monitor, separate Logitech webcam, USB hub, and microphone.
Apple’s new Studio Display is the answer, after a decade of waiting, and its specs hit all the right notes. It sports a 5K display (5120×2880 pixels) at 60Hz refresh rate with P3 wide color gamut, a 12-megapixel webcam, three studio microphones for noise cancellation, six built-in speakers and a Thunderbolt 3 port, as well as three USB-C ports to connect all your peripherals. It plugs into a MacBook via a single USB-C Thunderbolt 3 cable, which also charges the laptop while in use.
It stands out from the competition because it is one of the few 5K resolution options available for purchase, but also because Apple has integrated an A13 processor to add additional features such as True Tonewhich adjusts the color temperature based on the ambient light in your room, as well as center stage, which follows you and keeps you in the webcam frame as you move. While it might sound a bit boring, you can also control brightness, sound levels, and other features directly from your Mac’s keyboard hotkeys instead of having to navigate through a display menu at the encrypted screen built into your screen, which is a massive quality of life improvement. .
The most common complaint I’ve seen online about Apple’s new display is that it doesn’t support the company’s ProMotion technology found in its latest computers, which includes a high maximum refresh rate ( 120 Hz) which can only be described as butter. This was never going to happen, however, because the port speed required to achieve this does not yet exist: A 5K resolution at 120 Hz would require 53.08 Gbps, but Thunderbolt 3/4 are only capable of carrying 40Gbps over a single cable. This type of speed is flagged as part of the Thunderbolt 5 standardbut the new technology has not yet been publicly announced and is not yet available on computers.
While many balked at the base price of $1,599, I’d say it’s all worth it for people who need a high-resolution, color-accurate display and spend most of their day in front of it. a screen, especially if they’re working from home – which is especially true for anyone working in the product design industry, like me, but it’s compelling for anyone who’s in meetings all day and would like to give up all accessories.
Being able to plug in a single cable and have a webcam, microphone, and speakers ready to roll for your next video call is a huge improvement over tinkering every time you unplugged your laptop, especially since the built-in microphones are optimized for noise cancellation to make taking video calls over the speakers tolerable for everyone involved. For businesses that hire remote employees, being able to ship a single display that includes all the accessories they’re going to buy individually anyway will likely make it a popular choice for corporate purchases.
Is the Studio Display expensive? Absolutely, but it’s an investment in something you’ll probably use all day, and get years of use out of if the Thunderbolt display legacy is anything to go by. I never thought I would lose $1,599 on a screenbut didn’t hesitate to order one as soon as it became available, as life is too short for bad screens and webcams perched precariously on them.