|Apple LED Cinema Display 24″|
Apple’s new 24″ LED Cinema Display is a great piece of equipment. It’s silver-clad, svelte, and you can’t deny its good looks. But it has a couple of shortcomings, namely price and a little something called DisplayPort. After looking at a lot of other LCD displays, I was surprised to find that the relatively inexpensive HP w2408h is actually a great alternative to the Apple LED Display. It even looks a a lot like it.
Although Apple’s 24″ LED Cinema Display may be great, its greatness comes at a relatively steep price: $899.00 (US). In contrast , you can find the HP w2408h 24″ LCD Display for only $399.00 (US).
The Apple uses LED backlighting, which is probably the future for all panels. However, the HP is actually a pretty decent panel, especially for a “TN” (twisted neumatic) style panel. The HP sports a Samsung-manufactured panel with a wide 92% color gamut range, which is noticeably superior to most LCD displays which are lucky if they can reach 70% of the NTSC gamut range. Apple does not advertise the gamut range for their display, but overall it does have good color. If you are concerned about gamut range, you can’t go wrong with the HP.
The LED backlighting in Apple’s display allows for “instant on” with no warm up. This is great, but in actual use, the “warm up” time for the HP is really quite short. It also turns on instantly, and most users will never notice if the colors are fully warmed up for a few seconds or even a few minutes. The issue of warm-up, which has to do with the backlighting, is really a vestige from the CRT days. The fluorescent lamp in most modern LCD displays turns on and warms up very rapidly.
Apple’s display has better viewing angles, in theory, compared to the HP which are hindered by the “TN” panel. However, as I found out, the glossy treatment and extensive amount of adjustment provided by the HP’s stand virtually eliminates most viewing angle issues. In comparison with other “TN” panels on my test bench at the same time (whose viewing angles were also specified as 160 degrees), the HP was far better.
HP’s stand is one of the best LCD stands available. Period. Without being obtrusive, it provides for swivel, tilt, an enormous range of vertical adjustment, and it also provides pivoting to portrait mode. (FYI: Due to its “TN” panel, the HP’s portrait mode will reduce the viewing angle to one side of the screen, which will actually be the bottom of the panel when pivoted.) In fact, the sturdy spring-loaded display is so adjustable, that you can lift, tilt, and flatten out your panel like a table-top and make your screen face the ceiling. Compare that to a few degrees of tilt!
In contrast, the Apple stand is very simple, albeit sleek. It only allows for tilt.
One of the great advantages of the HP’s range of vertical adjustment is that you can lower it very close to your desk. There are a new wave of LCDs coming out that are built to be relatively flush with a desk to mimic a laptop. With the HP, you get that feature ahead of time. For designers using graphics tablets, bringing the display closer to the desk is a big plus.
Both the Apple and the HP give you room to stow keyboards, mice, graphics tablets, and other items on the stand under the panel.
The HP acts as a 4 port USB hub and provides 2 USB ports in the back and 2 USB ports on the side for easy access. The Apple display provides 3 USB ports, all of which are on the back of the display. The HP’s side mounted ports are especially convenient if you need to quickly change out devices.
Unlike any other LCD display on the market, Apple’s LED Cinema Display provides a MagSafe connection to power their MacBook and MacBook Pro models. This avoids the use of the Macbooks’ power adapter when connected and is a great feature if you find it time consuming to frequently unpack your Macbook’s power adapter. I’m not sure if its worth an extra $500.00, but it does eliminate cable clutter and complexity.
DisplayPort, DisplayPort, DisplayPort. If you have a new MacBook, congratulations, you can connect to the Apple LED Display. If not, you may be out of luck. The Apple display only provides for connection with DisplayPort which is different from HDMI, DVI and VGA. There are adapters readily-available for connecting new MacBooks (with their “mini” DisplayPort) to non-DisplayPort monitors, but the reverse is not so easy. Although DisplayPort is a digital signal, similar to HDMI and DVI, it is totally different and computers with DVI, HDMI, or VGA outputs do not send out the right signal, even with little adapters.
In contrast, the HP provides for HDMI and VGA connectivity. And if you want to use DVI, a simple DVI-HDMI adapter or cable will work just fine. Older MacBooks with mini-DVI connections can connect using an adapter or appropriate cable. New MacBooks can connect using an adapter and an appropriate cable. PCs with DVI, HDMI or VGA can also connect. Plus, I noticed that the VGA connection on the monitor is quite sharp and stable. Running at only 60hz, the VGA connection on the HP is a viable one for long term use and is vitually indistinguishable from a digital connection.
5. Bells and Whistles
Apple’s display has an integrated iSight camera, a microphone and speakers.
HP’s display does not have a camera or microphone, but it does have speakers. Plus, it has an ambient light sensor which, when enabled, allows the monitor to automatically dim or brighten in response to lighting changes in the room. If you’ve ever used a Huey or a Huey Pro, you will know what I mean.
As far as speakers, I won’t spend much time discussing them. Little speakers on a monitor are really only good for quiet listening. Luckily, neither the Apple or the HP has its speakers mounted on the front of the display.
Because it is intended to connect to both Macs and PCs, the HP has on-screen adjustments that the Apple does not provide. One neat feature is that the HP allows the user to turn-off the LED light in the on/off button. If you ever wanted to get rid of the distracting power-on LED light on your monitor, your prayers have been answered. (FYI: It also turns off the “sleep” LED as well.)
One additional feature that the HP has is a silver frame around a gap that surrounds the outside edge of the display. Items can be attached to this frame and HP sells a kit with some attachments for the frame (a flower holder, note holder, headphone hanger, etc.). Unfortunately HP does not include the kit with the monitor.
As expected, the Apple display is streamlined. The face of Apple’s display has a flush black frame. Apple’s display is glossy and the gloss is accomplished by a seamless sheet of glass or plexiglass across the entire face of the display, which covers both the actual panel and its frame. Very sleek. The glossy treatment continues to cause debate, but it does visibly increase the contrast and black levels of the display.
The HP is actually somewhat Mac-like. It too has a black frame and a lot of silver on display (no pun intended). However, its frame is not flush with the panel itself, and protrudes roughly a quarter of an inch. Both the frame and the panel itself are glossy. However, in contrast with the Apple, HP’s gloss is accomplished by a glossy treatment that is applied directly to the panel and is part of their “BrightView” display manufacturing. Unlike the Apple display, pressure applied to the HP’s screen (with an index finger for example) allows you to flex the LCD panel and see the liquid move as you would on typical LCD screens. Like Apple’s glossy treatment, HP’s glossy treatment also increases the black levels, contrast, and makes colors more vivid.
Overall, the HP is a great bargain at $500.00 less than the Apple. You get some Mac-like looks, glossy treatment, an incredible stand, and vivid colors with deep blacks. Neither the HP or the Apple will win any awards for perfect color calibration, but the 92% gamut of the HP does put it a step above most LCDs on the market. And unless you have a new MacBook, you probably won’t be able to connect to the new Apple 24″ LED display. Need the Apple cool factor without the budget? Try simply removing the w2408h’s HDMI sticker and applying an Apple sticker over the HP logo.
If you feel that another LCD monitor is a good alternative to the Apple 24″ LED Cinema Display, leave your comments.
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