The Best Apple Studio Screen Alternatives

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Apple’s Peek Performance event unfolded with its signature flair and once again surprised the PC industry with a new chip, the M1 Ultra, which looks set to raise the bar for performance and power. energy efficiency in the real world. Still, the Apple Studio Display looks like a dud by comparison.

The Studio Display is a fairly unremarkable 27-inch flagship monitor. It features edge-lit backlighting instead of the more desirable Mini-LED technology found in some MacBook Pro and iPad Pro models.

As a result, it can’t claim the 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio of Apple’s Pro Display XDR and has a peak brightness of 600 nits which, while high, is available elsewhere. At least it offers 5K resolution, which is rare outside of Apple’s ecosystem.

Despite modest specs, the Studio Display sells for $1,599. Why? It contains several extras, including a powerful audio system and a webcam coupled with an A13 chip for image processing. That’s fine, but many photographers and creators turn to it and Mac Studio are enthusiasts who use a large-format camera as a webcam and already have a decent sound system.

Apple neglected to include a competitive ergonomic stand with the monitor: it’s tilt-only to begin with. Upgrading to height adjustment is $400, which is quality material, but a terrible price. At least there’s a VESA mount variant that lets you use a third-party monitor arm.

Mac superfans who want a monitor they can use right out of the box without any issues will like the Studio Display. If you don’t collapse in hives the moment you glance at a user manual, you better buy one of these alternatives.

Contents

BenQ PD2725U

BenQ PD2725U

Key specs:

  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160
  • Size: 27 inches
  • Color gamut: 100% sRGB, 95% DCI-P3
  • Factory Calibrated: Yes
  • HDR: VESA DisplayHDR 400 certified
  • USB-C: Yes, 65 watts of power

Do you want to buy a monitor for photography and don’t want to waste time searching? Awesome. Just buy the BenQ PD2725Uwhich generally retails for $950.

BenQ’s DesignVue monitors are still my go-to recommendation for anyone serious about image quality. Why? It’s simple. BenQ’s PD2725U offers 4K resolution, excellent color accuracy, and a wide color gamut at an affordable price.

I’ve tested several BenQ DesignVue monitors over the past few years and found each to have an average color error of less than 1.5 (tested with a SpyderX Elite). The PD2725U can also handle 95% DCI-P3 as well as loads of gamma, color temperature and color calibration options to tune the screen to your needs. Calibration is made easy by a wired puck controller that acts like a remote control, letting you make adjustments without awkwardly bending over to use the on-screen buttons.

There are a few downsides. This, like the Apple Studio Display, is a run-of-the-mill IPS monitor with an edge-lit backlight. It has a decent contrast ratio for the category, but that’s no wonder. Brightness is also mediocre at a maximum of 400 nits.

The ergonomics are excellent. The monitor has a versatile stand that adjusts in height, rotation, tilt and can swivel 90 degrees for use in portrait mode. On the back, you’ll find Thunderbolt 3 with up to 65 watts of power, plus two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort.

BenQ PD2700U

benpd2700u

Key specs:

  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160
  • Size: 27 inches
  • Color gamut: 100% sRGB
  • Factory Calibrated: Yes
  • HDR: HDR supported, not VESA certified
  • USB-C: No

If you are on a budget, BenQ PD2700U is an excellent alternative to the PD2725U.

The PD2700U is extremely similar to the PD2725U. It has 4K resolution and is essentially identical in terms of color accuracy and contrast. Peak brightness is just under 350 nits, although HDR is still supported (although it’s safe to say that HDR can’t be HDR without at least 400 nits of brightness). The stand has the same ergonomic adjustments as this monitor’s more expensive sibling, but the puck controller is absent. Thunderbolt 3 is also dropped at this lower price.

And wow, is the lower price. The BenQ PD2700U regularly sells for around $500 and has been known to dip below $450 during major sales and holidays. It is a crying affair.

There’s just one downside for photographers to note: it’s not a wide-gamut monitor, so it can only cover around 80% of DCI-P3 and even less of AdobeRGB. This will definitely be a problem if your work will be printed or needs to conform to a wide gamut.

Still, it’s hard to call it a flaw considering the price, and the PD2700U is excellent for photographers with less demanding needs.

Asus Pro Art PA279CV

Asus ProArt

Key specs:

  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160
  • Size: 27 inches
  • Color gamut: 100% sRGB
  • Factory Calibrated: Yes
  • HDR: HDR supported, not VESA certified
  • USB-C: Yes, 65 watts of power

the Asus Pro Art PA279CV is similar to BenQ’s PD2700U. It offers 4K resolution, solid color accuracy, and an adjustable ergonomic stand. The price? Only $500 at most online retailers.

Image quality is broadly similar to that of the BenQ PD2700U. Color accuracy is factory calibrated and a wide range of image quality options will help you tune the image to your liking. The monitor’s contrast ratio hovers a little above 1,000:1 and its brightness, like the BenQ, hits a high of around 350 nits.

The range of colors is again worth noting. The PA279CV again offers 100% sRGB and Rec.709 but promises nothing for DCI-P3 or AdobeRGB. It’s a shame, but a wide color gamut is elusive if you want to spend $500 or less.

Asus’ main advantage over the PD2700U is the USB-C port. It provides 65 watts of power and DisplayPort Alternate Mode, so you can connect and charge select laptops. You’ll also find four additional USB-A ports, making the monitor a useful USB hub when connecting via USB-C.

Dell Ultra Sharp U2723QE

dell u2723qe

Key specs:

  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160
  • Size: 27 inches
  • Color gamut: 100% sRGB, 98% DCI-P3
  • Factory Calibrated: No
  • HDR: VESAHDR 400 display
  • USB-C: Yes, 90 watts of power

A brand new monitor, the U2723QE Ultrasharp has yet to cross my desk, however, Dell Ultrasharp monitors have rarely disappointed in the past and the U2723QE’s feature set is exceptional. for $800 and can often be found for as low as $625.

It’s one of Dell’s first monitors with a 4K IPS Black panel, a new technology from LG that lowers black levels to double the contrast ratio from 1000:1 to 2000:1. OLED it’s not, but a jump like that will be noticeable. You’ll enjoy enhanced depth and realism when viewing high-contrast photos. The U2723QE also supports a wide color gamut which claims 100% sRGB and 98% DCI-P3 coverage. HDR is also supported.

But wait – there’s more! The U2723QE is also a USB-C hub monitor that offers up to 90 watts of power. That’s enough to support mid-range Windows laptops and any MacBook. The hub expands to five USB-A ports, one USB-C port, Ethernet, and a DisplayPort output.

What’s the catch? I’d say there isn’t – not at this price – but photographers should note that this is not an UltraSharp Premier Color monitor and does not promise factory calibration. Readers who need the best possible color accuracy should consider the Ultrasharp UP2720Q. However, this monitor costs more than double the price and lacks both the IPS Black panel and the USB-C hub. The new U2723QE is a better value for the most part.

Lenovo Thinkvision Creator Extreme

Lenovo Thinkvision Creator Extreme

Key specs:

  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160
  • Size: 27 inches
  • Color gamut: 100% sRGB, 98% DCI-P3
  • Factory Calibrated: No
  • HDR: VESAHDR 400 display
  • USB-C: Yes, 90 watts of power

The monitors I’ve covered so far are value Studio Display alternatives that offer most of the quality at a lower price – but now is the time to pull out the big guns.

from Lenovo Thinkvision Creator Extreme is a 27-inch monitor with a Mini-LED backlight that features 1,152 dimming zones. That’s twice as much as Apple’s $4,999 Pro Display XDR. For this reason, the monitor can claim a contrast ratio of up to 1,000,000:1. A 5,000:1 ratio is more realistic in real-world use, but it’s still a massive and obvious leap from the 1,000:1 ratio of most professional monitors with an IPS panel.

The Mini-LED backlight also provides excellent HDR performance. This monitor is VESA DisplayHDR 1000 certified, which means it can deliver peak brightness over 1000 nits. While other monitors on this list technically support HDR, this is the only monitor that works well enough for (most) people creating content specifically for HDR.

Color performance is also excellent, with wide color gamut support promised to handle 100% sRGB, 99% DCI-P3 and 78% BT.2020. This monitor is factory calibrated and promises an average color error of less than DeltaE 1.

Only one problem: this monitor is sold at retail for $3,500. Online prices drop to $3,289, which is still a lot of money. The price seems justified, as this monitor offers similar performance to Apple’s Pro Display XDR and well beyond the Studio Display, but it’s still a lot.

Save your money! Other alternatives are coming

Want a monitor that performs like the Lenovo ThinkVision Creator Extreme but doesn’t have more than $3,000 to spend? Hold on.

As I noted in an earlier cover on pc world and thread of life, everything indicates that the monitor market is about to experience a small revolution. Prices for mini-LED monitors are dropping fast, and while not all models are suitable for photography, most will work quite well.

OLED monitors are also on an affordable trajectory thanks to QD-OLED technology, which has arrived in Alienware’s surprisingly affordable lineup. AW3423DW. Samsung is also offering a 34-inch QD-OLED ultrawide coming later this year. I expect OLED monitors to remain scarce until 2023, but the situation seems to be improving.

New Mini-LED and OLED monitors will push picture quality to new heights and, if trends continue, priced competitively or below Apple’s Studio Display. As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.


Picture credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.


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