If you were one of the many people pumped at the idea of Apple working on an "affordable" external monitor, then you might've had a mixed reaction to the all-new Studio Monitor. On one hand, it's a gorgeous 27-inch monitor with a stunning 5K Retina display that works perfectly with any Mac. On the other hand, it's not actually that affordable. It starts $1,599, and that price can go up considerably when customized with a height-adjustable stand and non-reflective glass finish.
After testing the Studio Display for the last week, I can tell you that both things are true: it's fantastic, and it's pricey. But it's also important to note that the Studio Display is way more than just an external monitor — it's an all-in-one solution for every Mac user's work-from-home workstation. (And it's pretty awesome when not using for work, too.)
The Studio Display connects to any recent Mac computer via a single USB-C Thunderbolt connection; this supports up to 96 watts of passthrough power, so the display can charge the laptop, too. Inside, the Studio Display packs a wonderful six-speaker sound system (Apple claims it's the best it's ever put in a Mac), a studio-quality microphone, and it has a 12-megapixel ultra-wide webcam, similar to the latest iPad Air. These are all components that aren't integrated in most external monitors; you'd have to purchase them all separately.
Of course, part of the magic of the Studio Monitor is that Apple baked one of its own processors — an A13 Bionic chip, which is used in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro — into it, which allows it to bring over many of the features that Apple users have grown accustomed to in their other products. The speaker system supports Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio, so watching movies and listening to music (especially on Apple Music) is a very immersive experience. And the webcam supports Center Stage, a feature on all the latest iPads that automatically pans and tracks your movements to keep you in frame and in focus.
As far as the design of the Studio Display, it should look fairly familiar. It's very similar to the M1 iMac released in May 2021, but without the chin on the bottom needed to house the computer. And it actually looks a like Apple's only other external display, the $4,999 Pro Display XDR released in the fall of 2019, only without heatsink holes on the back.
The review unit of the Studio Display that I've been testing is the base model and doesn't have the special nano-texture glass finish that costs an extra $300. My home office gets a lot of natural light — it's a south-facing room with a bunch of windows — and I did notice some reflections in the late afternoon, which were a little annoying but not terrible. That said, if your home office has a similar lighting situation, I'm guessing that the matte anti-reflective finish of the nano-texture glass is probably well worth it.
The other customization option you have is to get a stand that you adjust its height, which costs an extra $400, driving up the price of the already expensive monitor to $1,999. It's steep. Again, my review unit came with the default stand (which does tilt, at least), but if you're interested in a most cost-effective way of raising it to your eye level, I'd suggest getting a monitor stand. (I have one by Grovemade.)
Aside from price, one of the only gripes I have with the Studio Monitor is that its port selection leaves a little to be desired. It has three USB-C ports, plus one Thunderbolt for connecting to your Mac — meaning you'll likely have to get an adaptor or a docking station to connect some of your peripherals. (I needed one to upload photos from my SD card, for example.) There's also no headphone jack, either, so if you use wired headphones, you'll have to connect them directly through your Mac. And the Studio Monitor only comes in one color — silver — so it might not match perfectly with your space gray MacBook Pro or gold MacBook Air.
The Studio Monitor is truly the perfect partner for the Mac you already have (or for the also-just-announced Mac Studio, should you get that beast), but it might not be worth it for people who have already invested heavily in an expensive desktop speaker system, external webcam and mic. If you're looking for a similar, slightly more affordable display, you can buy the LG's UltraFine 5K monitor ($1,297)— but not from Apple, who conveniently removed them from its store now that the Studio Display is out in the world.
The Studio Display is available for preorder now and ships tomorrow, March 18th.