A subjective evaluation of the image quality revealed one problem – a noticeable after-image on the matrix. For example, if you output a bright white grid on a black background for 20-30 minutes, the trace of that grid will “shine through” the image for a while afterwards. As opposed to plasma panels or old CRT monitors in which the phosphors would burn out irrecoverably, the after-image on LCD panels is a temporary thing. The picture becomes normal by itself (and you can facilitate the process by outputting a white and a black solid fill alternately).
To avoid the after-image effect, you should use a screensaver with some moving picture.
The gamma curves look very good, being very close to the theoretical curve for gamma 2.2. Yes, Apple’s monitors now comply with the sRGB standard and work with gamma 2.2 like monitors for the PC. To remind you, Apple’s platform used to have a gamma of 1.8, while the PC had a gamma of 2.5 (this is the “native” gamma of the cathode-ray tube). One of the aims of the sRGB standard was to standardize the value of gamma, and 2.2 was accepted as the medium value between the PC and Apple.
The color temperature proved to be rather uniform on grays but low on white. As a result, white looks warmer than gray on the Cinema HD.
I measured the response time only on transitions from black to different levels of gray due to technical reasons, but the diagram shows definitely that the monitor uses an ordinary S-IPS matrix without Response Time Compensation. It is fast enough for work, movies and even games as it is somewhat faster on average than RTC-less TN matrixes (those that have a specified response of 5 milliseconds or higher). On the other hand, it is definitely slower than modern matrixes (of any type) with RTC.
Although the monitor allows to regulate the brightness setting only, the adjustment range for the level of white is impressive: from 63 nits to over 330 nits. It means you won’t have to change your graphics card’s settings to achieve a comfortable brightness on the Cinema HD. At the minimum value the brightness is just what you need for working at home in the evening. At the maximum value, the brightness suits for playing games and watching movies under bright daylight. The contrast ratio is not high, but it has never been a strong point of S-IPS technology.
Of course, the Apple Cinema HD deserves your attention as a high-quality and neat monitor with a nice exterior design. It is mainly meant for the home user who doesn’t need as many setup options as competing products offer, who doesn’t need the portrait mode or height adjustment, but who can appreciate its aesthetic appearance, simplicity of use, and good technical parameters “out of the box”.
On the other hand, many people regard Apple monitors as products for professionals who need the most accurate reproduction of colors. As you have seen above, this is not exactly true. The Cinema HD is set up well, but not perfectly. Compared with the NEC MultiSync 2190UXi, for example, the Cinema HD is inferior in every aspect as it has somewhat worse gamma curves, a less accurate color temperature setup, and a noticeable after-image effect. And it doesn’t have image setup options except for brightness. While NEC’s UXi series has earned a reputation of near ideally set-up monitors, ready for work even without calibration (not to mention that the SpectraView version of the monitors allows for a full-featured hardware calibration of the monitor’s LUT), you’ll need a calibrator if you want to do some serious work on the Cinema HD.
Talking about the home user again, the drawbacks of the Cinema HD are its rather low (but quite sufficient for many applications) matrix speed, after-image effect, and the lack of height adjustment. The latter can be corrected, though, if you buy a VESA compatible mount and a special plate to fasten it to the monitor. If you are not taken aback by anything in this list, the Apple Cinema HD is going to be a good choice as a home monitor although I can’t say it surpasses its opponents greatly in anything, except for the exterior design.
I want to note once again that modern monitors from Apple easily work with the PC platform if the latter has a DVI connector. You don’t need adapters, special software or drivers for that.