Before moving last week, my wife and I packed away all of our belongings. Since my Mac Mini and custom built PC were packed away along with our CRT TVs, we decided to use my monitor, a Samsung T260HD, as a television. Long story short; we loved this monitor as a TV. I’d bet that the T260H isn’t a particularly “good” LCD TV, but it was a huge step up from a little 18″ CRT whose place it took.
If my current monitor would be our new TV, I needed a new monitor, and I decided I wanted one with 2560X1440 or 2560X1600 resolution. The monitors I researched were:
1. Apple Thunderbolt Display
2. Apple LED Cinema Display
3. Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D
4. HP ZR2740w
5. Dell UltraSharp U2711
Each needed to attach to a 2011 Mac Mini Server, a 2010 MacBook Pro, and a custom built PC. The Mini and the PC needed to be attached at all times, while the MacBook Pro was transient.
I should note that I am not an expert in monitor hardware and would never claim to be one. This is just an exploration from the perspective of a layman who works mostly in Xcode, does some amateur Photoshopin’, and a dabbles in 3D modeling from time to time.
The Apple Thunderbolt Display was the first monitor I took a look at. Having everything pumping through that single thunderbolt cords sounds awesome; so clean, and neat. Unfortunately things get less than ideal when you have more than one Mac. Things get downright impossible when you add a non-Mac in the mix.
Macs without a thunderbolt port are unable to use this monitor, so that eliminated the MBP. Since there are currently no thunderbolt video cards at the time of this writing for the PC, it couldn’t use the Thunderbolt Display as well. The Mac Mini was the only machine I had that could utilize this display.
Even if I had to two thunderbolt Macs, there is no KMV switch available to conveniently switch between them. I would have had to physically plug and unplug the machines when I wanted to alternate which machine was driving the display.
Not being able to use 2 out of my 3 machines with this display was a deal breaker, to say the least. It seems pretty clear that the Thunderbolt display is really meant to be a MacBook docking station with a screen.
With the Apple LED Cinema Display, Apple, once again, limited itself with input port options.
The ACD uses a single Mini DisplayPort which actually would work with all three of my machines. For about $150 I could have picked up a PC video card with a Mini DisplayPort output. So what’s the problem with this one? Well, the only Mini DisplayPort KVMS available are expensive and are (for the most part) poorly reviewed.
Apple seems to build monitors with the assumption that one monitor is exclusively tied to one machine. I suppose this might be the case 99% of the time, but it is not my situation.
It looked as if the non-Apple monitors were my only options.
The Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D has seen mostly favorable reviews. However, it is not an IPS panel and is apparently prone to horizontal color shifting issues per the reviews on amazon.com. My current monitor has color shift issues, and I wanted to avoid this with the next monitor.
The HP ZR2740w has been favorably reviewed. It also features a similar (same?) panel than what dwells in Apple’s monitor offerings. Unfortunately, The input connections are limited with only a DVI, and a DisplayPort input available. This means that a DVI or DisplayPort KVM would be necessary to access all three of my machines. Like the Apple Cinema Display, finding an inexpensive KVM for the DisplayPort or DVI port (that supports the 2560X1440) is currently impossible.
The Dell UltraSharp U2711, like the ZR2740w, has been favorably reviewed. Beyond being a high resolution monitor, its claim to fame has been a wide color gamut. The only downside to this monitor is that it still uses CCFL backlighting, which means it has to “warm up” before reaching its full brightness. Other than that, it has just enough connections for my needs that can drive the monitor at its full resolution (2 DVI, 1 DisplayPort). It’s also comparably priced to the HP and Samsung, and priced lower than the Apple monitors (of course).
So, in the end, I decided on the Dell U2711. Did I actually buy the Dell? Nope. I retained the Samsung T260H as my monitor and I returned to the CRT world for TV watchin’. My samsung 1920X1200 monitor works fine, and it turns out that I don’t really care about TV. A high resolution monitor would have been nice, but it isn’t worth ~900 dollars when I have a perfectly fine monitor already.