Apple Studio Display vs iMac: How Do the Screens Compare?

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Which monitor is superior between the Apple Studio Display and the iMac? For years, at least since the introduction of the retina display to the product line, Apple has been praised for its screens. On Apple displays, you receive clear high-resolution and pixel density.

With that in mind, how does the Apple Studio Display compare to the display on an iMac? For many years, the iMac has had a superb display, but the Studio Display may be directly comparable.

Consider how eager Apple is to recycle and cannibalize pieces of its product range. It is entirely possible that the iMac’s display is functionally identical to the Studio Display.

So you might as well settle in as this guide delves into whether the Apple Studio Display is truly worth its asking price.

Apple Studio Display vs. iMac: Side-by-Side Comparison

Apple Studio Display iMac
Resolution 5120 2880 5120 2880
Refresh Rate 60Hz 60Hz
Speakers Included Yes Yes
Microphone Included Yes Yes
Webcam Yes Yes
MSRP $1,599 Starts at $1,299 for M1 24-inch model
HDR Support No Yes
Brightness 600 nits 500 nits

There are numerous parallels between these two shows. You would be correct if you thought these two were cut from the same fabric. However, there are some minor distinctions to be made.

Apple Studio Display vs. iMac: What s the Difference?

So, with the preliminary specifications out of the way, it’s time to compare these two screens.

Performance

Great for MacBooks

Apple Studio Display


$1,499.00

  • Immersive 27-inch 5K Retina display with 600 nits of brightness, support for one billion colors, and P3 wide color
  • 12MP Ultra Wide camera with Center Stage for more engaging video calls
  • Studio-quality three-mic array for crystal-clear calls and voice recordings
  • Six-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio for an unbelievable listening experience
  • One Thunderbolt 3 port, three USB-C ports
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08/07/2023 06:58 pm GMT

In general, these two displays are nearly comparable in most ways. You still have the same 5K resolution on both. One notable absence is the lack of HDR capability on the Studio Display, which is an unexpected omission.

When it comes to general color reproduction and the like, however, both the Studio Display and the iMac display perform admirably. You get rich blacks, great whites, and a variety of other characteristics.

Both monitors have webcams, speakers, and microphones integrated in. They effectively function as entire multimedia stations for your Mac experience. The only major difference is that the iMac comes with an entire computer.

Image Quality

Both displays have the same high 5K resolution that you may have come to expect from the iMac display family. These are sharp and vivid screens that are ideal for graphic design and design work.

They suffer from a low refresh rate, reaching a maximum of 60Hz with possibilities for lower overall framerates. Higher framerates would be ideal in terms of overall reactivity.

Surprisingly, the iMac 24-inch with the Apple M1 processor does handle HDR content right out of the box. Users who have tested the Apple Studio Display have observed a noticeable lack of HDR compatibility right out of the box.

So, if you want more contrast, the iMac display might be a better overall choice.

Audio Support

All-in-One Power

Apple 2021 iMac M1


$1,298.95

  • 24-inch Retina display
  • 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage
  • Compatible with Microsoft 365, Adobe, iPhone/iPad apps
  • Supports Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
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08/08/2023 11:01 am GMT

The speaker array on both of these displays is exactly the same. Six speakers are set right beneath the display. Dolby Atmos audio spatialization is available, thus you have a lot of power when playing supported media.

To be honest, the speakers on both of these displays are outstanding. When you adjust in your desired EQ settings, they offer minimal distortion at higher levels and sound fine with most materials.

The microphone on offer is also excellent, with three microphones in total and directional beamforming to help obtain the finest signal possible. They won’t cut it in terms of performance for things like studio recordings.

However, for services like Facetime, Zoom, and Discord, they are more than adequate.

Apple Silicon Support

The Apple Studio Display is compatible with the most recent Macs, including the MacBook product line, which uses the new M2 processors. This is fantastic because many external monitors for the Mac family of computers lack the pixel density required to do the operating system justice.

Unfortunately, the 24-inch iMac only supports the M1 chip family. However, knowing Apple, a product upgrade is on the way. Users should expect to see an M2 iMac in the near future.

Both of these monitors currently support Apple Silicon CPUs natively. Apple is heavily focusing on its own native architecture, therefore it stands to reason that all future products will include compatibility out of the box.

The Apple Studio Display earns points for remaining compatible with Intel-based Macs as well as the Apple Silicon product range.

Inputs and Outputs

Mac Mini M2 vs iMac
Both the iMac and Apple Studio Display come with Thunderbolt ports for connectivity.

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The 24-inch iMac lacks ports, which are a key item in today’s market. You get two Thunderbolt ports that can also serve as USB Type-C connectors.

There are now external displays on the market that can be powered via a Type-C connector. However, it begs the issue of why Apple couldn’t simply put HDMI connections on the machine itself, especially given the Mac Mini already has HDMI connectors.

In terms of overall inputs, the Apple Studio Display wins. You get a Thunderbolt port as well as three USB Type-C ports.

The Thunderbolt connector provides 96 watts of power, which is more than enough to run a MacBook. Aside from the basic connection to connect the monitor to your Mac, you may effectively utilize the display as a USB hub.

Apple Studio Display vs. iMac: Must-Know Facts

  1. The Apple Studio Display is a lower-cost alternative to the Apple Studio Display XDR.
  2. The Apple Studio Display has four ports in total for connecting devices.
  3. The Apple Studio Display is effectively a standalone iMac 27-inch monitor.
  4. The iMac display has a better webcam than the Studio Display.
  5. The iMac benefits from having a complete computer around it for the same cost.
  6. The iMac does natively support HDR content.

Apple Studio Display vs. iMac: Which One is Better? Which One Should You Choose?

So, which of these two displays is the true winner? If you’re looking for a nice display for your MacBook, the Studio Display is an easy choice. However, the overall price is a detriment, as it costs the same as an iMac.

The iMac is an excellent choice for people who want to get started with a desktop Mac. It is not as huge as the Studio Display, but it does support HDR video natively.

It is an excellent solution if you want to utilize your Mac as a multi-purpose station for both productivity and media pleasure. The lack of the newer M2 chip is concerning, but the M1 still has enough of life in it.

It all comes down to personal preference. If you’re willing to take the cost sacrifice and already own a MacBook Pro, go with the Studio Display.

Users on the fence would be well served by the iMac, providing they do not require portability.

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