The market needed the Apple Studio Display
Apple is finally making non-high-end monitors, and I'm not sure Apple wanted to be in this position.
Up until the 6K Pro XDR display was released in December 2019, Apple hadn't released a new display since 2011. Apple counted on the LG Ultrafine monitors and other hiDPI monitors to be enough for Mac users. But there was a problem. Most monitors are not well designed, and things seem to be getting worse.
Like much in the technology space, monitors have become a race to the bottom price-wise. Yes, monitors have been getting higher resolution with higher refresh rates and better color reproduction, but everything surrounding the displays is often second and third rate.
Take, for example, the 5K 27-inch LG Ultrafine monitor. It retails for $1,299. This is not a cheap monitor.
And yet, it feels cheap. The case is simple, non-refined black plastic. But that's probably the best part.
The 5k Ultrafine has an unbelievably cheap stand. The monitor wobbles on its stand as you type. Can you imagine paying $1,299 for a monitor that wobbles as you type?
That isn't even the jankiest thing about the monitor. My 5K Ultrafine had an issue where the two sides of the display's pixels would not line up from time to time. This giant, dense screen is essentially two panels stuck together, and occasionally the two sides would get out of sync by a few pixels.
This was absolutely maddening and not helpful for someone who spends a good chunk of his day scrutinizing designs.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because supposed premium options built for the Mac like this display were not cutting it. There are plenty of cheap display options, and if you don't care much about the quality of your display or if it is well matched for the way that Apple handles hiDPI, you have plenty of options.
But if you are looking for a display that is purpose-built to be a retina-style hiDPI display that has excellent color reproduction and contrast, your options are very limited.
I suspect Apple did not want to build this display. But the state of the external monitor market made them do it. And Apple's renewed focus on desktop computers that ship without an attached monitor made it a necessity (Mac Mini, Mac Studio, Mac Pro).
The Pro XDR is a $6,000 display that has no market comparisons. It's a high-end display without going full reference monitor. But the market for a $6,000 display is not that big.
It turns out there is a pretty big market for people who need a display that is well made, looks nice, and is premium without being super-premium like the Pro XDR display.
So, yes, you can get a cheaper monitor than the Studio Display. And, yes, you can get a monitor that does very specific things better (high refresh rate for gaming, ultra wide for certain applications, a reference monitor for movie production).
But if you are looking for a premium everyday experience, the Studio Monitor is the best show in town. It may be the only show in town.
It's not just the high-quality display itself, but the entire package, which is tailor-made for a remote work/hybrid work world. The Studio Display probably has the best built-in Webcam you can get, and it will probably end up better than just about all external Webcam options. It also has center stage, which is a neat feature that can pan and zoom on video calls -- something that could come in handy for someone going between talking and a whiteboard.
This display also has a much higher mic and speaker quality than you typically get in a monitor. If you are going to be in video calls for a good chunk of the day, this monitor will help you look and sound really good.
The Studio Display is also clad in sturdy and refined aluminum. The stand is decidedly not janky. It won’t wobble when you type.
Five years ago, it may not have seemed obvious that Apple should be making external monitors. Lots of people make them! Apple mostly sells devices with built-in monitors! And yet here we are.
Apple needed a monitor like the Studio Display for its professional users. It turns out no one else was willing to make it.