Apple 24 inch LED Cinema Display with new MacBook/MB Pro

Our new 24 inch Apple LED Cinema Displays arrived this weekend, so I’ve had a few days to use one with my new 15 inch 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro as well as with my wife’s 2.4 GHz MacBook.  Most of my comments are pulled from my experience with my MacBook Pro; and to make a long story short, I am immensely happy with this set-up.  If you’ve been torn between owning a 24 inch iMac or a MacBook Pro with one of these screens and you’ve been leaning toward the portable set-up, there is no real reason now to hold back from it, at least from an experiential standpoint.  The new 24 inch LED display is incredibly bright and clear.

Ours arrived via FedEx, and Apple is now wisely sending the unit’s Apple boxing inside a brown box that protects it a bit more from rough handling and easy theft.  The “native” box for the unit is shown below.

Once you open the box, you come to the top foam “shield” that contains the owner’s manual and warranty information in the “Designed by Apple in California” box located in the shield.  Once you remove the shield, the display unit is immediately visible.  What you can’t see is that part of the power chord is routed into a foam block that helps steady the bottom of the unit and will hang up if you simply pull the unit up and out.  The good news is that it can be easily pried out.   The next picture shows the display sitting on the floor after it’s been removed from the box.  All items in the box are shown.

The paper cover over the display is sealed in the back, and gentle pulling will allow you to pull it apart and remove it.  Plastic shields protect the bottom of the aluminum foot and the Apple logos on the bottom and back of the display. They are easily removed. 

To use the display, you simply position it where you want it, remove the tape holding the power chord and the accessory chords in coils,  plug the power chord into the back of the unit and a power plug, and you’re ready to go.  Of course, you’ve got to have something to plug the unit into.  For the moment, that would be, of necessity, a new MacBook Pro or a new MacBook.  For the purposes of this illustration, I’m going to concentrate on using the display with the former.   The photo below shows the set-up with my new MacBook Pro (lid closed) in place.  I am using it with a Logitech S530 wireless keyboard and mouse as well as with a Logitech Z4 sound system.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the display does not need a big power brick either for itself or to supply power to the MacBook Pro.  The circuitry is apparently internal to the display, as thin as it is.

Of course, the Apple ads show their set-up running with only the three chords that come with the display.  You can get there, of course, if you’re Internet connection is via Airport Extreme and you’re hooked to a Time Capsule backup system or none at all.   I use an Iomega 500 GB Firewire 400/800 external hard drive which plugs into the MBP’s FW 800 port and a Gigabit Ethernet system (wired) which plugs into the Ethernet port on the MBP.  The Apple set-up also assumes you’re going to be happy with the tinny audio that comes from the LED’s speakers, and I suspect very few users will considering the plethora of better sounding computer speaker systems out today.  That means, that nearly all the plugs on the MBP will be taken.  My set-up can be seen below.

This is still a bit less cluttered than my desk was when running a 20 inch Apple Cinema Display with my MBP, something I had to do until the new screen arrived.  My set-up with the 20 inch AL Cinema Display is shown below.

A close-up of the chord clutter follows.  You can clearly see the Apple min Display Port to DVI adapter.  The thick chords immediately behind the unit are associated with the 20 inch display.

So, the new display did cut down on the chord clutter on my desk, despite it taking more chords than Apple marketing showed you.

As for my overall impression of the display, I am immensely pleased with it.  The display is brighter than my 23 inch Apple Cinema Display on my Mac Pro (not shown) and is an almost exact equivalent to the one of the 24 inch iMac.  The unit makes no noise and neither does my MacBook Pro under most circumstances, making for a silent and pleasant working environment.  The display generates a little heat, but you’ll have to be consciously looking for it before you’ll notice it.  Watching high-definition content on this monitor is an absolute pleasure; and, yes, Virginia, with a new MacBook or MacBook Pro, it does play iTunes Store high-definition content. (Forgive the flash flare in the picture below; I don't have the time to "Photoshop" it out!)

Unlike previous generations of Apple displays, this one does not have an ON/Off switch.  Power switching appears to be handled through the display port and the computer.   This has not been a problem so far, but I would feel better with the ability to manually power the display up or down when needed.

To use the display, I hook up all the chords I’m going to use on my MacBook Pro, open the MBP’s lid, punch the power button and listen for the unit’s power up, close the lid, and slide the MBP back into its working position.  The 24 incher almost immediately springs to life, and the rest of the boot process is identical to what you’d experience with a 24 inch iMac.  However, it doesn’t work quite so smoothly with my wife’s new MacBook.  Even if I wait until her desktop appears on her internal display to close its lid, the MacBook often drops into an immediate slumber that can be broken by hitting the Space key but still requires some wait time before the MB correctly configures itself and the display.  It’s a bit more hassle than using the display with the MBP.  We had seen some of that same behavior in the local Apple Store and sometimes had to pull out/push in the display port connector to get the correct configuration.  I’m only talking a minor hassle here and nothing that would make me pause about buying a 24 incher to use with a MacBook; but from what I’ve seen, I suspect you’ll see more glowing reviews coming from the MacBook Pro crowd. (Note: See the 12/13/Update below for more on this.)

Still, if you’re considering a new MacBook and especially a MacBook Pro as a replacement for your desktop and you can afford one of the new Apple 24 inch LED Cinema Displays, go for it!  I’m really happy with mine and my wife likes hers, too.  That said, I’m going to give the unit a 4 CD rating.  If it was working with my wife’s MacBook as flawlessly as it does my MBP and had a power switch, I’d have given it a 5!

Andy's Rating: 4 CD's!

UPDATE: December 10, 2008: More Words on Using the LED Cinema Display with a MacBook/Pro with the Lid Closed

In the paragraphs above, I told you how the display interfaced a bit better with the MacBook Pro than the MacBook during the computers' boot sequences. In both those tests, the computers were powered through the MagSafe power connector that comes with the LED Cinema Display. Subsequently, I've discovered I can run the display with my MacBook Pro disconnected from any power supply, i.e., using the MBP battery alone. This seems to indicate that the new LED display does not need to pull a lot of power from the computer itself. This is a great plus for battery management since I don't have to keep the MBP continously hooked to a power supply and run the risk of degradating the battery. On the other hand, if I have the display hooked to a MacBook and disconnect it from a power supply, it immediately goes to sleep, taking the display with it. The only way I've been able to run my wife's MacBook with the new display is with the MacBook hooked up to power.

UPDATE: December 13, 2008: There's a trick to using the MacBook/Pro with the Lid Closed

I discovered this morning that the differences between our MacBook and MacBook Pro boot sequences were due to a difference in procedure. In other words, using Apple's procedure ( for booting the MacBook when it's hooked up to the 24 inch display was causing a lot of the sleep/hang/disconnect problems we'd been experiencing. Here's the procedure I've been using with my MacBook Pro and the new LED display that gives me a clean boot up, i.e., the exact same experience I'd have if I were doing the whole thing on an iMac:

(1) With the machine off, hook up all your connectors to your MacBook/MacBook Pro(power, USB/keyboard/mouse, mini-Display Port).

(2) Slide the machine forward so you can crack open the display enough to reach the Power button on the MB/MBP.

(3) Push the Power button and IMMEDIATELY close the lid.

(4) Slide the MB/MBP into place.

If you've done this right, you'll get the grey boot screen you'd see if you were booting up the MB/MBP on its native display. This procedure will also work for both the MB/MBP whether the power connector for the notebook is hooked to it or not. You can use this procedure to boot and run the MB/MBP on its battery while using the LED and an external keyboard and mouse with it, helping to extend the notebook's battery life.

The trick to this is to push the power button enough to ensure the boot is occurring but to get the lid closed as early in the boot sequence as you can. It might take you a few trials to get it right, but once you do, I think you'll find that using the MB/MBP with your new LED display will be the great, hassle-free experience you were looking for.