Don’t Buy an Apple Monitor for Your Mac (Buy One Instead)
There are plenty of external monitors on the market, but many Mac users (myself included) naturally gravitate toward the aesthetics and features of Apple monitors: a quality display, great speakers, ease of use, and of course, an aesthetic that blends with the rest of Apple products. So yes, Apple Studio Display might seem like the obvious choice, but take a look at Samsung’s new offering and you might feel different.
The Apple Studio Display is great on paper. The 27-inch 5K monitor bears a resemblance to the company’s outrageously expensive Pro Display XDR monitor (both look a bit like a chinless silver iMac) and hits 600 nits of brightness. On the downside, it doesn’t support HDR or local dimming, which is a shame for a display in this price range (more on that later).
The Studio Display features a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera – the same as the iPad – making it Apple’s first non-tablet product to support Center Stage. But initial reviews indicated that the quality of the camera is “not great”, although Apple says the issues can be fixed with a software update (yes, an external monitor software update).
One interesting thing about this monitor is that it’s actually powered by the A13 Bionic, the same chip found in the iPhone 11 line; Apple says it uses this chip for features like Center Stage, Spatial Audio, and “Hey Siri.” We will have to see if the company takes advantage of this chip to implement additional features in the future as they are already releasing software updates.
The monitor is also equipped with four USB-C ports, one of which is Thunderbolt. It supports display and charge with a one-cable setup, which means you can work on the big screen for as long as you need, knowing your laptop is charging if you need to hit the road.
It all sounds great (except for the crummy camera). So what’s the downside? Well, price: Studio Display starts at $1,599. Add $300 if you want the nanotexture glass option and $400 for a height-adjustable stand; both will raise the price to $2299. For display. In contrast, you can buy the M1 iMac for $1299.
The display market offers a ton of other displays that offer many of these features (and more) for significantly less money. And Samsung’s new offering could be the best of them all.
Enter Samsung M8 smart monitor
If you’re looking for something like the Studio Display but don’t want to take on a second mortgage, Samsung’s latest monitor, the Smart Monitor M8, is enticing. In terms of design, the display looks very Apple and is available in four different color options (white, green, pink and blue). It’s 32 inches, offering an additional five inches of screen real estate over the Studio Display, but at a lower 4K resolution. That said, 4K is the standard for high resolution displays, so it’s not a problem unless you need a 5K panel. It also supports HDR 10+ which is a huge improvement over Studio Display. HDR content on this display is really popular.
While it doesn’t come with a built-in webcam, Samsung does ship a SlimFit camera in the box. This camera plugs into the back of the monitor for a low-profile look and is completely removable so you don’t have to look at SlimFit all day if you don’t need it. It comes with both Bixby (Samsung’s smart assistant) and Amazon Alexa, and you can still use Siri through your Mac if you plug it in.
Speaking of connections, the M8 supports AirPlay, making it easy to stream content from your iPhone, iPad or Mac without connecting any cables. If you want to connect via cable, this monitor also supports one plug-in for display and charging, just like Studio Display.
It’s also a standalone smart TV that lets you stream shows and movies from Samsung TV Plus without the need for a laptop or streaming device. I only use monitors when connected to my laptop, so I’m not likely to use this feature. But hey, it’s an option.
But what really sets the M8 apart from the Studio Display is the price: the white model costs $699, while a choice of blue, green, or pink options adds another $30. This means the Apple Studio Display costs more than twice as much. When you’re comparing two monitors side by side, it’s hard to recommend the Studio Display – the Samsung Smart Monitor M8 is clearly superior.