Apple Inc. sold a variety of LCD and CRT computer displays in the past. Apple paused production of their own standalone displays in 2016 and partnered with LG to design displays for Macs. In June 2019, the Pro Display XDR was introduced, however it was expensive and targeted for professionals. Nearly three years later, in March 2022, the Studio Display was launched as a consumer-targeted counterpart to the professional monitor. These two are currently the only Apple-branded displays available.
In the beginning (throughout the 1970s), Apple did not manufacture or sell displays of any kind, instead recommending users plug-into their television sets or (then) expensive third party monochrome monitors. However, in order to offer complete systems through its dealers, Apple began to offer various third party manufactured 12″ monochrome displays, re-badged as the Monitor II.
Apple's manufacture history of CRT displays began in 1980, starting with the Monitor /// that was introduced alongside and matched the Apple III business computer. It was a 12″ monochrome (green) screen that could display 80×24 text characters and any type of graphics, however it suffered from a very slow phosphor refresh that resulted in a "ghosting" video effect. So it could be shared with Apple II computers, a plastic stand was made available to accommodate the larger footprint of the display.
Three years later came the introduction of the Apple manufactured Monitor //, which as the name implies, was more suited in look and style for the Apple II line and at the same time added improvements in features and visual quality. In 1984 a miniature 9″ screen, called the Monitor IIc, was introduced for the Apple IIc computer to help complement its compact size. This display was also the first to use the brand new design language for Apple's products called Snow White, as well as being the first display not in a beige color, but rather a bright, creamy off-white. By early 1985 came the first color CRTs, starting with the Monitor 100, a digital RGB display for the Apple III and Apple IIe (with appropriate card), followed shortly by the 14″ ColorMonitor IIe (later renamed to AppleColor Composite Monitor IIe) and ColorMonitor IIc (later renamed to AppleColor Composite Monitor IIc), composite video displays for those respective models. All of these Apple displays support the maximum Apple II Double Hi-Res standard of 560×192.
In 1986 came the introduction of the AppleColor RGB Monitor, a 12″ analog RGB display designed specifically for the Apple IIGS computer. It supported a resolution of 640×400 interlaced (640×200 non-interlaced) and could be used by the Macintosh II, in a limited fashion, with the Apple High Resolution Display Video Card. Also introduced that year was the Apple Monochrome Monitor, which cosmetically was identical to the former model but was a black and white composite display suitable in external appearance for the Apple IIGS, Apple IIc or Apple IIc Plus.
The second generation of displays were built into the Lisa and Macintosh computers. The Macintosh had a 9-inch monochrome display that could display 512×342 pixels which would be used in all monochrome Compact Macintosh computers.
A new external AppleColor High-Resolution RGB Monitor was introduced in 1987 for the Macintosh II. It had a 13″ Trinitron CRT (the first Apple display to use an aperture grille CRT) with a fixed resolution of 640×480 pixels. The Macintosh II was a modular system with no internal display and was able to drive up to six displays simultaneously using multiple graphics cards. The desktop spanned multiple displays, and windows could be moved between displays or straddle them. In 1989, Apple introduced a series of monochrome displays for the Macintosh, the 20″ Macintosh Two Page Monochrome Display which could display two pages side by side, the 15″ Macintosh Portrait Display with a vertical orientation to display one page, and the 12″ High-Resolution Monochrome Monitor. In 1990, two 12″ displays were introduced for the low end, a 640×480 monochrome model and a 512×384 color model (560×384 for compatibility with Apple IIe Card), meant for the Macintosh LC. These were succeeded by the Macintosh Color Display series in 1992, comprising 14″, Apple Macintosh 16″ Color Display, and Apple Macintosh 20″ Color Display with resolutions of 640×480, 832×624 and 1152×870, respectively. There were also the Apple Performa Plus Display (a low-end Goldstar-built 14″ display with 640×480 resolution) for the Macintosh Performa series and the Apple Color Plus 14″ Display.
The third generation of displays marked the end of the monochrome display era and the beginning of the multimedia era. The first display to include built-in speakers was introduced in 1993 as the Apple AudioVision 14 Display. The Multiple Scan series of displays began with the Multiple Scan 17 and 20 with Trinitron CRTs and the Multiple Scan 14 with shadow mask CRT, and would ultimately become Apple's value line of shadow mask displays. The AppleVision series of displays then became the high-end display line, using 17″ and 20″ Trinitron CRTs and with AV versions containing integrated speakers. The AppleVision line was later renamed to ColorSync display line when Steve Jobs returned to Apple.
The Macintosh Color Classic introduced a 10″ color Trinitron display to the Classic compact Macintosh, with a slightly enhanced resolution of 512×384 (560×384 to accommodate the Apple IIe Card) like the standalone 12″ color display. Apple continued the all-in-one series with the larger 14″ Macintosh LC 500 series, featuring a 14″, 640×480 Trinitron CRT until the LC 580 in 1995, which heralded the switch to shadow mask CRTs for the remainder of Apple's all-in-one computers until the switch to LCDs in 2002. The last Macintosh to include an integrated CRT was the eMac, which boosted the display area to 17″ with support up to 1280×960 resolution. It used a 4th generation flat-screen CRT and was discontinued in 2006.
The fourth generation of displays were introduced simultaneously with the Blue & White Power Macintosh G3 in 1999, which included the translucent plastics of the iMac (initially white and blue "blueberry", then white and grey "graphite" upon the introduction of the Power Mac G4). The displays were also designed with same translucent look. The Apple Studio Display series of CRT displays were available in a 17″ Diamondtron and a 21″ Trinitron CRT, both driven by an LG-Manufactured chassis. The 17″ displays were notorious for faulty flybacks and failing in a manner that could destroy the monitor and catch fire. It's also reported that these monitors can destroy GPU's, and sometimes the entire computer. The last Apple external CRT display was introduced in 2000 along with the Power Mac G4 Cube. Both it and the new LCD Studio Displays featured clear plastics to match the Cube, and the new Apple Display Connector, which provided power, USB, and video signals to the display through a single cable. It was available only in a 17″ flat screen Diamondtron CRT. It was discontinued the following year.
Flat panel displays
The history of Apple LCDs started in 1984 when the Apple Flat Panel Display was introduced for the Apple IIc computer, principally to enhance the IIc's portability (see Apple IIc Portability enhancements). This monochrome display was capable of 80 columns by 24 lines, as well as double hi-res graphics, but had an odd aspect ratio (making images look vertically squished) and required a very strong external light source, such as a desk lamp or direct sunlight to be used. Even then it had a very poor contrast overall and was quite expensive (US$600), contributing to its poor sales and consequently it dropping from the market not long after its introduction. An estimated 10,000 IIc LCD displays were produced.
The next attempt at a flat panel was with the Macintosh Portable. More of a "luggable" than a laptop, it contained a high-resolution, active-matrix, 1-bit black & white, 9.8″ LCD with 640×400 resolution. Like the IIc Flat Panel, it was not backlit and required a bright light source to be used. A second generation model employed a backlit LCD. The PowerBook and MacBook series would continue to use LCD displays, following an industry-wide evolution from black-and-white to grayscale to color and ranging from 9″ to 17″. Two primary technologies were used, active matrix (higher quality and more expensive) and passive matrix displays (lower quality and cheaper). By 1998 all laptops would use active-matrix color LCDs, though the Newton products and eMate portables would continue to use black and white LCDs. Apple's current MacBook portable displays include LED backlighting and support either 2560×1600 or 2880×1800 pixel resolutions depending on screen size. The iPod series used black-and-white or color LCDs, the iPhone line uses LCD and OLED displays, and the Apple Watch uses OLED.
In 1997, Apple released the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (TAM), its first all-in-one desktop with an LCD display. Drawing heavily from PowerBook technology, the TAM featured a 12.1″ active matrix LCD capable of displaying up to 16 bit color at 800×600. While Apple chose to retain traditional and cheaper CRTs for its all-in-one desktop line for the next 4 years, the TAM is undoubtedly the predecessor for the successful LCD-based iMac line of all-in-one desktops starting with the iMac G4 released in 2002. A substantial upgrade over the TAM, it contained a 15″ LCD supporting up to 1024×768 resolution. It was followed by a 17″ and 20″ models boasting resolution of up to 1680 × 1050. In 2005, the iMac G5 dropped the 15″ configuration and in 2007, the new iMac dropped the 17″ and added a 24″ to the line-up, further boosting resolution to 1920 x 1200. In October 2009, new iMac models moved to 16:9 aspect ratio screens at 21.5 and 27 inches.
The first desktop color flat-panel was introduced on March 17, 1998, with the 15″ Apple Studio Display (15-inch flat panel) which had a resolution of 1024×768. After the eMate, it was one of the first Apple products to feature translucent plastics, two months before the unveiling of the iMac. Apple called its dark blue color "azul". It had a DA-15 input as well as S-video, composite video, ADB and audio connectors, though no onboard speakers. In January 1999 the coloring was changed to match the blue and white of the new Power Macintosh G3s, and the connector changed to DE-15 VGA.
The 22″ widescreen Apple Cinema Display was introduced in August 1999, simultaneously with the Power Mac G4 and in the beginning was sold only as an option to the Power Mac G4, selling for US$3,999. It had a native resolution of 1600×1024 and used a DVI connector. The display had a striped look on the bezel, similar to previous Studio Displays and iMacs. In December, the colors of the 15″ display were changed to "graphite" to match the new Power Mac G4s, and the input was changed from VGA to DVI, the audio and video features dropped, and the ADB functionality replaced by a two-port USB hub.
In 2000 the 22″ Cinema Displays switched to the ADC interface, and the 15″ Studio Display was remodeled to match the Cinema Display's easel-like form factor and also featured the Apple Display Connector. In 2001 an LCD-based 17″ Studio Display was introduced, with a resolution of 1280×1024. In 2002 Apple introduced the Cinema Display HD which had a 23″ widescreen display with a resolution of 1920×1200. In 2003 Apple introduced the 20″ Cinema Display with a resolution of 1680×1050 to replace the discontinued 22″ display.
In 2004 a new line was introduced, utilizing the same 20″ and 23″ panels alongside a new 30″ model, for $3,299. The displays had a sleek aluminum enclosure with a much narrower bezel than their predecessors. The 20″ model featured a 1680×1050 resolution, the 23″ 1920×1200, and the 30″ 2560×1600. The 30″ version requires a dual-link interface, because a single-link DVI connection (the most common type) doesn't have enough bandwidth to provide a picture to a display of this resolution. Initially, the only graphics cards that could power the new 30″ display were the Nvidia GeForce 6800 DDL series, available in both GT and Ultra forms. The DDL suffix signified the dual-link DVI capability. The less expensive of the two cards retailed for US$499, raising the net cost of owning and using the display to nearly $3,800. Later graphics options included the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500; the card included two dual-link DVI connectors which allowed a Power Mac G5 to run two 30″ Cinema Displays simultaneously with the total number of pixels working out to 8.2 million.
In 2006 along with the introduction of the Mac Pro, Apple lowered the price of the 30″ Cinema Display to US$1999. The Mac Pro featured an NVIDIA GeForce 7300GT as the graphics card in its base configuration which is capable of running a 30″ Cinema Display and another 23″ display simultaneously. The Mac Pro is also available with both the ATI Radeon X1900XT card and the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 as build-to-order options. Each of these cards is capable of driving two 30″ Cinema Displays.
LED Cinema Display
With the introduction of the Unibody MacBook family, Apple introduced the 24-inch LED Cinema Display, its first desktop display to use the new Mini DisplayPort connector, and also the first with an LED-backlit LCD. It had built-in speakers, a powered 3-port USB hub on the rear, an iSight camera and microphone, and a MagSafe power adapter for laptops. It also connected by USB for peripherals. It has a resolution of 1920×1200 and retailed for US$899.00. In 2010 it was replaced with a new 27-inch version with a resolution of 2560×1440.
In 2011 Apple released the Apple Thunderbolt Display, replacing the Mini DisplayPort and USB connector with a Thunderbolt plug for display and data. A Gigabit Ethernet port, a FireWire 800 port and a Thunderbolt 2 port were added as well, and the iSight camera was upgraded with a 720p FaceTime camera. On June 23, 2016, Apple announced it had discontinued the Thunderbolt Display, ending Apple's production of standalone displays.
After Apple discontinued production of standalone displays in 2016, they partnered with LG to design the UltraFine line, with a 21.5-inch 4K display and 27-inch 5K display (27MD5KA-B), released in November 2016 alongside the Thunderbolt 3-enabled MacBook Pro. Both displays use a USB-C connector, with the 27-inch version integrating Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. On the rear of the displays is a three port USB-C hub. The 21.5-inch version provides up to 60W charging power, while the 27-inch provides up to 85W. The 21.5-inch is compatible with all Macs with a USB-C port, while the 27-inch version can only be used natively at full resolution with Macs with Thunderbolt 3, which includes all Macs with USB-C except the Retina MacBook. The 27-inch model is compatible with older Thunderbolt 2-equipped Macs using an adapter, but is limited to displaying their maximum output resolution. Both models include integrated stereo speakers, while the 27-inch model also includes a FaceTime camera. Like previous Apple displays, there are no physical buttons on the display, and brightness and speaker volume are controlled by a connected computer.
In May 2019 the 21.5-inch model was discontinued and replaced with a 23.7-inch model which added Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and increased the power output to 85W. In July 2019, the 27-inch model (27MD5KL-B) was updated with USB-C video input, adding compatibility with the 3rd generation iPad Pro at 4K resolution, and increased power output to 94W. Apple stopped selling the 27-inch model in March 2022 following the release of the Apple Studio Display, but the display is still in production according to LG.
Pro Display XDR
Apple announced the Pro Display XDR at the 2019 WWDC, the first Apple-branded display since the Apple Thunderbolt Display was discontinued in 2016. The display contains a 6016×3384 6K color-calibrated Extreme Dynamic Range (XDR) panel.
Apple announced the Apple Studio Display at the March 2022 Apple Special Event. It features a 27-inch, 5K Retina monitor, with 5120-by-2880 resolution at 218 pixels per inch, 600 nits brightness, wide color (P3), and True Tone technology.
Apple has employed a large number of display connector designs over the years:
- Original DA-15 (commonly but incorrectly known as a DB-15) used on all modular desktop Macs until the 1999 Blue and White Power Macintosh G3.
- A 13W3 connector (as on Sun Microsystems machines) used on the Macintosh Portrait Display
- A non-standard "mini-15″ connector used on early PowerBooks which allowed an Apple display to be attached via a short adaptor cable.
- The HDI-45 used on some "AV" model Centris, Quadra and the first-generation (NuBus) Power Macintosh machines.
- Standard 15-pin high-density DE-15 VGA connector, first included on some Power Macintosh 9600 models and most PowerPC PowerBooks, and available on all current Macintoshes via a short adaptor cable.
- The Apple Display Connector (ADC), which carries DVI, VGA, USB and power in one connector, was used on the PowerMac G4 and early models of the PowerMac G5.
- A DVI connector was used on the 2001-2002 titanium PowerBook G4; all aluminum PowerBook G4 15” and 17”; all aluminum MacBook Pro 15″ and 17″ models; Mac Mini G4, Power Mac G4, G5; Intel Mac Mini, and Mac Pro 2006–2012. PowerBook G4 12”, iMac G5 and Intel white iMacs mini-DVI ports.
- A mini-VGA connector, which can provide VGA via a short adaptor cable. It appears on the white iBook, eMac, iMac G4 and G5, and first generation 12-inch PowerBook G4. Later models also support a composite and S-video adapter attached to this port.
- A mini-DVI connector used on the 12″ PowerBook G4 (except first generation,) Intel-based iMacs, MacBooks, and Mac Minis.
- A micro-DVI connector was used in the first generation MacBook Air to accommodate its small form factor.
- A mini DisplayPort connector was used on some MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini and Mac Pro models.
- Currently all Macs feature Thunderbolt connectors.
- The Retina MacBook introduced USB-C connectivity for displays. The 2016 MacBook Pro uses a combination Thunderbolt 3 USB-C connector. They are backwards compatible with HDMI and DisplayPort.
Additionally, various Apple computers have been able to output:
- S-video via standard 4-pin mini-DIN connector
- Composite video, via:
- S-video port and use of short adaptor cable (PowerBooks)
- Standard phono connector (AV Macs)
- Phono connector video out on the Apple II, II+, IIe, IIc, IIc+, IIGS, III, and III+. While not technically NTSC or PAL compatible, a suitable image would display on NTSC/PAL television monitors
- A non-standard 3.5 mm jack that functions as either a headphone jack, or stereo audio and composite video out via an adaptor cable (FireWire Special Edition Clamshell iBooks and early "Dual USB" iBooks with external reset button)
- S-video, Composite video, or VGA, via:
- Mini-VGA when using an Apple Video Output Adapter (S-video & Composite or VGA)
- The Apple Video Adapter was specially designed to allow users to connect to S-video or composite video devices. The video adapter cable plugs into the video output port (Mini-VGA) built into the back of certain Macintosh computers. The video output port supports VGA, S-Video and Composite video out. The Apple Video Adapter is for S-Video or Composite video output only, use a separate Apple VGA Adapter for VGA video output options. With the Apple Video Adapter you can connect to your TV, VCR, or overhead projector via S-Video or Composite cables.
- Compatible with: iBook without an external reset button, 12-inch PowerBook G4, Mac Mini, eMac, iMac G5, or 17-inch iMac (1 GHz) with Mini-VGA port.
- The Apple VGA Display Adapter was specially designed to allow users to connect certain Macintosh computers to an extra VGA display or external projector (equipped with VGA) for 24-bit video-mirroring. The VGA cable from your external display or projector cable plugs into the Mini-VGA video port built into your Macintosh via the Apple VGA Display Adapter.
- Compatible with: eMac, iMac G5, iMac G4 flat-panel, 12-inch PowerBook G4, or iBooks having a Mini-VGA port. Most Macintosh computers with the Mini-VGA port can also use the Apple Video Adapter for S-video & Composite output options.
- 12-inch PowerBook G4 (first generation) models supported video-mirroring and extended video desktop modes through a mini-VGA port. All 15 and 17 inch PowerBook G4 models have a DVI port as well as an S-Video out port. The mini-VGA port on the 12-inch PowerBook was replaced by a mini-DVI port starting with the second revision of the machine.
- The Retina MacBook Pro supports HDMI output from a built-in connector in addition to its two Thunderbolt connectors.
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