Apple Cinema 27″ Display + 2008 Mac Pro = £££

A friend of mine has a 27″ iMac and I have to say that it’s a beautiful screen to work with. I’m not too fussed about the glossy finish, because while I know (from using an iPad) that reflections can be a pain, if you’ve got it set up in the right environment then it’s a cracking display. Myself… well I have a dual-head setup on my early 2008 Mac Pro with one DVI socket driving a very nice Samsung 24″ SyncMaster 2493HM and the other feeding a (not quite so nice) 24″ BenQ G2420HDBL. The graphics card that manages all this is the NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT (512Mb) which was one of the standard configuration options from Apple at the time, and it’s equipped with two DVI sockets so it can happily drive two monitors at 1920 x 1200 or something like an Apple 30″ Cinema Display (using a dual link cable) at the full 2560 x 1600.

I used to think that two 24″ screens would be fine, but I increasingly find that with one dedicated to VMware Fusion to run my windows sessions for work, the remaining 1920 x 1200 of screen real estate has been looking looking more and more cluttered. Problem is, while stepping up from that resolution to Apple’s 30″ screen seemed like a good idea, the screen itself is physically huge, so I was pretty excited when Apple announced the new 27″ model. That is… until Apple did their usual thing of:

  • Fitting it with the almost proprietary Mini Displayport plug, and…
  • Making it cost an arm and a leg!
Apple 27" LED Cinema Display

Apple 27" LED Cinema Display

Yes the Apple 27″ LED Cinema Display has hit the UK Apple store at a not insignificant £899. Ok, it’s in a niche market because screens that offer higher resolutions than 1920 x 1200 these days are still few and far between, and seem to carry an exotic price tag, but at least they come with DVI sockets. For early 2008 Mac Pro users there’s a further sting in the tail. You see my 2008 Mac Pro, which as it happens is only just over two years old, is actually ANCIENT by Apple standards! So ancient, and presumably because we are such a small percentage of their user base, there’s little incentive for them to  make a cable that would allow me to connect the two together.

Now I called Apple to point this out and ask what my options are and I spoke to a very helpful salesperson. She did suggest that the 2008 Mac Pro won’t have a problem driving the 27″ screen’s 2560 x 1440 resolution, but when it came to connectivity options she could only point me in the direction of something called the Dr. Bott Digital Video Link. Now it’s an interesting looking bit of kit which I’ve not encountered before, but there are two things to consider. Firstly the details on their website make no mention of it being used in this configuration (i.e. 2008 Mac Pro + Apple 27″ screen). Secondly it doesn’t actually say it supports a 2560 x 1440 resolution even though the Apple person thhought it might, and thirdly it costs £99 plus tax/shipping which is a lot to shell out if it doesn’t work. Added to the cost of the display, my bill would be close to £1,000 which I am beginning to think is a lot of cash to get a few more pixels.

Cinema 27 Cost

Errr.... how much?!

So what are my alternatives? Well fitting a new graphics card that comes with Mini DisplayPort sockets might be a more certain option, but that will cost even more. Seems Apple offer such a card with the ATI HD 4870 but it’s a cool £285 and with the cost of this options coming in at over £1,100 I am now almost in new 27″ iMac territory. Perhaps I should leave the Mac Pro setup ‘as is’ and get a new iMac to use as my main machine. I could hook both up to the same keyboard and mouse and use Synergy or something similar, my only problem is that the Logitech drivers I use for my keyboard & mouse don’t always play nice in a non-standard config.

Decisions, decisions. Had I been able to plonk Apple’s new display on my Mac Pro for around £700-£750 then I might have taken the bait, but at £1,000-£1,100 it’s just too much and I’m re-thinking my strategy. Of course this all has to fit in alongside the new phone I need, the laptop I need… (ok ‘want’), and then there’s the holiday, the decorating….

Oh to hell with the decorating, I’ll just invite people around at night and leave the lights on low!