Apple Studio Display vs. iMac 27: How Do The Screens Compare?

Yellow iMac 4 on a desk top

Apple Studio Display vs. iMac 27: How Do The Screens Compare?

Key Points

  • The Apple Studio Display and iMac 27 have many similarities in terms of resolution, display size, brightness, refresh rate, and audio support.
  • The Apple Studio Display has a lower quality webcam compared to the iMac 27, despite being marketed as a selling point.
  • Both displays have excellent picture quality and sharpness, with MacOS performing well on these sizes of displays.
  • The Apple Studio Display has fewer ports but is compatible with both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs, while the iMac 27 offers more functionality and is limited to Intel processors.
  • For Apple Silicon users, the Apple Studio Display is the better choice, while the iMac 27 is still a capable system but will eventually lose support.

Which screen wins between the Apple Studio Display vs. iMac 27? Apple has quite a reputation when it comes to stellar displays for its computers. However, the launch of the Apple Studio Display has proven to be somewhat controversial.

With that in mind, it does bear some exploration into how the Apple Studio Display compares directly to other displays made by Apple.

So, which of these displays is the best for you? They are shockingly similar, believe it or not, but there are enough distinctions to be made to differentiate them from one another.

Apple Studio Display vs. iMac 27: Side-by-Side Comparison

Apple Studio DisplayiMac 27-inch
Resolution5K Retina5K Retina
Display Size27 inches27 inches
Brightness600 nits500 nits
Refresh Rate60Hz60Hz
PortsThunderbolt, USB Type-C3.5mm audio, SDXC card, USB-A, Thunderbolt 3, Ethernet, Kensington lock

There are quite a few similarities between these displays. Apple isn’t shy from utilizing other display technology across its product line. As such, this isn’t a huge surprise.

Apple Studio Display vs. iMac 27: What’s the Difference?

Now that the specs are knocked out, it is time to take a closer look at how these two displays compare directly.


Great for all Macs
Apple Studio Display
  • Immersive 27-inch 5K Retina display with 600 nits of brightness, support for one billion colors, and P3 wide color
  • 12MP Ultra Wide camera with Center Stage for more engaging video calls
  • Studio-quality three-mic array for crystal-clear calls and voice recordings
  • Six-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio for an unbelievable listening experience
  • One Thunderbolt 3 port, three USB-C ports
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01/16/2024 08:23 pm GMT

Both the Apple Studio Display and iMac 27-inch are stunningly similar. The Apple Studio Display does get some points for being a bit brighter. However, when compared directly it is difficult to discern where the differences may lie.

They both feature the same refresh rate, the same diagonal measurements, and the same speaker array. As such, you could be forgiven for seeing these as identical in terms of function.

Where the Apple Studio Display diverges is in the quality of the webcam. You get a much clearer and sharper picture with the iMac’s webcam. This is slightly confusing because Apple has touted its Studio Display’s webcam as a selling point.

However, when directly compared to the iPad and iPhone cameras which have supposedly inspired it, the video captured is decidedly poorer.

Picture Quality

You’ll find the picture essentially identical between these two displays. The Apple Studio Display is brighter overall, but the other specs are very much in line with another. You can calibrate the color of both displays.

The picture is decidedly sharp on both as well, with MacOS really shining when utilizing this particular size of a display. You’ll see equal sharpness on the smaller iMac models, but it isn’t quite as stunning as its larger counterpart.

Response time is average, this isn’t a display built expressly for gaming. If you are a Mac gamer, it’ll do the job quite well. However, the lack of a higher refresh rate goes a long way in impacting the overall feel and responsiveness of the action on screen.

Audio Support

Both the Apple Studio Display and iMac 27-inch feature a six-speaker array. This works for audio spatialization and functions quite well. You get a rich deep bass response and airy treble with minimal distortion.

Both displays also feature a triple microphone configuration. This acts as a unified front, getting the best possible sound while also canceling out background noise. The microphone isn’t going to win awards for absolute clarity like in a recording studio, but works well for calls.

Dolby Atmos support comes out of the box for both displays, which means they excel when consuming content from the likes of Apple Music or Apple TV+.

Inputs and Outputs

apple studio display vs. imac 27
The iMac 27-inch features a vast array of input and output ports when compared to the Apple Studio Display.

The Apple Studio Display only features four ports on the back of the device itself. You get one Thunderbolt port capable of supporting 96 watts of power and a trio of USB Type-C connectors. This is great for MacBooks, as you have fewer and fewer ports with each passing iteration.

The ports on offer are all blazingly fast, and you can definitely add some extra accessories to your port-deprived M2 MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.

The iMac 27-inch comes with USB Type-C, USB Type-A, Thunderbolt, HDMI, and 3.5mm audio ports among other options. This tracks with the iMac being a completely dedicated computer on its own. You’d expect to have more functionality, especially with the last true generation of Intel-based Macs.

If you’re looking to extend the functionality of your MacBook, the Apple Studio Display is a great choice. Users looking for a fully functional system would be best served by the iMac 27-inch.

Apple Silicon Support

Flagship Performance
Apple 2020 iMac
  • 27-inch (diagonal) Retina 5K display
  • 3.3GHz 6-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5300 graphics
  • 512 GB memory storage capacity
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01/17/2024 02:04 am GMT

This is where these displays notably depart from one another. The Apple Studio Display is a standalone monitor, meaning you have support for Intel and Apple Silicon Macs. As Apple moves further into its own architecture, it’ll be dropping support for Intel processors.

The Apple Studio Display is designed with this in mind and supports both systems. You can plug in an M2 Mac Studio just as easily as you can add an additional display to the 27-inch iMac. This applies to Apple’s whole product line over the last five or so years.

The iMac 27-inch is stuck on an Intel processor. Until the product line is refreshed, which at the time of this writing only the 24-inch is offered with the M1, this isn’t likely to change anytime soon. As such, if you’re wanting to keep with the latest and greatest and stay on the update cycle, you’ll need to upgrade.

The Intel iMac 27-inch is still a perfectly capable computer but is on a ticking countdown until support is dropped. Hopefully, Apple is willing to manufacture a 27-inch iMac with an M2 or whatever the next-generation Apple Silicon processor is going to be.

Apple Studio Display vs. iMac 27: 6 Must-Know Facts

  1. The Apple Studio Display is a completely standalone monitor built for Apple devices.
  2. The Apple Studio Display features an A13 processor for the webcam.
  3. The Apple Studio Display features a P3 color profile and is readily calibrated.
  4. The iMac 27-inch is the last generation of Intel iMacs.
  5. The iMac 27-inch has a better webcam than the Apple Studio Display.
  6. The iMac 27-inch can power an additional external display through HDMI or Thunderbolt.

Apple Studio Display vs. iMac 27: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Choose?

So, which of these displays is the clear winner? If you’re on the hunt for a display that’ll handle your Apple needs, then the Apple Studio Display is a stellar choice.

It is an expensive monitor, make no mistake about that. However, it gives you the same rich and vibrant display you’d expect of a flagship iMac while still retaining the flexibility of your Mac Mini, Studio, or MacBook computer.

The iMac 27-inch is a great self-contained system but is outmoded compared to the latest Apple Silicon processors. There is still plenty of life left in these systems, but you’re paying a premium for a device that won’t be supported in a few years.

As such, if you’re sticking with Apple Silicon, go with the Apple Studio Display.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use the iMac display as a monitor?

No, it only works with the intended iMac computer.

Is the Studio Display just an iMac screen?

Effectively, yes, it’s just a 27-inch iMac screen without the rest of the computer around it. This makes it more flexible, as you can use it on any other Mac, but it is quite expensive.

Is the iMac 27-inch Apple Silicon ready?

No, it is still just an Intel-based Mac. Apple has been doing product refreshes at its own pace, so it may be some time before a new flagship iMac is debuted.

Can you use the Studio Display with an Intel Mac?

Yes, provided you have a compatible Thunderbolt cable to connect the two devices.

Is the iMac compatible with the Studio Display?

Absolutely, the iMac can power another display quite easily. It should work with the Studio Display as you have compatible Thunderbolt ports to connect both.

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