Apple Studio Display vs iMac: How Do the Screens Compare?

Mac Studio vs iMac

Apple Studio Display vs iMac: How Do the Screens Compare?

Key Points

  • The Apple Studio Display and iMac have many similarities, with minor differences in specs.
  • Both displays have excellent performance and color reproduction.
  • The iMac has better contrast and HDR support compared to the Studio Display.
  • Both displays have identical speaker arrays and microphone quality.
  • The Apple Studio Display supports the latest Macs with Apple Silicon processors.
  • The iMac has limited ports, while the Studio Display offers more connectivity options.

Which monitor wins between the Apple Studio Display vs. iMac? Apple has been lauded for its screens for years, at least since the introduction of the retina display to the product line. You get clear high-resolution and pixel density on Apple displays.

With that in mind, how does the Apple Studio Display compare to an iMac’s display? The iMac has had an excellent display for a number of years, but the Studio Display could be directly comparable.

When you think about it, Apple is keen to recycle and cannibalize parts of its product line. It could certainly be possible that the iMac’s display is identical in functionality to the Studio Display.

So, you might as well tuck in as this guide goes over the ins and outs of whether the Apple Studio Display really justifies its own price tag.

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

Apple Studio DisplayiMac
Resolution5120 x 28805120 x 2880 (27″ model)
4480 x 2520 (24″ model)
Refresh Rate60Hz60Hz
Speakers IncludedYesYes
Microphone IncludedYesYes
MSRP$1,599Starts at $1,299 for M1 24-inch model
HDR SupportNoYes
Brightness600 nits500 nits

There are quite a few similarities between these two displays. If you were of the opinion that these might be cut from the same cloth, you’d be correct. There are some minor differences to note, however.

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

So, with the preliminary specs out of the way, it is time to pit these two displays against one another.


Great for MacBooks
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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Generally speaking, these two displays are identical in most aspects. If you get the 27″ iMac, you’ve still got the same 5K resolution across both. One important thing to note is the lack of HDR support on the Studio Display, which is an odd omission.

However, when speaking on general color reproduction and the like, both the Studio Display and iMac display perform admirably. You get rich blacks, great whites, and many other features.

Both displays feature webcams, built-in speakers, and built-in microphones. Effectively they serve as whole multimedia stations for your Mac experience. The only really noticeable difference is that the iMac has a whole computer packaged with it.

Image Quality

Both displays feature the same sharp 5K resolution you may have come to expect from the iMac family of displays. These are sharp and vibrant displays that serve well for design work and graphic design.

They are hampered by a poor refresh rate, only reaching a maximum of 60Hz with options selectable for lower overall framerates. It would be great to see higher framerates, just in terms of general responsiveness.

Oddly, the 24-inch iMac with the Apple M1 processor does have support for HDR content out of the box. On the other hand, users who have been testing the Apple Studio Display have noticed a pronounced lack of HDR support out of the box.

So, if you’re going for better contrast, the iMac display might be a better overall option.

Audio Support

All-in-One Power
Apple 2021 iMac M1
  • 24-inch Retina display
  • 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage
  • Compatible with Microsoft 365, Adobe, iPhone/iPad apps
  • Supports Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
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The speaker array on both of these displays is absolutely identical. You get six speakers mounted directly below the display itself. Audio spatialization is supported via Dolby Atmos, so you’ve got quite a bit of power when playing supported media.

In all honesty, the speakers on both of these displays are great. They have minimal distortion at higher volumes and sound great with most materials once you dial in your preferred EQ settings.

The mic on offer is superb as well, with three mics in total and directional beamforming to help get the best signal possible. They won’t make the grade in terms of performance for something like studio recordings.

However, for the likes of FaceTime, Zoom, and Discord, they are more than sufficient.

Apple Silicon Support

The Apple Studio Display supports the latest and greatest Macs, including the MacBook product line running the new M2 processors. This is great as many external monitors available for the Mac family of computers lack the pixel density to actually do the operating system justice.

The 24-inch iMac is only running the M1 chip family, which is a shame. However, knowing Apple, there is a product refresh due soon enough. Users will likely see an M2 iMac in the near future.

As it stands, both of these displays come with native support for Apple Silicon processors. Apple is pivoting hard towards its own native architecture, so it makes sense all future products will come with support out of the box.

The Apple Studio Display does get some bonus points for maintaining compatibility with Intel-based Macs in addition to the Apple Silicon product line.

Inputs and Outputs

Mac Mini M2 vs iMac
Both the iMac and Apple Studio Display come with Thunderbolt ports for connectivity.

The 24-inch iMac is noticeably slim on ports, which are a valuable commodity in today’s market. You get a pair of Thunderbolt ports, which can double as USB Type-C connectors.

Now, there are external monitors on the market which can be driven from a Type-C connector. However, it does beg the question of why Apple couldn’t just place HDMI ports on the unit itself, especially since the Mac Mini comes with HDMI ports natively.

The Apple Studio Display actually gets the nod here for overall inputs. You get a Thunderbolt port in addition to a trio of USB Type-C connectors.

The Thunderbolt port delivers 96 watts of power, which is more than enough for delivering power to a MacBook. You can effectively use the display as a USB hub aside from the primary connection to connect the display to your Mac.

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

  1. The Apple Studio Display is a lower-cost alternative to the Apple Studio Display XDR.
  2. The Apple Studio Display has four ports in total for connecting devices.
  3. The Apple Studio Display is effectively a standalone iMac 27-inch monitor.
  4. The iMac display has a better webcam than the Studio Display.
  5. The iMac benefits from having a complete computer around it for the same cost.
  6. The iMac does natively support HDR content.

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

So, which one is the real winner between these two displays? If you’ve been on the hunt for a great display for your MacBook, then the Studio Display gets the obvious nod. However, the overall price is a hindrance, as it costs as much as an iMac.

The iMac is a great option for users looking to get into a desktop Mac. It isn’t as large as the Studio Display but does have native support for HDR content.

If you’re looking to use your Mac as a multi-use station between productivity and media consumption, it is a fantastic choice. The lack of the latest M2 chip is questionable, but there is still plenty of life left in the M1.

Really, this is coming down to user preference. If you can take the financial hit and already have a MacBook Pro, then grab the Studio Display. Users that are on the fence would be well-served with the iMac, provided they don’t need the option for portability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Studio Display the same as an iMac screen?

Effectively, they are identical. However, the newer iMacs only have a diagonal measurement of 24 inches versus the 27 inches of the Studio Display.

Is the Studio Display good for gaming?

If you’re a Mac gamer, it can certainly fit the bill. However, something with a faster refresh rate would be ideal.

Is the iMac a good computer?

If you enjoy the Apple ecosystem, it is a super flexible platform that brings MacBook Pro power into a desktop format.

Can I use the iMac display with my MacBook?

No, the iMac is a standalone computer. You’ll have to purchase an additional external monitor if you’re wanting a larger screen to work on for your MacBook.

Can I use the Studio Display with an iMac?

You absolutely can, the iMac can drive an additional display up to 6K resolution.

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