Apple's Studio Display could have been cheaper without these 3 features

Apple could have made its $1,599 Studio Display cheaper. It just chose not to.

Apple is back in good standing with creators who use their computers to actually make things. (Gamers, it still sucks. Maybe one day!) The fact that the Mac Studio and the Studio Display are back-ordered until May shows there’s a lot of interest in the new products.

Let’s talk about the Studio Display for a second, though. It starts at $1,599 for the standard glass version with tilting stand. The nano-texture glass version that resists reflections with tilting stand is $1,899. The standard version with the tilting and height-adjustable stand is an extra $400, for a total $1,999. The nano-texture glass Studio Display with the tilting and height-adjustable stand is $2,299. All of this is before tax. (Apply for your state/country.)

$1,500 for a display is a hell of a lot cheaper than the $5,000 that Apple’s Pro Display XDR starts at, and that monitor doesn’t even come with a built-in stand. Apple’s CNC’d stand for the Pro Display XDR costs an extra $1,000.

Everyone that I’ve talked to is either fine with paying the Apple tax or appalled by the pricing. The truth is you will not find a 5K Retina display with the same kinds of specs and precision design as the Studio Display. There are plenty of 4K displays with higher-than-60Hz refresh rates than the Studio Display, but there really is a difference in resolution as Apollo developer Christian Selig illustrated in a tweet:

There are three ways Apple could have made the Studio Display cheaper. Maybe even got the price down to $1,000.

The first is nixing the 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. Apple’s old Thunderbolt Displays used to come with webcams, and while Apple says that the Studio Display’s webcam, with Center Stage zoom feature, is as good as on an iPad, the camera will not age well. It’ll be outdated in a few years.

I can only assume the camera is 1080p resolution, not 4K. Apple’s tech specs page for the Studio Display makes no mention of what the video resolution is, only listing the following:

  • 12MP Ultra Wide camera with 122° field of view
  • ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • Center Stage

Built-in webcams are fine on a laptop. But on a monitor, who needs one? If you’re paranoid about your privacy, you’re just gonna put a piece of tape or a webcam cover over it. And if you really care about webcam quality, you might get an external one like the Opal C1 or go for a fancy DSLR setup. Or get a cheaper webcam from one of many brands like Logitech or Razer or Dell.

The second thing Apple could have cut from the Studio Display: the “High-fidelity six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers” capable of Spatial Audio. Here’s the full spec sheet for the speakers according to Apple:

  • High-fidelity six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers
  • Wide stereo sound
  • Support for Spatial Audio when playing music or video with Dolby Atmos
  • Studio-quality three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming
  • Support for “Hey Siri”

Do you need speakers? Maybe you do, but most people who buy a display don’t. We have our own separate speakers. Or people use headphones — here’s our guide on the best over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation. Apple’s view on things is: we include all of it for you. Yes, they do — the Studio Display is like an M1 iMac without the computer inside.

The speakers are an extra cost.Apple

Third, do you need your monitor to work with Hey Siri? Only if you’re the biggest Siri fan. And I don’t know too many of those. Even the biggest Siri fans don’t love its still-very-low-level-intelligence.

These three features — the camera, speaker, mic array — easily add $600 worth of cost to the Studio Display. Apple including them into the Studio Display is a way to push you deeper into its ecosystem. But find me music producers or video editors who are dying to pay for an Apple-made monitor that they can use to ask Siri for the weather. I think almost everyone would take a cheaper Studio Display, especially one that doesn’t come with mini-LED or 120Hz ProMotion, over any or all of these features.

So there you have it. The Studio Display is gorgeous. It’s expensive. It’s got a lot of good features (and some missing ones that genuinely grind my gears). Apple could have made it cheaper. It just chose not to. Which is such an Apple thing to do.