27in monitors group test

Introduction

From BBC iPlayer to iMovie, iTunes to Steam, it’s never been easier to enjoy movies, TVs and games on your Mac – something Apple has acknowledged on the hardware side with the 27in iMac and its range of LED Cinema Displays, of which the 27in version is a prime example.

There’s a good reason why 27in displays are fast gaining ground: they deliver the best trade-off between desktop practicality and a truly immersive experience. They’re big enough to comfortably watch a movie, edit a photo or do some desktop publishing. They’re not so big that sticking one on your average desk is a no-no. Unfortunately, in Apple’s case there’s a catch: you have to have a wallet bulging with fivers to stump up for the £1,399 asking price of the 27in iMac, while the 27in LED Cinema Display costs a princely £899. That’s an awful lot of money to pay for something that’s primarily going to be used at home for fun stuff like movie viewing and gaming, especially when you’ve shelled out a modest amount for the new Mac mini (with HDMI) or just want a secondary display for a MacBook or MacBook Pro.

What we’ve lined up here then are six alternatives to the 27in LED Cinema Display. These monitors from Acer, BenQ, Dell, Hannspree, NEC and ViewSonic all play nicely with Mac hardware and yet meet – or even exceed – the capabilities of what Apple’s own hardware has to offer. At the very least they offer a value-packed alternative for those all-important movies and games: which is why they’re bound to be popular.

We’re judging these monitors on some very straightforward criteria: they have to be practical, robust, offer a good range of connection options and be easy to set up and use. Of course, they also need to excel when it comes to picture and sound quality. We’re less concerned with the more esoteric stuff like high-end graphics capabilities and wide colour gamuts. The monitors we’ve chosen are all about family friendly, practical and immersive experiences with the stuff we all love to do, which is to kick our work shoes off, relax and enjoy a good blast of FPS gaming or laid-back movie and TV viewing. Ready? We are...

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