Apple LCD Monitor Prices

1 Sep 2003

Paul R. Potts

Let’s imagine for a moment that I had the money to order a brand-spanking-new G5 system from Apple and assume that I wanted to get some Apple LCD screens. (Yes, I know 3rd-party LCD screens are much cheaper, but I also notice that the cheap ones don’t have digital video input, which somewhat reduces the actual image quality I get out of them). Today the prices on the Apple displays are as follows, at least when I spec them together with a computer:

Now, the Apple 23” screen is certainly beautiful. It gives you a lot more real estate. Let’s assume for a moment that screen real estate is fungible: that is, that I don’t care about the exact dot pitch, that I want as many pixels as possible, and that it does not matter to me if they are all on one screen, or two… or even three. In this scenario, does it make any sense to buy the 23” screen? Or even the 20” screen?

The answer is no. The 17” has a native resolution of 1280 by 1024; the 20”, 1680 by 1050; the 23”, 1920 by 1200. We can calculate a cost-per-pixel ratio. Rounding the prices to the nearest dollar, the cost per pixel is about 0.053 cents for the 17” screen. It goes up to about 0.087 cents per pixel for the 23” screen. (When you consider that the 23” screen has about 2.3 million pixels, the cost doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous).

If pixels cost the same on all three screens, the 20” screen would cost about $940 and the 23” would cost about $1230. If the high-end screen prices come down to or below these points, it would make sense to buy them. (Of course, by the time this happens, one might assume the 17” screen will cost less as well). And of course there is some fixed overhead per unit: the power supply, the backlight, the casing, the cost of packaging and manufacturing.

For now, for my needs, it would make better sense to buy two 17” screens. That would give me about 2.6 million pixels, more than the number of pixels available on the 23” screen, at a cost of $1400, or 70% of the cost of the 23” screen. I don’t truly have a need to view large layouts on a single monitor the way a graphic designer or digital photographer might, but as a developer, I like to have multiple source files open at once, along with, perhaps, several terminal windows, a project view, and a source-level debugger. Sticking two monitors next to each other is good enough.

Of course, this does not take into account the minor thrill of watching a DVD on a 23” flat panel. Were money no object, I’d consider two 23” screens. But this is all pretty much a speculative exercise to begin with, and if I speculate more realistically, I’ll be a bit less disappointed!

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