Studio Display, One Month In

A few updates to my review of the Apple Studio, after using it just about every day for the last month.

What I’m Buying

I’m ordering a Studio Display with the works: the nano-texture display and the height-adjustable stand. I saw the nano-texture display in person at an Apple Store, and it seems just what I need for a window-filled office. Reflections just disappear. It’s like magic.

But I can see why — $300 price difference aside — the nano-texture finish is not to everyone’s liking. Side-by-side with a regular glossy-finish Studio Display, the nano-texture display looks ... a bit dull? It’s just as bright, and I don’t think it looks less sharp, but the glossy glass makes everything look more vibrant on screen. Personally, I prefer the less-vibrant-but-still-just-as-bright look, and if I could pay $300 extra to get a similar nano-texture/matte finish on a MacBook Pro display, I’d spring for that, too.

Restarting the Apple Studio Display

Yesterday I noticed that the audio output from my Studio Display review unit was garbled. All audio, from all sources, was stuttered and jittery. Not just a little bit off, but unlistenable. Audio from my MacBook Pro’s built-in speakers, or from headphones, was fine. Detaching and reattaching the Mac to the Studio Display didn’t help. Neither did restarting the MacBook Pro.

I had one last guess for a fix: restarting the Studio Display. But there are no buttons on the display, and there are no software controls in Mac OS to tell an attached Studio Display to restart.1 So, under my desk I crawled. Pulled the power plug from the wall socket, waited a few seconds, plugged it back in. To my knowledge, this is the first time my Studio Display review unit restarted since I first plugged it in on March 11. (My unit came with “firmware” version 15.4 (build 19E241), which is still the current version, so I’ve yet to see the firmware update process firsthand.2)

The Studio Display rebooted. While booting, it shows a black background with three small circles aligned horizontally, and those dots animate side-to-side. Seems like this would be better if the animation were Apple’s standard clock-like circular spinner, but whatever, the Studio Display doesn’t take long to boot.

Plugged the MacBook Pro back in and boom — audio was back to normal. Problem solved.

But “pull the power cord out of the wall” is not exactly an intuitive solution to glitchy audio. It is fascinating that the Studio Display is, under the hood, a self-contained iOS computer, but the overwhelming majority of Studio Display owners will never know that, nor should they. A monitor is the sort of thing you expect to plug in and never need to unplug — certainly not just to get sound working.

All sorts of devices are really computers under the hood today. My refrigerator has an embedded computer of some sort, for controlling temperatures, ice-making, and notifying me when filters are due to be changed. I’ve owned it for over five years and have never needed to reboot it. I expect a display from the world’s most-renowned computer company to be at least as reliable a computer as my refrigerator.

If you’re going to design a display without a power button, it ought never need to be power-cycled.

  1. Or at least no such commands I’m aware of. If there’s a command-line incantation or something that can do this, I’d love to hear about it. ↩︎︎

  2. Speaking of Studio Display firmware updates, we’ve seen nada on that front in terms of addressing the deplorable image quality of the built-in camera. I’ve heard nothing on that front, officially or unofficially, since I posted this on March 17. I’ve heard from some early Studio Display buyers who were hoping for a software fix for the camera image quality before their return windows expired. Perhaps Murphy’s Law will kick in and a “hey, the camera quality is now at least as good as an iPad” update will drop this week — but I’m resigned to accepting that the Studio Display just has a crappy camera. ↩︎