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Apple displays

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Title: Apple displays  
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Subject: Timeline of Apple Inc. products, Apple Thunderbolt Display, Power Macintosh, Power Macintosh G3 beige, Apple Mouse
Collection: Apple Inc. Displays
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Apple displays

Apple Inc. currently sells LCD computer displays; a wide variety of CRT computer displays have been sold in the past.

CRT displays

In the very beginning (throughout the 1970s), Apple did not manufacture or sell displays of any kind, instead recommending users plug-into their television sets or (then) expensive third party monochrome monitors. However, in order to offer complete systems through its dealers, Apple began to offer various third party manufactured 9" monochrome monitors, re-badged as the Monitor II.

First generation

Apple's manufacture history of CRT displays began in 1980, starting with the Monitor /// that was introduced alongside and matched the Apple III business computer. It was a 12" monochrome (green) screen that could display 80x24 text characters and any type of graphics, however it suffered from a very slow phosphor refresh that resulted in a "ghosting" video effect. So it could be shared with Apple II computers, a plastic stand was made available to accommodate the larger footprint of the monitor.

The Monitor //, a monochrome CRT for the Apple II

Roughly 4 years later came the introduction of the Apple manufactured Monitor //, which as the name implies, was more suited in look and style for the Apple II line and at the same time added improvements in features and visual quality. In 1984 a miniature 9" screen, called the Monitor IIc, was introduced for the Apple IIc computer to help complement its compact size. This monitor was also the first to use the brand new design style for Apple's products called Snow White, as well as being the first monitor not released in a beige color, but rather a bright, creamy off-white. By early 1985 came the first color CRT's, starting with the Monitor 100, a digital RGB display for the Apple III and Apple IIe (with appropriate card), followed shortly by the 14" ColorMonitor IIe (later renamed to AppleColor Composite Monitor IIe) and ColorMonitor IIc (later renamed to AppleColor Composite Monitor IIc), composite video displays for those respective models. All of the Apple monitors are capable of supporting the maximum Apple II Double Hi-Res standard of 560x192.

The AppleColor RGB, an analog RGB display made for the Apple IIGS.

In 1986 came the introduction of the AppleColor RGB Monitor, a 12" analog RGB display designed specifically for the Apple IIGS computer. It supported a resolution of 640x400 interlaced (640x200 non-interlaced) and could be used by the Macintosh II, in a limited fashion, with the Apple High Resolution Display Video Card. Also introduced that year was the Apple Monochrome Monitor, which cosmetically was identical to the former model but was a black and white composite display suitable in external appearance for the Apple IIGS, Apple IIc or Apple IIc Plus.

Second generation

The second generation of displays were built into the Lisa and Macintosh line of computers. At that time, the Macintosh had a high resolution 9-inch monochrome monitor that could display 512x342 pixels. All future models of the Classic style Macintosh later featured this exact display.

A new external AppleColor High-Resolution RGB Monitor was introduced in 1987 with the Macintosh II. It had a 13" fixed pixel resolution of 640x480 and the first Trinitron aperture grille CRT. The Macintosh II had a PC-style expandable case which required an external monitor, it was also able to run up to six external displays simultaneously using multiple video cards. The desktop spanned multiple monitors and windows could be dragged from monitor to monitor, or even straddle two or more. The Macintosh Color Display (14", 16" and 21") were introduced with resolutions of 640x480, 832x624 and 1152x870, with the 16 and 21 inch models being introduced in 1992, and the 14 inch model coming out with the Macintosh LCIII in 1993. Also monochrome displays were introduced mainly for the publishing industry, like the Macintosh Two Page Monochrome Monitor which was able to display pages next to each other with identical resolution to the 21" color one. Also the Macintosh Portrait Display was introduced which had a vertical alignment of the screen and was able to display one page. Two 12" monochrome versions were also introduced at the low end, as well as a 12" Macintosh RGB monitor that displayed a 512x384 (560x384 for compatibility with Apple IIe Card) resolution, meant for the Macintosh LC. There were also the Performa Plus monitor (a low-end Goldstar-built 14" monitor with 640x480 resolution) for the Macintosh Performa series, and the Apple Color Plus monitor, which was essentially the Performa Plus monitor in a nicer case with a tilt & swivel stand.

The Apple AudioVision 14 Display.

Third generation

The third generation of displays marked the end of the monochrome display era and the beginning of the multimedia era. The first display to include built-in speakers was introduced in 1993 as the Apple AudioVision 14 Display. Monitors were divided into two groups. There were the cheaper Multiple Scan monitors with standard shadow mask CRTs with a lower resolution. There was also the AppleVision series of displays which were positioned to the professional market and included more expensive Trinitron CRTs. Many models didn't include built-in speakers because they were considered toys by some in the publishing industry. The AppleVision line of displays were later renamed as ColorSync displays when Steve Jobs returned to Apple and consolidated the product lines. Only 17" and 20" models were left in the product line.

The Macintosh Color Classic also introduced a 10" color Trinitron display to the Classic compact Macintosh, with a slightly enhanced resolution of 512x384 (560x384 to accommodate the Apple IIe Card). Apple continued the all-in-one series with the larger 14" Macintosh LC 520 family, featuring an 800x640 pixel resolution. However, in 1995, Apple switched to the cheaper shadow-mask CRT which continued through the 15" Power Macintosh 5200 LC series and boosting resolution to 832x624. In 1998, the G3 All-In-One boosted the resolution to 1024x768, which continued through the introduction of the iMac until it switched to LCD flat panels in 2002. The last Macintosh to include an integrated CRT was the eMac, which boosted the display area to 17" with support up to 1280x960 resolution. It used a 4th generation flat-screen CRT and was discontinued in 2006.

Fourth generation

The fourth generation of displays were introduced simultaneously with the Blue & White Power Macintosh G3 in 1999, which included the translucent plastics of the iMac (initially white and blue "blueberry", then white and grey "graphite" upon the introduction of the Power Mac G4). The displays were also designed with same translucent look. The Apple Studio Display series of CRT displays were available in a 17" Diamondtron and a 21"Trinitron CRT, both driven by an LG-Manufactured chassis. These displays were notorious for faulty flybacks. The last Apple external CRT display was introduced in 2000 along with the Power Mac G4 Cube. Both it and the new LCD Studio Displays featured clear plastics to match the Cube, and the new Apple Display Connector, which provided power, USB, and video signals to the monitor through a single cable. It was available only in a 17" flat screened Diamondtron CRT. It was discontinued the following year.

Flat panel displays

The Apple Flat Panel Display for the Apple IIc. A very early LCD Display

The history of Apple LCD displays started in 1984 when the Apple Flat Panel Display was introduced for the Apple IIc computer, principally to enhance the IIc's portability (see Apple IIc Portability enhancements). This monochrome display was capable of 80 columns by 24 lines, as well as double hi-res graphics, but had an odd aspect ratio (making images look vertically squished) and required a very strong external light source, such as a desk lamp or direct sunlight to be used. Even then it had a very poor contrast overall and was quite expensive (US$600.00), contributing to its poor sales and consequently it dropping from the market not long after its introduction. An estimated 10,000 IIc LCD monitors were produced.

Portable displays

The next attempt at a flat panel was with the Macintosh Portable. More of a desktop than laptop, it had a built-in high-resolution, active-matrix, 1-bit black & white, 9.8" LCD display with 640x400 resolution. Like the IIc Flat Panel, it was not backlit and required a bright light source to be used. A second generation model rectified that situation. Commencing with the PowerBook series, built-in LCD flat-panels became standard across the portable line, following an industry-wide evolution from grayscale to color and ranging from 9" to 17". Two primary technologies were used, active matrix (higher quality and more expensive) and passive matrix displays (lower quality and cheaper). By 1998 all laptops would use the standard active-matrix color LCD with a standard average dimension of 13", except for the Newton products and eMate portables. Apple's current MacBook portable displays include LED backlighting and support between 1280×800 to 2880×1800 pixel resolution. The iPhone 4 and iPod Touch 4 and later "Retina Display" has the lowest dot pitch of any Apple display, being 960×640 or 1136×640 and only 3.5 or 4 inches.


In 1997, Apple released the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (TAM), the first all-in-one portable like the CRT models before it, with an LCD screen. Drawing heavily from the PowerBook technology, the TAM featured a 12.1" active matrix LCD capable of displaying up to 16bit color at 800x600. While Apple chose to return to traditional and cheaper CRTs for its integrated display desktop line for the next 4 years, the TAM is undoubtedly the predecessor for the successful LCD-based iMac line of all-in-one desktops starting with the iMac G4 released in 2002. A substantial upgrade over the TAM, it contained a 15" LCD supporting up to 1024x768 resolution. It was followed by a 17" and 20" models boasting resolution of up to 1680 × 1050. In 2005, the iMac G5 dropped the 15" configuration and in 2007, the new iMac dropped the 17" and added a 24" to the line-up, further boosting resolution to 1920 x 1200. In October 2009, new iMac models moved to 16:9 aspect ratio screens at 21.5 and 27 inches.

External displays

The Apple Studio Display (flat panel)

The first desktop flat-panel was introduced on March 17, 1998 with the 15" Apple Studio Display (15-inch flat panel) which had a resolution of 1024x768. After the eMate, it was one of the first Apple products to feature translucent plastics, two months before the unveiling of the iMac. Apple called its dark blue color "azul". It had a DA-15 input as well as S-video, composite video, ADB and audio connectors, though no onboard speakers. In January 1999 the coloring was changed to match the blue and white of the new Power Macintosh G3s, and the connector changed to VGA.

The 22" widescreen Apple Cinema Display was introduced in August 1999, simultaneously with the Power Mac G4 and in the beginning was sold only as an option to the Power Mac G4, selling for US$3,999. It had a native resolution of 1600x1024 and used a DVI connector. The display had a striped look on the bezel, similar to previous Studio Displays and iMacs. In December, the colors of the 15" display were changed to "graphite" to match the new Power Mac G4s, and the input was changed from VGA to DVI, the audio and video features dropped, and the ADB functionality replaced by a two-port USB hub.

In 2000 the 22" Cinema Displays switched to the ADC interface, and the 15" Studio Display was remodeled to match the Cinema Display's easel-like form factor and also featured the Apple Display Connector. In 2001 an LCD-based 17" Studio Display was introduced, with a resolution of 1280x1024. In 2002 Apple introduced the Cinema Display HD which had a 23" widescreen display with a resolution of 1920x1200. In 2003 Apple introduced the 20" Cinema Display to replace the now discontinued 22" display and it had a resolution of 1680x1050.

In 2004 a new line was introduced, utilizing the same 20" and 23" panels alongside a new 30" model, for $3,299. The displays had a sleek aluminum enclosure with a much narrower bezel than their predecessors. The 20" model has a 1680x1050 resolution, the 23" has 1920x1200, and the 30" has 2560x1600. The 30" version requires a dual-link interface, because a single-link DVI connection (the most common type) doesn't have enough bandwidth to provide a picture to a display of this resolution. Initially, the only graphics cards that could power the new 30" display were the NVIDIA Geforce 6800 DDL series, available in both GT and Ultra forms. The DDL suffix signified the dual-link DVI capability. The less expensive of the two cards retailed for US $499, raising the net cost of owning and using the display to nearly $3,800. Later graphics options included the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500; the card included two dual-link DVI connectors which allowed a Power Mac G5 to run two 30" Cinema Displays simultaneously with the total number of pixels working out at 8.2 million.

In 2006 along with the introduction of the Mac Pro, Apple lowered the price of the 30" Cinema Display to US$1999. The Mac Pro features an NVIDIA GeForce 7300GT as the graphics card in its base model which is capable of running a 30" Cinema Display and another 23" Display simultaneously. The Mac Pro is also available with both the ATI Radeon X1900XT card and the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 as Build-To-Order options. Each of these cards is capable of driving two 30" Cinema Displays.

LED backlights

With the introduction of the Macbook Air and later the Unibody MacBook family, Apple introduced their first desktop display to use both the brand new Mini DisplayPort connector, but also an LED backlit screen. Intended exclusively for use with the MacBook family, the 24" LED Cinema Display had built-in speakers, an integrated self-powered USB hub and iSight camera with microphone, and a special cable supplying MagSafe power to the laptop, with a USB and Mini DisplayPort connector. It supported 1920x1200 resolution and retailed for US$899.00. In 2010, display size was boosted to 27" and resolution was boosted to 2560x1440. In 2011 this display was rebadged as Apple Thunderbolt Display, and its connector was changed to Thunderbolt. While the non-Thunderbolt model can still be purchased for older Macs, the 27" is Apple's only external display size as of 2012.


Apple has employed a large number of display connector designs over the years:

  • Original DA-15 (commonly but incorrectly known as a DB-15) used on all desktop Macs without a built in monitor up until the 1999 Blue and White Power Macintosh G3.
  • A 13W3 connector (as on Sun Microsystems machines) used on the Macintosh Portrait Display
  • A non-standard "mini-15" connector used on early PowerBooks which allowed an Apple monitor to be attached via a short adaptor cable.
  • Apple MultiMedia Display connector (HDI-45) used on some "AV" model Centris, Quadra and the first-generation (NuBus) Power Macintosh machines.
  • Standard 15-pin high-density DE-15 VGA connector, first included on some Power Macintosh 9600 models and available on all current Macintoshes via a short adaptor cable.
  • Apple Display Connector (ADC), which carries DVI, VGA, USB and power in one connector was used on the PowerMac G4 and early models of the PowerMac G5.
  • A DVI connector was used on the non-unibody Intel-based MacBook Pros, PowerBooks, Mac Mini, Power Mac G4, G5 and Mac Pro.
  • A mini-VGA connector, which can provide VGA via a short adaptor cable. It appears on the white iBook, eMac, iMac G4 and G5, and first generation 12-inch PowerBook G4. Later models also support a composite and S-video adapter attached to this port.
  • A micro-DVI connector is used in the first generation Macbook Air to accommodate its small form factor.
  • A mini-DVI connector used on the 12" PowerBook G4 (except first generation,) Intel-based iMacs, MacBooks, and Mac Minis.
  • A mini DisplayPort connector was used on some Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini and Mac Pro models.
  • Currently all Macs feature Thunderbolt connectors.

Additionally, various Apple computers have been able to output:

  • S-video via standard 4-pin mini-DIN connector
  • Composite video, via:
    • S-video port and use of short adaptor cable (PowerBooks)
    • Standard phono connector (AV Macs)
    • Phono connector video out on the Apple II, II+, IIe, IIc, IIc+, IIGS, III, and III+. While not technically NTSC or PAL compatible, a suitable image would display on NTSC/PAL television monitors
    • A non-standard 3.5 mm jack that functions as either a headphone jack, or stereo audio and composite video out via an adaptor cable (FireWire Special Edition Clamshell iBooks and early "Dual USB" iBooks with external reset button)
  • S-video, Composite video, or VGA, via:
    • Mini-VGA when using an Apple Video Output Adapter (S-video & Composite or VGA)
  • The Apple Video Adapter was specially designed to allow users to connect to S-video or composite video devices. The video adapter cable plugs into the video output port (Mini-VGA) built into the back of certain Macintosh computers. The video output port supports VGA, S-Video and Composite video out. The Apple Video Adapter is for S-Video or Composite video output only, use a separate Apple VGA Adapter for VGA video output options. With the Apple Video Adapter you can connect to your TV, VCR, or overhead projector via S-Video or Composite cables.
Compatible with: iBook without an external reset button, 12-inch PowerBook G4, Mac Mini, eMac, iMac G5, or 17-inch iMac (1 GHz) with Mini-VGA port.
  • The Apple VGA Display Adapter was specially designed to allow users to connect certain Macintosh computers to an extra VGA monitor or external projector (equipped with VGA) for 24-bit video-mirroring. The VGA cable from your external monitor or projector cable plugs into the Mini-VGA video port built into your Macintosh via the Apple VGA Display Adapter.
Compatible with: eMac, iMac G5, iMac G4 flat-panel, 12-inch PowerBook G4, or iBooks having a Mini-VGA port. Most Macintosh computers with the Mini-VGA port can also use the Apple Video Adapter for S-video & Composite output options.
  • 12-inch PowerBook G4 (first generation) models supported video-mirroring and extended video desktop modes through a mini-VGA port. All 15 and 17 inch PowerBook G4 models have a DVI port as well as an S-Video out port. The mini-VGA port on the 12-inch PowerBook was replaced by a mini-DVI port starting with the second revision of the machine.
  • The Retina MacBook Pro supports HDMI output from a built-in connector in addition to its two Thunderbolt connectors.

External links

  • Apple: Displays
  • Apple Displays
  • Apple displays video connectors
  • Apple Video Adapter for Macs with Mini-VGA
  • Apple VGA Display Adapter for Macs with Mini-VGA
  • List of Apple Video connectors

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