Apple Monitors: The Price Problem

by James R. Stoup Jul 15, 2005

Can we all agree that Apple makes nice monitors? I think we can. They come in three magnificent sizes: 20 inch, 23 inch and the big daddy of them all, the 30 inch. Surrounded by aluminum goodness they are the ying that completes the PowerMac’s yang. Sadly they also boast price tags of $800, $1,500 and $3,000 respectively, therein lies the problem.

If you just dropped $600 for a Mac Mini how can you justify spending $800 on a monitor? I could understand if you planned on placing it beside a $3,000 PowerMac, what is a few more bucks at that point right? But for consumers on a budget Apple has severely priced itself out of the display game.

If you are Joe Schmuck then a simple bit of arithmetic will show you that at CompUSA’s website you can get FIVE 15” LCD monitors for $750, THREE 17"LCD monitors for $775 or ONE 20” LCD monitor for $800! Hum, which one should you choose? If you go with option A then you could set up two computers with a dual monitor display and still have one left over for a laptop. If you go with plan B then you could have a very nice dual monitor setup for one station and still have a nice display for another computer. Option C leaves you with one monitor for one computer. You know Apple, your displays are nice, but they aren’t that nice.

And here is the crux of the matter, I don’t understand why Apple won’t make smaller displays. Yes the profit margin would be less than on a $3,000 30” display but so what? I bet CompUSA sells 1,000 15” monitors for every one 30” Cinema HD display. Everyone can use a 15” or 17” display but realistically you are only targeting professionals and gamers with displays larger than 25 inches.

Lets say that Apple decided to go ahead and bring back the smaller displays and they come in your standard 15” and 17” sizes. Even if they really gouged us on the price, charging $300 and $400 respectively, I still think they would see them flying off the shelves. If you sell the Mac Mini for $500 and then have a nice little $300 monitor to go with it your average consumer could then buy a keyboard and mouse and get a whole system for under $900. That seems like a good way to gain market share. Sadly, as it stands now, to get the cheapest system with the cheapest monitor will set you back $1,300 with no keyboard or mouse.

Now, I realize that Apple makes very high quality monitors and that as a result they will never be the cheapest on the block. I can live with that. But come on Apple, please explain to me why I can get a 19” monitor for $350 or your 20” monitor for $800? Does that seem a little odd?

Anyway, in wrapping this up, the demand is there for smaller, cheaper flat screen displays. Other companies realize this and adjust their product lines accordingly. So, if everyone else can do it why not Apple? It’s a shame really because with the Mac Mini Apple has finally released a computer for the masses, bringing OS X to the budget user. Well, now that they have the OS why not give them something cheap to watch it on?

Before anyone goes nuts disputing the prices shown in this article I would suggest actually going to and looking at the products for yourself.


  • Even at smaller sizes,  Apple’s displays would still be more expensive.

    It’s likely that historical sales data showed people do not see the value or are unable to afford larger displays do not see the value of purchasing Apple display at a higher prices over less expensive 3rd-party displays at the same size.

    This is common sense. Why compete in a market that is “cheap” and is constantly trying to undercut the competition based on price instead of quality and value?

    Scott had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 144
  • So Scott, why doesn’t that common sense apply to the Mac mini? Apple should stay out of the “cheap” market or else do it right. Most buyers are not sophisticated nor to do they care enough to buy their Mac mini monitor at another store, thereby engaging in two different service contracts with two different resellers of two different manufacturers. And no budget buyer in their right mind is going to couple a Mac mini with an Apple display ... so WTF is Apple thinking? If they leave the Apple Store to check out non-laughable monitor prices, they likely won’t come back. End of mini. End of story. The mini sales strategy is as doorstop-stupid as the G4 Cube’s—Steve Jobs is brilliant at coming up with tiny enclosures, but he’s the worst I’ve ever seen at figuring out how to sell the damn things.

    This is all about Mac mini. Before the Mac mini, it made sense that Apple stuck to large expensive monitors. The current situation makes no sense at all unless you assume that Apple is intentionally crippling the Mac mini shopping experience so as not to cannibalise its other products.


    Dogger Blue had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 34
  • Better yet, do as you say in the article for the 15” & 17” monitors, but bundle a keyboard & mouse with it for Mac mini buyers. And keep the cost at $300 & $400 respectively. That would fly off the shelves.

    mozart11 had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 35
  • Yeah, at the very least Apple should have one “el cheapo” display to go along with the mini.  Just, say, a 17” LCD for maybe $299.  IT doesn’t have to be the cheapest, it just has to be reasonable and compete.  With Apple, you know it would look pretty enough to justify spending a little bit more.  (And probably have some USB ports on it or something else extra.)

    Keep up the good writins, jstoup smile

    —Jonahan from

    John Monahan had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Apple has historically does something brilliant and then goes and shoots itself in the foot. The Cube. Brilliant design then they make it way too expensive. Make great machines and then only sell online or in their own stores. So the market they are selling to, People who have trouble getting online with their old machines, can’t buy one or find one in their local store.
    There’s always been a bite out of the Apple. The apple is perfect, gloriously beautiful, but there’s always a bite taken out of it. Price, Weird keyboard buses, Scsi, No floppies. There’s always some small hurdle to overcome in purchasing an Apple product.
    The iPod originally had firewire. Now they switched to USB2. maybe there is some small hope that Apple will figure it out and polish up all their products fully. Make the 15” and 17” widescreens, Stop playing coy. Steve, Let the salespeople start to run Apple, You’re should be busy building the next thing. My iPhone, ITMS movie store, PDA, HOME server, whatever. Let the salesmen sell the current thing as they see fit.

    mcloki had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 25
  • What needs to be understood is that Apple is trying to focus on the average consumer, but refuses to stary away from their target market- the artists, sound engineers, etc.
    But Apple’s monitors are very, very high quality, and were made to display colors and junk like never shown on any other display. Plus, Apple’s display’s use the Apple Display Connector (ADC), meaning that the power and USB support is integraded in the same cord with the display wire. This can increase the prices a little, also. Plus, who else makes their displays with aluminum and who else makes their…well- everything with the asthetics Apple uses? Nobody.
    15” monitors are really not that great. Apple will probably never go back to them. Imagine a tiny 15”-er next to a giant PowerMac G5. 17” could be a possibility though…..hmm

    OzzysCross101 had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 2
  • This whole article assumes that every Mac mini must be equipped with an Apple monitor. When in fact, Apple has almost (wisely) encouraged the use of 3rd party monitors which obviously can be purchased for less or are already in new users’ possession.

    The objective is to get fed up Windows users to switch. Mac mini is the bait for future upgrades to an iMac etc.

    If a user is switching to Apple with no other computer equipment, they’d likely be better of with purchasing an eMac or iMac.

    donovan had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 19
  • @DB

    You can’t simply exchange a low cost Windows desktop with a Mac Mini with and run the same software. They may provide similar functionality, but they are not compatible with each other.

    On the other hand, Apple has discontinued ADC and moved to DVI. This removed any compatibility issues that tied Macs to Apple displays and allows the use of any cheap 3rd-party displays that supports DVI. You don’t even need adaptors.

    If your a designer doing print work you’ll want the best quality, display, but you’ll also want something bigger than 17”, which Apple sells.

    Scott had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 144
  • It may be so that a start-from-zero user will be better off with an eMac or an iMac, but that user will feel bait-and-switched (emotionally, I don’t mean legally) when he walks in the door attracted by all the buzz around the $500 mini and realises he can’t walk out with a complete system without spending at least $1000. Apple’s product line-up sends the following message to the totally newbie user walking in the door:

    ‘We would rather lose you as a customer, than sell you what you walked in here looking for, based on our ads and your expectations of how much a monitor costs.’

    It also says to the customer:

    ‘You can buy a cheap monitor to this mini that attracted you here to make it affordable to you, but we won’t sell it to you, because we don’t believe in it.’

    To a customer with ordinary expectations, this is a lot like being proposed marriage, but being given a gift certificate for the ring. It screams, WE THINK YOU ARE A SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN.

    The Mac mini is a great idea for savvy switchers who already have monitors and know which end is up on a DVI cable. I think it’s a great product and I believe in it. But the buzz generated around it leaks into *all* ears, not just the target marget, and what happens to the customers attached to those ears when they walk into an Apple store looking for this Mac mini they’ve been hearing about, is the worst possible scenario. So the Mac mini is one step forward, two steps back. Apple shooting themselves in the foot, indeed.

    If you’re going to sell a product, you’d better get behind 100%, or don’t even bother.


    Dogger Blue had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 34
  • The Mini premise, and original marketing slogan, was BYOKDM- And I think that is the way.  Hook up your old monitor to it.  Or your new HDTV.  Or a Dell flatscreen.

    All those 20” crt displays don’t have to end up in the landfill.

    The best way to send a message about pricing to any company is with your wallet.  The cube was a winner on many levels, but it did not sell. Apple came back with the mini.

    But Apple cannot and should not try to be everything to everyone.  They can avoid selling el-cheapo monitors, and do just fine.  Focus on what they do well. Moreover, they expressly designed the mini to be used with 3rd party monitors.  I, for one, think that is good enough.


    James LeMay had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Everyone justifying the Apple Cinema Display prices assumes that the quality of the Apple displays justify the prices.

    My brother just bought a 24” widescreen Dell display.  He paid $800.  The 23” Cinema Display is $1500, or nearly twice is much.  But not only is the Cinema Display not twice as good, the difference in quality is negligible.  And the Dell monitor has a couple of added features, like adjustable height and swivel.

    It’s one thing to charge a bazillion dollars for that 30” Cinema Display (which is pretty much the nicest monitor I’ve ever seen in my life), since there’s no comparable monitor on the market, but the pricing on the smaller displays is a joke, the “Apple tax” at its worst.

    I don’t necessarily think they need to be making smaller monitors so much as they need to drastically reduce the price of their existing ones.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • “Sadly, as it stands now, to get the cheapest system with the cheapest monitor will set you back $1,300 with no keyboard or mouse.”

    Umm… doesn’t Apple still sell the iMac and the eMac?

    Snarkiness aside, though, I hear the point—it sucks to walk into a store wanting a mini and finding out you can’t get the instant gratification of a whole system without abandoning the mini and going for an iMac or eMac.  As a former apple sales rep i’ve experienced that first hand.

    Yet, from a product positioning point, I think it would be too confusing to offer a cheap $300 display to go along with the mini.  That customer should buy and iMac or eMac.  It’s a better value for them.  And a good sales rep will tell them that in a way that doesn’t make them feel disappointed.

    It’s different for Dell b/c they don’t sell all-in-one desktops, so their product matrix looks different.  You can argue about the pros and cons about A-I-O machines, but the fact is, that for over 20 years, all-in-one design says “Apple” more than anything else.

    frankbruno had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 2
  • “Everyone justifying the Apple Cinema Display prices assumes that the quality of the Apple displays justify the prices.”

    Quality isn’t the only reason Apple’s displays are more expensive. Part of what your paying for is the industrial design and cost of exotic materials, such as the all aluminum frame.  In addition, 3rd-party manufactures produce displays at higher volume since they sell to the entire PC market. This volume allows them to purchase flat panels and other display components at greater discounts than Apple can negotiate.

    To compete, Apple would likely have to put their name on someone else’s cheap display, which I don’t see happening any time soon.

    Scott had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 144
  • IMO, that design wouldn’t be worth an additional $700 even if it were made of gold plating.  When it comes to monitors, most people care about the quality of the screen.  And James got it right on that point: They’re good but they ain’t that good.

    There’s no reason why Apple couldn’t compete with Dell or anyone else in the monitor market.  It’s not like the Mac, with compatibility issues.  It’s a monitor.  While the premium pricing might contribute somewhat to Apple’s reputation for nice design, I think it mostly reinforces the perception that Apple products are over-priced when you can get a comparable product for cheaper.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • “Moreover, they expressly designed the mini to be used with 3rd party monitors.”

    Fine. I agree. So why don’t they SELL a freakin’ 3rd party monitor, and send the right message to customers instead of, ‘You’re on your own, buddy, if you go this route.’

    You just don’t get it. You can’t push a solution if you don’t sell that solution. People will leave disappointed and disillusioned. In what world is that a good thing? In RDF world, that’s where.

    All I’m asking is that they sell the monitors that they bloody well recommend for the mini. There is zero good argument for why they shouldn’t, and every reason they should.

    Dogger Blue had this to say on Jul 15, 2005 Posts: 34
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