Apple’s LED Cinema Display: A Too Short Story

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

When it came time to choose a display for my 2009 Mac Pro, I decided to stick with Apple. I purchased Apple's 24" LED Cinema Display. I have not regretted it. With its deep rich colors, sharp text, and an extremely wide angle of view, it is almost certainly the best monitor I have ever owned. I've even come to appreciate the glossy screen, much to my surprise. And unlike any other display I could have chosen, it comes with a built-in iSight camera. Woo!

There's just been one problem. It should have been a minor problem — but it unexpectedly exploded into a relatively large and costly one. At issue: the length of the Display's connecting cables. Or, more precisely, the lack of such length. In brief: the length of the triple-headed (MagSafe, Mini DisplayPort and USB) cable is too short to connect to a Mac Pro. Why? Given the size of the Mac Pro, most people (myself included) choose to keep the computer under their desk rather than on it. Unfortunately, the Cinema Display's cable is so short that it often can't reach the ports of an on-the-floor Mac Pro.

How did Apple go wrong here? Almost certainly, it's because Apple views the display primarily as an accessory for MacBooks. They even have a Display-MacBook Pro combo pictured on the Cinema Display's box. With this setup, the monitor and the computer will typically be nearly adjacent to each other. In this pairing, the short cable makes sense.

With a Mac Pro, however, the cable is likely to run out before it reaches your computer. In my case, I managed to overcome this obstacle, but just barely. The MagSafe cable was unneeded and could be ignored. For the USB connection, I used a USB extender cable. For the Mini DisplayPort, however, no such extender was available at the time. Still, with a good deal of effort and careful positioning, I was able to get the hardware close enough to each other so that I could plug the cable into the Mini DisplayPort on the Mac Pro.

Apple's position. "Is Apple aware of this issue?," I wondered. "Do they have a suggested solution?" I went to an Apple Store to find out. The staff I spoke with were indeed aware of the issue. But they had no solution to offer. Apple does not make any extender cable nor does the Store carry any such cable from a third-party. The staff had no clue as to when or even if Apple would ever provide a fix. Consistent with what I read in this Apple Discussions thread, their position was that Mac Pro users should either buy Apple's 30" Display or go with another display brand altogether.

This seemed an odd position to me, as it is designed to turn away sales. Indeed, a couple of users in the above-cited thread returned a just-purchased Cinema Display after they discovered this situation. The Mac Pro comes with the still rare Mini DisplayPort. You'd think Apple would want to offer a display to work with it. Apparently not.

From bad to worse to better. This is where things stood for me —until about a month ago. One day, when I wanted to access the back of the Mac Pro, I slid it forward. Momentarily forgetting the precarious balancing act I had arranged, this stretched the Mini DisplayPort cable to the point of bending the connector at the end. In a misguided attempt to undo the bend, I made matters worse. The cable no longer worked at all!

Unfortunately, the cable is not user-detachable from the display. I knew this meant that the cable would need to be replaced — and that this would not be a simple matter. The end result was that I had to leave the Display at an Apple Store for over a week, waiting for the replacement parts to arrive and be installed. It wound up costing me $150 (more than half of which was for labor). There were some further complications (I won't bother you with the details) which later led to Apple replacing the Display altogether (at no additional cost to me). I now have a new and working Display again.

Good news. In the middle of all of this, I discovered that third-party Mini DisplayPort extenders were on the verge of coming to market. They were not available at the time of my trouble, but you can buy one now. I have since purchased one from CPU Stuff for $20. MonoPrice.com sells a similar cable for even less. The cable works perfectly — which means that I should never have to worry about this problem again.

Will Apple now start carrying these extenders in their Stores? Or at least recommend them to potential customers? I don't know. But, if you're considering a 24" Cinema Display for a Mac Pro, you now know what to worry about and what to do about it.

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9 Comments Leave Your Own

XSemper Idem5

I don’t have a Mac Pro but thanks for the warning.
I do find it odd that Apple store employees basically said, “oh well, then buy non-Apple” It’s almost like saying “your business no longer matters to us, you already bought the computer”. They should at least make the cables detachable. It’s a display, they have to keep in mind that it should be friendly to all of their computers currently being sold.

joelgs23

How did you connect the MiniDisplay Port to the Mac Pro? They don’t have that port. Did you find an adapter to DVI? I’ve been looking and have not seen any.

Steven Moore

Same thing for me. The cable is too short. You have to remember when pulling the mac pro out to reach behind and disconnect the cable first.

Ted Landau

How did you connect the MiniDisplay Port to the Mac Pro? They don?t have that port. Did you find an adapter to DVI?

The 2009 Mac Pros have a Mini DisplayPort. For older Mac Pros, there is currently no cable that allows you to connect a 24” Cinema Display. FWIW, there is a cable that goes in the reverse direction, allowing you to connect a DVI monitor via the Mini DisplayPort to the new Mac Pros: http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB570Z/A?mco=NDY5OTA2OQ.

timon

What I don’t understand is why no one has make a DVI or Mini DVI to Display Port converter so one can use the newer displays on slightly older Mac’s?

Kevin

I bought the 24-inch LED display for my new MacBook Air.  I love the display, but agree that the cables are just too dang short.  I don’t have the real estate available on my computing desk to have the MBA open (or shut) with the display.  I’d like to simply put the MBA on the adjacent desk, but the cables don’t reach.  My solution was to modify the computer desk, drilling a couple holes to route the cables to the top drawer, where I put my MBA (closed, obviously…) when I’m in the office.  This doesn’t allow the air circulation it should have.  I’ve drilled additional holes in the drawer to allow this, but the MBA fan is still always on high when I open the drawer.  It doesn’t seem to affect performance (e.g., shut down to just one core).  Not the solution I desire, but it’s about the only one I could come up with given the cable length limitation.  The only upside I could see is that now my MacBook Air is “hidden” from potential would-be thieves when I’ve stepped out of the office for a bit.

Jonk

Yep. Same problem. Smacks of Apple arrogance, to be honest. If they simply provided a removable cable then users could buy whatever length they needed. Will that happen? Never.

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The only upside I could see is that now my MacBook Air is ?hidden? from potential would-be thieves when I?ve stepped out of the office for a bit.

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