Apple Studio Display with Nano-texture glass from a developer perspective

I am a big fan of displays on all Apple devices that I have ever had. I love the image quality and aesthetics, and for the external displays, I love how easy it is to use them with a mac.

The last external display that I had was Apple Thunderbolt Display. It was amazing. I used it until I could, as moving towards retina on MacBook Pro made it hard to code on the non-retina display as the text was not that sharp. Text sharpness became a massive deal for me.

I was very disappointed that Apple discontinued its display business, and there was no Retina option for the Thunderbolt display.

Since then, I have constantly been searching for a good Retina display to accommodate my work. My search criteria were simple on paper but, in reality, ended up very hard to find.

Most of the time, I work with text. I am a full-time developer running my digital studio (7 glyphs). Every day, I code or answer clients’ emails, chat with the team, etc. For me, real estate, text sharpness and crispness are the number one priority for the display. 27 inches is a perfect size for me, and 5K resolution is the only option that macOS can draw natively on the 27 inches display without upscaling the image. The math is elementary. macOS can use 4K resolution for screens less than 24 inches. From 24 and up to 27 inches, it must be 5K resolution and for up to 32 inches — 6K. macOS will scale the image, and the text will lose sharpness in all other cases.

I found on Reddit an excellent explanation of how this scaling works in macOS. I’ll put it here as-is:

Here’s how macOS handles resolution scaling.

Say you have a 4K monitor — 3840x2160. Hey, that’s exactly twice 1920x1080 on both dimensions, right? So macOS supports two UI scaling modes, “standard” (used on “non-Retina” displays) and “hi-DPI” (used on Retina displays). All the assets in “hi-DPI” mode (like buttons, window chrome, etc.) are 2x the resolution of the “standard” assets in both dimensions, meaning that a 3840x2160 display gets you effectively the same screen real estate (as in, things will be the same physical size) as a 1080p monitor, but everything is rendered at a higher resolution and therefore looks way nicer.

On top of this, however, macOS supports scaling modes. For instance, say you have a 27" 4K monitor, and having the same amount of real estate as a 1080p monitor makes everything bigger than you’d like. What you can do is set it to a scaled “like 2560x1440” resolution. What that does is render a 5K (5120x2880) desktop using those high-DPI controls and assets (so everything is effectively the same size as a 2560x1440 display), then downscales it to 4K and outputs it your monitor. This means things are not quite as high res as an actual 5K display and not quite as crisp as running at “native” 4K, but it’ll still be better than a normal 2560x1440 display (because it’s actually a 5120x2880 image downscaled to 3840x2160).

So 5K resolution for me was a must for a 27 inches display.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any affordable options except LG UltraFine 5K display, which I didn’t like. I was not too fond of its design and cheap build. It is wobbly when you type, and overall I’ve read many negative reviews on the Internet.

When Apple released Pro Display XDR, I was distraught. I was starving for this display, but the price tag of USD 6,198 in the configuration I needed was too much for me. I could not justify this purchase, so this was also not an option for me.

I was so happy when Apple released the Apple Studio Display during the March event. At the keynote, the display looked gorgeous, and the price tag was within my budget. So I had preordered it straight away.

I work in a bright room, so getting a Nano-texture glass option was not a question of choice. Regardless, it only costs USD 300 more (not USD 1000 as for the Pro Display XDR), so I ordered this option straight away.

After the preorder, I watched every Youtube video and read every review on the Internet about the Studio Display. Luckily some reviewers got it before the official release date. I also watched a lot of reviews about the Nano-texture glass technology.

I was apprehensive after watching those reviews as everyone was saying that Nano-texture glass makes the text look blurry, and if you work with the text, you should avoid this option.

I was so disappointed by going through those reviews, so I decided to cancel my preorder. However, I couldn’t do that as Apple had already charged my card, and the display was shipped. After chatting with the Apple support team and explaining my concerns, the support person offered to organise a return and purchase a new one without a Nano-texture glass. So I did that.

To my vast disappointment, the delivery date for the new purchase was already in the middle of June. I was upset. Apple Studio Display was the critical element of the new dream working desk setup I was building for the last few months. Waiting till the middle of June was something that I couldn’t accept. So I decided to cancel my new order and cancel the return.

26th of March, four days before the original delivery date, I got my Apple Studio Display delivered to my door. I didn’t feel any excitement because I was already sure that I would not like it by that time.

Gosh, how I was wrong!!!

For my dream desk setup, I purchased a VESA mount option. I planned to put the display on the monitor arm to set it to the most comfortable position.

I assembled the desk, the shelf, and the arm and put the Studio Display on it the same day. Finally, I was ready to see how blurry the text would be.

To my absolute happiness, the text was very sharp. Also, the display absorbs all the glare in the room. The overall feel of the text on this display is like reading text on paper. I had a very similar experience when reading text on Kindle Paperwhite.

Till today, I have been working for at least 8 hours a day for two weeks with that display, and I can tell it is a pure enjoyment working with text. I have my M1 Max MacBook Pro 16 inches as a second screen, and it looks like a mirror in my home office room. I can see the reflection of lights, windows, my face, etc.

It’s very easy to see how much reflection I get from the MacBook Pro screen versus the Studio Display screen in the photo below.

The Apple Studio Display with Nano texture glass absorbs everything, and there is no reflection at all. It is such a pleasure to work with text on it. It also has decent built-in speakers — excellent quality for the built-in ones.

So overall, I am super happy with my purchase. I am super excited that I went with the Nano-texture glass option, and I don’t know why those reviewers were telling completely different things about the text sharpness. Maybe if you look super close, you’ll notice something, but having the screen a meter away from your eyes makes the experience very pleasant.

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茶 ॐ  🎮 | CEO at 7 glyphs — the number one mobile and web development studio in New Zealand 🇳🇿 | CTO at Vibe Media | iOS Developer | Father of 👦🏼 & 👧🏻

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Igor Anany

茶 ॐ  🎮 | CEO at 7 glyphs — the number one mobile and web development studio in New Zealand 🇳🇿 | CTO at Vibe Media | iOS Developer | Father of 👦🏼 & 👧🏻