Tag Archives: Mac Pro

LG 34UM95 34″ 21:9 Ultrawide monitor user review

LG’s 34UM95 34″ monitor is perhaps the first affordable ultra-wide screen monitor that provides sufficient display space to be a realistic single display alternative for users that until now have had to use two screens.  This non-technical review and comparison with Apple’s Thunderbolt display is based on six weeks’ general use with a Mac Pro.

When I finally took delivery of my new Mac Pro in June 2014 I naturally wanted to exploit its capabilities to the full.  When it came to monitors that pointed me towards a 4K monitor, but even my capacious wallet hesitated at the three grand (£3,000 for those unfamiliar with the vernacular) a Sharp 4K monitor would set me back.

So an Apple Thunderbolt display it was, and a wait for the monitor market to develop.  I was pretty happy with the Apple display.  The quality is superb, resolution is 2,560 x 1,440 and it’s a delight to use.

When the LG 34UM95 34″ 21:9 Ultrawide monitor was announced I was intrigued.  It promised the same vertical resolution but an additional 34% of horizontal real estate, giving 3,440 x 1,440 resolution (hence the 21:9 ratio).  So when it became available here in Europe I ordered one, sight unseen.

LG 34UM95 v Apple Thunderbolt display screen size comparison - in reality the LG feels even bigger
LG 34UM95 v Apple Thunderbolt display screen size comparison – in reality the LG feels even bigger

Setting it up

A piece of cake.  It took fifteen minutes.  The instructions stress not squeezing the screen and taking care when attaching the stand.  The monitor ships with an HDMI cable so I used that to connect it to the Mac Pro (a Displayport cable was also supplied).  I would prefer Thunderbolt and when I get round to buying such a cable I will probably change.  The power supply is a moderately large external lump.  I fired up the Mac Pro and away we went.  Plug-and-play, just like Apple kit.

Settings are controlled by an inconspicuous joystick underneath the middle of the screen.  It’s simple to use.

For such a large item and box the monitor is remarkably light.  Because of its width the box could do with a handle on the top, rather than the two handles in the end faces, but I got the monitor back home by public transport with no problem or inconvenience.

Appearance

LG 34UM95 Ultrawide monitor showing Excel spreadsheet - big enough for the dullest of bean counters
LG 34UM95 Ultrawide monitor showing Excel spreadsheet – big enough for the dullest of bean counters

Its size makes the monitor an impressive piece of equipment, but next to the Apple display (or a 27” iMac) it lacks a certain quality.  The bezel is about half the width of the Thunderbolt display (the latter is now quite an old design, appearing first in 2011), which is nice.  The stand is fine and helps to give the impression that the screen floats in mid-air, but it is plastic compared with the Apple display’s metal stand.  The front is edged with a thin silver surround, but it is chrome-effect plastic, not metal.  Mind you, since it costs about the same as the Apple yet is much bigger, these are small compromises, provided performance is good.

Performance

I’m not using the display for print-quality image manipulation and others give detailed technical analysis of colour calibration and the like.  I use it for monster spreadsheets and to have multiple windows open without overlapping.  The highest praise I can give is that the quality matches that of the Apple monitor.  I am unable to distinguish between them and I run them side-by-side.

The split screen software does what you would expect; it splits the display into multiple screens (up to four).  Having installed it I don’t find any compelling need to use it with just my Mac Pro.  You can even connect two different sources (a Mac and a Blu-ray player, for example) which is cool.

The screen’s height (the vertical visible display dimension) matches that of the Apple monitor.  Using both together, next to each other, is an excellent experience.  The mouse cursor moves effortlessly between the two screens.

Connectivity

The monitor has more inputs and outputs than you can shake a stick at:  two HDMI, one Displayport, two Thunderbolt, one USB up, three USB in, Headphones out.

From left
More connectivity than you can shake a stick at; power cable on the left, HDMI to its right
Extract from LG 34UM95 manual showing ports
Extract from LG 34UM95 manual showing ports

Conclusion

The LG 34UM95 is a first-class monitor with a display of a quality similar to that of Apple’s Thunderbolt display, yet provides 34% more screen space at identical resolution at a similar price.  For users that need or are contemplating a two-monitor solution it’s a compelling answer.  It makes Apple’s display look even more overpriced than before.

The Importance of design to value

Having a good product or service just isn’t enough.  If you want to be chosen before a competitor, or command a premium, the whole package has to be right.

I am lucky enough to have a 2014 Mac Pro.  Lovely piece of kit.  When I got it the only Thunderbolt display on the market was from Apple, I was not prepared to move to a resolution lower than that of my iMac and I balked at the crazy price (three grand) for a 4K Sharp display.  Apple Thunderbolt display it was, then.

Fortunately the LG 34UM95 34″ 21:9 Ultrawide monitor has arrived and it’s great.  It has the same vertical resolution as the Apple display (1,440 pixels) but it’s much wider (3,440 v 2,560).  It’s a lovely piece of kit, with good connectivity (it’s the only Thunderbolt display other than the Apple and has HDMI) and display quality that is the match of the Apple’s.  And that width means the display can be used as two split screens.

So the LG is a new model, 34% bigger real estate and better connectivity, yet it sells for about the same price as what is now quite an old Apple model.  There are a number of reasons Apple kit commands a premium, but I’d like to look at something simple; packaging.

Apple’s Jobs-inspired design focus is legendary and that even extends to packaging.  Take a look at these two photos:

Apple Thunderbolt display box
Apple Thunderbolt display box
LG 34UM95 monitor box
LG 34UM95 monitor box

A greater contrast in styles is difficult to imagine.  The Apple box is practical (see the neat carrying handle) but relies on nothing more than a picture of the monitor.

The LG box by contrast is brash and packed full of features but just lacks class.  It does give Advanced Viewing Pleasure, but I’m not sure I need it shouted at me from the packaging.

It would be crazy for LG to try to out-Apple Apple, but that difference in design is an important element in the brands’ identities and that translates into pounds and pence.

iTec USB 3.0 Card Reader review

iTec USB 3.0 card reader
iTec USB 3.0 card reader

Memory cards are now so cheap and their capacity so high that they offer a viable and flexible backup option.  This card reader is a cheap and simple way to give a computer additional storage and data exchange options.

My new Mac Pro is a fantastic piece of kit and has more input and output ports than you can shake a stick at, but one option that I sadly miss from my iMac is an SD-card slot.  I do a lot of photography and for me the easiest way of getting images onto the Mac is simply to take the card out of the camera, bung it in the computer and copy the files across.

On top of that the cost of memory cards is now so low, and their capacity so high, that they provide a super way to back data up and get it off site (how many people keep their backup with their main computer. so that in the event of theft or fire the backup is lost with the original?).

A quick trawl of the web showed a number of options and I plumped for the i-Tec USB 3.0 Card Reader.  It does exactly what it says on the tin, as they say.  It supports the following formats:

MS, MS PRO, MS PRO Duo, SD, SDHC, SDXC, Mini SD *, Mini SDHC *, Micro SD/T-Flash, Micro SDHC, MMC, MMC Plus, RS-MMC *, MMC Mobile *, CF typ I

*with appropriate adapter (not included)

Other characteristics:SDHC and SDXC compatible

  • Data transfer rate up to 5 Gbps
  • No installation needed
  • LED indicator
  • Low power consumption
  • Draw Power directly from USB port

Operating systems:

  • Windows ME, XP, Vista, 7 32/64bit, 8 32/64bit
  • Mac OS X and higher

I wanted USB 3.0 for speed and for value for money (it cost me just the equivalent of £10.50) this is difficult to beat.  One thing to remember when you see the adverts though.  They will show the reader unencumbered by cable or cards as shown above.  The reality is a little more cumbersome:

iTec USB 3.0 card reader with USB cable and SD card
iTec USB 3.0 card reader with USB cable and SD card

It’s not a big deal, but so often nice pieces of kit are shown in elegant isolation, ignoring the spaghetti-like mess of wires behind the facade of elegant simplicity.