Running classic Cinema Displays with newer Macs [Setups]


Which makes you swoon more, the 30-inch Cinema Displays or the Yamaha powered speakers?
Which makes you swoon more, the 30-inch Cinema Displays or the mounted Yamaha powered speakers with the Mackie Big Knob controller?

There’s something special about old Apple gear. Maybe that’s why it comes up fairly frequently in Cult of Mac‘s Setups coverage. One of the most-beloved classics in Apple’s storied history of beloved products is the Cinema Display. Today’s featured setup sports not one but two 30-inch Cinema Displays, the big stunners Steve Jobs introduced to an absolutely dazzled Worldwide Developers Conference audience in 2004.

So, naturally, questions came up about how to best use them with a newer Mac.

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Running dual 30-inch Cinema Displays with a recent MacBook Pro

Redditor gagigu1 (Gag) presented their magnificent dual Cinema Displays in a post titled “My current setup at home. MacBook Pro powers those 2×30″ Cinemas and still enough power from 2013.”

By the way, we’d love to call the displays “vintage,” like a classic car, but that word has a specific meaning in Apple’s world.

Gag asked two questions in the post “for people using no high res displays”:

  1. How’s OS 11 and OS 12 on those displays? I heard system fonds are blurry and unsharp as Apple changed them. Because this I refused to upgrade from Mac OS 10.15 to OS 11 and higher.
  2. Is there a method to work on 30″ Cinema Displays with newer Macs with USB-C/Thunderbolt 4? I heard there are issues because those big 30″s have Duallink-DVI and the adaptors aren’t working with the Duallink-DVI to Mini-DP.

And they got several helpful answers, any or all of which might help folks facing similar issues:

  1. Check out this video by Luke Miani, he literally just covered this, you actually only need one adapter [note: video also embedded below].
  2. This post might help answer some of the questions, I think the user found a solution for running Cinema Displays with newer Macs (there’s also some talk about higher resolution displays in there).
  3. You may need to use Tinkertool to fix font smoothing since Big Sur took it away. I have a 38-inch UW and when running Big Sur I had to do a lot of Tinkertool with the fonts and also had issues with colors since MacOS keep thinking my screen was a TV. Most of those issues went away with Monterey, I just use Font Smoothing tweaks in Tinkertool.
  4. I didn’t have much luck with those USB-C to Dual Link DVI adapters, even the one mentioned in the Luke Miana link in the other comment. There was slight tearing, and inconsistent connection. I have, however, been using an OWC dock with Mini DisplayPort over the last six years or so at home, and it has been flawless. Thunderbolt 3 to the dock, then Mini DP out of the dock to the Mini DP to Dual Link DVI adapter from Apple. Fonts look fine, and I don’t plan to change displays until this one stops working.

Just to cut to the chase regarding Miani’s solution in item 1 above, you can buy a $40 adapter on Amazon and use it with all sorts of recent Macs, including M1-powered machines, as he demonstrated. Yet it appears not to work as well for everyone, as noted in item 4.

The link in item 2 leads to a Reddit post loaded with tips and links from various commenters about solutions they’ve tried. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re trying to rock an old Cinema Display.

The answers appeared to prompt Gag to appear to think about getting a different Mac.

“Luckily if you order from Amazon you still can return almost everything within 30 days. So if I‘m gonna swap my Mac I can try to make them run,” they said.

Other old-school Apple gear

Gag also rocks a pair of iPods — an iPod Classic, which you can see in the photo, and an iPod Video, not shown. A commenter asked is he actually uses the Classic and learned that Gag actually has still others not shown.

“Sure, I swap between both and have many others in my collection,” Gag replied. “I don’t have any music on my iPhone.”

And even that’s not the extent of Gag’s collection of old Apple products. Check out the iSight camera perched just above and behind the Cinema Displays.

“How’s that iSight going with Zoom?” a commenter asked. “I can’t imagine it would be too sharp with the low-res cam in there.”

“I used the iSight with Zoom. Quality isn’t up to date, but you can use it,” Gag replied. “Low light quality is still better than many other webcams. But I have several dead pixels, so maybe I’m gonna replace it with another iSight I have and take this one apart and try to fit a new webcam into the housing.”

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