23" Cinema Display on a PowerBook


This is a PowerBook G4 Titanium (“TiBook”) with 1GB of RAM. It is currently running OS 10.3.5. It is mounted on a BookEndz dock. It serves as my main desktop machine. In this photo I am using Final Cut Pro to edit my cinematic masterpiece, “The Blizzard of ’03,” which is about my wife’s and my experiences during the blizzard of 15-19 February, 2003.

I had been using the TiBook with a Samsung 770 TFT 17" LCD monitor in extended desktop mode. In spite of the fact that the Samsung has superb color and clarity, I wanted more! more! display area because my main applications are Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and various vector-drawing applications. All of these apps put a lot of palettes and toolbars on the screen.

In February, 2003, after doing a lot of homework (in light of the considerable expense involved in this upgrade), I ordered a Gefen VGA-to-ADC adapter directly from Gefen. It cost $300.00. Gefen said that the adapter was out of stock, but they shipped within a couple of days. I took my TiBook and the Gefen to the Apple Store in Towson Town Center (north of Baltimore) to see if they would let me try it out (figuring that if the adapter didn’t work as advertised I could, at worst, return it with a restocking fee).

The manager and salesperson at the Apple Store were very kind. Display systems have cable ties binding all of their exposed cables to hinder theft. They removed all of the ties from a something-or-other desktop Mac that was connected to a 23" Cinema Display. (Since I don't plan to buy any more desktop Macs, I don't pay much attention to those models anymore.) Then they helped me connect my TiBook and the Gefen.

In short, the Gefen works as advertised; perhaps even better -- I had been given to understand that the 23" CD would only display 16-bit color (i.e., “thousands of colors”) and not 24-bit color (“millions...”) when connected to my TiBook via the Gefen adapter -- due to the fact that my TiBook has only 16MB of VRAM.

In fact, the Gefen and 23" CD combination works like this: with display spanning (mirroring is not possible), the TiBook display and the 23" CD can each display 16-bit color. With the TiBook closed (its display turned off), which is the manner in which I have chosen to use the system, the 23" CD can display 16-bit or 24-bit color. Only the native resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels is possible, and the only available refresh rate is 60Hz. This is not a problem.

I purchased a 23" CD from the Towson Apple Store on the spot for $1,999.00. I might have saved a little by purchasing it on-line, but that would have been dishonorable -- taking advantage of the considerable effort the Apple Store personnel put into helping me test the setup, then buying the display elsewhere.

Display details: the 23" CD has a two-port USB hub and the Gefen has a USB port that connects to the Mac. Note that the external keyboard -- a necessary item if one is to use a PowerBook with the lid closed -- is plugged into the 23" CD. The dimensions of the image on the 23" CD are 19-1/2" wide by 12-1/2" high. Quality is superb in either 16-bit or 24-bit mode.Performance is not a problem (but I don’t have any games with demanding VRAM requirements). DVD movies play beautifully in full-screen mode. My 23" CD was delivered with no bad pixels, and the image quality and readability on this display are near enough to perfect as does not matter. I downloaded SuperCal after reading rave reviews, but I found that a) it is needlessly complicated and b) it did not produce a better color profile than Apple’s Display Calibrator, so I deleted it.

Other system details: this TiBook was released before an internal DVD drive was available, so I have had an MCE DVD/CD-RW drive retrofitted; it is identical to the Apple OEM drive. Peripherals include two OWC Mercury Elite 120-GB FireWire hard drives (for storing and backing up all of those still image and video files); an OWC FireWire DVD R/RW drive; an 8-port USB hub, and a 5-port FireWire hub to handle the external drives, my mini-DV camera, and the iBot webcam as well as an iPod and iSight (latter two not shown above.) Also not visible in the photo are an Edirol UA-3D USB Audio Interface, an Epson flatbed scanner, and an old-but-good Nikon LS-1000 film and slide scanner. The latter is a SCSI device that connects to the FireWire chain via an Orange Converter (now discontinued) and that is driven by VueScan. Printers, barely visible at right, are an HP LaserJet, an HP d135 AIO, and a Canon i9100. Printers and everything else that can be shared over a network are linked to my three-Mac (and one Sony Vaio laptop running Windows XP Pro) network via AirPort Extreme Base Station and a Linksys BEFSR81 8-port router. A cable modem is connected to the router’s WAN port, and all computers on the network share the broadband Internet connection. As I read over this paragraph I wonder if my setup might sould like a kludge. But -- to coin a Mac phrase -- it just works. Pop the TiBook into the BookEndz and it’s a fully capable desktop machine; pop it out and it’s ready to hit the road. Many Windows users who have seen this are amazed that it all works without any fuss. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all one really needs to know about Windows—though as an occasional user of Windows XP Pro, I know a great deal more about Windows than I care to know!

Disclaimer: the system described here works fine for me, but I do not claim that such a system would work for you. I have no financial interest in any company or product mentioned here. Newer PowerBooks have a DVI video connector and do not require the Gefen converter in order to use a Cinema Display. Gefen says that the Gefen converter has been modified to work with Apple’s 20" Cinema display, but I have tested it only with the 23" CD.

Thanks for visiting! I hope that you’ll take a moment to look at the rest of my site.

David Illig, aka Davoud, Daoud, Daffydd, et. al.

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