Apple's 24-inch LED Cinema Display is a long-overdue update to the company's range of monitors.

However, while it represents an exciting future for their displays, it literally isn't for everybody.

The 24-inch LED Cinema Display uses Apple's new Mini DisplayPort video connection only.

That means, unless you've got a Mac that offers this output, this new monitor is of no use. The only current Macs with this feature are the latest MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops.

While, it's possible to buy adaptors that let you use a computer with a Mini DisplayPort output with a monitor requiring a DVI, HDMI or even VGA input, there's nothing on sale that lets you go the other way, so forget about using the new 24-inch LED Cinema Display with your PowerMac, Mac mini or older Apple laptop.

We're promised that eventually all Macs will offer a Mini DisplayPort, and as Apple has released the technology on a free license, other computer and monitor manufacturers can release compatible products.

Top performer

The Display does a great job of interfacing with the new MacBook family. Its built-in MagSafe connector powers and charges your laptop, so there's no need to use a separate power adaptor.

When connected to the Display via the Mini DisplayPort, your laptop can be used with its lid closed by connecting a separate keyboard and mouse. It also offers a USB lead which, when plugged into your computer, gives you access to the three USB ports on the rear of the display panel.

So with a keyboard and mouse connected to the display, all you need to do to turn your laptop into a desktop is plug in the MagSafe, USB and Mini DisplayPort leads, turning your new 24-inch LED Cinema Display into a superb docking station for your MacBook.

Top marks for convenience, then, but how does it perform as a monitor?

Very well, actually. Instead of the more common florescent tube based backlighting, the Cinema Display uses LEDs spread out behind the screen. This means the brightness can be controlled more precisely and it's lit more evenly, allowing for accurate and consistent colour reproduction.

Screen quality is first rate, with excellent clarity and consistency. All images are solid and crisp with no colour bleed, and its gradients and colour shifts are very smooth, with no sign of the banding.

When looking at the greyscales, there's a definite distinction between 100% and 95% black, and also 5% and 0%, something else some monitors find difficult to reproduce.

With the entire screen displaying 100% black there was none of the patchy inconsistency that is sometimes found in LCD screens. At the display's out-of-the-box settings, the colour photograph we use for test purposes looked slightly washed out, but this is easily fixed with calibration.

Something that's especially impressive is you can look at the screen almost side-on, or from above or below without any colour shift at all. You might get problems with reflections though, especially if you're near a window room. Not everyone appreciates glossy screens, but seeing as the only Macs with which it can function also have glossy screens, this might not be the deal-breaker it could've been.

There's an integrated mic, and an iSight camera that's much better than the one found in the MacBook range, with richer colours and a crisper image.

Audio quality is first rate, with 2.1 sound, solid bass, impressive clarity and almost no distortion at even the highest volumes.

Stand don't deliver

Far less welcome is the mounting stand, which has not seen anything in the way of improvement. Once more you can tilt forwards and backwards, but not adjust the height, unless you want to remove the stand entirely and replace it with a VESA compatible monitor mount. It would be handy if you could rotate the screen into portrait mode too.

On the plus side, the anti-friction strip on the base of the stand makes it easier to swivel the display. To release a product only for those with new laptops boasting Mini DisplayPorts seems risky. Yet there's no doubting the quality of the product, with its excellent colour display, impressive sound and usefulness as a laptop dock.

What it does, it does well, but it's also very niche. The future of Apple displays starts here, but it's of limited use at present.