Apple 23" HD Cinema Display on a PC? Sacrilege!
Changing Water Into Wine with Dr. Bott's DVIator

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If you're a PC user who has cast an envious eye toward Apple's line of sleek, clear-colored flat panel displays, but thought there was no way to use such coveted devices with your computer, here's a product that can help you cross that bridge. A company called Dr. Bott is offering DVIator, ($94.95) a cable and power supply combination that can do the computer equivalent of changing water into wine. The best news is, if you have the right kind of PC graphics card, the thing works perfectly. Here's our review.

So what exactly is this bridge that needs to be crossed? When Apple introduced its beautiful but ill-fated Cube a few years ago, it also announced a proprietary way of hooking up its monitors it called ADC (Apple Display Connector). This new way of connecting video to computer -- still in use by all Apple flat panel displays today -- is quite a convenience improvement. It combines the power supply, RGB video and USB connection all in one cable that you plugged into the monitor, reducing clutter and adding to the ease that characterizes that legendary Apple out-of-box experience. It's a great thing to be able to just plug in the monitor to the computer, plug the computer into the power strip, and then connect the keyboard and mouse and you're ready to go.
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But this proprietary ADC system left PC users out in the cold. There was no way to connect a PC to these new Apple monitors. Enter Dr. Bott, which put together a rather simple product, DVIator, using the same power supplies from the Mac Cube (they even still have the white Apple logo on them) and combining the resulting DC power cable with a USB connector and a DVI plug. There's no big magic here -- all the DVIator does is adds power (and USB) to the video card's connecting cable, the same as what Apple's ADC cables do. All you need is a graphics card that has a DVI connector and that runs the same synch rates and resolutions as the Apple displays (the 23" HD Cinema Display's native resolution is 1920x1200 at 60Hz), and you're in business.

DVIator
DVIator lets you use Mac flat panel displays on a PC
However, not just any graphics card will work. In my testing, an ATI Radeon 8500DV works beautifully, while an NVidia Quadro 2 balked. I'm also told that Windows XP seems to work better with it than its predecessors like Windows 2000, Me and 98. To find out which cards will work on your PC, take a look a the compatibility list on the DVIator web site, at http://www.dviator.com/us/Compatibility.html#PCGra. This is not exactly the newest list of cards, but according to Dr. Bott officials, the company doesn't really spend much time testing PCs since it's primarily a Mac supplier. But to give you an idea, most cards from ASUS and ELSA, along with the ATI Radeon cards, will work. Others like Matrox graphics cards, won't work at all. Sometimes, the fault seems to be in the display. For example, Dr. Bott tells us that few have had any luck getting Apple's 20" display to work with any graphics card. The ATI RadeonDV card I'm using here costs about $180, so in a worst-case scenario you could just get one of these to drive the Apple display.

A similar product is sold by Apple itself. Apple's version functions identically to the DVIator but uses a power supply that's much smaller -- it looks like the same power supply used for Apple's PowerBook G4 line. Save your money, though -- Dr. Bott's product does the job at a lower price. At $99, Apple's product would only be worth the extra four bucks if you're in close quarters and really need to save space with that smaller and lighter power supply. If you call Apple, don't expect them to tell you the cable sets work with PCs -- of course, they'd rather you buy a Mac and use their displays with them. But the DVIator can be handy for Mac users, too, if you want to use two of the Studio Displays with your Mac. Just plug a DVIator into the open DVI port in the back of your Mac and then you can use another monitor. Plug in more DVI graphics cards into your Mac and you can do like Dr. Bott did at a recent trade show, operating five Apple HD Cinema Displays at the same time. Now that's what I call wide screen support!

You can do a similar thing with PCs, too where in your AGP slot you run a supported card like the ATI 8500DV, and then put another graphics card in a PCI slot. Then you could run two (or more) HD Cinema Displays at the same time. Or, for digital video editing, think of maybe running one 23" display for your timeline and a 17" for displaying your bins and palettes.

Sony PremierPro 23I think for $1999 you could certainly buy two flat panel monitors that can do the job on your PC, but for that price you can get your hands on that splendid 1920x1200 Apple HD Cinema Display which is, honestly, the best computer monitor I have ever seen. Sorry to gush so much about this, but the monitor is really that good. And now, with Dr. Bott's DVIator, it's quick and easy to use it with a PC. Who says Mac users have all the fun? But then, here's a major caveat: If you'd like to be able to adjust the color and brightness of your monitor, which you can't with this setup (a show-stopper for many users) you might want to take a look at the Sony PremierPro 23" flat panel display (pictured at left), which appears to use the same fantastic 1920x1200 LCD. Making the Sony PremierPro even more attractive is its price -- I found it on the Web for about $2000, which after you've bought the DVIator is about $100 less than you'd pay to use the Apple display on a PC. And, a big plus for the Sony display is its ability to be driven by almost any graphics card as long as it supports 1920x1200 resolution, no big deal these days. Read a full review of that Sony monitor by clicking on these words. Anyway, if you simply must have the Apple HD Cinema Display, you have a compatible graphics card, and don't mind that non-adjustable brightness and color situation, the DVIator is highly recommended.


Charlie White, your humble storytellerDigital Media Net Executive Producer Charlie White has been writing about new media and digital video since it was the laughingstock of the television industry. A technology journalist and columnist since 1994, White is also an Emmy-winning producer, video editor, broadcast industry consultant and shot-calling television director who has worked in broadcasting since 1974. Talk back -- Send Chazz a note at cwhite@digitalmedianet.com.

Read Charlie White's editorials by clicking here.



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