Kanex XD for 27" iMac & LED Cinema Display Review


One of the biggest limitations found in Apple's gigantic 27" iMac and LED Cinema Display alike is the lack of HDMI inputs. Apple's proprietary Mini DisplayPort limits the compatibility with other devices like gaming consoles, movie players and other devices that use HDMI connection. The Kanex XD is the solution for iMac users who always wanted to put that expensive 27" LED backlit display to good use for watching Blu-ray movies and owning noobs using their favorite consoles. You need the right tool to get all of that done, and the Kanex XD is that tool inclosed inside a beautiful aluminum enclosure begging to be paired together with your Apple display.

If you've always day dreamed about how awesome it would be to be able to get your game on right there on your desk, you should definitely want to jump past that break for the full review! 


The Kanex XD comes with everything that you'll need to get started right out of the box. Included with the Kanex XD are Mini DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort and HDMI to HDMI cables that you need to use to connect your video source into the Kanex XD box in order for it to transfer the video signal straight to your iMac or LED Cinema Display. Because both the HDMI and Mini DisplayPort have the ability to transfer audio as well, you won't need any extra audio cables to mess around with. It's nice that Kanex does include all the necessary cables, however it's worth noting that the HDMI cable is on the short side meaning you'll have to have your Xbox, PS3 and so on right next to your Apple display. Or you could just spend a few bucks and get yourself a long HDMI cable from Monoprice, which is what I've done. One more thing is that a power adapter is also included in order to power up the Kanex XD. 


If you're concerned about your setup, you'll be happy to know that the Kanex XD takes up very little desk space, but do know that it will add more wires to your desk setup so be prepared to make room for more cables. Kanex hasn't included an instruction manual the size of a book, but rather a simple sheet explaining step by step on how to connect the Kanex XD with your setup. It's very straight forward and simple I should say. Connected the Kanex XD to the power outlet will turn the unit on while a MacBook-like blue LED, slot indicator will always stay lit letting you know the unit is on and powered. You cannot turn the unit off as there are no buttons to be found. I could see the rather bright blue light being a problem at night. Simply pulling the power plug from the unit itself will suffice though. Connecting the Mini DisplayPort cable into the Kenex XD will also turn on a blue indicator light letting you know that the connection is working as it should.

Really, the whole exterior look of the Kanex XD has been designed to fit right at home with your Mac setup. The only missing thing is a white status indicator light instead of the blue one to really match up with the Apple aesthetics.  


There is one thing you need to know and do before you connect your gaming console to your iMac or LED Cinema Display though. Becuase of certain limitations in both the 27" iMac and LED Cinema Display's firmware, the Kanex XD is only able to transfer 720p HD resolution, meaning you won't be able to get any video out of your source if it is set to full 1080p HD resolution. This can be really frustrating if you don't already own a different display in order to configure the output setting for the video on your console before connecting it to your iMac or LED Cinema Display. If your console is set to automatic or 1080p HD output, the iMac or LED Cinema Display's screen will not power on or display a picture.

Once you've set the output setting accordingly however, the Kanex XD does indeed work as advertised and transforms your iMac or LED Cinema Display into a normal HDMI enabled display.


Apart from the price tag, there is one major drawback to the Kanex XD and that is of course the resolution. Think of it as if you were to play your games and watch your Blu-ray movies in a more degraded picture quality. Both the 27" iMac and LED Cinema Display have a native resolution of 2560x1440, and when you connect the Kanex XD that can only output 720p HD which is 1280x720, there is a noticeable difference in picture quality. That's when things start to look more pixelated rather than smooth and clean. So watching a Blu-ray movie sort of defeats the purpose of using your wonderfully capable 27" screen of yours to display rather poor video quality. I'm not saying it's total crap quality, but there is definitely a noticeable difference when you're used to full 1080p HD resolution. If you're sitting far away, which in case you will not because you'll be sitting at your desk with your display nearly inches away, you won't notice the pixelated picture quality. 

It doesn't even sound good on paper if you have the slightest amount of common sense in terms of resolution capabilities here. I would say that the Kanex XD is geared towards those who don't mind a bit of degraded picture quality and only care about gaming right from their desk.


Why should you consider getting the Kanex XD then? Maybe because having the ability to start up your PS3 or Xbox 360 in between your Mac use by only hitting command+F2 to toggle between pwning noobs and returning to your Mac's desktop is just oh so satisfying when you know your Mac just sucks at running games. Unfortunately, you cannot hot switch between your Mac's deesktop and the external HDMI source if you've got an LED Cinema Display. You would need to disconnect the Mini DisplayPort cable each time instead while having to control both sound and screen brightness prior to connecting your LED Cinema Display into the Kenex XD. Having an iMac is much more useful in using the Kanex XD in that regard.


Putting the resolution knocks aside, I haven't experienced any video or audio lag whatsoever while gaming and watching movies. So I gotta hand it to Kanex for at least providing a smooth sailing from here on out and really standing behind their product description and what the Kanex XD has to offer. True it was never intended to provide you with full HD support, but other than that is just works flawlessly. Having the luxury of a well designed aluminum enclosure and ease of use will cost you a pretty penny. Expect to drop $149.95 if bought directly from the Kanex website. Searching around on Amazon could save you more than $50 though. That's without switching to Geico too!


I consider myself to be a "pixel peeper" so I don't see myself using the Kanex XD even though the LED Cinema Display does justice with its wonderness in picture quality and colors. I would rather tell you to save your $150 and purchase yourself an HDMI equipped external display for use with your gaming console instead. But then again, if you just can't afford to take up valuable space and don't mind the somewhat minor pixelated picture quality, then this is the right tool for the job. At least for now.