Apple’s Pro Display XDR sets the bar for pro displays

And it suggests the importance of creative industries to Apple’s wider plans.

Apple, Mac, Mac Pro, macOS, Pro Display XDR
Roman Loyola/IDG

If you want to see the future of Apple displays, you don’t need to look far as the company prepares to introduce its reference monitor for the rest of us – the Pro Display XDR.

Apple’s under-rated jewel

After its introduction at WWDC, I was fortunate enough to look at the Pro Display XDR in real-world use as a photography tool, for video editing, music creation and in other professional workflow scenarios. I also got to see the display in use beside a range of reference rivals from other manufacturers, some of which cost almost 10  times as much as Apple’s far more affordable $5,000 price tag for the system.

Anecdotally, I can confirm the viewing angle on the display is highly impressive – none of the other displays were able to match it. I also felt that color consistency and accuracy, brightness and contrast using Apple’s monitor at worst matched, and at best exceeded, what we saw coming from competing systems.

All about the Pro Display XDR

The company has done a much to deliver this kind of quality to its professional users. Not only has it figured out how to populate the display with an array of 576 LEDs, but it has also developed its own graphics chip to analyze the image signal to optimize how those LEDs work. 

It can make slight adjustments to color hundreds of times a second for better accuracy. The system produces 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness and 1,600 nits of peak brightness.

Accuracy and quality are also boosted by the more than one billion colors the display can handle, with sustained levels of brightness more than three times that of the  average panel.

According to Apple:

“Pro Display XDR features a 32-inch Retina 6K display with P3 wide and 10-bit color, 1,600 nits of peak brightness, 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and a superwide viewing angle.”

It delivers 6016x3384-pixel resolution and is available in a glare-reducing matte version.

And clarity for all

What’s significant for high-end Mac users in enterprise and business-critical scenarios at the cutting-edge of the creative, design, research and scientific industries is that you can buy one of Apple’s displays, with a stand and a Mac Pro for less than the cost of a market-leading reference display from other manufacturers.

It's actually cheaper.

It also reflects a much deeper commitment by Apple to display technology – a  commitment you can track back to when the company first began manufacturing its own displays in the ‘80’s.

Along with imaging enhancements on a system level (eg. Quartz, Metal, etc.) and in software (Photos and iMovie were tools Mac users got that Windows users had no good equivalent for), the company also has a track record of display technology innovations in its systems.

That’s a record Apple maintains with the Pro Display XDR, which proves that when the company puts its mind to it, it can deliver industry-leading image quality at a price no one can match.

Some may note that introducing products at prices others cannot match is somewhat unusual for "the price is right but the price is high" Apple.

That’s not an invalid point, but the new monitor also acts as a kind of desiderata for Apple’s future products.

apple wwdc19 pro display final cut Apple

Apple demonstrates the new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR at WWDC19.

As above, so below

Apple is offering a 6K display pro users can actually afford. Many now rent those $40k reference displays for about the same cost as an XDR when they are working on a project. Now, they’ll be able to buy them instead.

We know how the company operates.

It introduces things at the high end of its product matrix and then – over time – makes those solutions available across a wider range of systems before it either replaces the technology or finds something better.

This means that at some point we can anticipate 6K iMacs, just as we already have 5K and 4K iMacs. It also hints at the next stages of the road map for display enhancements across laptops, iPhones and iPads. 

And, of course, if Apple wants to deliver graphics capabilities to meet the needs of the high-end markets, it’s also going to give pro users and content consumers good reasons to want to use those screens.

There’s no point using the world’s most advanced displays in order to watch black-and-white movies, really, is there?

Up next

With this in mind, it is reasonable to expect Final Cut, Logic and Apple’s other imaging software products will be enhanced with the tools they need to truly take advantage of the company's best displays.

Apple is also working to evolve new industries – such as AR – in which content creators can exploit high-end displays when developing high-end experiences, and then offer those experiences to consumers across the Apple ecosystem.

And as the image quality of the content created improves, so too will the image quality of the systems we consume such content on.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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