The Pro Display XDR landed on my desktop a few days ago, and I’ve spent enough time with it to gather some early first thoughts about Apple’s high-end monitor. As a former 27-inch Thunderbolt Display owner, I’ve been pining for a modern replacement for it for years, but is this the answer?
Watch our unboxing and overview as I consider the Pro Display XDR top features in our hands-on video walkthrough.
The Pro Display XDR is a beautifully designed display that’s made primarily out of glass and aluminum. In terms of looks and feel, I can’t think of a better-looking display with better build materials at any price point. It screams premium.
Apple says that the lattice pattern on the rear of the Pro Display XDR increases airflow, functions as a giant heat sink while facilitating airflow, and reduces weight in the process. It also happens to match the same pattern found on the Mac Pro, but sadly I’ll never see it, thanks to the way I have the display positioned on my desk up against a wall.
Like the Mac Pro, the Pro Display XDR comes bundled with braided cables, which are super-high quality. Included in the box is a braided power cable along with a braided 2-meter-long active Thunderbolt 3 cable for connecting to an eligible Mac or eGPU unit.
Thanks to the braided cables, there should be less tangles and less overall wear and tear compared to normal rubber-sheathed cables.
Video: Pro Display XDR top features
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Adjustable Pro Stand
From the very beginning, the Pro Stand has been the butt of jokes regarding its price. At $999, it’s not cheap, and some will argue that it’s way overpriced. Given Apple’s history, it’s safe to say that the Pro Stand is indeed overpriced, but this is Apple we’re talking about, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
But from someone who’s reviewed numerous monitors over the years, I’m happy to pay the price to finally get a decently built monitor stand. I’ve grown tired of all of the fake aluminum and rickety plastic stands that have propped up nearly every monitor that’s slid across my desk in the last five years.
With the Pro Stand, build quality is of no concern. The beautiful stand is made out of a solid block of aluminum, allowing it to confidently hold the Pro Display XDR, totally devoid of wobbles while your fingers, unrestrained, crash against the keys on your keyboard.
The Pro Stand matches the build quality of the Pro Display XDR perfectly. Small details, like the chamfered edges inside the cable routing opening, make me happy.
But the most impressive thing about the Pro Stand is its counterbalance system. It allows you to adjust the tilt and height of the Pro Display XDR effortlessly with a single hand. And even at its full height position, the Pro Display XDR does a good job of resisting wobbles while typing — impressive, indeed.
The stand is capable of tilting the monitor +25 or -5 degrees, and doing so is a completely effortless affair. The same goes for the height adjustment, with the stand being able to move the display a total height of 120 mm — 60 mm in each direction.
And the beautiful thing is that once the display is adjusted, it stays exactly where you left it. There are no wobbles or movement, and there is no uncertainty.
The Pro Stand has the ability to rotate the Pro Display XDR 90 degrees to view the display in portrait mode. This requires the user to slide the locking mechanism on the rear of the unit that rests underneath the counterbalance arm.
What’s particularly cool about the rotation, something that again demonstrates Apple’s keen sense of detail, is that the lock remains in the same place and orientation, regardless of whether the display is in portrait or in landscape mode. This makes it easy for the user, especially when adjusting the rotation from the front of the display, because the lock is always in the same place.
Similarly, the cables are positioned in such a way so that they don’t get twisted or stressed while rotating the display. The cables fall gracefully through the opening in the base of the Pro Stand as they run toward their destination.
Related video: Mac Pro top features
Automatic portrait mode
In cooperation with the the Pro Stand, the Pro Display XDR has another hidden trick up its sleeve: It automatically senses its orientation and adjusts the picture on the fly.
On lesser displays, you’d have to venture into System Preferences > Displays to manually rotate the picture. With the Pro Display XDR, it just works, and saves you time in the process.
One of my biggest complaints with the iMac Pro is its large bezels, not to mention its large bottom chin area. Compared to the 5K display in the iMac Pro, the Pro Display XDR looks way more modern, thanks to its small 9 mm symmetrical bezels that wrap around the all-glass exterior.
32-inch display 218 PPI
The Pro Display XDR features a large 32-inch (diagonal) display with the same 218 PPI as the 27-inch iMac. It’s a desktop-dominating display with plenty of on screen real estate to effectively work on multiple apps side by side.
Standard glossy glass vs. $999 nano-texture glass: I’ve seen both displays in person side-by-side, and although I definitely see the merits of the nano-texture matte display, I prefer the glossy display, as the colors have more pop and text appears sharper to my eyes. Coupled with the fact that I can largely control the lighting in my environment to reduce glare on the display, and the fact that I can save $999 in the process, it makes sense for my use case.
Apple’s fully laminated display features just 1.65% reflectivity, so even the glossy screen does an okay job of eliminating glare. Granted, the standard glass can in no way, shape, or form compete with the light-defeating nano-texture glass, so if you work in demanding environments, it might be worth considering.
One of the most noteworthy features of the Pro Display XDR is its 6K resolution. With a native resolution of 6016 x 3384, this is a true 6K display.
But it’s the default pixel-doubled “Retina” resolution that makes the Pro Display XDR special in my eyes. When running at the default 3008 x 1692 resolution, a true 2x mode, on-screen assets, and text are tack sharp, big enough to be usable, with more on-screen real estate when compared to the 5K display found on the 27-inch iMac.
It means that you can easily view a full 100% 4K image, as demonstrated above, while editing in Final Cut Pro X. Unlike the iMac 5K display, the Pro Display XDR affords more than enough breathing room for interfacing with the various panels within the app while viewing 4K at full resolution.
Extreme Dynamic Range
XDR stands for Extreme Dynamic Range, which is a combination of technologies, namely brightness, contrast ratio, and color, that make this display competitive with much more expensive displays.
For starters, the Pro Display XDR features a sustained 1000 nits of full screen brightness for high dynamic range content, with support for up to 1600 nits of peak brightness where necessary.
And for standard definition content, the display supports up to 500 nits of brightness, the same rating found on 27-inch iMac models.
When viewing HDR content via the TV app or elsewhere, you can definitely tell the difference in brightness between this and lesser displays, such as the LG UltraFine display.
The next big item on the list is contrast ratio, with Apple’s pro-centric display capable of an astonishing 1 million:1 contrast ratio, which gives it a look that seems closer to an OLED display. For example, Apple’s high-end LCD display found in the iPhone 11 features a 1400:1 contrast ratio, while the OLED display found in last year’s iPhone XS featured a 1 million:1 contrast ratio.
Finally, the Pro Display XDR sports a true 10-bit color panel capable of showcasing 1.073 billion colors, meaning it has more bit depth to go along with the wider array of colors made possible via the P3 wide color space.
Combined, all of these areas help to designate this display as high dynamic, or in Apple marketing terms, Extreme Dynamic Range capable.
And I can tell you, it shows, especially when you witness contrasting bright colors in motion. When watching HDR content via the TV app, or even when viewing the built-in Drift screensaver above, the contrast was so impressive that it sort of felt like the image was slightly raised off the display, lending it a 3D look. It’s hard to explain without looking at it in person, but it’s impressive.
Apple says that the Pro Display XDR features superwide viewing angles with high-fidelity color and contrast at 89º left, 89º right, 89º up, 89º down.
I opted for the glossy version of the Pro Display XDR, and I can vouch for the fact that off-axis viewing angles are impressive. Moving my head from side to side, up and down, color and contrast shift were present, but it was minimal. Even at extreme off-axis angles, I could clearly make out images and text, and colors tempered their tendency to shift.
Apple’s Pro Display XDR utilizes 576 full array local dimming zones, with a precision timing controller for modulating those zones alongside the 20.4 million LCD pixels. The result is a display that’s able to produce extreme contrast coupled with significantly less blooming effect when light areas are right next to dark areas on screen.
Blooming is that glow you see around bright items, such as a mouse cursor, on a dark background. When compared to standard off-the-shelf monitors, the Pro Display XDR performs admirably.
But with “only” 576 zones, there’s going to be less backlight precision than found on professional production displays with way more zones, which could have an effect when working with precision HDR content. Indeed, blooming is still noticeable on the Pro Display XDR if you’re looking for it, but it’s significantly reduced.
When compared to pretty much any other consumer computer display, of which most employ edge lighting leading to extreme blooming and backlight bleed, the Pro Display XDR blows those monitors away.
Apple includes quite a few different reference modes in the display preferences for the Pro Display XDR. These reference modes are pre-calibrated profiles for different workflows and production environments.
Users can switch between references modes right on the fly within display settings, or via a handy shortcut in the menu bar.
These modes allow you to switch, for instance, between the Pro Display XDR mode with 1600 nits peak brightness, or the standard Apple Display P3 mode, which gives you brightness that matches the iMac at 500 nits.
In a future macOS Catalina update, Apple will allow users to create their own reference modes, which is something professional content creators are no doubt looking forward to.
Works with many Macs and iPad Pro
Finally, the Pro Display XDR isn’t just for users with a Mac Pro, but it works with a variety of Macs at full resolution. Some, like the 16-inch MacBook Pro, work right out of the box.
Pro Display XDR supports a resolution of 6016 x 3384 with 10 bpc on these Mac models:
- Mac Pro introduced in 2019
- 16-inch MacBook Pro introduced in 2019
- 15-inch MacBook Pro introduced in 2018 or later
- iMac introduced in 2019
- Mac computers with Thunderbolt 3 ports connected to Blackmagic eGPU or Blackmagic eGPU Pro
If your particular Mac doesn’t fully support the Pro Display XDR, you can always connect it to a Blackmagic eGPU or eGPU Pro to drive the 6K display at full resolution. The only requirement is that your Mac must have a Thunderbolt 3 port.
And iPad Pro looking to join in on the fun will be happy to know that you can connect to the Pro Display XDR and use it for mirrored output, or in the case of some apps like LumaFusion, a secondary display for output.
The Pro Display XDR is expensive, and for a lot of users, over the top. I think that Apple must consider making a “lower-end” display somewhere in the $2,000-$2,500 range, which I think a lot of Mac users would quickly jump on.
At $4,999 ($5,999 for the nano-etched matte version) plus $999 for the stand (smh), this display is simply out of reach for many Apple customers.
But if you are fortunate enough to be able to budget for this display, and your line of work allows you to put it to good use, then I’d say by all means, at least visit your local Apple Store and check one out in person.
The Pro Display XDR, like every other tech product, isn’t perfect, but Apple got a whole lot right here, as it should have, given the cost and the amount of time we’ve had to wait.
This is hands-down, the best build quality that I’ve ever seen in a display, from the build materials, the stand, and the panel itself. It’s simply impressive, and it’s a pleasure to use with the Mac Pro.
But even if your workflow doesn’t dictate that you use a high end display, the picture quality and build quality alone, even for mundane things like typing and browsing the web, is a sheer joy. I enjoy having pixel-perfect 6K “Retina” (pixel-doubled) resolution, which gives me more working space than a 5K iMac. I also love the fact that this display stays rock solid even when hammering away at the keys on my Keychron K2 mechanical keyboard.
I’ll have more thoughts in an upcoming review of the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, share your thoughts below.
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