Pro Display XDR: Review

Preface.

When Apple unveiled the new Mac Pro at WWDC 2019, they also announced a companion display. That display is the new Pro Display XDR. This review will help you to understand the thinking behind the design of the Pro Display XDR, what products it is competing with and of course…should you buy one? Let’s get straight into it.

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*Disclosure – I tested the Pro Display XDR with nano etched glass along side a Mac Pro release unit. Image credits – Apple.com

Design.

This new display features a 32 inch screen when measured diagonally. The bezels are thin and the display extends almost edge to edge. This design language is far more modern than Apple’s current iMac and iMac Pro. Gone is the chin found on the iMac and instead the entire front face is display.

The rear of the Pro Display XDR features the same 3D lattice structures as the Mac Pro. This serves a functional purpose and isn’t purely for ornamentation. They allow the display to dissipate heat more efficiently. Yes this display has a fan and cooling system. We’ll get to the reasons why later in this review. Personally I like this design element. It matches the Mac Pro and definitely helps it stand out in an office or studio.

Of course it wouldn’t be possible to discuss the design of the Pro Display XDR without mentioning the controversial ‘Pro Stand’. The Pro Stand is an optional £999/$999 add on accessory that enables you to articulate the display in various ways. It can be used to tilt the display at a wide variety of angles and even allows the display to be rotated into portrait. This is ideal for text heavy work flows like writing code and compiling software.

The stand in spite of it’s high price tag, really is ingenious. It attaches magnetically to the back of the Pro Display XDR with a solid and reassuring thud. It is easy to attach using magnets to auto align. It is also easy to detach using an unlocking button.

Overall, the industrial design of the display feels fresh, modern and classy. It will look great in any room you put it in and it’s aluminium finish will last for years.

Tech Specs.

Let me just say it. The Pro Display XDR earns it’s title. This display meets and even exceeds the needs of professionals in almost every way.

  • Uses special LED and backlight technology to reduce light bleed, also known as blooming.
  • 1000 nits of sustained full screen brightness. 1600 nits of peak brightness.
  • 1,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio, comparable with OLED technology. Apple chose LED as opposed to OLED to reduce the long term risk of screen burn or after images.
  • Super wide viewing angle with industry leading polariser to maintain colour accuracy and brightness from any angle.
  • 6K resolution with super high pixel density of 218, exceeding that of competing displays (typically 150).
  • Each of the displays 576 LED’s are individually calibrated. The light profile for each LED is stored in internal memory built into the display.
  • Features Apple’s True Tone technology that adaptively balances colour dependant on ambient light conditions. (This can be turned off).
  • Reference display modes that can be enabled on the fly depending on the type of content you are working with.
Ports include a ‘Hidden Mickey’ that doubles as the power cord port and four USB Type C ports. You can use these to connect to a wide variety of peripherals including external drives.

Optional Features.

At WWDC 2019, Apple made a rare marketing faux pas. It unveiled the display with the Pro Stand attached, announced pricing for the display, but failed to mention the stand was not included. They revealed later in the keynote that the stand was an optional extra at a cost of £999. The audience gasps were audible. Whilst I acknowledge that not all customers would want (or need) the stand, the vast majority of customers probably will. It would have been a much better call if Apple included the stand, even if it meant the initial cost of the display was higher. So yes, the Pro Stand is an optional extra.

As an alternative to the Pro Stand, you can choose an industry standard VESA mount. This enables the display to be used with any stand of your choice that is VESA compatible.

VESA mount adapter for Pro Display XDR.

The Pro Display XDR features a glossy glass panel, laminated to the LCD below it. Typically glossy displays offer richer, more vibrant colours but at the expense of reflectivity. For those that want the lowest possible reflectivity, Apple has invented a new type of anti-glare technology. Rather than add a coating that can cause haze and a slight grain to the image (technical term is ‘sparkle’), Apple etches a special texture into the glass. It spreads the light out and scatters it. Images look razer sharp and colours maintain vibrancy. One down side is that it does slightly reduce the off axis viewing angles but this is a small price to pay when compared to traditional anti glare coatings. Typical anti glare coatings perform much worse off axis.

An illustration of the nano etched glass.

Comparison.

The Pro Display XDR is the best display I have ever seen. Period. The image is insanely sharp without distortion or noise. The colours are accurate and vivid. Brightness and contrast are remarkable. Blacks look as deep as most OLED panels even though this is an LED display. The resolution means that you can edit 4K video with plenty of room for your editing timeline or your tool bar in photoshop. You really need to see this display to appreciate just how good it is.

This display was designed for the most complex and high end work flows. Cinematography, editorial photography, cinema grade colour work. Typically, work at this level would require you to purchase a reference monitor. Reference monitors are not your typical display that you might purchase from a Best Buy store. They are capable of displaying cinema accurate images, reliable enough for editing Hollywood films. The problem with reference monitors, is that a reliable image requires highly precise, sustained brightness. Reference monitors are only able to show a reliable image for short periods of time followed by a cool down period.

What is remarkable about the Pro Display XDR, is that it displays reliable, reference quality images indefinitely. No cool downs. It exceeds the capability of a reference monitor. Even more remarkable, is that reference monitors typically cost in excess of £25,000/$30,000. The Pro Display XDR even with the additional cost of the Pro Stand comes to £5,999. You could buy almost five Pro Display XDR units for the cost of just one reference monitor.

Bottom line.

If you have a need for this kind of performance from a display, quite simply this is the only display you should consider. You’ll save a small fortune and it’s no wonder Hollywood are buying quicker than Apple can produce them!

The Pro Display XDR is an expensive product but it isn’t meant for the casual user. It follows the same story as the Mac Pro. This product was designed for work flows at the highest level in film and photography. The price compared to products with similar capability is an absolute bargain and for that, Apple should be applauded.

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