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

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

Apple’s under-rated jewel

Introduced 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 other professional workflow scenarios.

I was also given the chance to see the display in use beside a range of reference displays from other manufacturers, some of which cost almost ten 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 color accuracy, brightness and contrast using Apple’s monitor at worst matched and at best exceeded what we saw coming out of competing systems.

That’s my anecdotal opinion.

All about the Pro Display XDR

The company has done a huge amount 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 analyse the image signal in order to optimize how those LEDs work. 

This is capable of making slight adjustments to color hundreds of times a second for better accuracy. The systems produce 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness and 1,600 nits of peak brightness.

Accuracy and quality is also boosted by the over one billion colors the display can handle, while these screens can deliver sustained levels of brightness more than three times as well as an average panel.

Apple states its:

“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  6,016-x-3,384 resolution and is also available in a glare-reducing matte version.

And clarity for all

What’s significant – at least 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 pick up 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.

But it also reflects a much deeper commitment that Apple holds to display technology. A commitment you can track right back to when it first began manufacturing its own displays in the ‘80’s.

Along with imaging enhancements on a system level (eg. Quartz, Metal, et al), in software (who else recalls when Photos and iMovie were tools Mac users got in the box that Windows users didn’t really have a good equivalent for?), the company also has a track record of display technology innovations in its systems.

That’s a track record Apple maintains in the Pro Display XDR, which proves that when the company puts its mind to it it is capable of delivering industry-leading image quality at a price no one else 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 pro users 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 in an indeterminate time frame 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 notebooks, 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 be determined 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 also 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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