Apple Pro Display XDR: Grading a curve – CNET



The Pro Display XDR, the 32-inch 6K display from Apple.

Sarah Tew / CNET

After waiting for what it felt like forever until the Apple Pro Display XDR arrived, it finally fell from the sky to my test bench – and with it a parade of colleagues. Some just came to stroke it without caring whether it was on or not. Some said "it is much thicker than I expected" which only made me laugh. Only one ignored the shine, dropped into my chair and basically said, "Let's see something HDR Recordings."

To like

  • A real workstation display with countless profiles stored in the hardware
  • Peak brightness of 1,600 nit for HDR processing (High Dynamic Range)

I do not like it

  • No hardware control
  • Restricted to a single Thunderbolt 3 input

In short, that's part of the brilliance of Apple's marketing. The enthusiasm generated by non-professionals is disproportionate to the small number of people for whom this ad really makes sense: a subset of editors in Pro-Video workflows for Mac with a high dynamic range and a color correction of 1,000 Nit. Mac-based photo professionals retouch high-resolution images with a wide tonal range (for which Adobe RGB is not important). Illustrators work on designs with complex details. And so on.

For them, the display's $ 5,000 price tag is likely to be special for the 1,600-nit peak brightness, 6K resolution, and hardware calibration profiles for a handful of reference standards and pseudo standards (such as Apple's own P3-D50 color space for design and printing) for Mac only operation. (I will not repeat the full specifications.)

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It starts at $ 5,000.

Sarah Tew / CNET

I only had it for a short time, so I didn't start with my formal measurements or more rigorous practical tests. I am still trying to solve some problems – and yes, there are some frustrating problems and disadvantages.

Our pricing unit is the cheaper version of the monitor for $ 5,000 – the one without the $ 1,000 upgrade for nano-textured glass. While it is quite reflective when you stare at a black screen, it is not bad under normal working conditions as long as no light shines directly on it. But if you do that, it's probably a bad work setup, no matter what. The XDR is but like fingerprints.

In the dark

Some things just popped out when I first triggered them.

Just winking, it has some of the best black tones I've seen on a desktop or laptop monitor. And that includes OLED, While OLED can effectively bring black to zero, the Pro Display XDR actually has a usable tonal range in the deep shadows.

You will see some highlights on super dark backgrounds. This is just a fact for the zone based local dimming This makes HDR possible and is usually a bigger problem for desktop monitors than for TVs. The question is, does the Pro Display have enough zones? The current generation of HDR monitors with similar ones Mini LED Backlight like that Asus PA32UCG, twice as many as the Pro Display XDR 576.

Another pleasant surprise is skin tones. You don't notice how comparatively inaccurate generally viewed monitors are in comparison – like that iMac & # 39; s – until you open some portraits on the pro display.

It is also very quiet. This is because the back is both functional and eye-catching. Basically, it's a large heat sink that dissipates the heat of the 1,600-nit capable backlight. The fans only need to cool the circuit board and blow the air out of the grater. And the air is cool. I have used 1000 nit monitors and they can also generate a lot of heat on the front even if they are not full. Not this one.

The 6K resolution (6,016 x 3,384 pixels) is both a blessing and a curse. If you edit 6K videos, retouch pictures with 25 megapixels or more, work on very detailed illustrations, etc., this is very convenient. But apart from the HDR, the resolution is one of the reasons why hardware compatibility is a problem.

Older Macs don't have to apply

In order to achieve the higher resolution and bit depth required for HDR, a higher bandwidth is required than with DisplayPort 1.4, the monitor protocol of the current generation of Thunderbolt 3 controllers. So from MacOS 10.15.2 Catalina Apple does a little voodoo to pump more data over the port.

This is not new. Moving the envelope to screen resolutions and color depth always required some alchemy while waiting for the system chipsets to catch up. But there are sticking points for some. For example, if you want to use it with an iMac Pro (

$ 4,999 at Apple

), You must purchase the Blackmagic Design eGPU with the Intel Titan Ridge controller because the Thunderbolt controller in the iMac Pro is too old.

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This is not for average consumers, but for media professionals.

Sarah Tew / CNET

There are no hardware controls either, and I really miss them a lot. Even something as basic as a power switch, because sometimes you just want to turn it off. If you are connected to an iMac, you cannot deactivate Pro Display and only use the internal display or vice versa. Why would you want Firstly, to prevent the light from a monitor from entering your peripheral field of vision. Instead, you seem to have to pull the plug or cable.

The lack of hardware controls is one of the things that make it impossible to use Windows, except for Boot Camp, which has a software control panel for changing mode presets. Even if you manage to find a solution that works on a PC or Windows laptop, you're still out of luck. I connected it to a laptop equipped with Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 and it was ugly.

I also miss having multiple input sources and connectors and being able to switch between them so that I can connect a single monitor to multiple systems. Reducing to a single Thunderbolt 3 input seems to be somewhat against your user base.

I would normally go to a lot of trouble with Apple because of its limited compatibility, but over the years I have learned that color management is one of the most difficult technical problems. So if the potential customer base, especially for a product of the first generation, is to be precisely limited, I will relieve the company a bit. After all, Apple has been burned on monitors.

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An additional official booth for the XDR costs $ 1,000.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Create, don't consume

Would you like to sit back and watch HDR content on your pretty new monitor? Not part of Apple TV Plus? Good luck. Streaming 4K HDR from a computer is generally confusing, but Vega-class AMD graphics chips are the most limited in high-end Macs. (They do not support decryption of HDCP 2.2 DRM – d Contents from Netflix and Amazon.) At least in Windows under Boot camp You can view YouTube 4K HDR videos.

Even if you have installed all hardware and software parts to take full advantage of the functions of the display, there are still two really important functions on the plan: user reference modes and support for custom calibrations.

And finally, is the separately available stand worth $ 1,000? Nope. The fact that the stand matches the screen does not compensate for the fact that the monitor is not pivoted, lowered so that it can be centered on an iMac display or locked in a perfectly horizontal position. The latter may not be too important to you, unless you have an almost compulsive need to change anything on the wall that is wrong.

Do you want something to slide with? Get a restless spinner and put the Pro Display XDR on an arm or an ugly but more practical stand.

This review is still in progress and will be updated as the tests continue.