amazon Apple Pro Display XDR reviews
Apple Pro Display XDR monitor is a welcome addition to a growing segment of monitors serving professional content creators. This emerging segment of “creator” monitors offers reference-level color accuracy and incredibly powerful HDR capabilities at a price that seems high on average. Still, it’s worth it when you look at it consider alternatives. Apple’s macOS doesn’t have a large library of HDR-enabled content (it’s the first HDR display released by Apple anyway), and its Pro Stand is very expensive. Its distinctive design, durability, and “just works” philosophy make it a must-have for professional-level Mac content creators. Windows or Linux-based creators will want to use alternatives like the Asus ProArt PA32UCX instead (which we’re also reviewing), as the Pro Display XDR only works with Apple devices.
The screen is great, but not perfect.
The 32-inch Pro Display XDR display has a native resolution of 6,016 x 3,384 pixels, commonly referred to as “6K”. The chassis shares many design aesthetics with the refurbished 2019 Apple Mac Pro, especially the “cheese grater” metal housing that serves a dual purpose: to look good and keep the circuitry and LEDs working underneath cool.
The Apple Pro Display XDR LED-backlit display uses a feature known as “full-array local dimming,” FALD for short. FALD is a method used to illuminate a screen to a significant difference from other displays. In traditional LED-backlit displays, the entire screen is brightened and dimmed through “global dimming,” where a single setting controls every LED on the back of the screen. That means that as scenes light up or darken, the entire screen lights up or darkens with them.
In contrast, in a FALD display, each part of the scene can be dimmed or brightened independently, allowing for much higher contrast and image quality. Currently, FALD technology is the closest that cheaper displays can get to matching the contrast ratios of two other emerging display technologies: OLED and microLED.
The next generation has something special to consider; microLED is a new display technology that has only just begun to emerge in the first half of 2020, led by TV manufacturers such as Samsung and LG. In a microLED display, each pixel is a separate LED, resulting in some of the best images seen on screen. But currently, the production cost of these panels is almost so expensive that 6K monitors like Pro Display XDR cannot use this technology in practice.
Apple doesn’t classify the Display XDR Pro as microLED, OLED, or an emerging category, mini LED. Still, the display doesn’t have 576 full-array local dimming, which means it shares many similarities with mini LEDs. Displays with this type of discrete LED array are notorious for running much hotter than standard LED-based displays. The Pro Display XDR’s metal mesh passively cools the display and allows airflow to move from the screen to the outside and back to the back of the device. That means no noisy fans are needed to direct the air where it is needed.
Until this point, display manufacturers have kept their passive cooling designs hidden under a layer of plastic. That is the first time any designer thinks of using passive cooling as a display and design element.
After running the screen for about 30 minutes with HDR content, I captured the back of the device with the FLIR One Pro camera, illustrating the heat output with a thermal image. As you can see, the Pro Display XDR gets quite hot, but only in the center of the device, and heat dissipates pretty quickly anywhere that has the design metal grinded for open airflow to work.
Monitor design isn’t much different these days, with gaming monitors often exhibiting the most sophistication and style differences. The Pro Display XDR is completely on another level, from the view of build quality and decorative possibilities in your home.
The display itself is incredibly sturdy, weighing just under 11.8 kg. The monitor can be used in landscape mode or portrait mode when extended to a maximum height of 24 cm at the touch of a button on the back.
The screen on the $4,999 XDR version we’ve reviewed is reflective; something Mac loyalists have opposed in Apple’s current iMac lineup. Reflective glass makes it difficult to see what you’re doing in a well-lit office or home environment. While most content-focused displays will include visors that attach to the top of the screen to avoid excess light, the Pro Display XDR does not have such an option.
Of course, Apple will not leave content creators like that! You can get the Pro Display XDR in a version with a matte display. It uses what Apple calls “nano-textured glass,” which requires a special layer to clean and remove all reflections… for an extra thousand dollars, bringing the original price up to $5,999.
Overall, the Pro Display XDR’s design is flat on the surface, but it could use some improvements to make it more suitable for not-so-wealthy creators who can’t afford $1,000 for non-reflective glass. However, the Pro Display XDR proves itself to be the leader in both form and function, bridging the gap between each piece seamlessly to create a product that looks and works flawlessly like anything else out there.
Who exactly is XDR for?
When we used the term “reference monitors” earlier while discussing Pro Display XDR, what are we talking about? In the world of content creation (especially HDR content creation), the specifications for reference monitors — color accuracy, sustained brightness, and color gamut range — are more important than factors like refresh rate or response time.
Apple is primarily known for making more mainstream consumer products, but it also has a strong presence in professional content creators. Products like the MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and iMac Pro all cater to professionals and, in particular, the Mac Pro, content creators who need a lot of power available to them but still want beautiful design and do what you like inside the macOS ecosystem.
According to the company’s keynote that introduced this monitor, the Pro Display XDR is made to compete with more expensive reference monitors like the 31-inch Sony BVM-HX310, which retails for $43,000. These monitors are in demand from customers like major movie studios, manufacturers, and game developers. When working on a Hollywood movie, a TV show, or a big-budget game, you wanted to have the most accurate color possible to make sure it looked as good as possible. However, you’re not going to arm an entire team with a $40,000 reference monitor. Only key people or important people in the production chain have such screens.
That’s where XDR comes in. It will do everything those reference monitors can do but at a fraction of the price, giving creators the ability to work with reference-level colors at a fraction of the price.
So how did it perform in testing? Jump to the performance section to find out…
XDR test: Color is key
Apple products always look elegant, even gorgeous, but in the world of laptops and desktops, sometimes their performance lags behind similarly priced products from other manufacturers. Looking at the capabilities of the Pro Display XDR, it’s the exception.
To test each color space, we had to change the color profile on the screen first. Unfortunately, it can only be done through an Apple device capable of outputting video signals via a USB cable- C.
There are no buttons found anywhere on this screen. Not next to, not behind the screen, or even below. The entire display is controlled via macOS, which means that even if you wanted to connect a non-Apple laptop or desktop computer capable of outputting video via USB Type-C, you wouldn’t be able to. You can achieve full functionality with Windows, but you’ll have to run it on a Mac in Boot Camp.
Another important thing to note: According to this article, there is no way to calibrate the monitor yourself. Apple says that calibration and settings for further customization (such as white balance and color gamut) are coming soon. However, there is no certain date when that option will be available.
However, what the monitor lacks in customizable calibration makes up for it by offering a wide range of pre-configured settings. These will automatically shift hue, brightness, and gamma to a color profile that’s right for the type of work you’re doing. These include settings for photography, digital cinema, HDTV, and web content.
Color gamut test: sRGB
I tested the sRGB gamut using Portrait Displays’ CalMAN calibration software to begin our color coverage assessment of the Pro Display XDR. The Klein K10-A colorimeter and the X-Rite Pro 3 Plus spectrophotometer. It’s worth reiterating that XDR only works with Apple devices except in limited circumstances (according to Apple, you can work with XDR outside of macOS in an SDI workflow via the Blackmagic SDI to DP box). Teranex and, in some cases, Linux), we had to run another solution to get CalMAN working properly, as the software is only compatible with Windows. That means running Boot Camp on a MacBook Pro with Windows 10. Other than that, all other testing methods are the same as for the rest of our monitor reviews.
The monitor scores a little below normal in a test that typically sees 100 percent or close-to-monitor results at a fraction of the cost. But the results are still solid enough for most users at 94.3% coverage. It’s also up for debate: Hardly any content creator spends this kind of money on a monitor that’s mastering sRGB; in any case, this color space is likely to go unused to many in the professional community with this monitor.
Color gamut test: Adobe RGB
In the Adobe RGB measurement, which typically tells you how the display will perform when dealing with content creation tasks like photo or video editing or 3D modeling, Pro Display XDR, expected, excels with the results. The result is 96.7% coverage. However, it was surprising to see how the screen got on the test. That was almost entirely a business-centric monitor, the Dell U3219Q, with its Adobe RGB reading of 98.1 percent.
Color gamut test: DCI-P3
Then there’s the DCI-P3 test, which measures how accurately a monitor can display movie and TV content in creative editing applications.
That is where it meets for Pro Display XDR. The Pro Display XDR was delivered here for the long haul, securing a record for the monitors we ran this test. With a result of 98.7% coverage, the Pro Display XDR only falls (indeed, within a margin of error) from its advertised 99% coverage. That’s higher than even the OLED-based Alienware 55, our current second-highest-scoring display in this category, with 96.5%.
Brightness & Contrast Ratio
We then move on to the brightness test. In SDR using Bootcamp in Windows, I read 499 nits in SDR mode, which is impressive, but things got startling (and eye-popping) when we switched to the HDR test. In HDR using the DisplayHDR 1600 test sample, the XDR displayed content according to our meter at a peak burst of 1,560.9 nits, just short of the 1,600-nit rating Apple gives.
Due to the FALD system, the black level is very low, only 0.04. That’s the lowest we’ve seen outside of an OLED display, which is hugely impressive because OLED can completely turn off individual pixels, resulting in what’s known as “infinite contrast.” The Pro Display XDR may not have infinite contrast, but even at the lowest SDR brightness of 499 nits, the Pro Display XDR has a contrast ratio of 12,460:1. (A number, when divided by the maximum brightness reading, is 1,561.49 nits, climbing to a staggering 39,037:1.)
where can you get a Apple Pro Display XDR online
Apple 32-inch Pro Display XDR with Retina 6K Display – Nano-Texture Glass: Buy it now
Next: check color accuracy. This aspect is very important for anyone working in content creation on a professional level. Having “the darkest orange,” as we like to describe it, means you are working with the most accurate colors. How to measure “orange” on your screen using a figure called “delta E.” (It is more commonly expressed as “dE.”) The lower the DE on the monitor, the more accurately the display will display the colors it is trying to produce.
Many records were broken. Any monitor that scores below 1.0 dE is considered top-notch in the content creation industry, but the Pro Display XDR isn’t content with just winning here; it has to lead. In these tests, I ran through all three of the color space presets we tested above (sRGB, Adobe RGB and DCI-P3); the lowest score achieved was just 0.68 dE, which is achieved without calibration.
That is usually part of a review where we discuss how a monitor performs after calibrating it from factory settings. Still, as we mentioned above, there is no way to calibrate Pro Display XDR. That said, even if we wanted to, we could certainly get much lower dE results than we’ve seen.
Apple has done a spectacular job in calibrating this display to “just work” out of the box, and every reference setting we tested scored top of its class (i.e., by way to get the lowest score). In fact, despite testing outside of my normal parameters to see if anything could screw up the game of the Pro Display XDR, I couldn’t pass an accuracy test. ColorChecker’s test returns results above 1.0 dE. That’s hugely impressive for a monitor that doesn’t require any setting adjustments.
In addition to the pure technical achievement of the Pro Display XDR, there is also testing of common sense. Not that you’ll be using it for regular content consumption, but how does the Pro Display XDR perform tasks like browsing the web or watching 4K streams on Netflix?
Well, for now, the only way to watch 4K content in HDR or Dolby Vision through macOS Catalina is the Apple TV+ app (or through 4K HDR files you’ve downloaded locally to your machine) and even later. Then you’re limited to content that Apple itself has produced, like The Morning Show or See. Those disappointments aside, both of these monitors look great on the Pro Display XDR. However, with a display of just 32 inches, it’s unlikely anyone will use this as the primary way to view HDR content.
Since we only have one MacBook Pro to connect to the Pro Display XDR, the casual gaming test is fundamentally unintelligent. However, being a gamer, I probably won’t be using this as my primary gaming monitor (no matter how good it looks), as I haven’t been gaming below 100Hz in a while. Five years and Pro Display XDR’s maximum refresh rate at just 60Hz. Of course, if you’re even considering buying the Pro Display XDR as a gaming monitor to start with, you’re doing it wrong.
We need to talk: It’s the base.
Like the Apple Mac Pro and Apple Pro Display, XDR names imply: This monitor is not a kit designed for the average consumer. That is a monitor for professional and advanced content creators, designed for producers or home content studios to work with and master content. That is not a typical consumer monitor by any means.
The Pro Display XDR has colors exactly as they are. The 6K resolution is perfect for 4K content creators who want their palettes, toolbars, and timelines on the same screen and full resolution content. That makes the 6K aspect key for producers or content creation professionals working on highly color-sensitive projects, especially those who work in 4K and hate zooming to their project to keep their toolbars close.
In terms of materials and manufacturing costs, it goes beyond a regular monitor stand. But to my eyes, that’s not necessary. Both for its style and for its interaction to try something new, I’m reminded of the Razer Raptor 27. The stand on that monitor is very sturdy and stylish; at the same time, it allows a fair amount of ergonomic adjustment, but all told, the whole device is only $799.
We also have in our house an Asus ProArt PA32UCX that I mentioned earlier, and I love the stand on that device as well. The black-on-gold aesthetic feels professional, and it slides up and down almost as smoothly as the XDR’s Pro Stand, with all the same options for ergonomics, minus the $200 adapter for the price. VESA mount that Apple requires if you want to use the mount you already own.
That’s right: Even if you want to use your VESA-compatible stand, you won’t have an option unless you spend $200 on Apple’s VESA mount-compatible kit.
Consider that the entire ProArt PA32UCX setup costs only $3,999. You can mount it on a VESA mount without any special adapters—just a screwdriver and a handful of screws. So if potential owners buy a Pro Display XDR with a $200 VESA mount, they’ll get a great deal. Otherwise, you’ll need to look at the Pro Display XDR as a $6,000 monitor ($5,000 for a monitor, partly for a stand) to get started. (Or $7,000 if you buy the matte screen version.)
The company convinced XDR buyers to spend $999 on a metal block, despite a very nicely designed block. In my opinion, Apple would have been better off not treating the Pro Stand as a separate product and just taking it all in for the cost of the display.
Overall, the XDR does what it’s meant to: provide reference-quality production for creators working exclusively on a Mac. We had to consider the price issue and wish Windows users could use the XDR outside Boot Camp and specialized broadcast-level setups. Still, beyond those complaints, the Pro Display XDR is a well-made product, a very nice, well-designed, super-accurate content creation screen — “just works.”
In the world of digital creativity, the easier it is to get over the technological side of things when inspiration hits and goes straight to your project, the better your results will be. The XDR is the ultimate tool for doing this — and making it possible to extend this kind of functionality to more key people in your creative business than any other display before.
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