At the WWDC 2019 keynote on 3 June, Apple unveiled a new premium display alongside the long-awaited modular update to its Mac Pro desktop. The monitor, branded the Pro Display XDR, boasts an astonishing spec list (it's 32in and 6K, offering 40 percent more screen space than Apple's 5K displays) and an eye-watering price.
In this article we walk you through everything you need to know about Apple's Pro Display XDR, from its release date (which Apple has now confirmed will be in December 2019) price and availability, to its features, design and tech specs.
Release date: When will the new Mac display come out?
The Pro Display XDR was announced on 3 June as part of the Mac Pro section of the WWDC keynote presentation. During the keynote Apple said only that it would be available to order in autumn 2019, no firmer release date was given.
However, when Apple introduced its new 16in MacBook Pro in November 2019 it revealed that the new monitor will go on sale in December alongside the new Mac Pro. We estimate a 19 December shipping date based on when the Mac Pro shipped in 2013.
It's been a very long time since Apple last launched a display. The Apple 27in Thunderbolt Display first went on sale in July 2011. It offered what would now be considered a poor 2560 x 1440 resolution that can't even match the 2560 x 1600 of the 13in MacBook Pro, and is dwarfed by the 5K iMac's 5120 x 2880.
Apple left the standalone display market back in 2016 when it discontinued sales of its Thunderbolt Display. However, the company made a U-turn in April 2017, confirming that it had plans to make a new monitor to go with the new Mac Pro.
Apple's head of marketing Phil Schiller said: "As part of doing a new Mac Pro - it is, by definition, a modular system - we will be doing a pro display as well."
Price: How much does the Pro Display XDR cost?
So far we've only got US pricing: the Pro Display XDR will cost $4,999 for the standard model, or $5,999 if you want nano-texture glass. That's serious money; before Apple stopped sales of the Thunderbolt display it cost £899, although the new monitor is in a different league.
Apple has also confirmed that the Pro Stand will cost $999, while the VESA Mount Adapter is $199 - neither are included in the price of the monitor. You'll be able to buy these items from Apple's website when they're available.
Which Macs are compatible with the Pro Display XDR?
It's designed to work with the new 2019 Mac Pro, but any Mac that can connect via Thunderbolt or USB-C is theoretically compatible. Bear in mind, however, that most Macs won't be able to happily support six monitors at once, the way the new Mac Pro can.
Design: What does Apple's new monitor look like?
The Pro Display XDR's design is undoubtedly clever and functional - more on that in a moment - but aesthetically it will divide opinion. The brutalist simplicity and gallows-esque right angles are a little spartan for our tastes, while the cheese grater texture on the rear looks weird.
Here are some photos of the monitor in the flesh:
To return to the practical aspects of this design, that machined aluminium unibody enclosure might look peculiar but it's light for the amount of screen space you're getting, and offers excellent heat dispersal. And if you buy the optional stand (which the monitor attaches to magnetically) you'll find it easy and convenient to adjust the height (you get 120mm of adjustment) and viewing angle, thanks to a counterbalance in the mechanism.
Finally, the border around the 32in screen is only 9mm thick, giving you an excellent screen-to-body ratio. (Many of the current crop of displays designed for creative pros are larger than 30in, making the 27in iMac display look small by comparison. It's unsurprising, albeit pleasing, to see that Apple is now offering something competitive, size-wise.).
If you're wondering how the Pro Display XR would look in your office, Apple suggests opening the product page on an iPhone or iPad, and you'll be able to view it using AR.
Features: What's different about this monitor?
The display offers extremely high colour accuracy and contrast, as we'll see in the specs section next; but a further benefit is that this is maintained at very wide viewing angles (thanks to what Apple calls "the industry's best polariser technology"). This has been engineered so that more than one person can view a design project, video or photo on a single monitor without suffering a loss of fidelity.
Apple quotes the figure of "Up to 25x better off-axis contrast than a typical LCD".
A few more words on colour reproduction. The monitor offers a P3 wide colour gamut and 10-bit colour depth - both excellent ratings. Since Apple launched Mac OS X El Capitan the Mac has been able to display 10-bit colour; the only limitation has been the display.
Why does 10-bit matter? Many cameras are able to record 10-bit or more. When this is converted down on an 8-bit display, it can create biases which show up as banding. You may also benefit from 10-bit if your monitor uses Adobe RGB because that offers a larger colour space than sRGB.
The monitor works in both landscape and portrait orientation, which works well with the easy-adjust stand. And reflections shouldn't be a problem: Apple says the standard screen is engineered for low reflectivity, but the optional nano-texture glass surface (which adds $1,000 to the price) etches a matt finish into the glass "at the nanometre level" to scatter light and avoid glare.
The headline specs are these: it's a 32in, 6K monitor with up to 1,600 nits of brightness. It's a serious monitor for serious people! But here are the rest of the specs:
- 32in Retina 6K IPS LCD display with oxide TFT technology and True Tone
- 6016 x 3384 resolution (20.4 million pixels) at 218ppi
- 16:9 aspect ratio
- XDR (Extreme Dynamic Range)
- 1000 nits brightness (sustained, full screen), 1,600 nits peak
- 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio
- P3 wide colour gamut, 10-bit depth for 1.073 billion colours
- 500 nits SDR brightness
- Superwide viewing angle with high-fidelity colour and contrast at 89 degrees left, 89 degrees right, 89 degrees up, 89 degrees down
- Fully laminated; 1.65% reflectivity (typical)
- Up to 6OHz refresh rate
- 1 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port, 3 x USB-C ports
- 71.8 x 41.2 x 2.7cm; 7.48kg (stand is an additional 4.3kg, while mount adapter is 0.28kg)
Who is this display for?
Apple has spoken at length about its drive to meet the demands and needs of the professional and creative markets.
Speaking to TechCrunch in April 2018, Apple explained just how seriously it is taking the project. The company revealed that it has made some changes to help it better understand the needs of pro customers and developers.
These changes include the formation of a Pro Workflow Team that is run by John Ternus and works closely with the engineering team.
Ternus said: "We said in the meeting last year that the pro community isn't one thing. It's very diverse. There are many different types of pros and obviously they go really deep into the hardware and software and are pushing everything to its limit.
"So one thing you have to do is we need to be engaging with the customers to really understand their needs. Because we want to provide complete pro solutions not just deliver big hardware which we're doing and we did it with iMac Pro. But look at everything holistically."
To ensure that they know just what the customers need, Apple has actually hired the creatives - some on a contract basis and some full time. "We've brought in some pretty incredible talent, really masters of their craft," said Ternus.