My Day with the Apple XDR Display

31st January 2020
Apple XDR Display

As Co-Founder at HardSoft, one of the privileges is that you sometimes get invited along to the most interesting events.

Colleen Novielli, Apple Product Development
My guide Colleen Novielli, Apple Product Manager
Photo Source: Twitter

Earlier this week I went to Apple’s European HQ and heard a very passionate Apple Product Manager, Colleen Niovielli, enthuse about the Apple XDR Display.  She appeared at WWDC last June and announced the Apple XDR Display but with a bigger time slot, she was almost evangelical about this Display.

Apple started with the passion to deliver HDR quality onto a large 34-inch display. Though common on smaller displays like iPads and iPhones it wasn’t possible on something larger. Apple decided to use LCD panels rather than OLED and have re-engineered the technology using multiple panels and using Blue light rather than white light. The often-hated ‘bloom’ aura effect that is the downfall of LCD technology has been overcome.

At circa £5,000 for an XDR, I wondered just where the market was for this awesome quality of Display. Colleen explained that in many production studios there is a mixture of good, but average, Displays such as the Eizo ColorEdge and the Dell UP2718Q at about a £1,500 – £2,000 each but often just one of the ultimate ‘Reference’ displays; the Sony BVM–HX310. These are circa £30,000 each, and even large production studios don’t have many of these around. Therefore, as teams pull together video content they are technically all looking at different colour grades and temperatures. It’s not until the project is finished that it is reviewed on the Sony Reference display. That means that by then any errors in the original colour grading have been missed. In the worst case, the expensive scenario is that the `scene’ may have to be re-shot.

Mac Pro and XDR Display
Mac Pro and XDR Display with essential Stand

The Sony BX Reference Display is also not particularly portable and is about 9 inches thick due to a cluster of noisy fans cooling it down. No Editor or CGI creator is going to want this on his or her desk. The Apple XDR display is dead quiet and naturally looks great.  The Apple XDR has a clever aluminium lattice whole chassis, which apart from looking cool in effect is a great big heatsink. There is a slow fan inside there but I couldn’t hear it at all. The air conditioning at Apple HQ was louder than the XDR – and the Mac Pro running it!

One query explained to me was the difference between Standard Glass and the Nano textured glass. The Nano has an anti-reflective, matte finish. Both are identical in terms of brightness but the XDR with Standard glass is fine when you are in control of the ambient lighting around you. If you cannot control the lighting such as outdoors then go for the textured glass finish. The ‘Gloss’ version can be easily cleaned with your own household microfibre cloth. The Nano glass version comes with its own special cloth. Apple tells me that these are available at about £10 each, should you need more. If you are concerned about colour accuracy and the lack of any Spectrometer then Apple tells me that this will be a software featured in an upcoming Mac OS update.

Apple XDR Stand Rear View
The honeycomb styling is in fact a heatsink for cooling

The infamous Stand has had some negative press due to cost. However, when I tried it out I now understand what it is all about. The engineering within the hinge is very intricate and gives you a rock steady display that won’t ‘drift’ down during the working day. It almost glides to a new height or angle including a simple step into portrait orientation. An inexpensive VESA mount is available though I now believe the stand is well worth the cost. Don’t scrimp.

The XDR is a 6K display but allows you to natively view your Job in 4k whilst using the surrounding screen for your Software UI such as with Logic Pro or Davinci Resolve. Once you have finished your Project the XDR display has about 12 Pre-set modes you can throw your Project into so you can see what the Viewers would see at home on a 4K OLED display on HBO. Many Television Broadcasters use different file formats to push out the finished article.  I recalled the criticism of Game of Thrones being too dark to see and wondered whether HVBO only tested it for viewing via HBO. Real-world emulation.

Photo of the Founders in 1983! Phil & Andy

Brilliant afternoon… and then I took a new Mac Pro apart…

Andrew Morgan is Co-Founder of HardSoft Computers. Together with his brother, Phil, they started the business in 1983, and almost 40 years later they are still serving customers with several subscription models, and expert advice on technology and financing – a truly One-Stop Computer Leasing business.