Could Apple Have Made a TV?

What Makes Apple’s Bonkers New Display So Special?


June 4, 2019 Tech By

Apple announced a new Mac Pro desktop computer at WWDC 2019 and it looks like it’s going to be a beast. The extremely powerful and expensive machine is actually part of a modular system that includes an absurdly nice, absurdly expensive external monitor called the Pro Display XDR, which might actually be the most interesting part of Apple’s new desktop setup.

The external monitor is what Apple is calling a “Retina 6K display.” It’s a 32-inch display with a 6,016 x 3,284 resolution — in other words, 20 million(!) pixels. It has a P3 wide color gamut and support for 10-bit color, two features which make it uniquely suited for displaying real-life color on a screen. Additionally, it can reach 1,600 nits of peak brightness, has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and works with a rotating stand (sold seperately for $999), called the Pro Stand, so you can use the display horizontally or vertically. It’s a combo of features that should make it appealing to professional photo and video editors, should they be able to afford it.

As you can imagine, the desktop setup as a whole will be pretty expensive. The Mac Pro will start at $5,999, but the Pro Display XDR will actually be equally expensive: It will cost $4,999, but you’ll also need a stand. If you don’t want to shell out for the $999 one, you can alternatively mount the display with a special VESA mount adapter, which will cost $199, otherwise, there’s no way to mount it out of the box, which is a pretty huge pain for a device that’s this expensive.

There’s no doubt that the Pro Display XDR is gorgeous — and yes, expensive — but it also may have been intended for something much different. Such a screen would also make a top-tier TV, which Apple is rumored to have had plans to do. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Apple scrapped its TV plans back in 2015. Now, with the recent partnerships with most major TV manufacturers (including Samsung, Vizio, TCL, LG and Sony), Apple has more or less integrated Apple TV into all those third-party smart TVs, and it seems unlikely Apple still has interest in selling a traditional TV. The time is now, after all, with the impending launch of its streaming service, Apple TV+.

It seems likely Apple could have pulled it off, from a tech perspective. The Pro Display XDR, which uses an array of blue LEDs, looks like it should be able to achieve as bright (or brighter) and as accurate (or more accurate) colors as many professional OLED monitors and might have had additional promise in the TV space. It probably comes down to the fact that Apple just want as many smart TVs as possible to be able to stream Apple TV+ when it comes out. And with so many beautiful TVs out there, maybe it just made more sense for Apple to not throw its hat in the ring. Within the Pro Display XDR, we’re probably also seeing what’s left of the dedicated TV that Apple never made.

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