Pro Display XDR Blooming, A Colorist’s First Impressions & Cost Reappraisal

A comparison between Apple’s 6K monitor, the FSI XM310K (zoned dimming) and XM311K (dual panel).

At long last, we’re presented with a refreshingly realistic evaluation of the Pro Display XDR that doesn’t read like the many puff pieces by tech writers and editors claiming that Apple’s display renders OLED reference monitors obsolete.

Ryan McNeal writes over at liftgammagain:

So I’ve got my Pro Display XDR setup and wanted to post some initial reactions. These are my observations and I am not an engineer, so take my opinions with a grain of salt, just wanted to share my reactions as a colorist. (My display is currently setup as a hero GUI screen, NOT reference)

– The display is physically beautiful, wow-factor = check. Design: 100/100

– Images look fantastic on the display. Both in terms of resolution (looking at 8k footage and still photography) and the richness of the colors. Comparable to the LG OLED series.

– Factory calibrations seem….okay to mediocre. I’d say I’ve seen better factory cals. Cycling through the presets, I believe the color spaces are correct, but they are off in a few ways from my reference and client monitors. Visually, I would describe it as a little punchy and highlights lean magenta. If I turn True Tone off, remarkably it is even worse as the default color temp is blue compared to my 6500k backlight bias or if I throw up white on all displays. I give the default calibrations: 70/100.

– Because of the above, the Pro Display will need calibration. Out of the box, I wouldn’t trust it any more than a MacBook screen.

– Okay now the concerning stuff. Halos. These are most noticeable when the display brightness is cranked way up and you have bright windows/shapes on a very dark background. This seems to come from the local dimming leds. I think this is the biggest deal breaker for HDR reference grading, but at 100 nits I don’t think this will be a deal breaker for rec 709 work. (my non-engineer opinion). Makes me fairly disappointed this isn’t an OLED panel to mitigate this issue completely.

– Because of the local dimming, blacks look great…except when there should be bright speculars in the blacks…they just get dimmed too. This makes me want local dimming to be just shut off completely. Just bring back the lifted shadows from the LCD backlight at that rate.

 Off Axis Viewing. This is a major issue, not too bad if you place the screen at a distance and sit in a fixed position. Much more noticeable than the LG OLEDs.

 Resolution, I don’t think this is actually an issue. I know some will bring up the whole SD to HD and all that, but the reality is the footage is rarely the same resolution that we monitor in anyway. There is almost always a decrepency as most filmmakers don’t shoot HD or UHD only. So if your color sessions are HD and UHD, you are always up and down converting anyway. I do HD and 2K sessions on 4K reference monitors, I don’t switch out my reference displays just for those projects.  

 OS settings and control. This is the area I think apple can improve the most. I love the idea of preset colorspaces/calibrations, but the way the work with the monitor is strange, and the brightness slider is perplexing as it seems to dim the shadows more than the highlights, making me lose all confidence in the signal chain. The slider is greyed out in most of the calibrations, but when you pop a new calibration in, the screen changes as you would expect, followed by a dimming animation that is bewildering, what is it doing?

 Calibrations. How will we adjust them? The don’t seem to be ready for production. I couldn’t confidently select the rec709 one and start grading with a client in the room.

 Blackmagic 8K Terranex SDI to Displayport. This device seems essential now to not only have a real calibration, but also remove all the things the OS is doing to manipulate the image in the calibration presets. Hope it can force the local dimming LEDs to a uniform value as well. 

– Is it a reference display? For HDR, I have some serious doubts. IDK why Apple compared this to the Sony X300/310, its not on that level. I’d say a properly calibrated LG OLED is better if you are grading HDR on a dime. for SDR rec709/web? I think once Apple listens to the pro requests and BM debuts that Terranex and we can calibrate this thing, sure.

– Is it a very good consumer display? I know everyone’s been clamoring on how this is for professionals and colorists/vfx artists. It IS a really nice looking display, and once we can calibrate it and control it a bit more, it will be an accurate advanced display. I’d say right now if feels like an iMac screen on steroids, or the Thunderbolt Display we always wanted. It’s just not the reference display Apple made it out to be [currently].

TLDR: its beautiful, looks great. Accurate? Not currently. Reference level, maybe for SDR. Biggest question on my mind: why isn’t this an OLED panel?
Again, these are just my opinions after spending 8+hrs with it today. It will live as my hero GUI display until I can get a hold of a Terranex to try and sus out wether it could be a SDR reference display or not.

If a Teranex is indeed required for proper calibration of the Pro Display XDR, we’ve got to recalculate the true cost of the monitor as follows:

  • Pro Display XDR $5,000.00
  • Stand $1,000.00
  • Nano-texture glass $1,000.00
  • AppleCare+ $500.00
  • Teranex Mini SDI to DisplayPort 8K HDR $1,295.00

That pushes the cost of the monitor to around $8,800.00. Bear in mind that here in Vietnam, the Teranex retails for the astronomical sum of $1,600.00 and that several Blackmagic forum members have reported that calibration fails when using the Teranex Mini SDI to HDMI 8K HDR. Although I dislike Asus’ atrocious after-sales support immensely, for those who, like me, just want to make the occasional HDR video for YouTube, I’d recommend either the $1,200.00 Asus ProArt PA32UC or an LG OLED TV if you’ve got the space. Or wait for one of the new mini-LED HDR1000 laptops due out sometime this year.

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