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Apple Studio Display vs. Pro Display XDR: The Same, Yet Not

A sigh of disappointment emerged from a lot of folks when Apple announced its new Studio Display at its March product launch event. Many were hoping the $1,599 monitor would be a smaller, less expensive version of its $4,999 sibling, the Pro Display XDR. And to a certain extent, it is. But it's still left me waiting for a less-expensive model of the Pro Display XDR.

Rather than say, simply scale back the brightness, reduce the size and simplify the stand of the Pro, which would serve the same audience for far less money, Apple's created a mainstream monitor that will likely be good enough for the larger group of creators-slash-Apple devotees. I don't doubt that Apple's nailed the color accuracy, but there are a lot of unknowns at the moment.

HDR vs. webcam and speakers

Aside from the size, this is the biggest "which one?" gap between the two, and the main characteristics which make them aimed at very different uses. The Pro Display XDR is a purist's monitor, with a design and feature set geared toward content creation and nothing but. The Studio Display, on the other hand, seems like it wants to be all things to all people; on paper it looks like an iMac without the system attached or an older-generation iPad Pro, right down to having a processor inside.

The 1,600-nit Pro Display XDR is bright enough for HDR content editing, while the Studio Display doesn't support HDR, even for playback, as far as I can tell. (The specs don't list HDR10 support, which is required to understand HDR data.) Yes, 600 nits doesn't make for great HDR, but I've used DisplayHDR 600 displays with Windows and it's passable.

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Apple Studio Display vs. Pro Display XDR: The Same, Yet Not

The Studio Display's webcam and speakers are really what give it the iMac-ish sensibility, and one of the reasons I think Apple intends to permanently replace the now-discontinued 27-inch iMac with this monitor plus your choice of one of the mini desktops, the Mac Mini or the new Mac Studio. But that would make the glaring lack of HDR playback even glarier.

Now playing:Watch this: Meet the Mac Studio and Mac Studio Display5:18

Neither one of them supports anything beyond 60Hz refresh rate (unlike the ProMotion screens on the higher-end iPads and iPhones). It's understandable in the Pro Display XDR, which is two years old, but less so in the Studio Display. Unless Apple istrying to cement the idea that all your recreation should take place on a mobile device. (Which, sadly, might be true.)

Color matching

The thing is, once you remove HDR from the equation they've got almost identical reference modes. The big question mark hanging over the Studio Display is whether you can create custom profiles stored in hardware (not software), a capability that came to the Pro Display XDR a while after it launched. Hardware calibration profiles make a big difference when you're trying to match colors across multiple monitors, especially when the monitors are from multiple manufacturers; it's a feature that differentiates a consumer display from a workstation-level one.


Both offer the glare-eliminating Nano-texture glass option, and both have overdesigned stands that result in extra cost for essential capabilities -- notably, the ability to adjust the height. The prices and price premiums are different, which makes sense. The Pro Display XDR screen is very heavy, and requires a sturdier base and hinge.

Apple Studio Display


Alongside the new Mac Studio, Apple introduced an all-new Studio Display. Preorders are open now for this monitor, with shipments starting later this month. It features Apple's A13 chip, a 12MP ultra-wide camera for use with Center Stage, Spatial Audio and so much more.

Read more about the Apple Studio Display.

$1,600 at Best Buy

Apple Pro Display XDR

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple's 32-inch display is a true workstation-class monitor with myriad profiles stored in hardware, plus it supports up to 1,600 nits for editing HDR. It's about two years old now, though, so ancillary specs, such as the single Thunderbolt port, aren't that up to date. And like the Studio Display, it has no hardware controls, which ties it firmly to the Mac.

Read Apple Pro Display XDR review.

$5,999 at Amazon $6,000 at Best Buy

I look forward to ferreting out the unknowns as well as answers to other questions once we get our hands on the Studio monitor for testing.

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