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Apple computers have been the go-to computers for the design industry for decades. I remember calling a designer’s iMac a PC 20 years ago — He snapped and sent me out of the room…
Growing up as a PC guy, I never realized why people used Macs. I was in the Anti-Apple camp for a while and it wasn’t until I got my first MacBook Pro in 2009 I was sold.
Everything lived together in this beautiful unified system and esthetics were drop-dead gorgeous.
After saving up some cash on the side, I was able to get myself an Apple Cinema HD Display. I couldn’t afford the 30-inch so I got the 23-inch and I loved it.
What was expensive then could only cover a stand in 2020.
It would be nice to hook my new MacBook Pro 16 2019 to an external display. The XDR is a bit on the expensive side so I started looking for alternatives. Turns out, that was harder than I thought.
If only Apple still made Cinema Displays.
The state of today
While the design- and manufacture teams in the other companies are well asleep, Apple continues to develop some upper-class hardware.
The Apple Pro Display XDR is another example of this.
It is packed with a 32-inch HDR(High Dynamic Range), no sorry XDR(Extreme Dynamic Range) 10-bit 6k display, 1600 nits peak brightness, and a 1 000 000:1 contrast.
The thin bezels make the screen all screen and the aluminum finish makes it scream class. There is no plastic anywhere. Even the cables are braided.
The Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt Cinema Display LED is discontinued and it leaves an empty void between the Pro Display XDR and the alternatives from the other manufacturers.
Pro Display XDR Alternatives
The alternatives to the XDR are less appealing. While Apple uses aluminum, others still use plastic. Sure, some screens look good, but you can not go beyond good with plastic. Why aren’t more manufacturers using premium materials?
The main problem with the XDR for the average consumer is that it costs $7.000. This is a screen most people should stay away from as it is targeted at high-end professional users.
So where does that leave the average Joe? Nowhere really. There are no options and you have to look elsewhere.
Even Apple lists LGs displays as options on their site. I’m not sure this is a sign they won’t bother with displays for you and me anymore.
After days of research, there are a few alternatives you can consider. Good luck learning the model names though.
Some items might be out of stock, but you can find them in several local stores or other online retailers.
One of the best options offered by BenQ is the Designer Professional Monitor with 31.5-inch, 4K UHD, Display P3 |PD3220U.
With its similar size and great panel, it is a valid competitor. The display is high rez (although not 6k) with a 10-bit HDR panel.
You can daisy-chain it to set up multiple monitors and it comes with a puck with buttons so you can quickly change color modes (if you’re a fan of more clutter on your desk)
ASUS has a lineup targeted towards creative users. They have a whole series called ProArt.
It is within this lineup we find some of the best alternatives to the XDR.
There is a variety of models to choose from. The K model f.ex. has the calibration tool included.
LG has a few options. Apple sells the 27-inch LG UltraFine 5K Display on their site and it is tailored for the mac. It doesn’t even have hardware menus as the OS will help you with the settings.
It is packed with a web camera, microphones, speakers, and several USB-C ports. The thunderbolt plug also powers your MacBook.
If you are looking for more screen real estate, you can have a look at the 34'’ LG 34WK95U-W UltraWide® 5K2K Nano IPS LED Monitor with HDR 600.
Working with widescreen is amazing. The productivity levels are boosted and you don’t get a screen border in the middle of your view.
Another popular option in the LG camp is the Ergo series. The LG 32UN880-B 32 Inch UltraFine™ Display Ergo 4K HDR10 Monitor is something to consider. The stand looks fantastic.
You have the option to do one of two things.
- Buy the XDR anyways
- Buy one of the other ones and focus on what is ON the screen, not what it’s made of.
As we talked about earlier, the XDR isn’t meant for “normal people”. You might be better off pretending 80% of the screen is not black dull plastic and go for one of the alternatives. With the options you have out there, you should also consider what you will be using the screen for.
If you are working with photography or color grading, you probably want to go for one of the 10-bit HDR screens.
If color is not that important to you, you can choose from a wide range of screens. I would go for the widescreen option for maximum productivity.
Most people would be happy with any display, I can’t help feeling that a new Apple 32-inch UHD Cinema Display would be perfect for the MacBook Pro though— An option we can only hope to see.
The price should be around $1.200-$2.000. This would make it a viable option for more users and it would compete with the other brands who offer these screens today.
If those stars would ever align, please keep the bezels super-thin. If we want a web camera, we can buy that separately, as the magnetic 4k Logitech one Apple recommends for the XDR screen.
In the end, I’ll just be waiting for the M1X iMac. It comes with a screen — Hopefully a 32-inch 6k one.