Apple is hosting its Spring Loaded event on April 20 and, while the firm has offered little indication of what to expect from the evening, we hope to see Apple’s XDR display tech make an appearance in some of the products.
XDR – or Extreme Dynamic Range – is a feature that debuted on the Pro Display XDR back in 2019.
The monitor has gotten Apple into hot water recently. The company found itself forced to drop the “far beyond HDR” claim from its Pro Display HDR page after marketing for the product underwent a review with the Advertising Standards Authority here in the UK (via 9to5Mac).
The complaints were filed because Apple’s website reportedly led users to believe it supported 100% of the P3 wide colour gamut instead of 99%. Users also questioned the company’s 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio claims.
Here’s everything you need to know about Apple’s XDR display technology, including what it is, how it works and where you can find it.
What is Apple’s XDR display tech?
XDR is the display tech found in Apple’s Pro Display XDR. Apple describes the feature as “dynamic range to the extreme” – which makes sense considering the acronym actually stands for Extreme Dynamic Range.
You’ve likely already heard of HDR, or High Dynamic Range. The feature is in charge of improving the contrast you see on many displays these days, keeping the whites bright and the blacks dark in a way that SDR TVs had previously been unable to achieve.
While not technically a separate standard of HDR, XDR is HDR pushed further – well at least that seems like how Apple wants it thought of. Apple says it employs a “breakthrough backlighting technology” to increase the brightness, contrast and colour on its Pro Display XDR beyond what you see with HDR.
According to Apple product manager Colleen Novielli, a large number of individually calibrated blue LEDs come together in the Pro Display XDR to form its backlight. Apple then applies a proprietary algorithm to modulate each LED based on the content, using custom lenses and reflectors to control the light.
“Now, a typical thermal system would make this impossible to achieve for more than a few minutes. So we did something amazing”, said Novelli at WWDC 2019.
“We designed the rear lattice pattern to act as a heatsink, and this doubles the surface area, quietly extracting heat from each LED. This display can maintain 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness indefinitely. Forever! And 1,600 nits peak”.
Apple claims that, while a standard desktop display can sustain a brightness of just around 350 nits, its XDR display can sustain 1,000 nits of brightness and 1,600 nits at its peak, offering a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio (though the latter is currently under independent testing).
The Pro Display XDR also supports 99% of the P3 wide colour gamut and true 10-bit colour for vibrant, accurate colours.
All of the above basically means that professionals are able to achieve more accurate colour grading when creating content on the Pro Display XDR, and that photos and videos viewed on the XDR display appear bright and vibrant.
Of course, this tech doesn’t come cheap. The Pro Display XDR launched in 2019 at the steep price of £4,599 (or £5,499 if you opt for the nano-texture glass).
Apple XDR Display on iPhone
You can also find XDR displays on some of Apple’s most recent smartphones. The feature, called Super Retina XDR on your phone, can be found on the iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
A step up from the Super Retina display found on the iPhone X, XS and XS Max, Super Retina XDR has a contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1 and supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and variants of HDR. Unlike the Pro Display XDR, the XDR displays used on the phones are OLED panels.
We’ve reviewed all the iPhones that boast this XDR tech and they’re all superb displays that certainly match up with the best we’ve seen from top-end Android devices. They’re all bright displays with strong HDR support and far more neutral colours then you’ll elsewhere. While a Samsung display might be more punchy and saturated, we’d certainly have the iPhone’s panel is more realistic with colour reproduction. Hopefully, Apple brings some of the tech across to the tablet range with the heavily rumoured iPad Pro 2021.
For more on monitors, make sure to check out our guides to the best monitors and the best gaming monitors. Or for smartphones, visit our guides to the best phones and the best iPhones available right now.
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