Apple’s Pro Display XDR Is Compatible with More Than Just the Mac Pro

Apple Pro Display XDR 2 Credit: Apple
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Last week Apple began taking orders for its new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR, and although the company has positioned it’s extremely high-end Mac Pro and gorgeous 6K display as if they were a set, in reality you can easily use the Pro Display XDR with other recent Macs as well.

While the new 32-inch 6K display doesn’t come cheap at $4,999 — and that’s without the stand, which will cost you $999 extra — it’s a fantastic display that may appeal to pros who otherwise don’t need to spring for the full Mac Pro experience.

MacBook Pro

In fact, since the Mac Pro isn’t exactly a portable computer, we can imagine that the Pro Display XDR may be an especially desirable add-on for users of Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro , where it will not only make for a great external display when you’re at your desk, but also provides 96 watts of power back over the Thunderbolt 3 port, which means that it will keep your MacBook Pro powered and charging without the need to plug in a separate adapter.

Apple’s older 15-inch MacBook Pro isn’t left out of the game either, with both the 2018 and 2019 models listed as fully compatible with the Pro Display XDR in the same manner as the brand new 16-inch version. Users of smaller 13-inch MacBooks or older 15-inch models aren’t entirely left out, however, as you can still power the Pro Display XDR if you’re willing to add a Blackmagic external GPU to drive it, as long as the MacBook has at least one Thunderbolt 3 port available.

Significantly, the 16-inch MacBook Pro also provides the ability to drive two 6K displays, so you should be able to connect two Pro Display XDRs at full resolution. The 2018 and 2019 15-inch MacBook Pro only officially support two displays at 5K resolution, suggesting that these models will probably only drive a single Pro Display XDR at 6K.

2019 iMacs

You can also add the Pro Display XDR as a second display to Apple’s 2019 iMacs — both the 21.5- and 27-inch versions — although it seems that Apple’s flagship iMac, the 2017 iMac Pro, isn’t on the list.

However, 9to5Mac discovered that Apple’s new 6K display will work with the iMac Pro, but it just won’t work as a 6K display. Instead, you’ll only get 5K resolution, which makes sense since that’s all that the GPU on the iMac Pro is capable of putting out — although it should still be able to support two Pro Display XDRs at that resolution if your pockets are deep enough for it.

What’s also a bit odd in this case, however, is that Apple’s tech specs for its 2019 iMacs indicate that they’re only capable of driving a single 5K external display so far. This means that you’ll likely only be able to connect one Pro Display XDR, but it’s unclear if it will work in 6K even on these iMac models. Apple’s tech specs for the Pro Display XDR simply list the following Mac models without offering any comments on the maximum supported resolutions:

  • Mac Pro (2019) with MPX Module GPUs
  • 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018 or later)
  • 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019)
  • 21.5-inch iMac (2019)
  • 27-inch iMac (2019)
  • Any Mac model with Thunderbolt 3 ports paired with Blackmagic eGPU or Blackmagic eGPU Pro

Right now, Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro and Mac Pro seem to be the only models that are guaranteed to offer full 6K resolution for the Pro Display XDR. While Apple’s new high-end display has other quality benefits beyond the 6K resolution, it may not be enough to justify the $5,000 asking price if your Mac is only going to be able to drive it at 5K. However it seems more likely that Apple simply hasn’t updated the tech specs for the Macs that are on the compatibility list, since those are far from the only models that offer the ability to handle a 5K display — even Apple’s Mac mini can drive a single 5K display over Thunderbolt alongside a 4K display via HDMI, but you’ll need an eGPU if you want to add the Pro Display XDR to it.

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