Apple's Pro Display XDR pleases pros with new in-field recalibration

Apple has quietly released its Pro Display XDR Calibrator App, a software tool for its Retina 6K display for those who want to do in-field recalibration of its color settings. The free app lands alongside the release of Display Firmware 4.2.30, and builds on previous versions that increased the amount of calibration tweaking that owners can do.

Launched at the end of December 2019, the Pro Display XDR is Apple's flagship – and indeed only – standalone screen. Positioned as the perfect foil for the third-generation Mac Pro with which it shares an aesthetic, it's a 32-inch 6016 x 3384 panel Thunderbolt 3 connectivity on the rear. That allows it to simultaneously supply power to a MacBook Pro while also using that same cable for data.

One of the big pitches for the monitor was its color calibration. Apple says it supports the P3 wide color gamut, with 10-bit depth for 1.073 billion colors, while it can be switched between more than ten different reference modes including HDR Video (P3-ST 2084), Digital Cinema (P3-DCI), and Design and Print (P3-D50). Though calibrated at the factory, however, the new Pro Display XDR Calibrator 1.0.0 app now supports in-field recalibration.

That might be necessary, if you have a custom calibration requirement for your specific project. Though the app is free, you'll need a spectroradiometers to plug into your macOS machine. At the moment Apple supports four models: the Photo Research SpectraScan PR-740, PR-745, and PR-788, and the Colorimetry Research CR-300. Your Pro Display XDR will need to be running the firmware v.4.2.30 or later, too.

The actual process – as this Apple support document lays out – is fairly straightforward, though it can be time consuming. Apple recommends making a baseline measurement first, before calibration, and then a second after you've adjust the settings. Exact setup for the spectroradiometer will depend on which model you have, but the whole process should take up to two hours to run. That includes a 30 minute warm-up period to ensure accurate results.

If you've changed the settings, but want to return to the default, that's easy too. In the Pro Display XDR Calibrator, there's a "Reset Calibration" option to revert to Apple's out-of-the-box configuration.

Clearly, this is a niche tool for an already niche product: the Pro Display XDR starts at $4,999 (remember to add $999 if you want the Pro Stand, too), while spectroradiometers aren't exactly cheap. Still, Apple's argument that – in the grand scale of pro-level displays, at least – its monitor is competitive still stands up, and for those who want the very most flexibility out of the Pro Display XDR this is likely to come as a welcome upgrade.