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Apple’s next Pro Display XDR could pack iPhone power

Apple Pro Display XDR
(Image credit: Future)

Apple’s next external display could take a radical new direction with a dedicated A13 chip and Neural Engine, according to 9to5Mac’s sources. The company is reportedly working on an external display with the codename J327, which the site believes is a possible replacement for the Pro Display XDR.  

Despite being nearly two years old, the Apple A13 chip is no slouch even today. It can be found powering both the iPhone 11 family of phones as well as Apple’s entry-level iPhone SE and still gives flagship Android handsets a real run for their money in benchmark tests. 

Neural Engine, meanwhile, first debuted in the Apple A11 chip found in the iPhone X. Its purpose is to accelerate machine learning tasks, and it was paramount in the introduction of both Face ID and Animoji.

The big question is what the purpose of both would be in an external monitor. According to 9to5Mac, the chip would combine the screen’s processing and graphical power with the Mac connected to it. This would either allow the computer to “deliver high-resolution graphics without using all the resources of the computer’s internal chip” or simply reach performance levels that neither of them could manage independently.

Another slightly more mundane possibility is the introduction of smart features. Having its own SoC could see the introduction of AirPlay to a future external display, or the Neural Engine functionality could bring Face ID to the big screen.

The site stresses that nothing is set in stone, and Apple’s plans may well change. And for external displays, there’s precedent here: back in 2016, following the discontinuation of the Thunderbolt Display, Apple was rumored to be working on a replacement with a built-in GPU to give connected Macs a graphical shot in the arm. 

While the company did eventually launch a new, premium external monitor three years later, the Pro Display XDR didn’t come with any such internals – which is probably just as well as even without eGPU functionality it cost an intimidating $4,999 (or $5,999 with a stand). While you would imagine an Apple display with a built-in A13 chip would also be on the expensive side, the company is also rumored to be working on a cheaper consumer version according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.