Updated Update Dec. 9, 2019: Apple has announced that the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR will go on sale tomorrow, but details about shipping are still unknown.
Apple's new Mac Pro won't be available to buy for several months, but ever since announcing the new workstation desktop and accompanying Pro Display XDR monitor, people are up in arms over an object you might not give much thought.
The Pro Display's desktop stand is a thing of beauty, with all-metal construction and a design that's equal parts style and engineering. But Apple's decision to sell the Pro Stand as a separate accessory for a whopping $999 – on top of the $4,999 cost of the monitor alone – has would be buyers upset.
There were gasps and murmurs from the audience when the pricing was announced at WWDC (opens in new tab), arguably the most enthusiastically pro-Apple group you'll find. (Jump to the pricing details given at the 1:41:41 to hear the reaction for yourself.)
Apple's Pro Display XDR is a monitor made to match the insanely high-powered capabilities of the Mac Pro, offering 6K resolution and 1,600 nits of peak brightness for high-dynamic range (HDR) content support. With a metal chassis that doubles as a giant heat sink for the internal components, the Pro Display XDR's design echoes the look of the Mac Pro with a lattice pattern of machined ventilation holes across the back.
But the display alone costs as much as the Mac Pro's base configuration – more when you opt for the $5,999 nano-textured matte version. To charge an extra thousand dollars on top of a purchase that starts at $10,000 is galling, especially when any other monitor, even professional grade competitors that cost thousands, will most always include a stand.
Apple touted the design and craftsmanship of the Pro Stand in a recent press release (opens in new tab). "The Pro Stand has an intricately engineered arm that perfectly counterbalances the display so it feels virtually weightless, allowing users to easily place it into position," says the release when describing the dual-hinge adjustable design.
The stand features both angle and height adjustment (which is a little funny, given how many years people have been putting iMacs on stacks of books, due to the lack of adjustable height) as well as rotation, letting you flip the 32-inch 6K display on end for portrait mode viewing.
Apple is also bragging that the Pro Stand's magnetic quick-attachment mechanism as easily removable, pointing out that "the Pro Stand quickly attaches and detaches so it is easy to take on location." There was no comment about how useful that magnetic attachment will be to desk bound users, who spend all of their time in an office or studio.
It's all very interesting, but does it make the Pro Stand a luxury device, worth its enormous price tag?
Just as interesting, perhaps, is the fact that the Pro Display XDR monitor isn't VESA mount compatible, at least not on its own. So there's no simple way to by the monitor sans-stand and simply buy a more reasonably priced monitor arm or wall mount. No, for that, you'll need to buy a $199 VESA mount adapter.
But for most people – those of us who have to worry about limited budgets, put up with less-than-museum-quality design and just need affordable functionality – this will wind up being the more affordable option, by far.
Amazon's top selling arm mount, the AmazonBasics Lift Engine Arm Mount (opens in new tab) ($99) gives you the same ergonomic control, with the ability to extend and retract, tilt and rotate as much or more than the Pro Stand. Built for monitors up to 32-inches and compatible with 100 x 100 millimeter and 75 x 75 millimeter VESA mounts, it's hundreds of dollars less, while offering the same functionality. It may actually be a better choice, since the mount clamps to the edge of your desk or table to open up more usable desk space. Amazon also offers articulated wall mounts, with the AmazonBasics version selling for $20 (opens in new tab).
It all comes back to a question of value, and that's an area where Apple has found some lucrative success. For every MacBook or iPhone, the company has often used innovative designs and proprietary ports to provide each product with a little extra cushion of profitability, selling a selection of accessories alongside it. And Apple's pricing has always trended high when compared to non-Apple products.
But will shoppers feel the same when they go to spend $10 - 20,000 on a modestly configured Mac Pro desktop, only to find that the monitor and stand shown with it cost an extra $6,000? How many people will opt for the display, but not the stand when their Mac Pro is already maxxing out the budget for the year? Only time will tell -- the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR come out this September.
My guess? We'll see a number of third-party alternatives toward the end of the year as companies try to capitalize on the gap between people who want Apple's best kit, but don't want to go broke buying basic accessories.