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Apple could launch a new external monitor with its own dedicated processor

When Apple unveiled the pricey Pro Display XDR alongside the refreshed Mac Pro, the company played up the strengths and innovation behind its pro-grade display. It seems that the next Pro Display is about to get even more powerful, as we’re learning that Apple is working on an external monitor that has its own dedicated ARM-based processor.

According to a report on 9to5Mac, the codename for the external display that Apple is working on is J327, and the monitor comes with its own A-series processor. More specifically, Apple has been testing the panel with the A13 Bionic chip, the same one that debuted on the company’s iPhone 11.

Apple's next-gen Pro Display XDR monitors could come with the power of an iPhone 11 inside.

If accurate, this means that a Mac setup with an external display will have two ARM-based processors. While the display is reportedly being tested with the A-series chipset, Apple is using a more powerful M-series variant on its Macs, including the refreshed M1-powered MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac.

It’s still unclear how Apple will leverage the power of a separate processor on its display — the A13 Bionic not only comes with integrated processor and graphics cores, but it also has a Neural Engine to help speed up artificial intelligence processing on the chip. Potential uses being speculated for the added processing power include the ability to better control and tune the screen’s performance as well as the ability to drive higher resolutions or connect even more displays to a Mac for a robust multi-monitor setup.

People photographing the Apple Pro Display XDR at the WWDC 2019 Hands On.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

A monitor with its own powerful CPU could also help Apple in its push into PC-based gaming. Like gaming monitors that support rivals AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, an Apple-designed monitor with its own powerful silicon could help Mac gamers experience less screen tearing, blurring, or ghosting when playing fast-paced AAA titles. Given that Apple is relying on its integrated graphics solution as part of its transition on the Mac from Intel chips to its own in-house processors based on ARM designs, this would allow Apple to create its own complete gaming ecosystem to rival G-Sync and FreeSync. It’s also unclear if the processor on the display can be daisy-chained with the one inside the Mac to deliver even more performance when the two are docked.

Still, another potential use of a second silicon found only in the monitor may relate to Apple’s ambition to expand AirPlay. With the debut of MacOS 12 Monterey, Apple showcased a new feature called AirPlay to Mac, where you can mirror content on your iPhone to the Mac’s display. Further evolution of this, and something that rival has done on its smart monitors, is to allow iPhones to AirPlay content directly to the monitor without having a Mac connected to the display panel. Samsung’s smart monitor solution works with its DeX software interface found on its smartphones and tablets. Apple’s MacOS Monterey is due for release this fall.

At this time, even though Apple may be testing such a smart monitor, it’s unclear when such a solution will arrive or if Apple will even debut the monitor. Given that the Pro Display XDR debuted with the most recent refresh of the Mac Pro, perhaps we’ll have to wait until Apple once again refreshes its pro-grade desktop to its M-series chipsets to get a new Pro Display.

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Chuong Nguyen
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