Mac Pro/OS X 4K Display Compatibility 'Like the Wild West', Some 4K Monitors Unsupported

In its lengthy review of the new Mac Pro, AnandTech discovered that the Mac Pro's current support for 4K monitors leaves something to be desired. The reviewer connected the Sharp 32" 4K display that Apple currently offers on the Apple Online Store, expecting that OS X work the same way on that panel as Apple's current Retina MacBook Pro models do.

On those machines, Apple renders the screen at full resolution but then renders text, menu and UI elements at 4x their normal resolution so they are the appropriate physical size for the user. It also offers multiple options to scale UI elements up or down as the user prefers. Instead, using the Sharp panel with the Mac Pro makes text and other on-screen elements -- aside from photos and video -- very small and difficult to read.

4K Monitor

I was fully expecting all of this to be available on the Mac Pro when connected to a 32” 4K display. By default, there’s only a single supported scaled resolution: 2560 x 1440. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Apple is running the same supersampling routines when you pick this resolution, instead you get a 2560 x 1440 desktop scaled up to 3840 x 2160 (rather than a 5120 x 2880 screen scaled down). The result is a bit of a blurry mess.

You can use tools like SwitchResX (or Quartz Debug or the necessary Terminal command) to enable a 1080p HiDPI mode, but then you end up with insanely low point density of around 68 PPI. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be possible to define your own HiDPI modes in OS X, you have to rely on those that Apple officially supports. I tried creating a 5120 x 2880 (2560 x 1440 HiDPI) mode but I couldn't get it working under Mavericks. I'm not sure if I was limited by the OS or if Sharp's EDID-specified max resolution of 3840 x 2160 prevented OS X from accepting what I was trying to do.

AnandTech also tried the new Dell UltraSharp 24 Ultra HD display but found that the display is not properly supported by the Mac Pro.

The reviewer calls OS X's 4K display support "a bit like the wild west at this point", though he anticipates Apple will fix things with both software updates and its own displays in the future -- but urges early adopters to be aware of what they're getting into.

I am disappointed that Apple didn’t enable any HiDPI modes on the 32” Sharp display. While I found 3840 x 2160 a great resolution for video work, for everything else it made on-screen menus and text a bit too small. I would love to see a 2560 x 1440 HiDPI option (rendering offscreen at 5120 x 2880 and but scaling down to 3840 x 2160 for display) but it looks like I may have to wait for Apple’s own display before I get something like that.

It's been two years since Apple has updated its standalone display lineup, and the company is expected to come out with new models sooner rather than later. However, there are no concrete rumors suggesting when such an update might happen.

Related Roundup: Mac Pro
Buyer's Guide: Mac Pro (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

JM-Prod Avatar
92 months ago
This is really bad... how much effort would it have taken Apple to get this right for their most high-paying customers. Shame.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Renzatic Avatar
92 months ago

I don't think this is an issue at all. Of course Apple can't guarantee every monitor will support OS X Retina technologies but I'm sure the best displays will make a conscious effort to do so. With this in mind, it doesn't surprise me the Dell cannot do OS X Retina.

No, this is more of a failing of OSX than Dell. If the monitor's built to display 3840x2160, then it's capable of displaying 3840x2160. Period. There should be no reason why it can't display that same resolution in Windows, but not in OSX due to it's...er..."Retina Technologies".

The only problem here is that Apple probably hasn't included the device IDs for all these new monitors yet, so OSX itself likely treats it as a generic display.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WardC Avatar
92 months ago
What the article missed...this is a 4K display....you plug it in to your Mac Pro, and it displays everything at 4K resolution...it works.

It is not a Retina display, nor does it do Retina scaling, NOR was it even meant to.

It displays a 4K resolution picture, and workspace.

The display at this resolution may have tiny text and UI elements, but it was not meant to operate at any other resolution (as of now). You must learn to deal with this. I think that is what they are complaining about here...people have gotten extremely spoiled by Retina scaling, and this display is flat out HIRES, so the UI elements are small.

It does everything its advertised to do.

I think the article missed this.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LordVic Avatar
92 months ago
this is more an issue with OSx and it's handling of displays than the Mac Pro.

I have similar issues on my myriad of displays at home. from 1600x1200 monitor, 1620x1050, 1080p, 720p, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and the like, OSx seems to have problems using many of these displays natively without weird impressions in each.

heck. it doesn't even seem to want to handle 720p identically accross displays even though they're both on HDMI! my 720p projector comes through as crystal clear. my 720p 27" TV is fuzzy and skewed.

swap over to Windows 7 via boot camp and all these displays work perfectly.

seems that Apple doesn't have good support for displays that aren't either theirs or directly sold by them. Something I hoped would be fixed in Mavericks that doesn't seem to be.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
yg17 Avatar
92 months ago

Almost everything I plug into DP or DVI (or VGA) looks exactly like it should. Maybe HDMI is a ****** protocol or devices having only HDMI input aren't too smart.


Two things wrong with this post:

1. HDMI and DVI use the exact same signaling for video. HDMI adds audio. HDMI is basically DVI with audio.
2. I have a Dell monitor plugged into my rMBP's mDP/TB port and it looks like crap because OSX thinks it's a TV and not a monitor. This is a well documented issue that's existed since 10.8 at least and I had to use a hack to the display definition files to get it to look right. The display works fine on Windows without any OS hacks.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cable Avatar
92 months ago
What's terrible is that Apple presents this monitor as if it's fully functional. What's worse, is I signed up for the Dell financing and bought their 32inch screen and apparently it doesn't work either?

Not happy. Really crossing my fingers that a software update will rectify this before everything arrives in the mail.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

16inchmacbookpromain

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to Feature Flat-Edged Design, MagSafe, No Touch Bar and More Ports

Thursday January 14, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Apple is working on two new MacBook Pro models that will feature significant design changes, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple is developing two models in 14 and 16-inch size options. The new MacBook Pro machines will feature a flat-edged design, which Kuo describes as "similar to the iPhone 12" ...
foldable iPhone concept feature

Apple Testing In-Display Fingerprint Sensor for iPhone 13, Foldable iPhone Also in the Works

Friday January 15, 2021 1:46 pm PST by
Apple has started "early work" on an iPhone that has a foldable display, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Though testing of a foldable iPhone has begun, Apple has not committed to releasing a device that has a foldable display. Development has not yet expanded beyond a display and Apple does not have full foldable iPhone prototypes in its labs. Like foldable...
iphone x camera close

iOS 14.4 Will Introduce Warning on iPhones With Non-Genuine Cameras

Thursday January 14, 2021 8:07 am PST by
In the second beta of iOS 14.4 seeded to developers and public testers this week, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser has discovered code indicating that Apple will be introducing a new warning on iPhones that have had their camera repaired or replaced with aftermarket components rather than genuine Apple components. "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple camera," the message will...
iP12 charge airpods feature 2

Hidden iPhone 12 Hardware Feature Could Still be Unlocked

Thursday January 14, 2021 2:51 am PST by
All iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models purportedly have a hidden reverse wireless charging feature, according to an FCC filing. The feature has not yet been activated, but could yet be unlocked for an upcoming Apple accessory. The FCC filing suggests that iPhone 12 models contain the hardware for Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) to accessories: In addition to being able to be charged by a...
Top Stories 43 Feature

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and iPhone Rumors, Best of CES 2021

Saturday January 16, 2021 6:00 am PST by
This week was sure a busy one in the Apple world, with a flurry of announcements out of CES early in the week followed by a rash of Mac- and iPhone-related rumors later in the week. The new rumors this week included details on updated MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro models, as well as a few other tidbits, so make sure to read on below to get caught up! Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to...
iphone 5s black slate

Images of Unreleased iPhone 5s in Black and Slate Shared Online

Sunday January 17, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today shared images of a prototype iPhone 5s in an unreleased Black and Slate color. The iPhone 5s was launched in September 2013. The device featured Touch ID, a 64-bit processor, and a True Tone LED flash for the first time. Other new features included a five-element lens with an f/2.2 aperture, a 15 percent larger camera sensor, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo...
Apple TV Ray Light 2 Triad

Apple Extends Free Apple TV+ Trials Until July

Friday January 15, 2021 10:50 am PST by
Apple is once again planning to extend its free Apple TV+ trial subscriptions, this time until July. When Apple TV+ launched in November 2019, Apple offered free Apple TV+ subscriptions to those who purchased a new Apple device in or after September 2019. Those free subscriptions were set to expire in November 2020, but in October 2020, Apple announced that it was extending free trials...
pat gelsinger intel

Incoming Intel CEO Derides Company's Inability to 'Deliver Better Products' Than Apple's M1 Chip

Friday January 15, 2021 6:17 am PST by
Incoming Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has said that the company must "deliver better products" than Apple, which he described as a "lifestyle company," and says that Intel's best days are "in front of it" (via The Oregonian). Speaking at an Intel all-hands meeting yesterday, Gelsinger derisively implied that Apple is merely a "lifestyle company," so Intel must be able to surpass its technology: ...
mac pro mini feature

Apple Working on Two New Mac Pro Desktops, One of Which Will Be Reminiscent of Power Mac G4 Cube

Friday January 15, 2021 10:23 am PST by
Apple is developing two versions of the Mac Pro to succeed the Mac Pro that was first released in December 2019, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The first updated Mac Pro is a direct successor to the current Mac Pro and it will use the same design. It may also be equipped with Intel processors rather than Apple silicon chips, and it could be one of the sole machines in the Mac...
macbook pro 16 inch thunderbolt

Bloomberg: Next-Generation MacBook Pro to Offer Improved Displays, Faster Charging Over MagSafe

Thursday January 14, 2021 11:36 pm PST by
Following today's report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo outlining major changes for the next-generation MacBook Pro models coming in the third quarter of this year, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has weighed in with his own report corroborating some of the details but seemingly differing a bit on others. First, Gurman shares more details on the return of MagSafe charging to the MacBook Pro, indicating...