iMac Pro screen said to be more basic than MacBook Pro, but here's why that's OK

The iMac Pro mini-LED screen won't have as many lighting zones as the MacBook Pro, apparently, but it'll still be better than your TV

iMac on desk with lamp nearby
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It looks nailed-on at this point that Apple will launch a new 27-inch iMac powered by its M1 chips – probably the M1 Pro and M1 Max from the MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch (2021) – in the coming months. Possibly called the 'iMac Pro' to differentiate it from the 24-inch iMac (2021), there have been two big questions about it: when will it arrive, and how good will the screen be?

Well, display analyst Ross Young – who has a history of reliable Apple predictions in recent years – says that we should expect it in June (opens in new tab), and he's let slip the first real indicator we have for how high quality the screen is likely to be.

You see, I already expected that the display would be based on mini-LED tech, just like the new MacBook Pros and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021). Because the screen is only a little bigger than the 24-inch iMac, it would need to differentiate the display in a different way, and mini-LED just makes sense for that. You'd get HDR support and huge contrast – it would be a clear step up, and worth some extra cash.

But large mini-LED displays are expensive, and I doubt Apple wants this to cost more than a 16-inch MacBook Pro, so it always seemed that the company would have to scale back just how many mini-LEDs are used in the iMac display, and how many dimming zones there are. But would it be too many to maintain the same level of quality as the other screens?

Based on Ross Young's claimed figures, I'm going to say: no.

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Mini-LED lights are literally how many tiny lights are behind the LCD panel, giving it its brightness; 'dimming zones' are how many individual areas of the screen can have their brightness independently controlled, enabling you make some areas totally black by disabling the mini-LEDs behind the panels, while allowing areas very nearby to still shine brightly. More lights and more dimming zones means more precise control of contrast.

The MacBook Pro 16-inch is said to have 10,000 mini-LED lights with around 2,500 dimming zones, so the numbers given by Young above indicate a major scaling back from that display – bearing in mind that the screen will be much bigger while also having fewer lights in.

However, 4,000 mini-LED lights controlled across 1,000 dimming zones should still create a seriously impressive HDR effect, and will make this screen a real substitute for having one of the best TVs in your office when it comes to streaming movies.

For comparison, the Samsung QN95A was the brand's highest-end 4K mini-LED TV from 2021, and even the huge 65-inch version of that TV had around 800 dimming zones.

So even though this 27-inch display won't have quite as precise control as the laptops or iPad Pro, it will still offer specs to compete with high-end TVs. Assuming that this helps Apple to launch it at a reasonable price (my guess is around £1,999/$1,999), this is going to offer serious bang for buck. 

Bear in mind that a 4K Asus mini-LED monitor with 4K resolution costs around £3,000/$3000 and doesn't have a ridiculously powerful computer built in – I think the new iMac is going to look like a serious bargain to those who know what they're looking at.

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.