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What Is a VESA Mount Adapter and Why Is Apple Charging $200 for It?

The VESA adapter for Apple’s new monitor will probably cost more than the stand you mount it to.

by Matthew Gault
Jun 4 2019, 7:53pm

Image: Apple

Apple’s new upgradeable Mac Pro and its Pro Display XDR is a vulgar display of power. The $5,000 monitor is a 6K monstrosity and far nicer than almost anyone but the most powerful (and wealthy) of Apple power users will need.

As far as we understand, and according to Apple's description of what's included with the Pro Display XDR, it doesn’t come with any kind of mount, meaning there's no way to keep the monitor upright unless you spend even more money on another piece of Apple hardware. The stand for the Pro Display XDR is a staggering $999, the cost of a new gaming PC. People who don’t want to spend $1,000 on a monitor stand can buy a generic one from Amazon for around $30, or even mount it directly to a wall. The problem is that if you want to mount the Pro Display XDR to anything that isn't the $999 Pro Stand you'll need to spend $200 on Apple's VESA Mount Adapter, which is essentially a simple piece of metal that makes the monitor compatible with with the mounting standard every other monitor uses.

VESA adapters are common and so cheap they often come packaged either with the monitor stand or monitor they’ll be attached to. I have a handful of VESA mounts laying around, stored next to the box of cables I’ll never organize and never throw out. So what is VESA, exactly, and how can Apple get away with charging $200 for something many companies sell for under $20.

VESA stands for the Video Electronics Standards Association, which is a non-profit collection of technology companies (including Apple) who set standards and practices for things like DisplayPort codecs and where the holes on the back of a flat panel TV or monitor go. Thanks to VESA, the consumer electronics industry has adopted standards that make things like monitor arms and monitor brackets pretty interchangeable. When you buy a monitor mount in the United States, and it uses VESA standards, it should work with most mounting options you buy—wether that’s an arm, a bracket, or a stand.

Unless you buy a Pro Display XDR, then you need to buy Apple’s $200 adapter.

The back of Apple’s Pro Display XDR is a gorgeous. Though it’s full of holes, none of those holes will take a screw. The middle of the XDR is a magnetic circle that, according to Apple, is an “easy-to-attach alternative to the Pro Stand. With a similar design to the magnetic connector on the Pro Stand, it can be placed and secured quickly and easily using the included Apple-designed tool.”

Apple made machines that are hard to open and repair. They require proprietary tools and hardware to function. The new Mac Pro is an upgradeable machine, sure, but Apple’s proprietary design philosophy is so ingrained in the company that it now extends to its VESA mount adapter.