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Apple Thunderbolt Display Announced

In addition to releasing new versions of the MacBook Air and Mac mini (see “MacBook Air Gains Faster CPUs, Thunderbolt, and Backlit Keyboard,” 20 July 2011, and “Mac Mini Adds Faster CPUs and Thunderbolt, Drops Optical Drive,” 20 July 2011), Apple also added a new way to display their screens, via the Apple Thunderbolt Display. As you might guess, the 27-inch LED-backlit display connects to a Thunderbolt port on recent Macs, but more interesting are the additional ports on the display itself.

As with the previous Apple Cinema Display, the monitor connects to a Mac using a single cable that includes the video and data connection, and splits out a MagSafe connector for powering a laptop. That connection also turns the Thunderbolt Display into a hub containing three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, a Thunderbolt port, and an Ethernet port (enabling Gigabit Ethernet for the new MacBook Air without the need for a separate USB dongle).

If you’re running a Thunderbolt-equipped 15-inch or 17-inch MacBook Pro, you can daisy-chain two Thunderbolt Displays to extend the size of your desktop. Up to six devices (such as disk drives) can be connected via Thunderbolt on the connection chain; the two-display limit is due to what the MacBook Pro’s video processor can output.

The Thunderbolt Display works only with Thunderbolt-equipped Macs. Apple’s LED Cinema Display, which connects using Mini DisplayPort, will still be sold alongside the Thunderbolt Display.

The 27-inch display has a glossy finish, a 16:9 aspect ratio, a 2560-by-1440 pixel resolution, and 178-degree viewing angle using in-plane switching (IPS) technology. A built-in FaceTime HD camera supports HD-quality video recording and video chatting. An ambient light sensor adjusts the screen’s brightness based on the environment. The Thunderbolt Display retains the LED Cinema Display’s angled stand that allows for adjusting the screen’s front-facing angle but lacks a way to change the display’s height.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display is available for purchase now for $999, and will be shipping within 6 to 8 weeks, according to Apple.


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Comments about Apple Thunderbolt Display Announced
(Comments are closed.)

Marcus  2011-07-20 16:42
Going by what you and I have discussed before, and things I've learned since, I'm baffled at how they are able to output two displays at that resolution to two external monitors. Magic, trickery?
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-07-20 19:52
Fast graphics processors and a fat data pipe. Thunderbolt is pretty impressive.
Tommy Friedmann  2011-07-25 18:24
Interesting. I purchased a BTO MBP and an "Apple 27" LED display from an Apple specialist. Placed the order in early June. It wasn't shipped until early July. The MBP has a Thunderbolt port but interestingly the display has three cables for the MBP: a 100w mag-safe power, a thunderbolt and a USB cable. The display itself has 3 USB ports. I did check if I would need any additional cables when placing the order - I didn't.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-07-25 20:37
That display uses Mini DisplayPort, which shares the same size of plug but doesn't have the same wiring as Thunderbolt. (In fact, every Thunderbolt cable has a small processor chip at each end.) thunderbolt interfaces with DisplayPort, which is why that Cinema Display works with a Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro.

The new Thunderbolt Display has just two cables coming from the main cable: Thunderbolt and MagSafe power, because USB can go over Thunderbolt. Your display requires the USB cable to transmit non-display data to and from the USB ports on that monitor.
trippp  2011-07-25 20:37
What I would like to know is: Is it possible to daisy chain my Cinema Display as the second monitor? With an adaptor, of course. I guess the parallel question to answer is: Will the Mini display adaptor work when attached to the Thunderbolt connector on the Thunderbolt monitor.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-07-26 06:18
Good question, and one that will require someone with first-hand knowledge of the Thunderbolt Display to answer for sure. My guess is that yes, it should work, since my understanding is that Mini DisplayPort plugs into the Thunderbolt port and just works.
Flawn Williams  2011-07-25 20:59
A Thunderbolt Mac Mini has a Firewire 800 port on it. The Thunderbolt display has a Firewire 800 port on it. If the CPU and display are connected via Thunderbolt, are the two FW ports on separate busses? If one negotiates down to FW400, will the other still do 800?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-07-26 06:19
Really good question, and I think we'll have to wait until someone gets a Thunderbolt Display and can verify in person.
Curtis Wilcox  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2011-07-26 14:49
I think the FireWire ports would have to be on separate buses. The Wikipedia article on Thunderbolt says it supports DisplayPort and PCIExpress protocols which suggests that this Thunderbolt Display has USB, Ethernet, and FireWire chips in it which are connected back to the motherboard over Thunderbolt while the display uses DisplayPort (I think the camera is USB). To the system, each would be like a PCI card inserted into the system and separate from the USB, Ethernet, and FireWire chips on the motherboard.
Curtis Wilcox  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2011-07-26 14:58
A long lasting gripe about Mac laptops has been the lack of a good docking solution for them. This display fills that need very well though for a premium price if you're not already in the market for a 27" display. I'm sure it won't come from Apple but I'll still be looking forward to someone making a Thunderbolt "dock" with all these ports so you can attach the display of your choice.