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.