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Apple Discontinues Thunderbolt Display with No Replacement in Sight

Apple has issued a statement saying that the company is discontinuing its 27-inch Thunderbolt Display, which was last updated in 2011 and featured a resolution of 2560-by-1440 pixels.

We’re discontinuing the Apple Thunderbolt Display. It will be available through, Apple’s retail stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last. There are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users.

This move leaves Mac users without an Apple-branded display to pair with a Mac Pro or a Mac mini as a primary monitor or with an iMac or any of Apple’s notebook models as a secondary screen.

The way Apple recommends third-party options suggests that it has no plans to release a 5K Retina Thunderbolt Display, as most people had expected the company to do after the October 2014 debut of the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display.

That’s disappointing for those who, like Tonya and me, insist on working on dual-screen Macs. We have both paired a 27-inch iMac with a Thunderbolt Display, and while the screen real estate is essential, the quality difference between the screens is easily noticeable. Even buying from Apple didn’t ensure a perfect match. While the Thunderbolt Display compares well with the physical look of the iMac, it has to be raised an inch or so to equal the iMac’s height — I accomplished that with one of my old books.

If you want a Thunderbolt Display, act quickly before Apple sells through its remaining stock. However, it’s hard to recommend, given that you’ll pay $999 for 5-year-old technology and an inflexible industrial design. In comparison, the Dell 27 Ultra HD 4K Monitor P2715Q features a resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels for about $500 on Amazon. Plus, it’s height-adjustable, tilts and swivels, and can even be pivoted to portrait orientation. If you’ve purchased this or another third-party display for use with a Mac, tell us how well it works in the comments!

Some have tallied the loss of the Thunderbolt Display alongside the lack of updates to the Mac Pro as evidence that Apple is deemphasizing professional use of the Mac. I suspect that Apple instead sees the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display as sufficient for most professional use.


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Comments about Apple Discontinues Thunderbolt Display with No Replacement in Sight
(Comments are closed.)

Elena-Beth Kaye  2016-06-27 14:38
One of the best things about the discontinued display is how it can be used as a hub and charging station, allowing simple docking of a notebook. Is there any other choice out there?
andrew arnold  2016-06-27 19:45
I've been waiting 2 years for an updated TBD. My office has iMacs, laptops and Mac Minis. Why would Apple want it's customer to buy a MacMini, and then put a Dell monitor on top of the desk? That is what all of our customers would see when they walk in the door (the DELL logo, and not the APPLE logo)!
Stephen Fortmann  2016-06-27 21:10
Agree it looks like a nice display, but no camera and no speakers, requiring more stuff on the desktop. Ah well....
Edwin Simmers  2016-06-27 22:54
Actually, the Thunderbolt Display does have speakers. But don't feel bad, I've had one for years and didn't notice that until recently.
Stephen Fortmann  2016-06-28 01:27
Sorry to create confusion; I was referring to the Dell display. Unlike the Thunderbolt display, the Dell can't supply power to the laptop, provide sound, or have a camera. The last two I find very useful for webinars.
lifton  2016-06-27 21:12
I have a Dell P2715Q as a second monitor with my iMac 5k and it works great. A bit clunkier to operate and clearly not designed to give the Apple user experience (big bitmapped words when waking from sleep or starting up) but it can rotate to portrait mode if desired and has a very nice picture quality. No camera, but I have one on my iMac. Several USB ports as well. Like you say, you can't go wrong with what is essentially a Retina resolution display for $500.
Openreels  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-06-27 23:09
I say good riddance to the Apple display. It's only advantage was the TBolt breakout which, thankfully, can now be found elsewhere. For a while it couldn't.

For professional users the Apple displays were always a drag--with their single input, captive cables and external power supplies! I long ago began recommending the Dell Ultrasharp and HP displays.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2016-06-28 05:20
It was a nice display in its time, but always overpriced. And, not only is the monitor resolution low for a screen that size these days, but the ports are out of date, too: USB 2 and Thunderbolt 1.

I expect Apple gave up on it because they couldn't match the price of the competition. It's possible as well that they would have had a hard time matching the price of the current Thunderbolt Display with an updated model. But they probably gave up on the it because it wasn't selling well. While the price never went up, the price of competing monitors has come down.

As for the hub, you can buy a less expensive display, like the Dell mentioned in the article and have money left over for a much more capable Thunderbolt hub.

If you wait a while, now that Apple is no longer making their own monitors, perhaps some enterprising third party will come up with a monitor that has an industrial aluminum design that matches Apple hardware, as many other developers have done with their products.
Rudolph Koster  2016-06-28 02:21
I have been using the 24" display (the one before the thunderbolt) as primary screen with my closed MBP for years. It is the best and worth every cent.
The build-in video and the excellent sound make it enjoyable, in a way no third party will match. I was also hoping for the announcement of a retina, and I was ready to buy, even that the price would be higher than the third parties.
Apple: again abandoning loyal customers?
Brian S  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-06-28 14:16
"I suspect that Apple instead sees the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display as sufficient for most professional use"

IMO that view might be Apple's direction but not an accurate assessment. There are many professional fields of endeavor that NEED the Mac Pro. Video pros, architects and many others leap to mind. Many require a machine that can run flat out for hours and get the job done quickly. Many need multi-CPU ( not just multi-core ) and an iMac, as good as it is( and it is really good ), just won't cut it. Many Pros have or anticipate migrating to a PC. Why? Because they can build an awesome machine that twice as fast as the current Mac Pro ( costing $4,000 ) for a little over $2,000. I've seen the Cinebench and other benchmarks. Here is a link showing one example of the benchmarks:

The TBD's discontinuation was expected and long overdue; alternatives with better specs are easy to find. More concerning: Apple's failure to offer a replacement monitor suggests the possibility headless Macs might also be axed. Hopefully, Apple has something in mind to wow us but I'm less sanguine every day as I watch them sell a $4,000 Mac Pro with 2012 specs. Pros have noticed.
The other thing I've noticed is the general Mac media is unwilling to directly confront Apple and even ask if Mac Pros are coming ( witness Gruber's interview with Schiller and Federighi at WWDC ).
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-06-28 15:59
Or rather, I'd say that it's an accurate assessment but that some professionals might take issue with Apple's direction. :-)

I wonder if the Mac Pro hasn't sold well enough (which could be for a variety of reasons) such that Apple doesn't want to focus on meeting the needs of that market. It would be a shame, if so.
Brian S  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-06-28 18:13
My bad; meant if that is Apple's assessment( not yours ).

Regardless of how well the current Mac Pro ( nMp ) sold in its early years, Pro users now recognize the machine's dated specs and that probably contributes to lost sales. There are many Pros that want to buy a nMP but it makes almost no sense on several levels. Many have already left for the dark side, lured by very fast machines and lower prices ( see link in my earlier post ).
Bill Abbott  2016-06-28 17:20
I have an ancient 23" Cinema display and a 22" Eizo CG222W. I plan to replace the Cinema with a 27" Eizo, about $1200. I have been very happy w/my Eizo. Beautiful accurate colors and easy to calibrate.
Graeme Challis  2016-06-29 07:32
I bought a Dell U2415 last year for the new Mac mini. Have been really happy with it. I never considered the Apple display - insanely expensive and too big. The 24" display is just right for me. Sadly there's no built-in camera but the 16:10 ratio is good and the USB ports very good for me. I may even buy another one.
Charles  2016-07-21 14:48
I disagree with your comment that Apple isn't slow walking away from professional users. With the iMac no longer shipping with a qc i7, the Mini no longer available with a qc i7 and also having soldered down RAM, Apple is obviously putting long term usability farther down the list of qualities it desires in their products.

This is totally separate from the Thunderbolt/minidisplayport 4k/5k throughput issue that has kept a new big Apple display out of reach. If Intel would set a standard and implement it, Apple would use it, and we would see a new 27" Apple display in a year or less.
Curtis Wilcox  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2016-07-22 06:55
A quad core Core i7 processor is still a configurable option for the Retina model iMacs.

The Mac mini has often been disappointing, never a "pro" choice as a desktop but it has been a professional choice as a server. I agree that not having a quad core processor option or RAM slots limits the mini's suitability for various server uses.