Opinion: Is Thunderbolt doomed to be the new Firewire, or can the new Mac Pro save it?

thunderbolt

I’m a huge fan of Thunderbolt. A single wire carrying both DisplayPort and high-speed PCIe data is an incredibly elegant approach to minimising cable clutter even if you don’t need the blistering speed, especially when you can use an Apple Thunderbolt Display as a hub for your USB devices.

I also admire clever tech. The reason you can daisy-chain up to six separate devices is because Thunderbolt automatically multiplexes and de-multiplexes the signals as needed. Thunderbolt 2 takes this approach one step further, combining two 10Gbit/s channels into a single 20Gbit/s connection, with the the Thunderbolt controller again doing all the work. It’s impressive stuff.

A fast, clever technology developed by Intel and enthusiastically marketed by Apple ought to stand a fighting chance at mass-market adoption. Sadly, there’s so far not much sign of this happening. It’s all looking rather reminiscent of Firewire …  Read more

Review: 29-inch 21:9 Philips Brilliance 298P4QJEB LCD monitor creates new MacBook/Desktop opportunities

I’ve been curious about the 21:9 display format since it started to creep into mainstream displays last year. Originally developed to display cinema grade movies natively, computer users are now snapping these up to give themselves a sort of wide ‘Bloomberg terminal’ without the break (and the swivel between displays).

I received the Philips 298P4 29-inch 21:9 display a few weeks ago and have set it up as my display at my desk.  It has an unusual 2560×1080 pixel display which is the same amount of pixels across as traditional 30 inch 16:10 displays or 27-inch 16:9 displays (like Apple’s 27-inch iMac or Thunderbolt Display). The 1080 pixels high however matches up with a typical 1080P display. I didn’t use it like a traditional desktop computer or with a laptop off to the side.

For me, I saw an opportunity to add a display on top of my Retina MacBook Pro whose keyboard/trackpad layout I find more usable than anything else out there including Apple’s Wireless Keyboard/Trackpad combo. The Philips’ stand (and this is the key part) allows the display to grow over the top of even the 15′inch Retina MacBook Pro so that I can continue to use the MBP keyboard and display even while looking up (for much improved posture) at the Philips display. It is also great for watching movies while working :D, unless productivity is a priority.

For this it was great, but how was the quality of the display?

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Apple *could* upgrade the little computer in the Lightning HDMI adapter to do better 1080p

Digital-A-V-connector-Lighting-take-apartWe reported over the weekend that there was some confusion over exactly how Apple’s new Lightning digital AV adapter works and why it lacks the ability to carry a native 1080p signal. One theory is that Apple was using an AirPlay wireless streaming protocol, but we’ve since learned that is not the case. According to a post  that purports to be from an anonymous Apple engineer explaining how the cables function, Apple does not use Airplay protocol. It instead uses the same H.264 encoding technology as AirPlay to encode the output into the ARM SoC. From there, the data is decoded and sent over HDMI:

It’s vastly the same thing with the HDMI adapter. Lightning doesn’t have anything to do with HDMI at all. Again, it’s just a high speed serial interface. Airplay uses a bunch of hardware h264 encoding technology that we’ve already got access to, so what happens here is that we use the same hardware to encode an output stream on the fly and fire it down the Lightning cable straight into the ARM SoC the guys at Panic discovered. Airplay itself (the network protocol) is NOT involved in this process. The encoded data is transferred as packetized data across the Lightning bus, where it is decoded by the ARM SoC and pushed out over HDMI.

Perhaps even more interesting is that Apple could improve the quality with future software updates since the firmware is stored in RAM as opposed to ROM. The poster noted that Apple deemed the quality “suitably acceptable” but *will* make improvements with future iOS updates: Read more

Sharp’s new 4K IGZO 32-inch display has Apple written all over it

Sharp is announcing a 32-inch 4K monitor today that uses its LGZO LCD tech expected to hit the Japanese market in February 2013. The roughly $5,500 PN-K321 monitor sports a 3,840-by-2,160 resolution and HDMI and DisplayPort inputs. According to Sharp, it will also be the thinnest monitor frame on the market at just 35mm. Even if analysts were wrong about a full-fledged TV set from Apple next year, these new Sharp displays would certainly make a pretty Thunderbolt display.

Sharp will put its IGZO displays in the hands of consumers in the near future, as it recently announced its first 7-inch tablet to take advantage of the technology’s low-power consumption features. Apple decided to not go with Sharps’ IGZO displays for its latest round of iPad launches. It instead sourced display components from AU Optronics, LG Display, and Samsung, but several reports in the past indicated Apple is interested in the technology. Apple was even recently rumored to be potentially making an investment in the failing company—much like Apple partner Foxconn previously agreed to.

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Thunderbolt display: $900 + free shipping

From 9to5Toys.com:

Today only, MacConnection has Apple’s Thunderbolt Display for $899.99+ free shipping.  That’s $100 off list and the lowest price we’ve ever seen by almost $50.  It features a native resolution of 2560×1440, 1,000:1 contrast ratio, 12ms grey-to-grey response time, 375 cd/m² brightness, built-in iSight camera, 3-port USB 2.0 hub, Thunderbolt port, and Mini DisplayPort connectivity. Read more

Apple outlines some limitations of Thunderbolt displays

Following the first shipments of Apple’s new 27-inch Thunderbolt Display, a new support document reveals some limitations regarding multiple display support that we weren’t exactly expecting.

Nearly every current Mac model is able to support two Thunderbolt displays. The exceptions are the 13-inch MacBook Air (mid 2011), which only supports one, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro which supports two, but disables the device’s main display to do so. Also of note, the $800 Mac mini can support three Thunderbolt displays thanks to the AMD graphics and its HDMI port.

One other somewhat surprising limitation of the new displays is the inability to daisy chain a Mini DisplayPort screen off the new Thunderbolt display. The support document explains:
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