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Dell announces 27-inch 5120×2880 display, a perfect panel for a future Retina iMac


Dell has just announced a brand-new 27inch external display with an insane resolution of 5120×2880. Pixel counts of this magnitude were thought to be several months out, stretching into mid 2015, so Dell’s abrupt announcement has come as a bit of surprise. In summary, the 27-inch panel has 14 million pixels across its surface, resulting in a PPI of 218. This is the same density as a 15inch Retina MacBook Pro, but obviously much much larger.

9to5-image 2014-09-05 at 10.06.08 AM

The monitor is expected to be available by the end of the year.

What’s notable about this resolution is it shows that a Retina iMac is now very feasible. 5120×2880 is exactly double 2560×1440, the resolution of the current 27 inch iMac, in each dimension.

Using the panel in this monitor, Apple could potentially release a Retina 27-inch iMac (at @2x scale) this year.  Obviously, there are other factors that come into play to make an iMac a reality (such as the price of the panel or what graphics card options exist to power that many pixels) but the unveiling of the Dell monitor turns the idea of a Retina iMac from a pipe-dream to a real possibility.


References to 5120×2880 resolutions were found in OS X Yosemite code earlier in the year. Perhaps Apple has been readying a 2014 Retina iMac for a while now. A late 2014 – early 2015 release is not out of the question, anymore. It is unlikely Apple will announce such a product at Tuesday’s event (which is already crammed with new iPhones, the wearable and maybe even iPads), however.

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  1. Michael Olsen - 9 years ago

    Would this be supportable with the New Mac Pro?

    • eswinson - 9 years ago

      As long as the OS doesn’t freak out it should work.

    • As the Mac Pro can power multiple 4k displays, I’d think you’d be fine. There would be a limit to how many you can power, although. Currently, you can power three 4k displays. Despite there being enough Thunderbolt ports and buses to allow you to connect 3 of these displays – I don’t think you’d be able to. Each Thunderbolt port supports 4k resolution, but Apple does not list this as an option on their support page. I think you’d be safe with one 5k display and you might be able to squeeze out two – but that’d be the maximum.

    • I hope So!

      Unlike a lot the Fanboys on this site I don’t feel the need to be Loyal to One Company or Brand for all my products. I Use Apple Computers, Android Phones and Tablets. I Would love to buy a Mac Pro and have a Dual Monitor setup with this 27 inch Dell Beauty.

    • Dave Haynie - 9 years ago

      The hardware is supported most recent GPUs. You won’t find a single on of them that actually supports resolutions beyond 4K class. But this monitor is kind of hack. It’s actually two DisplayPort devices and a DisplayPort hub integrated into a single unit (using Multi-Stream Transport protocol).

      Now, far as the new Mac Pro goes, you’ll definitely need a driver that knows how to treat two physical screens as one. That’s just a riff on current multi – monitor support, should be easy.

      The question otherwise is just how Apple built the Mac Pro hardware. Everyone knows that there are two AMD GPUs in there, each of which should have two independent DisplayPort ports, which run to a big cross point switch to selectively connect each external port to either DisplayPort or Thunderbolt. Fair enough. And if that’s what they actually did, the Mac Pro should be capable of supporting four 4K monitors, or even four of these beasts.

      But to hear Apple describe the monitor support, they claim only three 4K displays, one via HDMI (presumably either HDMI 2.0 or limited to 30 Hz refresh on HDMI 1.4) or six DisplayPort devices at normal resolutions. That suggests there’s some kind of DisplayPort switch/hub built into that big cross-point switch for Thunderbolt vs DisplayPort. Reading a bit more, it looks like Apple built the Mac Pro expecting 4K displays to be dual device (MST). So this monitor ought to easy to get working. I’d wonder more about what the limits are with native 4K displays — single DisplayPort units. Do you get six of those… or zero?

    • giskardian - 8 years ago

      Unlikely. 5K displays require DisplayPort 1.3 while the nMP has only 1.2.

      A Nehalem or Westmere Mac Pro could run it, just drop in a new video card. nMP? Time to junk it and buy a new one, lol.

  2. shareef777 - 9 years ago

    I’d wager this year as they’ve touted multiple products being launched this year and so far there hasn’t been anything what so ever other then refreshes.

    • Tim Jr. - 9 years ago

      Probably the Oct event with the iPad.. Would certainly help to beef up that event.. I think Sept 9th will be to busy with iPhone 6 and iWatch ….

  3. o0smoothies0o - 9 years ago

    I think there will be an October event for iPads and an entire line of new Mac hardware to drive home the new Yosemite software. Retina iMac, retina Cinema Display, new retina 12″ MacBook Air, upgraded Mac mini, upgraded Mac Pro, and phase out the non-retina MacBook Pro. Although some of these may not launch immediately. Maybe early 2015.

    • Frank Lazar - 9 years ago

      Mac is too much Apple’s step child to get 4k love this year… maybe next.

      • eswinson - 9 years ago

        That’s why it did’t get 4K earlier. This fall I think the starts are in alignment. Once the iMac goes retina and the Mini gets a GPU boost 4K cinema/thunderbolt displays will come out using this panel tech or similar. The Mac Pro is essentially ready and full native support Yosemite is the only roadblock.

      • It’ll get it this year.

    • I agree with you for the most of your predictions. However, I don’t see Apple updating the Mac Pro which only started shipping in January of this year. The only reason they could possible have to upgrade it is if they launch Thunderbolt 3.0 – particularly with an upgraded Mini Display Port standard – in order to drive a display with more than 4096 x 2160 aka Cinema 4K. This upgrade would only be beneficial if Apple released a Retina Thunderbolt Display in the 27″ variant. That being said – it won’t be seeing an update.

  4. andybates1970 - 9 years ago

    Last time I checked my maths, 5120×2880 is four times 2560×1440 ;) nice though.

    • dominicrn - 9 years ago

      Nope. Its two times more. Not four…

      It should be like this:
      2560 x 2 = 5120
      2880 x 2 = 2880

      Total pixel by above is 5120 x 2880.

      • dominicrn - 9 years ago

        Sorry, 1440 x 2. Not 2880 x 2

      • Gregory Wright - 9 years ago

        Whoes counting…

      • thequantifier - 9 years ago

        Some quick elementary maths for you. 15*10=150 and 30*20=600. Now is it me but is 600 not double of 150, but quadruple?

      • frankgobbo (@frankgobbo) - 8 years ago

        Where’d you learn to math?

        2560×1440 = 3,686,400 pixels
        5120×2880 = 14,745,600 pixels
        14745600 / 3686400 = 4

    • Stetson - 9 years ago

      Four times the pixels, double the density / dpi.

    • giskardian - 8 years ago

      The convention is to go by pixel dimensions, not total pixels or megapixels (MPs). Multiply the dimensions of 2560×1440 by 2 and you get 5120×2880.

      But you’re right that it’s four times the MPs, even if you are an uninformed know it all. ;)

  5. Muhammad Waqas - 9 years ago

    How about content for such display. Still there are very few retina supported websites

    • charilaosmulder - 9 years ago

      It’s not all about websites. All of OSX is optimized and about every single notable app is retina capable. Some of the better websites are already optimized (the number will grow for sure) and text is already rendered in retina unless its stupidly baked into an image. If all Macs get retina (and other computers get high res displays with scalable UI’s) then all content will be optimized for it

    • I have a Retina MacBook Pro and I rarely come across content – websites or apps that look bad on my display. HD video looks great. 4K video looks even better. It’ll be fine. Anyways what developer is going to bother to upgrade their content to Retina compatible if no one has the displays?

  6. Yosemite is very obviously designed for retina displays. The Mac Pro very badly needs an Apple offering when it comes to 4k monitors, since Apple is currently forced to sell 3rd party solutions for the time being. I’m 90% sure we’ll see a Retina iMac and Thunderbolt 2 display within the next 12 months. The timing just makes sense, and this article drives home the notion that it’s also technically feasible now.

  7. Mark Wolinski - 9 years ago

    That display is expected to have a $2500 price tag on it. Doubt it’d be targeted at the iMac line.

    • Carlo - 9 years ago

      Well, it could easily be targeted as a 27″ iMac (if Apple will stick with the 27 inch panel) – they could introduce the new line along the actual one, in order to gain time to then slash the prices, as it happened with the MacBook Pro Line. Let’s not forget also that Apple almost certainly has much more market with its iMacs than Dell’s monitors, so this also should be helpful when it comes to price.

      The real question is – which graphic card(s) can handle such a resolution, given the thin body of the iMac?

      • Well, firstly I completely agree with the two lines of iMacs: Retina and slightly updated previous models as with the first rMBPs. Now to answer your question. The Intel Iris Pro Graphics, which is the built in graphics component of the Intel i7 chips can support Cinema 4K at 24hz, or the thinner 3840 x 2160 at 30hz. I’m not worried that Apple won’t be able to find a video card that supports the monitor – even if they have to share the workload across two cards.

    • Jason - 9 years ago

      Price is the result of supply & demand, not fixed costs. If it’s the only panel of it’s kind available, it will be priced accordingly. Once the market begins being flooded with high PPI panels like this, expect prices to plummet. Apple does not get it’s panels from Dell, they get them further back the value-chain, where costs are much lower.

      • Carlo - 9 years ago

        Oh, I see. Thanks for the explanation :D

  8. This thing is $2,500. How much would a retina iMac be $3,500, 4K?

  9. Neil Oates (@neiloates) - 9 years ago

    Correction: “5120×2880 is exactly double 2560×1440” should say “5120×2880 is exactly quadruple 2560×1440 (double the resolution both horizontally and vertically”

    • It depends on what metric you’re using. Double resolution. Quadruple the total pixels. If someone asks me to double the resolution of something- they’re talking Y scale and with X proportionate.

      • No, it depends if you know how do count, or not.

      • marsontherocks - 9 years ago

        @israelanderson No… It is like Marcus Moore says. It depends if you mean double the resolution, or quadruple the pixel count. Don’t understand why you feel the need to correct something that is clearly explained beforehand.

  10. PMZanetti - 9 years ago

    Price prohibits it from making a Retina iMac reality this year. Who is going to buy a $3500 – $4000 iMac that is every bit the same as the non-Retina? Gonna have to wait.

    That said, aren’t we much closer to a 3840 x 2160 display on a 21.5″ iMac? Surely those panels are more readily available and cheaper….Seiko makes TV’s with that resolution for peanuts.

    • Well, Apple isn’t going to buy their panels from Dell at consumer prices so there will be no need for Apple to charge $4000 dollars. Anyways, Apple will probably split the line-up offering Retina iMacs with other upgrades and non-retina iMacs with moderate updates. This will give Apple an extra year for 5K display prices to fall before eliminating the non-retina option.

  11. Chris Murphy - 9 years ago

    If I remember correctly, when the first 27″ iMac came out, the equivalent Dell monitor was around $1,000. For like $500-1000 more you could get an an iMac with the equivalent screen. I’d hope that Apple could be aggressive with the price this time around as well.

    • PMZanetti - 9 years ago

      Personally I hope Apple is waiting til Retina can be a value-added proposition and not further extort users by charging a premium.

      I’m so disappointed with their handling of the Mac lineup these days.

      • gargravarr - 9 years ago

        Why? They’ve never been cheaper for what you get as standard. You’re entitled to that view, but the evidence doesn’t support it in my view.

  12. Daniel L. Lau - 9 years ago

    I see two problems with this comparison with the MB Pro. First, a laptop display is typically positioned much closer to the user’s eyes. So the added pixel density for a display that is kept an additional 10 inches away from the eye is a waste of GPU processing power. Also, by shrinking the display by 5 inches with no appreciable reduction in price, means that they can only cannibalize their 32″ display market.

  13. Manohar Machu - 9 years ago

    I am going to wait till the price drops to $300

  14. Dave Nelson - 8 years ago

    I do not yearn for the days of monochrome 640 x 480.


Avatar for Benjamin Mayo Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.