While Apple and LG are pitching the finally-on-sale UltraFine 5K display at owners of the 2016 MacBook Pro, some of those with older Macs have been wondering whether it might be compatible with their machines too. The short answer is ‘not really,’ but a new Apple support document shows that it is kind of compatible with some older machines …

Only the 2016 MacBook Pro models can drive the display at its full 5120×2880 5K resolution. This is the Retina version of the 2560×1440 of the now-discontinued Apple Thunderbolt Display – pixels doubled in both X and Y axes to provide that ‘cannot discern the individual pixels’ quality.

The latest MacBook Pro models are also the only ones that can be powered by the monitor, providing a single-cable connection.

But the display is compatible with Thunderbolt 2 machines at lower resolutions, and the support document shows what you can get from each of the compatible machines by using the Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter and a Thunderbolt 2 cable.

3840 x 2160 @ 60Hz:

  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)*
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014) and later
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2014) and later
  • iMac (Retina, 27-inch, Late 2014) and later
  • iMac (Retina, 21.5-inch, Late 2015)
  • iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2015)
  • MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook Air (11-inch, Early 2015)

3200 x 1800 @ 60Hz:

  • Mac mini (Late 2014)*

Apple does note one important proviso with the Mac Pro and Mac mini: the LG UltraFine is only recommended as a second display, as it may not turn on until booted into macOS – meaning that you’ll get no access to Boot Picker or macOS Recovery mode.

We noted that the delay in the display going on sale would have meant Apple cutting it fine to allow customers to take advantage of the introductory pricing, and the company responded by extending the discount period into March. As of the time of writing, Apple’s website is showing shipping within 2-4 weeks.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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