Apple's Thunderbolt Display Overview Updated July 19, 2021

Apple's Thunderbolt Display

A monitor that did everything

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35 'Thunderbolt Display' stories

September 2011 - July 2021


As the sequel to Apple’s LED Cinema Display, the Apple Thunderbolt Display (Orig. $999, now on Ebay for much less) was originally introduced in July 2011, and had not changed until it was discontinued in June 2016. Measuring 27″ on the diagonal, the metal and glass Thunderbolt Display uses the same 2560×1440 screen found in the original 27″ iMac and the LED Cinema Display, with a chassis thickness somewhere between the last two iMac generations. Three speakers are inside the frame for 2.1-channel audio, along with a basic FaceTime HD camera and a microphone.

The display is different because it has a Thunderbolt connector, which makes a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac mini, or Mac Pro easy to hook up. After plugging the monitor into a wall outlet, you connect your Mac via the Thunderbolt cable to gain access to three powered USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire 800 port, a Thunderbolt port, and an Ethernet port. There’s also a MagSafe plug to supply up to 85W of power to a MacBook, as well as a packed-in MagSafe 2 adapter for newer MacBooks. Thunderbolt is required for the video connection; no other video standard is supported.

The Thunderbolt Display has not been updated for roughly four years, and shows its age in physical thickness, non-Retina display resolution, the age of its ports, and pricing. It’s very hard to recommend right now, and we’d expect Apple to release a new version in the not-too-distant future.

Need extra cash to upgrade? Sell your Thunderbolt Display to Gazelle.

Thunderbolt Display Stories July 19

Apple unveiled the all-new Thunderbolt Display, a 27-inch standalone monitor priced at $999, 10 years ago this week. It was the first display to use the new Thunderbolt connection and the last Apple monitor to ship for less than $4,999.

But $999 might as well be $5,000 when you’re a freshman in college. I never had the opportunity to actually review Apple’s last consumer display, but based on what we knew then, this is the review I could have written at the time (followed by some classic video reviews):

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Thunderbolt Display Stories June 5

With WWDC 2021 coming up on Monday, it’s been two years since Apple announced the Pro Display XDR — an amazing but expensive external monitor aimed at professional users who need things like high resolution, extreme brightness, and wide color gamut. But what about regular Mac users? They also deserve to have a great external monitor, and Apple should think about this.

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Thunderbolt Display Stories February 9, 2017

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Earlier today, Apple silently pushed shipping times for the LG UltraFine 5K display back to 5 to 6 weeks. The move came following our report last week highlighting problems using the display with 2 feet of wireless routers due to poor shielding.

With the LG woes in mind, is now the perfect time for Apple to re-enter the display market?

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Thunderbolt Display Stories July 4, 2016

4k-displays

If you’ve been holding out for a new standalone desktop display from Apple, you’re either going to take news of the Thunderbolt Display being discontinued as a sign of good things to come, or as a cue to finally purchase a new 4K or 5K display from someone else. For most, especially considering Apple itself is recommending you purchase a third-party display, the latter option is going to be the more likely.

While Apple didn’t recommend any specific third-party alternatives during its discontinuation announcement of the Thunderbolt display last week, we’ve done the work for you and put together our top picks for the best 4K & 5K displays for Mac available to buy right now.

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Thunderbolt Display Stories June 24, 2016

Thunderbolt Display

Apple officially announced yesterday that its Thunderbolt Display is dead. The monitor was never updated to match the much thinner design of the current iMacs, it featured a MagSafe 1 connector and required a MagSafe 2 adapter, and its resolution was far inferior to Retina iMacs so it was no surprise to see it finally discontinued.

Apple typically replaces a discontinued product with a newer version, though, so yesterday’s move could be interpreted as a sign that the company is fully exiting the external display business. Not so fast, says one voice however…

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Thunderbolt Display Stories June 23, 2016

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Earlier this year, we reported that Apple was planning a new Thunderbolt Display with a built-in GPU to replace the outdated current-gen Thunderbolt display. Now, according to TechCrunch, Apple has announced that it is officially discontinuing the Thunderbolt Display.

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Thunderbolt Display Stories June 1, 2016

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Update: No new Apple display at WWDC … timing unclear but integrated GPU next-gen Apple Display is still in development.

The current $999 (!) Thunderbolt Display is showing its age to put it mildly, now significantly overshadowed by Retina MacBooks and iMacs in terms of screen resolution and quality. Reaffirming earlier reports, we have heard that stock of the Thunderbolt Display at Apple Stores is quickly running out with no indications of more units on the way to replenish availability. This is often a good indicator that a refresh is imminent. We are led to believe that WWDC will be very light on new hardware. However, given the opportunity for cheers in the audience, perhaps Apple could announce the new display at the keynote with a release pencilled in for later in the year.

Independently, we have heard some rumblings about what the new display might offer. Finally bringing it up to speed with its Retina display Mac cousins, the new ‘Thunderbolt Display’ will likely feature a 5K resolution display 5120×2880 pixels. Moreover, sources indicate that Apple will take the display in a surprising direction, specifically suggesting that Apple plans to integrate a dedicated external GPU into the display itself

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Thunderbolt Display Stories May 31, 2016

Thunderbolt Display

It’s been true for way too long now that Apple’s Thunderbolt Display is due for a comprehensive upgrade. Apple’s $999 27-inch display has a dated design and has much lower resolution than the Retina 5K iMac for $800 more. For those reasons and more, it’s been on everyone’s Do Not Buy list for quite some time, but that may be about to change.

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Thunderbolt Display Stories March 18, 2016

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Apple is holding its first event of the year on Monday next week, and we’ve already reported everything that you should expect to see announced including its much anticipated 4-inch iPhone SE, the first 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and new first-gen Apple Watch models and bands. But there’s also a whole list of things Apple should update and release but likely won’t next week.

There are a few products in need of updates that aren’t currently being planned for the event, with new MacBooks the most obvious of candidates, but some aging products like Mac Pro, the Thunderbolt Display, AirPort products, wireless EarPods, and more also due for updates. Here’s everything Apple needs to update, but likely won’t announce at its event on Monday:

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Thunderbolt Display Stories March 10, 2015

Lightning USB-C

Lightning vs. <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Aukey-Hi-speed-Reversible-Connector-Supported/dp/B00RGNJXD4/ref=sr_1_1?amp;amp;qid=1421386415&amp;amp;sr=8-1&tag=thepartim-20&ie=UTF8&amp;amp;peasin=B00RGNJXD4&amp;amp;keywords=B00RGNJXD4&amp;amp;pebp=1421386732649">USB-C cable from Aukey</a>

We’ve been poring over Apple’s change to the 8.4mm by 2.6mm USB Type C standard since we got tipped the design of the new MacBook late last year. It is a big change for Apple and puts the future of longstanding technologies like Thunderbolt and MagSafe into questionable status.  Even Lightning seems a whole lot more vulnerable when an adapter that is marginally bigger, but has the whole industry behind it, shows up in Apple’s future flagship laptop.

Some quick, fun facts on USB Type C that make it pretty amazing: expand full story

Thunderbolt Display Stories January 22, 2015

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Despite USB 3.0’s growing popularity with consumers, Thunderbolt remains a viable alternative for professional users, particularly video makers willing to pay a premium for guaranteed high speeds. Over the past year, several Thunderbolt 2 hubs have come to market — boxes with one Thunderbolt 2 connection to a computer, one for a Thunderbolt accessory, and multiple ports to connect USB, audio, video, and Ethernet accessories. The idea: keep all of your gear hooked up to the hub, then use a single cable to connect it all to your Mac.

Known for large, heavy, professional-grade Mac accessories, CalDigit has just released Thunderbolt Station 2 ($199), which squeezes the same functionality offered by Belkin’s $300 Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock HD and Elgato’s $230 Thunderbolt 2 Dock (review) into a smaller, denser-feeling enclosure, at a lower MSRP — sort of. In reality, Thunderbolt Station 2 has some very specific benefits and one limitation that place it on par with its competitors, making the choice between them a more personal decision…

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Thunderbolt Display Stories December 30, 2014

firmware

A security researcher speaking at the Chaos Computer Congress in Hamburg demonstrated a hack that rewrites an Intel Mac’s firmware using a Thunderbolt device with attack code in an option ROM. Known as Thunderstrike, the proof of concept presented by Trammel Hudson infects the Apple Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) in a way he claims cannot be detected, nor removed by reinstalling OS X.

Since the boot ROM is independent of the operating system, reinstallation of OS X will not remove it. Nor does it depend on anything stored on the disk, so replacing the harddrive has no effect. A hardware in-system-programming device is the only way to restore the stock firmware.

Apple has already implemented an intended fix in the latest Mac mini and iMac with Retina display, which Hudson says will soon be available for other Macs, but appears at this stage to provide only partial protection…  expand full story

Thunderbolt Display Stories August 18, 2014

lg

I’ve never been greatly convinced that curved TV screens are anything but a passing novelty. Watching TV is a social experience, so optimizing the viewing angle for just one person seems odd. But a curved monitor makes much more sense to me, enabling more comfortable viewing from a fixed position at your desk – especially as monitors get larger.

LG has just announced that it will formally launch the 34UC97,  “the world’s first curved monitor with an extra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio,” at the IFA in Berlin next month. The 34-inch ultra-wide monitor offers a 3440×1440 resolution, and – appealingly for Mac users – supports Thunderbolt 2 …  expand full story

Thunderbolt Display Stories July 24, 2014

Bēhance concept shows gorgeous (if impractical) Apple 4K display renders

When Apple made a big fuss over the ability of the Mac Pro to support three 4K displays, it signalled that it could only be a matter of time before the company created its own. As I predicted back in October of last year, the company made no attempt to rush this, but we’re now hearing that Apple is close to finishing work on either a 4K Apple Thunderbolt Display, a 4K iMac or both.

Texas State University student Edgar Rios has put together these gorgeous-looking concept images. The nearly-invisible size bezels shown here are clearly stretching beyond breaking point the boundaries of what would be possible from an engineering perspective, but I’m sure we can expect the bezels of the real thing to have been slimmed down. Not quite this much, though:

As well as the traditional bare anodized aluminium stand, Rios also shows what it would look like in black. Check out the gallery and let us know your thoughts.

Thunderbolt Display Stories July 23, 2014

macs

While iOS 8 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch is set for a September launch, Apple is planning to bring its next-generation Mac software, OS X Yosemite, into the wild a month later, in October, according to several sources. Apple plans to continue releasing OS X Yosemite Developer Previews every two to three weeks until a final Developer Preview is seeded on September 29th, according to the people. Apple is then expected to finish up work on Yosemite in early October and release a golden master build around October 10th, the sources said. Apple is also finishing up preparations to release a version of OS X Yosemite beta tomorrow to the first one million people who signed up for the public beta.

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Thunderbolt Display Stories April 21, 2014

Elgato_Dock_Device_Perspektive

There are Mac accessories that are exciting or fun, and others that are boring but useful. The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock most definitely falls into the latter category.

As regular readers will know, I’m of the view that wires are evil. Anything that can be wireless should be wireless, and any wires that are unavoidable should be hidden from sight. This is particularly easy if you have an Apple Thunderbolt Display, of course, since all you need in the way of wires from a MacBook is power and Thunderbolt: everything else can be plugged into the back of the monitor.

But if you share my aversion to visible wires and don’t have a Thunderbolt display, or you are frequently connecting and disconnecting your MacBook from a bunch of devices on your desk, the Elgato Thunderbolt Dock may be the answer …

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Thunderbolt Display Stories March 8, 2014

Corning-thunderbolt-optical-cable-reviewThe promise of the Thunderbolt standard is that it can deliver a lot of data over long distances very quickly for many types of devices. Unfortunately, that promise has been pretty slow to materialize, and the long distance piece of the equation has been particularly painful.

Corning is hoping to turn that around this year with the consumer launch of its Thunderbolt Optical Cables in 10 meter (33 foot), 30 meter (99 foot), and 60 meter (198 foot) sizes. With these lengths, you can put your Thunderbolt hard disk and arrays far away from your desk. If you have a Thunderbolt Display or a Thunderbolt dock, you can even move your Mac to the utility closet or basement and really clean up your desk space.

I’ve been using the 33-foot version for a few weeks and here’s my take: expand full story

Thunderbolt Display Stories December 31, 2013

Image: wallsfeed.com

Image: wallsfeed.com

Tech journalists don’t often have to battle our way across hostile terrain in sub-zero temperatures, fight crocodiles with our bare hands, or abseil from helicopters to rescue hostages (though that remains my cover story for the time I broke my elbow by tripping up in an airport).

We do, however, occasionally do something almost as dangerous: make predictions about the tech future, knowing full well that our words remain forever archived on the web for people to dust off a year from now and gleefully point out just how wrong we were.

This is never more risky than in the case of Apple, a company notoriously secretive about its activities, and where there are way more false rumors than reliable ones. But hey, what’s life without a little adventure? So here are my predictions on what I think we can expect from Apple next year …  expand full story

Thunderbolt Display Stories December 9, 2013

The 'now you see it, now you don't' 4K Sharp display

The ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ Sharp PN-K321 4K display

When Apple started offering a Sharp 4K display in its European online Apple Store, then withdrew it shortly afterwards, some speculated that this might mean an Apple 4K display is about to be launched.

It’s possible, of course, but I strongly suspect not. As I argued in October, the launch of the Mac Pro would have been the obvious point at which to announce an Apple 4K display – and current MacBook Pros can’t drive 4K displays at decent frame-rates, so I can’t see Apple launching a display that would leave the bulk of Mac owners disappointed.

The far more likely explanation is that Apple plans to sell the Sharp displays alongside the Mac Pro once it launches – as I suggested it might in that same opinion piece in October. The displays were inadvertently made live on the store before the Pro was launched, and have been removed until the Pro is available …  expand full story

Thunderbolt Display Stories October 28, 2013

All concept visuals: martinhajek.com

All concept visuals: martinhajek.com

Having recently speculated on what Apple might have planned in the way of 4K displays, I thought I’d build on that to think about what it might have in store on the television front.

If you didn’t read my 4K piece, the tl;dr version is I think Apple will launch a 4K Thunderbolt Display in about a year’s time, once it has a new generation of MacBook Pro models able to drive one (or preferably two) at a decent frame-rate.

The question then is: what form might the long-rumored Apple Television take? After all, plug an upgraded Apple TV box into an Apple 4K display and you’d have an Apple Television right there. Why would we need anything more … ?  expand full story

Thunderbolt Display Stories October 25, 2013

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There was one notable omission from Apple’s recent flurry of new product announcements: a 4K display. It will launch one in time, of course – and I’ll come to that shortly. But in the meantime, there’s the question of how it demonstrates one of the key capabilities of the new Mac Pro.

Sure, they could hook it up to multiple Thunderbolt Displays, but that’s not the same: Apple made a point when launching the machine of pointing out that it could drive three simultaneous 4K displays. That’s a capability you’d imagine it would want to at least show off in-store, and perhaps even offer for sale …

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Thunderbolt Display Stories September 30, 2013

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 …  expand full story

Thunderbolt Display Stories September 3, 2013

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MacRumors is citing low stocks of Airport Express base stations as suggesting that a faster 802.11ac model is expected soon to match the capabilities of the latest Macs. This would offer wifi speeds almost three times faster than current 802.11n models, a capability that has already been incorporated into the current Airport Extreme and Time Capsule models.

We’re also hearing similar whispers about constrained supplies of iMacs, alongside price-cuts by resellers …  expand full story

Thunderbolt Display Stories July 7, 2013

Review: Just Mobile’s AluDisc for iMac and Thunderbolt Display

Just Mobile is known for making accessories built from high quality materials, like aluminum, that nicely match the designs of Apple’s recent hardware products. However, some of their products seemed to have focused on function over form, rather than a mix of both. However, over the past few weeks, I have been using their AluDisc accessory for the Apple Thunderbolt Display, LED Cinema Display, and iMac, and I have found the accessory to be a nice, helpful addition to any workspace with those large Apple screens.

The AluDisc is a high-quality, seemingly well-built pedestal that allows you to easily and quickly rotate your display. During my daily workflow, I need to consistently pull USB and Thunderbolt cables out and in of the back of my Thunderbolt Display. Usually, to accomplish this task, I need to manually rotate my display. This is not a truly complex task, but the AluDisc actually makes this process extremely quick and easy. The disc can spins 360 degrees, making it simple to rotate my display.

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