Apple may put a GPU right inside the Thunderbolt Display

Caitlin McGarry
3 June, 2016
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A Thunderbolt Display will run you a cool grand (US), but Apple hasn’t updated the external monitor/laptop dock in about five years. If you’re in the market for a second screen, you may want to hold off, because rumour has it that the Thunderbolt Display is getting a huge upgrade this year – and we just may see it at the Worldwide Developers Conference this month.

WWDC isn’t typically a hardware-palooza, but 9to5Mac is reporting that the refreshed display may take the stage for one big reason: a GPU baked right inside. Why on earth would Apple do that? Well, the display is rumoured to be 5K with a 5120 x 2880 resolution. The MacBooks you connect to a 5K display likely won’t have the graphics processing power to take advantage of that insanely high resolution. The (rumoured) solution: integrating the GPU inside the display.

From what it sounds like, the refreshed Thunderbolt Display’s GPU would take over if necessary and let your Mac’s internal GPU chill out. It’s one or the other – they can’t work together – but the switch would happen automatically, without any extra work on your end. The bad news? According to 9to5Mac, it’s unlikely that older Macs would be able to take advantage of that 5K display, since it may need Thunderbolt 3. That uses the same USB-C form-factor that the most recent Retina MacBooks have – but those MacBooks don’t support Thunderbolt 3.

Why this matters: Your MacBook would pick up a super high-resolution screen if attached to this rumoured upgraded display, which would be pretty awesome. Also, it’s about time for Apple to refresh its outdated hardware. The MacBook Pro is also reportedly getting an overhaul this year, but Apple may wait until spring to show it off – in which case, launching a new Thunderbolt Display alongside would make sense. However, Thunderbolt Display stock is currently running low, signalling that Apple may be clearing out existing product to prepare for a brand new, more awesome one. WWDC is less than two weeks away, so we’ll find out soon enough.

5 Comments

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  1. Jamie says:

    But as with all Apple hardware it will be massively overpriced (if it even exists).

    Rumours of a new display have been around for the last 2-3 years but nothing has been seen.

    I firmly believe that rather than continually pushing out new products (that are a minor update0 Apple should concentrate on fixing their shoddy software first. The current versions of iOS (on my iPhone 6) and OS X on my 2012 MacBook Pro are appallingly unstable. But this is purely and simply as ploy by Apple for force users to update to new (overpriced) hardware. Why should my expensive 2012 MacBook Pro not run the latest version of Apple’s OS well when my PC of the same age runs Microsoft’s latest offering perfectly?

  2. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    I have no doubt it will be expensive. But it’s pretty hard to find a 27-inch display that runs at the same resolution of the current model. I did a very quick search a week or so ago and while there are plenty of options for 27-inch screens, the vast majority are far lower resolution. If (and this is a big if) this rumour is true and the price is around $1000 I’d be in line for one. I spend a lot of time at my screen and a high quality panel at a high resolution is extremely valuable to me. But your needs may be different to mine.

  3. JP says:

    I read the article and the comments. Suffice to say, yes, it will be overpriced. And yes, it comes with this and that restriction. But to see a manufacturer (and so be it that it is Apple in this case) pushing the envelope with really true architectural changes is refreshing, albeit it comes with a price. Do you see anybody else coming up with new tech screens? No. All you see is just another 27′ monitor. Why do the effort when Apple will engineer it, and everyone else will reverse engineer it, and there you go, now competitor A and B also supports inherent GPUs.

    I never appreciate comments since it is all opinion based. Rather sit back, think about what goes into it, and appreciate it for what it is. What you cannot appreciate is the constant rip-offs and then moaning at Apple about it.

    Just be realistic dude. Agreed though. Fix some software issues too.

  4. Jamie says:

    True, you are hard pressed to find an actual 5K screen. Dell do make one but it is priced very highly $2839 (NZ) – http://accessories.ap.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c=nz&l=en&s=dhs&cs=nzdhs1&sku=210-AEBO

    So all things considered Apple may even beat this pricing as if you really take it in to account the price of a screen then building a 5K PC equivalent to the iMac 27″ is not going to be cheap, especially given that the base mode; 27″ 5K iMac is only $3249 (NZ) which leaves only $410 to buy PC components equivalent to those in the iMac which simply can’t be done.

    Apple for once is actually cheaper (or my maths is really bad!)

  5. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    Putting aside 5K – getting a 27-inch display that matches the current Cinema Display is difficult.

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