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 Also, it’s about time for Apple to refresh its outdated hardware.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.