This week Apple announced a new 27‑inch iMac with Retina 5K display. All this talk about 4.7 million pixels had some Apple fans drooling and others wondering if a Thunderbolt Display with the same resolution was on the way. Turns out that even though Thunderbolt 2 technology is somewhat new to the market, it can’t handle the 5K resolution.
This is sad news for creative professionals and others who use the MacBook / Thunderbolt Display system on a daily basis. It makes life easy: Dock at home, dock at work and a laptop for use anywhere else. Let’s not forget the Mac Pro which is popular with video professionals who also use Apple’s brilliant display. The Thunderbolt 2 which supports DisplayPort 1.2 maxed out at 3840 x 2100 resolution. There is some good news however, DisplayPort 1.3 was announced just last month. The increased bandwidth of 32.4 Gbps allows for 5K monitor support and a crazy 5120 x 2880 resolution. With that said, is it possible we could see a Thunderbolt 3 in the near future? Don’t hold your breath. The Thunderbolt Display is now over 3 years old and Apple has showed no hints of releasing an update anytime soon.
The only possibility at this time is to use two Thunderbolt Ports to run a single 5K monitor. For those who use the Mac Pro this could be an option. The Mac Pro is the only mac powerful enough to attempt this and even then it means tying up more connections you might need. Not to mention many video professionals use multiple monitors, at this time it just doesn’t seem practical.
It’s crazy to think at it’s introduction the Thunderbolt technology was so advanced that many companies didn’t even have products for it yet and some still don’t. Now years later display technology is taking a giant leap over connection speed. It might be possible that Apple is holding off on purpose waiting to see how the new iMac performs in the market and where exactly the display port technology standards are heading, before releasing a new Retina 5k Thunderbolt Display. Of course we can all imagine the cost of that new display based on Apple’s current prices, but for some budget buyers, there is always the option to purchase a refurbished Thunderbolt Display from Apple at a reduced cost before the new monitors start hitting the market. As it stands the Thunderbolt Display is still the best monitor for MacBook and MacBook Pro.