Whither Apple’s 27-inch Retina 5K Thunderbolt Display?

“The iMac was recently updated to include a stunningly high-resolution 5K display,” Mark Reschke writes for TGAAP. “Saying a fancy number like “5K” is one thing, but seeing it in person is quite another.”

“The display is simply breathtaking,” Reschke writes. “Simply put, Apple’s iMac Retina 5K display is the best on the market in an all-in-one. So where is Apple’s 27″ 5K Thunderbolt display?”

Reschke writes, “Strangely Apple has not introduced such a display, which would make a perfect compliment to Mac Pro sales for professional and enthusiast video editors.”

Read more in the full article here.

17 Comments

    1. I also hope Thunderbolt 3 and other fast enhancements also come to the Mac Pro soon as I am being tempted (as are many Mac pro users) by the HP Z840 Workstation carrot. 4K video, 3D, compositing and all such need the powah Cap’n!

      And I cannot STAND Windows!!!

  1. From marco.org
    Executive summary: Not enough bandwidth in Thunderbolt 2 for 5K display. Waiting for Intel to provide a CPU that supports Thunderbolt 3.
    http://www.marco.org/2014/10/16/retina-imac-vs-mac-pro

    Quote from Marco:
    If I had to guess, you’ll have a long wait [for the 5K monitor], and they won’t work with any Mac sold to date.

    Panel yields may be tight for a while, and external displays are a low priority for Apple. The original 27” iMac’s groundbreaking LCD panel wasn’t available in an external display from Apple for almost a year after its release. But that’s not the biggest problem.

    Pushing this many pixels requires more bandwidth than DisplayPort 1.2 offers, which is what Thunderbolt 2 ports use for outputting video signals. (I wrote about this a few times.) Doing it right will require waiting until DisplayPort 1.3 in Thunderbolt 3 on Broadwell’s successor, Skylake, which isn’t supposed to come out for at least another year — and Intel is even worse at estimating ship dates than I am, so it’s likely to be longer.

    It may be possible to use two DisplayPort 1.2 or Thunderbolt 2 cables to power a 5K display, but only if the GPU could treat each port as its own full-bandwidth DisplayPort 1.2 channel, the sum of which represented one logical display, and had the panel combine and properly sync the two at the other end.1 I don’t think any of the current Macs can do this, including the Mac Pro — MST to run 4K panels at 60 Hz only seems to be supported within individual ports, not spanned across two.

    I’d estimate — granted, I’m wrong a lot — that Apple won’t ship a standalone 5K display until at least 2016, and it won’t work with any of today’s Macs, including the 2013 Mac Pro.

    1. It has very, very little to do with the CPU. We do NOT have to wait for Skylake.

      Thunderbolt and DisplayPort are supported by stand alone chips. No commercial video card to date supports either TB 3 or DP 1.3. They will come. Likely in the first half of 2015 — long before the Xeon versions of Skylake, which likely won’t happen until 2016.

      When stand alone, commercial graphics cards are shipping that support TB 3 & DP 1.3 Apple will very likely ship a 5K monitor. It is even possible that we won’t have to wait for a completely new iteration of the Mac Pro. Apple may offer the new, high end graphics cards as a build to order option. If they do, I hope they offer the cards as an after market add on too for those that have already bought Mac Pro machines.

      Confusing what can (and will) be done in stand alone graphics cards, which the next generation of Mac Pro will have, and what is done natively in the graphics part of CPUs, like those CPUs in Mac laptops and iMacs, is only needlessly confusing the issue.

      And about TB 2 and DP 1.2. You *CAN* do a 5K monitor with such an interface. It would take explicitly written drivers to do it, and because of the bandwidth limitations of TB 2 and DP 1.2 you’d only be able to drive that 5K monitor at 30 Hz, which is unacceptable for most people. So it can be done with current hardware, but it would take explicit work and would deliver a poor product. Thus Apple is waiting until they can do it right.

      1. If Apple can create a chip to run a 5K display in a “prosumer” grade iMac, then why can’t Apple offer standalone 4K or 5K display that hooks up to an upgraded Mac Pro or new Mac Pro mini tower via a dual Thunderbolt connection?

        The problem isn’t with the display, nor GPU, nor CPU makers. The problem is that Apple seems to think its existing 27″ monitor is good enough for its Mac users. To anyone in any graphics or photo or video production company, 1080p doesn’t cut it anymore. Hell, 27″ displays don’t cut it anymore. These days, a “Pro” computer needs to be able to simultaneously push 4K to the working desktop monitor and also 4K to the reviewing room 100″ projector.

      2. The problem comes from Apple piping the DisplayPort signal across a ThunderBolt link. If TB won’t support DP 1.3, then “no go.”

        If Apple was willing to put a DP 1.3 port on their equipment, then it could be done today.

  2. Was in the Apple Store Saddle Creek last week and saw the one 27″ Retina and was less than impressed. Looks just like the standard display next to it.

    Without 5k content it is an exercise without much of a point.

    As to the display, why not abandon MDP for HDMI?

    1. So you walked into the store, didn’t see any 5k (or bigger) images (or 4k video) and deemed the 5k iMac unworthy. Oh, and you know more than Apple’s engineers – they’ll jump on HDMI for you immediately.

      1. 1- The lack of content that uses the 5K display was the FIRST point, Kind of like having a HDTV and no HD content.
        2- HDMI can carry more bandwidth than MDP currently was the SECOND point.

        Right now it is a marketing exercise for most uses.

        1. First, there is a lot of 5K content in certain markets. Literally anyone with a moderate (“Prosumer”) to high end (Professional) digital SLR camera produces 5K imagery. While the 5K iMac has “only” 14.7 million pixels, a lot of prosumer and professional cameras exceed that number. Indeed, there are a few professional models that have over 80 million pixels in a single image.

          Second, the average consumer is not going to buy an iMac today, and maybe not for a couple years. But, higher resolution screens ARE the future. It is no different than the Mac Pro. Not many people buy them (as compared to iMacs or MacBooks), but enough people buy them for Apple to support that line.

          Also you’re wrong about mini DisplayPort. Mini DisplayPort is just the connector. It supports the bandwidth of DisplayPort itself. The current leading edge standard shipping in most systems is DP 1.2 which supports 17.28 Gbit/s. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, DP 1.3 is not shipping on any openly available, commercial systems yet. (You can get it on some specialty equipment, but it’s not available to the general public yet.) But, when it does ship to the general public it will support up to 32.4 Gbit/s. Conversely, the current bet standard commonly shipping for HDMI is version 1.4 which supports 10.2 Gbps. HDMI 2.0 (which will likely become the common implementation next year) will support 18 Gbps.

          Certainly 17.28 (DP 1.2) is greater than 10.2 (HDMI 1.4) and 32.4 (DP 1.3 in 2015) is greater than 18.0 (HDMI 2.0 in 2015).

    2. Did you look at the text quality? That’s what impressed me the most, it’s exactly like the difference between an iPad2 and an iPad Air2.
      Go back when you get the chance and look at a page of text on those side-by-side monitors. After 30 seconds of looking at the 5K, the standard one will look fuzzy.

    3. I had the opposite reaction – i was very impressed with have that much retina real estate. Apps and type and UI controls were all fantastic – like a retina MBP but with so much more room to work in. I use an old 30″ Apple Display, and would get the 5k display as soon as it was supported by a Mac Pro.

      1. I was surprised that Apple did not pack the one 5k Model on display with media to showcase the display- that was part of my criticism. Apple had the iMac loaded up with the exact same stuff as any other iMac on that table- it was not even marked or given a prominent place.

        I am considering dropping the $ and getting one, but really wold prefer a headless Mac- my current rig is a Quad Core Mac Pro that needs to be replaced. I do not need or really want the Black Trashcan but cannot use a Mac mini without a decent graphics card.

        There should be a headless model between a Mac mini with Intel Iris (not even Iris Pro) integrated graphics and a Mac Pro with dual high end cards. The only way to get decent graphics is an iMac- which I do not want due to the integrated monitor.

        A Mac mini with the Quad i7 and a decent graphics card could make one hell of a machine running an HD monitor via the HDMI output. It does not need to be cheap- I will gladly pony up the coin and doubt that I am alone.

  3. 27″ 5k iMac 4Ghz i7, 5K 1Tb SSD, 32Gb RAM here. Lightning fast for my multi-user photography needs, especially with external Lacie 1Tb Thunderbolt 2 SSD externals feeding it. Thought about the Mac Pro with perhaps an NEC 4k 32″ display but for my needs, at Apple’s pricing, the iMac was a no-brainer. Perhaps Apple could have added a two slice toaster to it 🙂

  4. Bottom line:

    Were not there yet from a technical standpoint and likely will not be seeing a 5K external display for roughly 12 months.

    So if you have a need to see that many pixels which you will likely not have a source for that density unless you are shooting your own….buy a 5K iMac like me.

    If not, wait a year because your are not going to experience much 5K anyhow……..

    btw. Your couldn’t pry that iMac 5K out of my grubby hands! But if it lags on my work flow as I increase usage, I’ll give it to my son and go for the Mac Pro and 5K monitor when its available.

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