The long wait for a new Apple Thunderbolt Display may or may not be over soon

LG's 5K UltraFine is currently the closest thing to a 5K version of the old Thunderbolt Display.  But Apple could change that sometime this year.
Enlarge / LG’s 5K UltraFine is currently the closest thing to a 5K version of the old Thunderbolt Display. But Apple could change that sometime this year.


It has been a long, sad decade for fans of Apple’s first-party external monitors.

Apple’s 2011 Thunderbolt Display was unceremoniously discontinued back in 2016 without being replaced. The 4K and 5K LG UltraFine displays that Apple will still sell you aren’t bad — the 5K option is still one of the only 5K monitors that even exists, and the devices have modern Thunderbolt 3 ports, USB hubs, built-in webcams, and decent display panels. But their thick, ugly bezels and boxy black designs are hardly a good aesthetic match for Apple’s sleek, silvery hardware. And then there’s the ProDisplay XDR, an unapologetically expensive screen that can cost between two and six times as much as the Mac you’re connecting it to.

But Mac multimonitor enthusiasts have not given up hope, and rumors have persisted that Apple is getting back into the displays-a-normal-person-could-conceivably-afford market. The latest iteration of these rumors comes via correct-more-often-than-not Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. He says (via MacRumors) that Apple is planning a new, “more affordable” 27-inch display and may be planning to release the display alongside a more powerful version of the Mac mini at some point in 2022.

The only detail Kuo offered was that the display would not use the Mini LED technology from the latest iPads or MacBook Pros. So whether “2022” means “at tomorrow’s event” or “in December” was not specified.

I hesitate to use the word “cheap” or “cheaper” or “affordable” to describe whatever this monitor might be, because the thing it’s “cheaper” than is the $ 5,000-and-up ProDisplay XDR. That’s a very high price umbrella for another monitor to get underneath. But if the display is priced somewhere in the vicinity of the current 5K LG UltraFine display and uses a higher-than-4K resolution, it could be a compelling higher-density alternative to the 27- and 32-inch 4K monitors offered by most monitors makers. These monitors do not look bad when connected to a Mac, but their pixel density is not a good match for what Apple uses for its own iMac and MacBook displays — you need to use macOS’s scaling settings to get things looking right, but that can reduce the level of sharpness and detail that makes high-resolution high-density displays appealing in the first place.

If a new Apple display does come out of Apple’s event tomorrow, we’ll be covering it live starting at 1 pm EST on Tuesday, March 8.

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