Apple Reportedly Developing 5K Retina Thunderbolt Display With Integrated GPU

If you head over to Apple's website, the Cupertino outfit will happily sell you a 27-inch Thunderbolt display for $999, at least until its inventory runs out. Word on the web is that it's nearly out of stock and Apple doesn't plan to replenish them. Instead, Apple will launch a new version of its Thunderbolt monitor, one that's been upgraded to a 5K resolution (5120x2880) and has a discrete GPU stuffed inside.

My gut reaction to Apple putting an external GPU inside a monitor was bewilderment followed by musings of, 'Apple's gone mad. Mad, I tell you!' But there's a method to Apple's rumored madness and the idea of cramming a graphics card inside a dedicated monitor as if it were an all-in-one might not be so crazy after all.

Apple Display

Depending on the task, it can take some serious graphics muscle to drive a 5K resolution. That amounts to over 14.7 million pixels, compared to a little over 2 million pixels on a standard Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) display. Apple's current generation Thunderbolt display runs at 2560x1440, which works out to less than 3.7 million pixels.

Apple's thinking is that if it integrates a GPU capable of driving a 5K resolution into the display itself, it won't have to worry about trying to balance graphics performance with thin and light designs for its future Mac systems, such as the MacBook. This also ensures its 5K Thunderbolt display will be compatible with as many Macs as possible, no matter what they're rocking underneath the hood.

This solution will also require some tweaks to OS X. The way it will work is when connecting a Mac to the display via Thunderbolt, the system will decide whether to use its own graphics or tap into the monitor's integrated GPU. They won't be able to work together, but systems will be able to bounce back and forth depending on the task.

Outside of the integrated GPU, the new display will be similar to the one that ships in the Retina iMac You can probably expect the same DCI P3 color gamut and overall quality, but with more pixels and most likely an altered physical design because of the internal GPU.