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Apple’s 5K Thunderbolt Display Could Include Its Own Graphics Card


macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

Thunderbolt Display stock shortages at some Apple retail stores have begun sparking speculation that a refresh is coming in the near future, and with current machines unable to run a 5K display over a single-stream cable, discussion has turned towards other methods Apple could use to introduce a functional 5K display.

Stephen Foskett and Daring Fireball's John Gruber speculate that Apple could potentially introduce a refreshed Thunderbolt Display with a built-in graphics card, which would result in a display able to work with almost any Mac because it would be driven by an internal graphics card rather than the machine it's connected to.

9to5Mac is floating a similar theory, claiming it's heard rumors Apple is indeed working on a 5120 x 2880 display that has an integrated GPU. Such a display would likely require the purchase of a newer machine with USB-C or Thunderbolt 3, but it would work with Apple's notebook lineup going forward.

A noted analyst doesn't believe Apple will go to the trouble of introducing a display with a built-in GPU, instead releasing a 5K display that will connect with newer Macs over Thunderbolt 3 by taking advantage of both DisplayPort 1.2 streams.

It's been believed Apple would wait to introduce a 5K display until DisplayPort 1.3 support is built into Intel processors as the standard will allow for plug-and-play support for 5K external displays, but by using both of the DisplayPort 1.2 streams, forthcoming machines that include Thunderbolt 3 ports will be able to drive a 5K display using Multi-Stream Transport without the need for an external GPU.

Multi-Stream Transport (MST) would stitch two halves of a display together to make a single seamless display, with each DisplayPort 1.2 connection driving half of the display, a technique Apple previously used in the first 5K iMac. The 5K iMac used the internal equivalent of a dual cable DisplayPort 1.2 MST setup.

Multi-Stream Transport is inferior to the Single-Stream Transport that would be possible with DisplayPort 1.3, but DisplayPort 1.3 support is not built into Skylake or its successor Kaby Lake, meaning it will be at least 18-24 months (the time until Intel's Cannonlake processors launch) before Apple can introduce machines powerful enough to drive a 5K display over a single-stream cable.

With the Thunderbolt Display having gone without an update since July of 2011, another two years is a long time to wait for a refreshed display.

There is no concrete word on when Apple will introduce a new Thunderbolt Display, but given the stock shortages and the rumblings that a successor is in the works, there is a possibility an announcement could be made at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

Article Link: Apple's 5K Thunderbolt Display Could Include Its Own Graphics Card

OS X Dude

macrumors 6502a
Jun 30, 2007
Apple won't do things by half. They've waited this long, I reckon they'll wait a little longer (considering how long it's already been) until it's everything they want it to be.


macrumors 65816
Sep 11, 2014
I saw this earlier and it seemed like a great idea (still does) but one issue is that the graphics card on the mac may one day outclass the built in GPU. Since Apple doesn't like buttons or on screen displays (the LED Cinema, TBD display has neither) we may not be able to disable the internal GPU of the TBD. Heck we had to rely on GfxCardStatus to even choose the internal GPU for MBP.


Dec 6, 2012
I think we need to move away from displays. We need projectors that can project against any surface or ones that can create 3D or Holograms. This whole display this is so last century.


(yes I am partially joking, but yes I hope someone is thinking about the revolution in displaying things in 3D)


macrumors 68000
Oct 3, 2012
It's intriguing there're no rumors about next iOS and OS X versions. Either Apple doesn't have anything serious to show either Apple finally doubled down on secrecy. I'd love to be surprised at WWDC with some good news and hope there're no leaks in the following days.


macrumors newbie
Jan 13, 2016
I believe the current thunderbolt display has a graphics card built in already. It shows up in my specs.


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