Archive of Apple Cinema Display Rumors

Apple is planning to refresh its Mac lineup, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, as early as October, according to Bloomberg. The report also claims Apple is working on a standalone 5K display in partnership with LG Electronics, while it plans to update iMac models with an option for new graphics chips from AMD.

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The report reiterates that the new MacBook Pro will be thinner and include an OLED-based touchscreen strip along the top of the flatter keyboard, which will present functions that dynamically fit the current task or application, as well as integrate Touch ID to enable users to quickly log in using their fingerprint.
For example, if a user is on their desktop, the screen will show a virtual representation of the standard function row, which includes brightness and media controls. When in an application, the virtual row will show options specific to the task at hand, but volume controls and a switch to show the default functions will always be present.
Apple has reportedly named the feature "Dynamic Function Row" internally, but its official name may differ when announced.

The tweaked MacBook Air models, meanwhile, are said to include multipurpose USB-C ports, which makes the inclusion of Thunderbolt 3 a possibility. No other details were shared about the planned MacBook Air and iMac refreshes.

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Apple's plans to work with LG on a standalone 5K display surface two months after it discontinued the five-year-old Thunderbolt Display. It remains unclear if the monitor will be based upon the Retina 5K iMac, and it is also unclear if the report's broad late 2016 timeframe for "some of the new Mac products" includes the display.

The report makes it nearly certain that the focus of Apple's just-announced September 7 media event will be on the iPhone 7 and the second-generation Apple Watch, the latter of which has now been confirmed for the event. Apple will also provide updates about its software, including iOS 10, macOS Sierra, watchOS 3, and tvOS 10.
Apple yesterday announced plans to discontinue the 5-year-old Thunderbolt Display, leaving it unclear if Apple's display business is coming to an end or if another model is in the works for a future release. According to BuzzFeed's John Paczkowski, Apple isn't done with Thunderbolt displays.

In a tweet shared this morning, Paczkowski said he's heard from unspecified sources that a next-generation display will feature an integrated GPU, a possibility that was first bandied about in early June, ahead of WWDC.


A Thunderbolt Display with a built-in graphics card would be 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.

It's believed Apple has not introduced a 5K display to match the 5K iMac because there are no machines that could run it over a single stream cable, a fact that will remain true even in upcoming machines like a rumored Skylake Retina MacBook Pro.

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Paczkowski doesn't include other details about the display Apple has in the works, but rumors have suggested it will feature a resolution of 5120 x 2880 and it's also likely to include USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3.

Stock shortages ahead of the Worldwide Developers Conference led to speculation that Apple could refresh the Thunderbolt Display at the event, but that did not end up happening. There is no word on when Apple might release a new display, but with an integrated GPU, it would not have any specific requirements and could theoretically debut at any time.

If a new Thunderbolt Display is planned for 2016, a logical guess at a release date might be in the fall alongside rumored redesigned Retina MacBook Pros.
Apple today told several news sites that it plans to discontinue its Thunderbolt Display, which has been available for purchase online and in Apple retail stores since it was first introduced in the summer of 2011.

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"We're discontinuing the Apple Thunderbolt Display. It will be available through Apple.com, Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last. There are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users," said an Apple spokesperson.
Apple will continue to sell existing Thunderbolt Display stock so long as it remains available, but once stock is exhausted, the Thunderbolt Display will no longer be available as production is ceasing. It is not clear why Apple has decided to make an announcement concerning the discontinuation of the display and if it means a new 4K or 5K display is on the horizon.

Stock shortages ahead of WWDC sparked rumors that Apple might be planning to introduce a new display at the event, but no new hardware appeared and Apple instead focused on software for iOS devices, Macs, Apple TVs, and Apple Watch devices.

Rumors have suggested Apple is working on a 5K display, and if true, such a display could feature a resolution of 5120 x 2880 pixels, USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 peripherals, and a design that mimics the latest iMacs. Speculation suggests it could come equipped with a built-in GPU or use a DisplayPort 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport setup to stitch two halves of a display together to make one seamless display.

If a new Thunderbolt Display is in the works, it could launch alongside next-generation Skylake Retina MacBook Pros, which are rumored to be in the works for late fall.
In the weeks leading up to WWDC 2016, multiple reliable sources indicated the opening keynote would be a no-hardware affair. And as it turned out, the focus of the event was unsurprisingly on software, including iOS 10, macOS Sierra, tvOS 10, and watchOS 3. So, when can we expect new Apple hardware?

Many products were at some point rumored to have a possible connection with WWDC 2016, including the next-generation Apple Watch, MacBook Pro, and Thunderbolt Display. Those that have been following rumors consistently, however, will know that the most of the products are actually expected in the second half of 2016.

The following roundup serves as a refresher of rumors we have heard up until this point.

Macs


mbp_13Apple last updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro in March 2015, followed by the 15-inch model in May 2015, with Force Touch trackpads, faster flash storage, longer battery life, and improved graphics. As our Mac Buyer's Guide indicates, that was around 400 days ago, leading many to believe that a refresh is overdue.

Prospective buyers were hopeful that Apple would surprise with a new MacBook Pro at WWDC 2016, despite the keynote being billed as a no-hardware affair, but the comapny delivered upon expectations and focused on software announcements only. So, when will the 2016 MacBook Pro be released?
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thunderbolt_display_elcap_roundup_headerWith only a few hours remaining until Apple's WWDC 2016 keynote at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, a tipster informed us that Personal Pickup is no longer available for the Thunderbolt Display on Apple's online storefront.

A quick spot check reveals that Personal Pickup has indeed been removed on the Thunderbolt Display product page in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Singapore, and other countries where the tool is available.

The removal of Personal Pickup, a web-based tool for checking in-store availability of Apple products, will naturally stir speculation about a long-overdue Thunderbolt Display refresh at WWDC. The standalone display has not been updated since 2011, even though Apple could have released a new model with USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 2, and a tapered iMac-style design as early as 2013.

Nowadays, the 27" Retina 5K iMac could be the basis for a corresponding 5K Thunderbolt Display, which could feature the same 5,120×2,880 pixels resolution, USB-C ports for connecting Thunderbolt 3 peripherals, and possibly an ultra-thin design resembling the latest iMacs. Apple could also release a 4K Thunderbolt Display, but supply chain considerations make that less likely.

Thunderbolt Display rumors have regained momentum since in-store availability of the display became depleted at several Apple Stores in the U.S., U.K., and Canada around two weeks ago. Speculation pointed towards a 5K Thunderbolt Display with an integrated GPU, but iMore's Rene Ritchie later said no such product will be announced at WWDC. He did not clarify if a refresh of any kind is off the table.

The removal of Personal Pickup should be treated as anecdotal evidence at best, however, especially since the tool was removed from Apple's AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule product pages as well, only to reappear some days later.

While there is always a chance that Apple could surprise developers with a crowd-pleasing Thunderbolt Display announcement, expectations should be kept low, as it is widely believed that WWDC will have few if any hardware announcements. The focus of the event will unsurprisingly be software, including iOS 10 and OS X 10.12, but wishful thinkers are undoubtedly holding out hope for "one more thing…" today.

Apple's keynote starts at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, with a live stream (spoiler free) available on Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Apple TV. MacRumors will also have full coverage of the event, with a live blog on our front page and updates in 140 characters or less through our @MacRumorsLive account on Twitter.

(Thanks, Ted!)
Earlier this week, rumors and speculation suggested Apple was working on a 5K Thunderbolt Display with an integrated GPU that could potentially debut at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, but new information from iMore suggests that is not the case.

According to iMore's Rene Ritchie, Apple does not plan to introduce an Apple Display with an integrated external GPU. Ritchie does not provide a specific source on this information, but he is well-connected and occasionally shares accurate details on Apple's plans.

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There'd been some speculation on Twitter and rumor reports about Apple possibly introducing a display with an integrated eGPU. Theory being, it would take some of the graphical processing overhead off MacBooks and/or facilitate a single-cable connection that could drive 5K.

While it sounds cool, it can also create expectational debt. So, scratch eGPU off your list for now, but keep your eyes locked to the keynote on Monday, June 13, for lots of other amazingly cool stuff.
Ritchie's statement does not appear to entirely dismiss the possibility of an upgraded Thunderbolt Display at the Worldwide Developers Conference, so it is possible some kind of display-related announcement is still in the works.

As we explained yesterday, Apple could introduce a 5K display alongside Thunderbolt 3 Macs, using both DisplayPort 1.2 streams in the Thunderbolt 3 specification to drive a 5K display using Multi-Stream Transport. Apple used a similar setup internally for the original 5K iMac.

In recent weeks, Thunderbolt Display stock has been dwindling in many Apple retail stores across the United States, in Canada, and in the UK, leading to speculation that a refresh is on the horizon. It is still not clear if the stock shortages are indicative that a new model is coming, but the Thunderbolt Display is long overdue for an update and WWDC would be an ideal time for an unveiling.
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.

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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.
Thunderbolt Display stock is limited or unavailable at several Apple Stores in North America, Europe, Australia, and other regions ahead of new product announcements expected at WWDC 2016 in two weeks.

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A spot check of Apple Stores in the U.S., for example, reveals that the Thunderbolt Display is available on a ship-to-store basis only at all or select locations in Albany, Buffalo, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Memphis, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, San Antonio, San Diego, Syracuse, and many other mid-sized cities and their surrounding areas.

Thunderbolt Displays do remain available in some major cities, including most stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the Thunderbolt Display is only available at more prominent store locations such as the Eaton Centre and Yorkdale in Toronto, Sainte-Catherine in Montréal, and the Pacific Centre in Vancouver. Thunderbolt Display stock in the U.K. is even more scarce, with Apple's web-based Personal Pickup tool showing that Regent Street is the only location with in-store stock within 100 miles of London.

A reliable retail source informed us that the Thunderbolt Display has been out of stock for a month at all central and surrounding London stores, while a tipster claims that the 27-inch monitor has been pulled from sale, with stock "returned to warehouse," at at least one U.K. retail store. A similar tip originating from Australia was received about Thunderbolt Display stock not being replenished.

With WWDC 2016 around the corner, limited in-store availability of the Thunderbolt Display will naturally stir speculation about a possible refresh to the standalone monitor. As always, however, the stock outage could simply amount to regular fluctuations within Apple's inventory channels, or Apple could be making room for ongoing store renovations. Rumors about a Thunderbolt Display refresh have slowed since late 2014.

AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule Wi-Fi base stations are also at least temporarily out of stock at many Apple Stores, although only at U.S. locations and possibly because of a recent firmware update or FCC compliance.

Apple began shipping the five-year-old Thunderbolt Display in September 2011. In terms of prospective updates, the 27" Retina 5K iMac could be the basis for a corresponding 5K Thunderbolt Display, which could feature the same 5,120×2,880 pixels resolution, USB-C ports for connecting Thunderbolt 3 peripherals, and possibly an ultra-thin design resembling the latest iMacs.

Only the late 2013 Mac Pro, late 2014 or newer 27" Retina 5K iMac, and mid 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro with AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics are capable of driving 5K external displays, however, and each setup requires using two Thunderbolt cables per display. The lack of support is due to bandwidth limitations of the DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4 specs on current Macs.

DisplayPort 1.3 has increased bandwidth, but Skylake-based Macs with Thunderbolt 3 will not support the spec and Intel's next-generation Kaby Lake processors on track for a late 2016 launch will not as well. Apple could opt to release a 4K Thunderbolt Display instead, but supply chain considerations make this unlikely, so the company's exact plans for the future of its standalone display remain to be seen.

Update: Apple is rumored to be working on a 5K external display with a dedicated graphics card, which would feasibly allow the display to be used with almost any Mac because it would be driven by an internal graphics card rather than the machine it is connected to. A future software update like OS X 10.12 would be required.

Apple could also elect to use Multi-Stream Transport (MST), a technology that stitches two halves of a display together to make a single seamless display in software. By using both of the DisplayPort 1.2 streams, forthcoming Macs with Thunderbolt 3 ports would be able to drive a 5K display over MST without the need for an external GPU.
The Video Electronics Standards Association yesterday formally announced its new DisplayPort 1.4 standard, setting the stage for improved video quality and color for external display connections over both DisplayPort and USB-C connectors.

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Rather than an increase in actual bandwidth, the improvements in DisplayPort 1.4 come due to improved compression, taking advantage of VESA's new Display Stream Compression 1.2 standard to support High Dynamic Range (HDR) video up to either 8K resolution at 60 Hz or 4K resolution at 120 Hz.
DSC version 1.2 transport enables up to 3:1 compression ratio and has been deemed, through VESA membership testing, to be visually lossless. Together with other new capabilities, this makes the latest version of DP ideally suited for implementation in high-end electronic products demanding premier sound and image quality.
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In addition to video-related improvements, DisplayPort 1.4 also expands audio capabilities with support for 32 channels, 1536kHz sample rates, and broader support for "all known" audio formats.

The approval of DisplayPort 1.4 comes even though consumers are still awaiting the arrival of devices supporting the previous DisplayPort 1.3 standard. Intel had been expected to support DisplayPort 1.3 in its current Skylake generation of chips, but the company instead opted to offer dual DisplayPort 1.2 support. As we detailed earlier this year, the lack of DisplayPort 1.3 support in Skylake could lead Apple to hold off on releasing a new 5K Thunderbolt Display until next year when chips supporting the standard become available.

Intel hasn't laid out its DisplayPort support plans beyond Skylake, so it's unknown whether the company will first move to DisplayPort 1.3 or if it can jump straight to the new DisplayPort 1.4 standard. Either way, we're unlikely to see Macs supporting DisplayPort 1.4 until 2017 at the earliest.
It is approaching five years since Apple began shipping the Thunderbolt Display in September 2011, leading many to wonder when the monitor will receive a long-anticipated update, if ever.

Apple could have refreshed the Thunderbolt Display with USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 2 and a tapered iMac-style design as early as 2013, but it has chosen not to do that. The company continues to sell the 2011 27" model with USB 2.0 and first-generation Thunderbolt ports for $999.

So, what has been the holdup? The answer likely lies in supply chain considerations and connectivity.

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4K Thunderbolt Display

Many have been long hoping that Apple would release a 4K Thunderbolt Display, considering that the latest Macs, and most models refreshed since late 2013, can be used with at least one 4K display.

But, typically, standalone Apple displays have shared the same screens as iMacs. Since Apple skipped over a 4K 27" iMac, Apple would have to source a separate screen to release a 4K Thunderbolt Display, and the product may be too niche for that to be worthwhile.

Meanwhile, with Thunderbolt 3 rolling out this year, it seems unlikely that Apple will bother with a refreshed non-4K Thunderbolt Display in the interim. So, as time goes on, the more likely possibility is that Apple will eventually release a much improved 5K Thunderbolt Display.

5K Thunderbolt Display

5K displays have an incredible 14.7 million pixels, resulting in sharper and crisper images, but they remain expensive. 5K models from Dell and HP retail for between $1,649 and $1,999, while Apple's all-in-one 5K iMac starts at $1,799, but cannot be used in target display mode.

Apple already sells a 27" Retina 5K iMac, and its screen could be the basis for a corresponding 5K Thunderbolt Display. The display could share the same 5,120×2,880 resolution, USB Type-C ports for connecting Thunderbolt 3 peripherals and possibly an ultra-thin design like the newest iMacs. But no current Macs could drive such a 5K display over a single cable.

Apple won't release the first Macs with Intel's new Skylake chips and Thunderbolt 3 support until later in 2016, and only those models will be able to drive a 5K display at 60Hz over one cable. While that makes a 5K Thunderbolt Display a possibility in 2016, Apple has good reason to wait until at least 2017.

Intel's Skylake processors for Mac notebooks, launching in early 2016, and Kaby Lake processors, expected to launch in the first half of 2017, will not be able to drive a 5K Thunderbolt Display over Single-Stream Transport (SST). The underlying issue is that both processor lineups lack support for DisplayPort 1.3.

Instead, the display would sync two channels over Multi-Stream Transport (MST), which can cause some performance issues. That means Apple may wait until at least Cannon Lake chipset (which promise SST 5K support) in the second half of 2017, before releasing a 5K Thunderbolt Display.

Because external displays are a relatively small market for Apple, it's possible Apple never plans to introduce an updated Thunderbolt Display. If a new model is in the company's plans, Apple will likely wait to introduce a 5K display until 2017 when most Macs can easily support it in order to maximize supply chain efficiency.

If you are interested in exploring third-party 4K displays, read our 4K and 5K Display Buyer's Guide for Macs.
With the release of OS X 10.10.3 last Wednesday, Apple has expanded support for high-resolution 4K and even 5K external displays (via 9to5Mac). Most notably, OS X 10.10.3 enables the Retina 5K iMac and 2013 Mac Pro to drive Dell's UP2715K 27-inch 5K display released late last year. The display requires more bandwidth than is currently supported over a current single DisplayPort/Thunderbolt cable, so it uses a dual-cable solution taking up two ports on the user's machine.

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This bandwidth issue for the current DisplayPort standard has been seen as a major roadblock keeping Apple from releasing a standalone 5K Thunderbolt Display. With the Retina iMac, Apple has been able to build custom internal components to drive the massive display, but for external displays, a dual-cable solution such as that used by Dell has been considered by many to be "un-Apple like."

As a result, Apple has been widely expected to wait until the release of Intel's Skylake platform with DisplayPort 1.3 support later this year before releasing an external 5K Thunderbolt Display that will function over a single cable. Whether the inclusion of support for Dell's dual-cable solution in OS X 10.10.3 is a sign Apple may be willing to adopt that arrangement for its own display and perhaps release it earlier is, however, unclear.

Beyond 5K displays, OS X 10.10.3 has also expanded support for 4K displays to include "most single-stream 4K (3840x2160) displays" at 60 Hz, expanding beyond the previous support of only Multi-Stream Transport displays introduced in late updates to Mavericks. The new 4K display support will function with most of the Mac line, from the 27-inch iMac to the brand-new Retina MacBook. However, only the Mac Pro and iMac will support full 4096x2160 resolution at 60Hz.
With OS X Yosemite v10.10.3, most single-stream 4K (3840x2160) displays are supported at 60Hz operation on the following Mac computers:

- MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015)
- MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014)
- Mac Pro (Late 2013)
- iMac (27-inch, Late 2013 and later)
- Mac mini (Late 2014)
- MacBook Air (Early 2015)
- MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015)
As for the new 12-inch MacBook, the laptop will be able to support displays and rates of 3840x2160 at a 30 Hz refresh rate and 4096x2160 at a 24 Hz refresh rate. MacBook users wanting to use such a display will, of course, need to use Apple's USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter to do so.
At Apple's introduction of the new 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display, Phil Schiller noted that the machine's $2499 starting price compares favorably with some of the higher-end 4K displays on the market today for closer to $3000, leading some to wonder whether it would be feasible to use the iMac as an external display for something like a Mac Pro.

For a number of years, iMacs have supported a feature known as target display mode, which allows them to serve as external displays for other computers, but as pointed out by TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino yesterday, the new Retina 5K iMac does not support this mode.

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The probable reason for this is also likely the reason why Apple did not announce a standalone Retina Thunderbolt Display yesterday: bandwidth limitations. The current DisplayPort 1.2 specification used over Thunderbolt 2 on Apple's latest Macs simply isn't capable of handling the bandwidth necessary for 5K video over a single cable.

As a result, no current Mac, including the Mac Pro and Retina MacBook Pro models that do support 4K displays, can currently drive a 5K external display. Technically, Apple could allow another Mac to output video at a lower resolution and have the Retina iMac scale the content up to fit its display, but this would not be ideal and Apple has apparently elected not to support it as an option.

As noted by Marco Arment, simple plug-and-play support for 5K external displays over a single cable will need the new DisplayPort 1.3 standard, but that won't be an option until Intel's Skylake platform, the successor to the upcoming Broadwell family, is launched.
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. [...]

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.
Arment points out that Dell's upcoming 5K display uses dual DisplayPort 1.2 cables for connectivity but that no current Macs appear to support the setup and even if they did performance would likely not be ideal.

Another potential product on the horizon is a Retina 21.5-inch iMac likely at 3840 x 2160 pixels, although it is unclear when Apple plans to launch such a machine. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts a second half of 2015 launch for the machine in a similar pattern to that seen with the MacBook Pro, where the larger 15-inch model received a Retina display option a number of months before the 13-inch model followed suit.