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Archive of Apple Cinema Display Rumors

Just released earlier tonight, Apple's OS X Mavericks 10.9.3 beta appears to have built-in support that enables all compatible 4K displays to be set at a "Retina" resolution, with an option for 60Hz output. The compatibility was first discovered by Twitter user @KhaosT, and was tested with both the Late 2013 Retina MacBook Pro and redesigned Mac Pro in conjunction with Dell's UltraSharp 24 Ultra HD Monitor.

osx_1093_4k_support
To this point, OS X compatibility with 4K displays has been known to be somewhat erratic, as AnandTech revealed in December that Sharp's 32'' 4K display supported only one scaled resolution at 2560 x 1440. Furthermore, it was discovered that Apple had chosen to render text, menu and UI elements in the same manner as the Retina MacBook Pro, resulting in small and difficult to read on-screen elements on a 4K display. Various other 4K monitors were also found to be not properly supported.

Native support for 4K displays could also indicate that Apple is gearing up to release a higher-resolution Thunderbolt Display, as Apple last refreshed the monitor over two years ago. A number of other companies also introduced more affordable 4K displays at CES 2014 in January, with options from the likes of Lenovo, Asus, Seiki, and LG expected to hit the market throughout this year.
Last month, Dell announced several new "4K" displays for its lineup, including a teaser for an upcoming 28-inch model to be priced at "under $1000". While the pricing range was considered a breakthrough at the time, several other display manufacturers announced their own offerings at CES this week with pricing in the $800 range.

dell_p2815q
But as highlighted by Forbes, Dell has now revealed that its display will be launching on January 23 with an even lower price of $699.
The P2815Q will have a full 3840 x 2160 4K resolution and launch globally on January 23. Dell hasn’t yet discussed things like refresh rate or range of inputs (I’m sure DisplayPort is a given), but they do promise the same “screen performance” as the new UltraSharp 32 and UltraSharp 24 Ultra HD monitors. That’s certainly encouraging since their UltraSharp line is normally a cut above when it comes to professional displays.

The monitor will even include the ability to pivot to portrait mode as well as a range of adjustable viewing heights and angles. They’ll be selling accessories too, like a stereo sound bar and monitor arm.
Plunging prices for 4K/Ultra HD displays come just as Apple has launched its new Mac Pro, with its dual graphics cards capable of supporting up to three such displays simultaneously. The latest version of Apple's Retina MacBook Pro is also capable of driving a 4K display, taking advantage of the new Thunderbolt 2 standard to handle the throughput.

Many had hoped that Apple would release its own 4K/Ultra HD display alongside the Mac Pro, but the company did not do so, instead offering Mac Pro and MacBook Pro customers the option of adding on a $3600 32-inch Sharp Ultra HD display.
A number of companies introduced new 4K display options at CES this week, and, though some 4K monitors have seen early teething pains with the new Mac Pro, the new displays are expected to be compatible with Apple's new pro machine.

4K displays saw significant price drops in 2013 with a number of models introduced in recent months but these new options are, for the most part, significantly cheaper than currently available 4K monitors.

Asus pb287q
Lenovo debuted its ThinkVision Pro2840m, a 28" 4K display aimed at professionals with a 3840x2160 resolution. The monitor should be available in April for $800.

Asus also has a 3840x2160 display available, a 28-inch panel called the PB287Q, priced at $800. It will be available in the second quarter of 2014.

Finally, Seiki confirmed to MacRumors that it will announce a new 28" 4K display tomorrow, likely a budget-option as the company currently has a 39-inch 4K television available for just $500, significantly cheaper than similar alternatives.

LG widescreen 31 inch 4k 2013 12 17 01
LG's new ultra-widescreen non-4K displays

LG previously announced a 4K display, the 31-inch 31MU95, that is wider than most other options using a 19:10 ratio widescreen panel at 4096x2160, whereas the most other 4K displays use a 16:9 ratio. LG will also offer 34-inch and 29-inch options with much wider 21:9 screens at lower, non-4K resolutions. Those panels should be announced later this week at CES.
In its European Apple Online Stores, Apple has begun offering a 32-inch Sharp "4K" Ultra HD LED monitor. Retailing for £3,499.00 or approximately $5,700, the monitor has been available in the U.K. and other European countries since on or before November 30.

The 32-inch IGZO display, which has a resolution of 3840 x 2160, is not available in the United States and it is not clear why Apple has decided to offer it solely in Europe for the time being.

sharpdisplay
With its 32-inch class (31.5-inch diagonal) screen size, 3840 x 2160 high definition resolution and energy efficient edge-lit LED backlight, the Sharp PN-K321 monitor is ideal for professional applications where it's essential to view detailed information displayed with precision. This super-high resolution display allows you to view the content of four full HD screens on a single seamless display. It also features IGZO* technology, which supports increased pixel transparency and reduced current leakage, thereby making the monitor more energy efficient.
Sharp's LED display offers a 1.07 billion color palette, an 800:1 contrast ratio, and 350cd/m2 brightness. While it does come with DisplayPort support, it does not come with a Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter and will require users to purchase a third party adapter.

The appearance of the Sharp display in Apple's Online Store comes amid rumors that Apple is preparing its own 4K displays. Earlier this month, new display panels with DisplayPort appeared from AUO, sparking speculation that they could be used by Apple for a future 4K Thunderbolt display.

Dell debuted its own 4K Ultra HD displays earlier this week, offering a 32-inch model for $3,499, and a 24-inch model for $1,399. Dell also has a sub-$1000 28-inch model in the works for 2014, and as Apple and Dell have historically used the same panel supplier, Dell's offerings may provide an early look at what to expect when Apple does release its 4K displays.

Apple's recently refreshed Retina MacBook Pros are able to support a single 4K monitor and the upcoming Mac Pro is able to support up to three 4K displays. The Mac Pro may be on or near December 16, according to a German retailer that began taking pre-orders ahead of the product's launch, but it remains unclear when Apple might debut an updated Thunderbolt Display.

Update: Apple has removed the Sharp display from its online stores.
Following the initial revelation of some details on a new 24-inch 3840 x 2160 "4K" Ultra HD display from Dell yesterday, the company has now officially announced that the display launches today in the Americas with a $1399 price tag. A 32-inch model at the same resolution is also available for $3499, while Dell will be introducing a 28-inch 4K display in early 2014 with breakthrough pricing of under $1000.

dell_4k_displays
24-inch UP2414Q (left) and 32-inch UP3214Q (right)

All three displays carry the same 3840 x 2160 resolution, giving them varying pixel densities ranging from 140 pixels per inch (ppi) on the 32-inch model to 157 ppi on the upcoming 28-inch model and 185 ppi on the 24-inch model.
The flagship Dell UltraSharp 32 Ultra HD Monitor delivers stunning screen clarity and detail with Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution and high pixel density on an expansive 31.5-inch screen. Dell’s largest monitor allows for easy multi-tasking and viewing multiple applications side by side, and its ultra-wide viewing angle ensures that images and colors remain consistent regardless of the perspective. Designed for graphic designers, video and game developers, CAD/CAM designers, engineers, photographers and other power users, the Dell UltraSharp 32 Ultra HD Monitor provides an exceptional, high performance viewing experience.

With the same remarkable, pin-point clarity, the Dell UltraSharp 24 Ultra HD Monitor, users can enjoy color consistency and precision from virtually any angle thanks to an ultra-wide viewing angle on a 28.3-inch screen. The UltraSharp 24 Ultra HD Monitor allows customers to see more and do more with uncompromising picture quality that facilitates multi-tasking on a screen that delivers four times more data than a Full HD monitor.
Both the 24-inch and 32-inch displays support refresh rates of 60 Hz over DisplayPort 1.2 and 30 Hz over HDMI, as well as a variety of ports including HDMI, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, four USB 3.0 ports, and a media card reader. Both displays also offer height, tilt, and swivel adjustments.

Exact details on the upcoming 28-inch model have yet to be released, but Dell says that it will offer "the same incredible Ultra HD screen performance" as the other members of the 4K display family and will carry multiple input ports for flexible connectivity.

Dell's new 4K displays arrive just as speculation regarding a potential 4K display from Apple has escalated ahead of the launch of the new Mac Pro later this month. Apple touts the new Mac Pro as being able to drive up to three 4K displays, but the company has not made any announcements about its display plans. The recent introduction of new 4K display panels from AU Optronics fueled speculation that Apple could be nearing an introduction for new displays, but Dell's displays may be the strongest hint yet that Apple may have something in the works given the two companies have typically used the same panel suppliers for their displays.
Dell up2414q heroDell has posted details of a new 24-inch monitor sporting a 3840x2160 "4K" Ultra HD resolution at 185 pixels per inch on its website (via Anandtech), suggesting the company may soon be selling 4K monitors to its consumer and business customers. No pricing or release date information, however, was included in the listing.

The development could provide insight into future Apple 4K monitor offerings as the two companies have historically used the same supplier for their display panels.

From Dell's listing:
See more of everything — down to the smallest detail

Whether it’s video editing, CGI animation or application and game development, the Dell UltraSharp 24 Monitor – UP2414Q gives you an up-close-and-personal view.

- Our highest pixel density sharpens the tiniest details in videos and images for stunning results.
- Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 packs in four times the resolution of Full HD.
- Get a clear and consistent view with an ultrawide 178°/178° viewing angle.

Diagonally Viewable Size: 60.47 cm 23.8" (23.8-inch wide viewable image size)
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (16:9)
Panel Type, Surface: In-plane switching, anti glare with hard coat 3H
Optimal resolution: 3840 x 2160 at 60 Hz (DP1.2*)
3840 x 2160 at 30 Hz HDMI
Contrast Ratio: 1000: 1 (typical) 2 Million:1 (Max) (Dynamic Contrast Ratio)
Brightness: 350 cd/m2 (typical)
Response Time: 8 ms (gray to gray)
Viewing Angle: (178° vertical / 178° horizontal)
Color Support: Color Gamut (typical): Adobe RGB 99%, sRGB 100%
1.07 Billion colors (8 Bits +AFRC)
Pixel Pitch: 0.137 mm
Pixel Per Inch (PPI): 185
Backlight Technology: LED
Display Type: Widescreen Flat Panel Display
Display Screen Coating: Antiglare with hard-coating 3H
It is unknown if Apple would use the same 16:9 3840 x 2160 panels for a 4K display, as some have suggested that the company may prefer to push Thunderbolt 2 to its limit and support the wider 4096 x 2160 "Cinema 4K" standard given that the display will undoubtedly be targeted at professionals, many of whom in the film industry will be working with content using that resolution standard adopted for film production.

With the new Mac Pro, expected sometime this month, supporting up to three 4K displays simultaneously, there had been hopes that Apple would release updated Thunderbolt displays with 4K displays in the near future. Though these new 4K display panels have been announced from a number of potential suppliers, we have heard no firm details about new Thunderbolt displays from Apple.

Update: Dell has now officially announced the UP2414Q display, which launches in the Americas today for $1399 and will be available worldwide on December 16. A 32-inch UP3214Q model is also available for $3499 and a 28-inch model priced at under $1000 will follow in early 2014.
When Apple gave its full unveiling of the new Mac Pro at last month's media event, many observers were disappointed that the company did not also announce new higher-resolution displays to complement the radically redesigned professional desktop, which Apple touts as being able to support up to three 4K displays simultaneously.

But the recent introduction of new 27-inch and 32-inch 4K display panels from AU Optronics (via Reddit and AmongTech) is sparking speculation that Apple could yet have a display announcement in the relatively near future. Both panel sizes offer 4K resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, which could use the new Thunderbolt 2 connectivity standard to support either much larger desktops than with the 2560 x 1440 resolution of the current Apple Thunderbolt Display or high-quality "Retina" sharpness at an equivalent of 1920 x 1080.

auo_27_4k_panel
Apple currently uses well-regarded LG panels in its Apple Thunderbolt Display, and it is unclear if the new panels from AU Optronics will meet Apple's exacting quality standards. Still, many have been looking for technology that would even allow Apple to offer a 4K display alongside the Mac Pro, and the new AU Optronics panels using the embedded DisplayPort (eDP) signaling standard embraced by Apple appear to be a significant step in that direction.

Even if Apple were to launch 4K displays using these panels, timing remains unclear as Panelook listings for the new panels indicate that they are "in production" but with customer sampling and mass production not scheduled until the first quarter of next year.

Also in question is whether Apple would even use 16:9 3840 x 2160 panels for a 4K display, as some have suggested that the company may prefer to push Thunderbolt 2 to its limit and support the wider 4096 x 2160 "Cinema 4K" standard given that the display will undoubtedly be targeted at professionals, many of whom in the film industry will be working with content using that resolution standard adopted for film production.
oct_22_2013_inviteWith just four days to go until Apple's October 22 media event in San Francisco, expectations for what will be shown are in many cases continuing to firm up, while in other cases questions remain. Our regularly updated Roundups section continues to offer a good overview of what is expected for each product and highlights the significant number of Apple products due for updates. Among the expectations for next week:

- iPad: Expect a new iPad mini-inspired design that is thinner, narrower, and lighter. [Read More]

- iPad mini: Retina display expected, but there have been questions about production and whether Apple be able to ship the new device in significant quantities, if at all, before the holidays. [Read More]

- OS X Mavericks: Reportedly due for launch before the end of the month, we should see a final unveiling next week. Other software updates including new versions of Apple's iWork and iLife suites, including iWork for iCloud, are also expected. [Read More]

- Mac Pro: Announced by Apple as launching "this fall" following a sneak peek at WWDC in June, Apple's radically redesigned professional desktop should get a thorough introduction next Tuesday. Some have speculated that updated displays may arrive to complement the new Mac Pro, but there has been no specific evidence of a display refresh. [Read More]

- MacBook Pro: An update for Apple's Retina MacBook Pro line has been expected for several months, moving to Intel's new Haswell processors for improved battery life. While it seems that Apple would want to feature the MacBook Pro improvements at its event, the list of products to be covered is beginning to get rather long and so it is unclear if the updated notebooks will make an appearance at or alongside the event or at a separate time. [Read More]

- Mac mini: There have been no specific rumors about the Mac mini, but it too is due for an update to Haswell processors. [Read More]

- An Apple TV wildcard: There have been some rumblings over the past several months that Apple is planning some sort of TV-related announcement for late this year, but there has been no concrete evidence of any imminent introduction. While Apple has been said to be planning its own connected television set product, that product may not be ready and the effort could continue to progress incrementally with an updated set-top box.
Sharp has announced that its 32" 4K touchscreen monitor will eventually have drivers for full OS X touchscreen support, reports Japanese site Mac Otakara [Google Translate] (via 9to5Mac).

Sharp 4K Touchscreen Monitor
The display, which is aimed at retail/commercial applications (PDF), sports a 3840x2160 IGZO LCD panel and includes a capacitative touch interface and pen support. Sharp demonstrated the display running off an Apple notebook at the CEATEC Japan trade show earlier this month.

Sharp demonstrated the panel at CES earlier this year, though it wasn't running OS X at the time:

AppleInsider notes that inventories of the Apple Thunderbolt Display have begun running short at third-party resellers such as Amazon and MacMall, perhaps providing the first hints of an upcoming redesign. The display remains in stock at the company's online stores, but shortages tend to show up at third-party retailers first as Apple prioritizes shrinking supplies for its own outlets.


One of the most significant changes likely to make an appearance in a redesigned Apple Thunderbolt Display is the adoption of the thinner profile and new display assembly process seen in the company's latest iMac. The current Apple Thunderbolt Display borrows heavily from the previous generations of the 27-inch iMac, and thus it seems reasonable to assume that some of the iMac design changes such as new lamination procedures to make the display thinner and more vibrant will make their way to the standalone display.

But with that lamination process leading to shortages of the 27-inch displays used in the iMacs, an issue expected to persist until next month, Apple may hold off on introducing a new standalone display for the time being in order to prioritize the iMac.

Other changes likely to appear in an updated display are a move to USB 3.0 ports, which have become standard on Mac products, and the inclusion of a MagSafe 2 port for charging Mac notebooks. The current Apple Thunderbolt Display still uses the original MagSafe design for power passthrough, with Apple bundling a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter to provide compatibility for owners of newer Mac notebooks.
As we noted on Monday, Apple's new MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro use a new MagSafe 2 charging standard that is thinner and wider than the previous MagSafe. In order to assist people using the new machines with older equipment like chargers and displays, Apple released a small MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter for $9.99 to ensure continued compatibility.

Apple has not updated its Apple Thunderbolt Display with the new MagSafe 2 standard, but as mentioned on its online store page, the company is now including a free MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter with newly-purchased displays.


It certainly is not a tremendous cost for Apple to include a $9.99 adapter (which actually costs Apple significantly less) with a $999 purchase, but it is a convenient inclusion for new purchasers who otherwise might not realize that they need a converter. Those who are aware of the new MagSafe 2 standard should also be aware that they do not need to purchase a separate converter if they wish to purchase an Apple Thunderbolt Display.

(Thanks, Jordy!)
Ever since Apple released its first Thunderbolt-equipped machines earlier this year, reports have been surfacing from a number of users complaining about flickering issues on company's 24-inch LED Apple Cinema Display when used with the new Thunderbolt-equipped machines.


Apple has apparently quietly released a firmware fix for the issue, although the update has not been publicly announced and its existence appears to have only been revealed to a small number of customers who have escalated their issues through Apple's support systems.

A link (.dmg download) to the firmware update was posted to Apple's discussion forums earlier today, and a number of users who have applied the update have reported at least initial success with addressing the flickering issues. Users report having to reboot their systems and power cycle their displays in order for the displays to function properly after applying the update.

From the description included in the download file:
The 24-inch LED Cinema Display Firmware Update addresses an issue that may cause intermittent display flickering. This firmware will only install on the Apple 24-inch LED Cinema Display when it is connected to a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac.

IMPORTANT:
This firmware update may not resolve the flickering issue if a Mini DisplayPort extender cable is used.

NOTE:
Some USB and FireWire devices may prevent firmware updates from installing correctly; disconnect non-essential devices and use only an Apple keyboard and mouse to apply the update.
Full instructions for installing the firmware update are also included in the documentation.

It is unclear why Apple has yet to publicly issue the firmware update for all 24-inch Apple Cinema Display users, and thus users should exercise caution in deciding whether to apply the update and prefer to check with Apple support regarding their specific issues.

Apple introduced the 24-inch LED Cinema Display in October 2008 and officially discontinued the model in July 2010 when Apple consolidated its display offerings with the 27-inch LED Cinema Display as its sole offering. Apple did, however, continue to sell off its remaining stock of 24-inch displays for a number of weeks after the official discontinuation.

Update: Apple appears to have pulled the firmware update without explanation.

iFixit has managed to get its hands on one of Apple's new Thunderbolt displays, subjecting it to one of the firm's usual thorough teardowns. iFixit was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to disassemble the new display, and upon opening found a considerable amount of hardware inside to support the display and the docking station functions included in the package.
Both sides of the logic board are packed with enough chips that it’s hard to believe there’s no computer inside this display. Standouts include:

- Pericom PI7C9X440SL PCIe-to-USB 2.0 host controller
- L129NB11 EFL, which looks to be the Thunderbolt port controller
- Analog Devices ADAV4601 audio processor
- NXP LPC2144 USB 2.0 microcontroller
- Delta LFE9249 10/100/1000 Base-T LAN filter
- SMSC USB2517-JZX USB 2.0 hub controller
- Maxim MAX9736B Mono/Stereo high-power Class D amplifier
- LSI L-FW643E-2 open host controller interface
- Broadcom BCM57761 Gigabit ethernet controller
- Supertex HV9982 3-channel switch-mode LED driver IC
The display also includes an integrated 49-watt, 2.1-speaker sound system with a small 1-inch subwoofer, as well as a 720p FaceTime camera and integrated microphone.


Thunderbolt port on logic board for accepting incoming connection

As for the display itself, iFixit discovered an LG LM270WQ1 panel inside, the same as that used in Apple's Late 2009 27-inch iMac. Interestingly, the Thunderbolt cable carrying signal to the display is connected to an actual Thunderbolt port mounted on the logic board rather than hardwiring the cable directly to the logic board. The Thunderbolt cable is secured to the logic board port with a cover screwed down on top of the connector.

We chatted with iFixit's Miro Djuric about the curious observation that Mini DisplayPort displays can not be daisy chained off of an Apple Thunderbolt Display unless another Thunderbolt device is placed between the two displays in the chain, but the teardown unfortunately does not reveal the source of this limitation.

Some speculation has centered around the possibility that a single Thunderbolt controller chip may not have the ability to output the display signal required for both the included display panel and a connected Mini DisplayPort display panel. A separate Thunderbolt chip, such as one found in an intermediary peripheral device, may be required to generate the signal for the Mini DisplayPort panel at the end of the chain.

Update: AnandTech last week provided a good technical explanation of the daisy chaining limitations.
If you connect a Mac to the Thunderbolt Display what is sent is a Thunderbolt signal. DisplayPort is broken off and sent to the display but there's no way to propagate an additional DisplayPort signal to any other non-TB displays in the chain. The output on the Thunderbolt Display is literally a Thunderbolt output, it can't double as DisplayPort.

However, if you connect another Thunderbolt device that uses Light Ridge you can split any additional DisplayPort signals out of the chain. In other words, if you connect the Thunderbolt Display to a Promise Pegasus you can then chain on another DP panel.
(Thanks, @foresmac)
With the new 27" Apple Thunderbolt Display now shipping to customers, Apple has posted a new support document outlining what can and can not be accomplished with multiple monitors on Thunderbolt-enabled Mac systems.


As far as compatibility, Apple notes that all Thunderbolt-enabled systems with the exception of the MacBook Air can handle two Thunderbolt displays, with a caveat for the 13-inch MacBook Pro being that the computer's internal display will not function if two Thunderbolt displays are connected. The high-end $799 Mac mini with discrete AMD graphics is also capable of running a third display via HDMI.

- MacBook Air (Mid 2011): One Thunderbolt display.

- MacBook Pro (Early 2011): Two Thunderbolt displays. Connecting a second Apple Thunderbolt Display (27-inch) to a 13-inch MacBook Pro will make the screen on the MacBook Pro turn black. This is expected behavior.

- iMac (Mid 2011 and Late 2011): Two Thunderbolt displays. iMac (27-inch, Mid 2011) with two Thunderbolt ports supports a total of two Thunderbolt displays regardless of which Thunderbolt port each display is connected to.

- Mac mini (Mid 2011): Two Thunderbolt displays. Mac mini with AMD graphics can support a HDMI compatible device on its HDMI port when using two Thunderbolt displays.

One other note of interest that will be a disappointment for some users is the disclosure that users will not be able to daisy chain a Mini DisplayPort display off an Apple Thunderbolt Display.
Mini DisplayPort displays will not light up if connected to the Thunderbolt port on an Apple Thunderbolt Display (27-inch).
The revelation is a bit of a surprise, as Mini DisplayPort displays can currently be daisy chained off other Thunderbolt peripherals. Some users had been hoping to reuse their existing Mini DisplayPort displays as part of multiple-monitor setups using the new Thunderbolt display, but will apparently be unable to do so.

Finally, Apple recommends that users daisy chaining the Apple Thunderbolt Display with Thunderbolt storage devices connect the display directly to the computer's Thunderbolt port, with other peripherals daisy chaining off of the display.

Update: Macworld appears to have demonstrated that you can indeed daisy chain a Mini DisplayPort monitor as long as it is connected to some other device than the Thunderbolt display. In Macworld's apparent setup, a Pegasus RAID storage device is placed between the Thunderbolt display and an older Mini DisplayPort display from Apple and all displays work properly.

It is unclear why simply inserting another Thunderbolt device into the middle of the chain allows the Mini DisplayPort display to function, but at least one MacRumors forum member has confirmed that he is unable to daisy chain his Mini DisplayPort-enabled Apple Cinema Display directly off of the new Thunderbolt display.

We've received multiple contacts that individuals have started receiving ship notices for their Thunderbolt Displays this morning. Scott from New Zealand offers up the above ship notice and expects delivery by tomorrow morning.

Forum readers have been organizing in this forum thread while waiting for deliveries. We'd previously reported that Apple had begun shipping demo units to stores last week. Apple has also been releasing various software updates to prepare for the display.

Apple yesterday pushed out a 60.30 MB Thunderbolt Software Update to provide support for the display.
This update provides support for the Apple Thunderbolt Display and bug fixes for Thunderbolt device compatibility.
This company this week has also been pushing out firmware updates for its latest Mac models, addressing compatibility with the new display as well as issues with Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode and Lion Recovery over the Internet.

Apple today released MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.1, a 3.99 MB update addressing a pair of issues on the company's latest MacBook Air models. The fixes include enhanced stability for Lion Recovery over the Internet and improvements for Thunderbolt-related issues including compatibility with Apple's forthcoming Apple Thunderbolt Display.
This update includes fixes that enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on MacBook Air (mid 2011) models.

For more information about Lion Recovery, please visit http://www.apple.com/macosx/recovery/.

The MacBook Air EFI Update will update the EFI firmware on your notebook computer. Your computer's power cord must be connected and plugged into a working power source. When your MacBookAir restarts, a gray screen will appear with a status bar to indicate the progress of the update. It will take several minutes for the update to complete. Do not disturb or shut off the power on your MacBookAir during this update.
We noted last week that the new Apple Thunderbolt Display was beginning to ship to stores in anticipation of a launch in the near future, and today's release to ensure compatibility with the new MacBook Air offers further evidence that a launch for the display is near.

Apple announced the display back in July with a shipping date of "within 60 days", a timeframe that is rapidly approaching. Apple's order page for the $999 display is showing a 2-3 week estimate for new orders, but earlier pre-orders will likely ship sooner than that. We have yet to hear, however, of any pre-orders being prepared for shipment.
With a flurry of new hardware releases appearing alongside OS X Lion today, here are a few notes of interest that we wanted to make sure our readers noticed:

OS X Lion

- While Apple initially touted OS X Lion as being a Mac App Store exclusive, the company announced today that the new operating system will also be made available on a USB thumb drive beginning next month. The thumb drive option will be priced at $69, compared to $29.99 for Mac App Store distribution.

- Beginning with the MacBook Air and Mac mini released today, new Apple hardware will support Internet Recovery, allowing users to install OS X Lion onto blank hard drives in the event of hard drive replacement due to failure or upgrades.

Mac mini

- The updated Mac mini omits an optical drive, joining the MacBook Air in Apple's efforts to slim down its hardware and push digital software distribution. Users requiring optical disc capabilities for their new Mac minis can either use Remote Disc capabilities to wirelessly use the optical drive of another computer or purchase an external SuperDrive.

- The new Mac mini offers discrete graphics on the high-end model, utilizing the AMD Radeon HD 6630M and offering up to twice the graphics performance of the previous generation. The low-end and server Mac mini models utilize integrated graphics in the form of Intel HD Graphics 3000.

- Pricing for the Mac mini returns to $599 for the low-end model after having been bumped up to $699 with the redesign on the previous generation.


MacBook Air

- As had been rumored, the updated MacBook Air sees the return of the backlit keyboard. The feature had been present in the original MacBook Air, but was not included in the initial redesigned form factor released last October.

- Both the new Mac mini and MacBook Air support Bluetooth 4.0, a new specification that offers ultra low-power data transfer and has been touted as opening the door to a host of new wireless peripheral devices.

Apple Thunderbolt Display

- Apple's forthcoming Thunderbolt display, shipping within the next 60 days, is being positioned as an "ultimate docking station". The display uses a single Thunderbolt connection to support FaceTime camera, audio, USB, Firewire 800 and Ethernet through the display.

MacBook

- Apple's white polycarbonate MacBook has been discontinued for general purchase and is now only available to educational institutions.
Earlier this week, part numbers for upcoming Apple hardware updates surfaced, with claims that the parts represented new MacBook Air and Mac Pro models. While the MacBook Air part numbers are believed to be legitimate, the claim regarding the "Mac Pro" part numbers was later revised to state that they referred to new Mac mini and MacBook models.

But even that revised assertion isn't entirely correct, as while the Mac mini numbers are assumed to be correct, the part number ascribed to a new MacBook is in fact for a new Thunderbolt-enabled LED Cinema Display.


Apple has even confirmed that information by prematurely posting a new image on its site depicting the display and identifying it in the URL as the "MC914" part that had been previously thought to be a new MacBook. The display appears essentially identical to the existing LED Cinema Display from the front, although Apple's new promotional image displays a Lion desktop background rather than the Snow Leopard one found on the images for the current model. The rear of the display will obviously include a Thunderbolt port in place of the current mini DisplayPort connection.


Additional gallery images also show the new display paired with a number of Apple's Mac products, all of which show the same form factor as the current models, suggesting that the Mac mini scheduled to appear alongside the new display (which appears here as the Mac Mini Server model) will retain its current form factor. Apple's Mac Pro has been rumored to see a redesign, but appears set to debut a few weeks later than the new display, meaning that Apple would need to continue showing the new display alongside the current Mac Pro until that time. Consequently, the new image showing the Mac Pro likely offers no insight into whether or not the Mac Pro will be seeing a redesign.

Thanks, Ben!

Update: We've spotted a new image depicting a MacBook Pro connected to two LED Cinema Displays daisy-chained via Thunderbolt. This feature would only be compatible with 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pros of the current generation supporting Thunderbolt.


Update 2: While not revealing any new products, a number of images of Apple's existing products are also starting to be updated in Apple's online stores to show the Lion desktop background instead of the Snow Leopard one. For example, Apple's iMac page has had its graphics updated to show a Lion desktop, while other machines elsewhere in the store are still showing Snow Leopard.


Thanks, Nicholas!

Update 3: The 27" LED Cinema Display seems to have been removed from the Apple Online Store. Clicking "Buy Now" from the Apple Cinema Display page results in a broken link. Additionally, all the images shown above have been removed from Apple's website as well.

Update 4: The LED Cinema Display is back on the store.
AppleInsider reports that it has received word that Apple is holding back on releasing updated Mac models in order to wait for work on OS X Lion to be completed. Apple is reportedly "so pumped up" about Lion that it wants to ship the new machines with Lion preinstalled rather than forcing users to upgrade on their own once the new operating system is released next month.
For instance, new Thunderbolt-enabled Sandy Bridge MacBook Air models expected to go into production this month have been ready and waiting for some time, according to people familiar with the matter. But management is currently unwilling to usher the new models into the market with the current Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard operating system.

Instead, the Mac maker is said to be locked on waiting till it can image the new notebooks with a Gold Master build of Lion so that buyers are afforded the latest and greatest Apple experience.
Thunderbolt-equipped Mac minis and LED Cinema Displays are also said to be on hold as Apple puts the finishing touches on OS X Lion.


Apple has only announced that OS X Lion will launch in July, declining to share an exact release date so far. The release will be a Mac App Store exclusive, and will be priced at $29.99. Through the Lion Up-to-Date program, users who purchase or have purchased a Mac between June 6th and the official Lion release will receive a free upgrade to Lion.

Consequently, Apple's desire to hold back on releasing updated Macs is not related to saving customers money on the upgrade but instead seems focused on offering customers the latest and greatest software experience right out of the box and removing any inconvenience associated with upgrading.

Electronista over the weekend noted a growing thread in the Apple Discussions forum regarding flickering issues being experienced by users of the new MacBook Pro paired with a 24-inch LED Cinema Display. A couple of users in our own forums have also reported the issue.

Both the 13- and 15-inch models, and likely the 17-inch model, produce intermittent flickering, brief blackouts and other periodic but noticeable flaws when attached to the out-of-sale screen. The built-in notebook display is unaffected.

Users have already tried some of the more common tricks, such as resetting the SMC, but haven't had any initial success. It also applies whether or not the AMD or Intel graphics are being used.

The Apple Discussions thread has continued to grow in the days following the original report, with at least one user reporting experiencing the issue with a 17-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple support staff are reportedly investigating the issue, having swapped out one user's affected machine specifically to examine a unit known to be experiencing problems.

Well, it appears Apple is aware of the issue. An Apple Discussions Host called me a few days ago after seeing one of my recent posts. He offered to swap my MacBook Pro for a new one so Apple Engineers can get their hands on a known bad unit. I shipped it off last night and anxiously await my replacement.

Apple officially discontinued the 24-inch LED Cinema Display last July alongside the introduction of a new 27-inch model, but the company did continue to sell off its remaining stock for some time after the discontinuation.

Update: French site MacGeneration has posted a video showing the issue. The flicker occurs at about 1:45 in the video.