My previous post described why Apple might very well launch an 11.88” Retina MacBook Air this year with a 2732 x 1536 display.
Apple is obviously planning other Retina Macs. Are there any other economies of scale in its display supply chain that Apple could leverage to bring about these products?
First, some background. Anand Shimpi did an excellent job detailing the current hardware barriers to Single Stream Transport (SST) 60 Hz 4K monitors in his recent Mac Pro review. In short, Apple is waiting for future displays that include the necessary input controllers capable of refreshing SST 4K at 60 Hz before it enables Retina scaling modes for these monitors in OS X. Only then will Apple deliver a 4K Thunderbolt Display.
Additionally, it is extremely unlikely that the new Mac Pro’s GPUs are capable of driving SST 4K at 60 Hz, and the 2013 Retina MacBook Pros do not have the necessary driver support in OS X. An Apple 4K Thunderbolt Display and its associated Retina scaling modes might thus only be compatible with future Macs.
What about the display technology itself?
The current iMacs and Thunderbolt Displays feature 16:9 panels. For Apple, Retina resolutions require pixel quadrupling, and standard 3840 x 2160 4K is quadruple the pixel count of 1080p. Testing this resolution at 27” yields an interesting result:
- 4K 3840 x 2160 iMac/Thunderbolt Display at 27” = 163 PPI, the same pixel density as the non-Retina iPhones and iPad mini.
We won’t see 8K Mac hardware for a very long time, but an obvious possible non-OLED follow-up is:
- 8K 7680 x 4320 iMac/Thunderbolt Display at 27” = 326 PPI, the same pixel density as the Retina iPhones and iPad mini.
I agree with Marco Arment that Apple will eventually release 27” 4K iMacs and Thunderbolt Displays. I have no idea when these displays will come out, but at least some volume of the required controllers are shipping in the first half of this year.
The possibility of sharing display technology with the original iPad mini lends further credence to the likelihood of Apple shipping 3840 x 2160 monitors using 27” displays. Their arrival by the end of the year certainly seems plausible.