Back in June 2016 Apple left the standalone display market, discontinuing sales of its Thunderbolt Display. However, the company appears to have made a u-turn, confirming in April 2017 that it has plans to make a new standalone display to go with the new Mac Pro it is currently developing.
The revelation came when three Apple execs were speaking about the company's plans for the Mac Pro. It was revealed that a new display is in the works at Apple, expected to ship in 2018.
Apple's head of marketing Phil Schiller said: "As part of doing a new Mac Pro — it is, by definition, a modular system — we will be doing a pro display as well."
In this article we will assess when Apple is likely to start to sell this new standalone display; whether this display is likely to be 5K like the iMacs, or even 8K; and how much it's likely to cost.
When will Apple launch a new standalone display?
It's been a very long time since Apple launched the Thunderbolt Display. The Apple 27in Thunderbolt Display first went on sale in July 2011. It offered what would now be considered a poor 2560 x 1440 resolution that can't even match the 2560 x 1600 of the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, and is dwarfed by the 5K iMac's 5120 x 2880.
We've been hoping for some years now that the company would update its monitors. Sources predicted that a new Apple external 5K monitor, complete with integrated GPU, would be unveiled at WWDC 2016, but no hardware of any kind was unveiled at the company's summer bash and instead Apple removed the display from sale.
But now the company seems to have had a change of heart and has revealed that it will start to sell a new display in 2018.
As for when that new display might go on sale in 2018, that probably depends a lot on the development of the new Mac Pro (read about Apple's plans for the 2018 Mac Pro here).
Apple tends to make announcements relating to the Mac Pro at WWDC, so it's feasible that we could find out more about it's plans for the Mac Pro, and the accompanying display, at WWDC in June 2017, although they won't ship until 2018. This would follow the way the Mac Pro was launched - with a preview at WWDC followed by it going on sale in January the following year.
The new display will be designed for Mac Pro users, but Apple may want to push its range of displays to the MacBook market as well, encouraging owners of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro to purchase a second screen. Indeed, MacOS features introduced as far back as Mavericks are targeted at the use of a second screen.
With the Mac Pro able to support up to three 4K displays or six Thunderbolt displays. There was some speculation back in 2014 that Apple would launch a 4K monitor with a resolution of 4069 x 2160 (or 3840 x 2160) pixels.
Then there were suggestions that a new monitor would have 5K resolution, like the 27-inch 5K iMac. That's a resolution of 5120 x 2880.
However, it looks like we can expect more than that. A report on Pike's Universum has now suggested that the new display could offer an 8K resolution.
8K resolution (or 8K UHD) is the same resolution offered by ultra high definition TV. To offer 8,000 pixels the total image dimensions need to be 7680×4320. 8K is the successor to 4K. Few cameras had the capability to shoot video in 8K.
Apple wouldn't be the first company to offer an 8K display, Dell offers a 32-inch UltraSharp 8K display (although it costs a rather pricy $5,000)
One thing we know for sure is that the display won't be controlled by touch. When asked whether Apple would consider a touch display, Apple's Phil Schiller said: "No. We’ve talked a lot about touch on the Mac. It’s certainly, as we’ve talked to pros, not a big request for things they would want in a Mac Pro and not the problems that they most want us to solve."
As for size, Apple used to sell a 30in display until replacing it with the 27in Cinema Display back in July 2010. The company could again sell a 30in display, but we expect Apple to stick to a maximum screen size of 27 inches, as it has done with its iMac line.
That said, the display could feasibly be larger than 30-inches - the Dell display mentioned above measures 32-inches.
The new monitor could feature its own integrated GPU, which would enable it to offer high-res graphics when attached to lower-powered Macs - such as MacBooks, which as discussed above are often used in conjunction with second screens.
MacBooks generally don't have room for a GPU, but by integrating a GPU into a standalone display Apple would bring 5K, or even 8K, to its laptop customers without compromising on the portability of the MacBook itself. By hooking up to the monitor when in the office and then detaching the MacBook for life on the road, business users would be able to get the best of both worlds.
9to5Mac's sources said back in 2016: "Upon connection to the new Apple display, the Mac will intelligently decide whether to use its own internal graphics power or rely on the external GPU included with the Thunderbolt display; the more powerful GPU will be used while the less powerful GPU will be inactive."
How much will the new Apple display cost?
Beore Apple stopped sales of the Thunderbolt display it cost £899. It would be reasonable to expect a 5K replacement to cost rather more (although it's possible that Apple will roll out the new display for £899 and offer a price cut on the lower-res display).
Apple's lowest-spec 5K iMac retails for £1,449, so we'd expect the new 27-inch display to come in at around £1,000 or slightly more.