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Review: 27″ Thunderbolt Display

15 Aug

Recently Apple revealed a new display called the ‘Thunderbolt Display” this of course reffering to the Thunderbolt port found on the  back of the monitor. There are a pluthora of features and to be quite frank at a glance the display is an iMac without some basic internals but in this article we take a more indef look into it’s purpose on our desk.

 The first feature of the Thunderbolt Display is of course the Thunderbolt I/O port itself. This is a great feature to have especially built into a monitor, it gives the monitor just soo much more purpose but sadly as we talked about in previous articles until some real incorporation of Thunderbolt I/O in consumer products comes, this is nothing more than an added but useless bonus.
 The next feature about the Thunderbolt Display is in my opinion the most exciting one. I’ve always been a fan of the iMac and frankly that’s because of how neat it is. With enough effort the iMac is almost cable free, the only cable that comes out of the iMac is the one cable that is required to power the iMac itself. Everything else is wireless and boy does it look stunning when there’s only one wire coming out of your desk. This exact feautre in the iMac is also the prime reason why I am not fond of Macbook setups. There are always too many wires, one for charging, one for the mouse, one for the keyboard and etc. Fortunately Apple is reducing the wire mess by releasing all of their peripherals as wireless models and now the wire mess is reducing but even then there are still way to many wires like charging etc. that come out of the Macbook but now if you have a Macbook you can both connect to your display and charge your Macbook using using only one wire, the Thunderbolt Display comes with a wire that has two ends, one that goes in the MagSafe Port and one that goes into the Display Port then these two connections join together and connect as one wire into your display and  then one wire comes out of your monitor to an outlet where the electricity from that outlet charges your laptop while powering the monitor. The fact that there is one less cable makes me so much happier. The rest of the input devices and peripherals are all wireless and the wire footprint is almost the same as the iMac which is to mine and I am sure many others pleasure! I really want to give Apple a pat on the back because these wireless peripherals and technologies that reduce wire mess are really making me happy. Another great thing about this is that when at work you can just leave your charger at home or in your bag and when leaving for home you don’t need to unplug it again just lift your Macbook slide into your bag and your done.
This display’s perhaps most noticable feature is the 27″ viewing area. This size is quite larger than many display’s on the market as other displays makers ususally stop manufacturing displays after 24″. The best thing about this display is that is powered by Light Emiting Diode technology (LED) and this time it’s true backlight LED not just side lit LED so the display is super bright and although you may not use it it brightness power to it’s full extent it is definitely a nice feature to have.
If you are big on sharing the screen then you maybe in luck, Apple quotes that the Thunderbolt Display has a 178° viewing angle. This is achieved by Apple’s well known display technology called IPS (in-plane-switching).
The Thunderbolt Display comes with it’s own pair of built-in speakers. This is great if you are looking to stay wire-free and but if you are looking for some serious sound you are probaly better off buying a separate set as these wont really do the job for you but if your casual music listener like I am then your probably okay with the speakers in the Display as they are actually not bad at all from what I was expecting.
I’ve switched to and from a couple displays in my lifetime and the one killer feautre I have always wanted was to have a built in Webcam and Microphone, fortunately the Thunderbolt Display delivers this and the quality is actually quite good, I was expecting something of laptop quality but, the sound from the microphone was crisp and without echos like on a laptop and although I felt the lighting could have been handeled better the Webcam was actually very nice and I was surprisingly impressed by how well it worked, I definitely think I would use it for more than just Facetime, perhaps to record a video or maybe even use it as the main camera in a live stream.
A helpful feature of the Thunderbolt Display is the built-in ambient lighting sensor, it measures the light in the room and adjusts the monitor’s brightness for the lighting condition. This is great because usually I have many different light sources in my room and I find myself often changing the settings to suit the lighting condition.
I have not too much of a need for this feature but in some of my situations it can still prove useful, this feature is the motion hinge. With the hinge you can easily change the  angle of the monitor from  -5 to 25 degrees. Although again I may not need it its definitely a feature I could very well see myself using.
Below are some advanced specifications of the display:

27-inch (diagonal viewable image size) thin film transistor (TFT) active-matrix liquid crystal display (LCD) with in-plane switching (IPS)

  • Resolution:2560 by 1440 pixels
  • Colors (maximum):16.7 million
  • Aspect ratio:16:9
    • Viewing angle:178° horizontal; 178° vertical
    • Brightness:375 cd/m2
    • Contrast ratio:1000:1
    • Response time: 12 ms
  • Cables

    • Built-in Thunderbolt cable
    • Built-in Universal MagSafe cable (up to 85W)

    Peripheral connections

    • Three powered USB 2.0 ports
    • FireWire 800 port
    • Gigabit Ethernet port
    • Thunderbolt port
    • Kensington security slot
  • In the Box
    • Apple Thunderbolt Display
    • AC power cord
    • Printed documentation
After experiencing and evaluating all the features of the Thunderbolt Display I believe it is a feature packed, quality display. It has many upsides to it and this display is an improvement both price and feature wise over the last  Cinema display. The Thunderbolt Display is great for many but unfortunately the price may not suit the average user.  The Thunderbolt Display is $999 coming in at what I think most people wouldn’t shell out for a display, if the price was at least $599 or something similar I would consider the display but the price is far to expensive unless of course your job is to create and design applications or something. I also feel it may not suit PC users as there are no VGA, DVI or HDMI input’s found on the display. For $999 the display is very nice and is feature packed but without basics like VGA, DVI and HDMI it’s not worth the money and even if the display had those ports I would estimate the display has to be priced around $620 for me to justify the purchase. Unless of course like I mentioned before, your job requires you to have such a high quality display in order for accuracy in quality. I really believe that Apple should ramp up more basic inputs into the display and make it more Mac and PC friendly, I also think Apple should lower the price of the display because at $999 and I know I keep saying this but truly it’s almost impossible to justify the purchase. I can’t recommend it to the general consumer audience but if you need this display for quality and accuracy in your work then go for it, because it’s HUGE and chalk full of awesomeness.