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back to article Apple Thunderbolt Display 27in monitor

After Apple’s hoo-ha about the Thunderbolt port on its newest Macs and MacBook Pros, it’s great to finally have something to plug into it. But I began testing this monitor with tainted expectations: less ‘OK show me what you can do’ and more ‘oh lordy, yet another locked-in connectivity standard’. It ended with tainted love. …

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JDX
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If it's really that good, then this is perhaps less over-priced then MacBooks themselves?

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Stop

More to the point,

If it's 150 quid overpriced, what brand+model is that superior £750 display? I think we should be told.

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@Marvin the Martian

Dell U2711.

It uses the same IPS panel, but with a proper backlight, so that it displays almost the whole AdobeRGB colourspace, as apposed to almost all of the sRGB colourspace.

Apart from DisplayPort, it also accepts inputs from HDMI (with HDCP), VGA, 2xDVI, component video, composite video. Oh you can also tilt the display with the Dell too, and adjust the height without needing a hacksaw to reduce it, or telephone directories to raise it :) Oh, and the Dell has a non-reflective screen, so you get to see what you want in all it's good-ness, instead of the hagged unshaven face that also looks at you in the bathroom mirror.

As for all the output ports? My MBP has them already, thanks so I don't really need them.

Oh, and sorry but it's not quite £750. More like £600 or less (and worth EVERY penny)

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Anonymous Coward

Missing the point?

They put all the connectors on the back, I assume, so it can function as a docking station. So while you may not think you need the connectors because your MBP has them, it seems much more convenient to just plug in 1 cable and be switched to your big monitor, webcam, speakers, desktop keyboard/mouse, large external hard drive, maybe a wired network connection, etc. rather than plugging in 1000 cables every time you get back to your desk.

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Well that's largely down to Apple not providing docking stations like other laptops have. But then docking stations are for corporate machines, so it's a different use case.

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Docking station

Got the Henge Dock. (Also reviewed on Reg recently). It's really good (although a touch expensive).

Also the MBP does not need to get out of the dock that much. It's a monstor brute and was bought for it's processing power, which at the time out did anything else from Apple (unless you bought the 12-core Mac Pro which cost about 4 times as much). I actually wanted the Mac Pro, but the MBP out performs a MAC Pro costing almost 2 times as much doing rendering so I'm just waiting for the new Xeons to get the Mac Pro.

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Silver badge

I've used the high-end Dell monitors before and whilst the picture was very good the build quality was suspect, which is how I imagine they price much lower. Had multiple failures on the different input ports, flickering, sometimes working sometimes not, returned 3 times for replacements and then it failed outside of warranty. Fortunately the only working input was the DVI. It may be anecdotal and "statistically insignificant" but after multiple returns with screen issues on a Dell laptop as well I've concluded that I cannot be arsed with their sketchy manufacturing quality. It's also worth noting that Dell will often replace under warranty with reconditioned items and not new ones which I feel is taking the piss.

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I'll second that, having got a Dell U2711 on my new 2011 mac mini server.

In comparison to the Apple TBolt display (which in fairness I haven't used, but have lusted after before getting this)...

cons:

Need separate displayport (or one of the other video interfaces, but i'm using displayport) and USB leads. Messy.

Doesn't have speakers. Dell speaker bar is good though, but it's extra. It clips onto the bottom of the screen, power plugs into the monitor, and audio plugs into the monitor's own line-out socket given audio goes into the monitor via displayport or hdmi. But the long speaker lead on the speakers still has to loop around somewhere back there. Messy.

Doesn't have a webcam/isight. I didn't want one so no loss to me (if I did, it might have tilted me to the apple). If you want one, you gotta clip it on somewhere. Messy.

No ethernet or firewire interfaces that the tbolt monitor has. Nor of course the ability to daisy-chain that tbolt itself offers. So you'd still need separate interfaces/hubs etc. scattered around your desk to give you that. Messy.

No power-out for a laptop. Doesn't bother me as mine's a mac mini and you can't plug those into a magsafe (another thing that might have swayed me to the apple monitor if you could). So if you *are* using it with a recent apple laptop, there'll be an extra lead trailing around. Messy

I think there's a theme there.

pros:

Cheaper. I paid £589.00 from aria.co.uk, which was persuasive.

Stand is more flexible. Apple stands can only tilt (no swivel contra the review, although that may have changed in a way the picture doesn't reveal). Dell stand tilts *and* swivels and has height adjustment too, and is in fact basically a vesa stand, and monitor easily vesa-mountable. (Apple's is with an extra kit.)

More inputs. You can only plug the Apple into a machine with a displayport or a thunderbolt port. At the moment that's only recent macs. This has a plethora of inputs as recited above, although you'll need displayport or Dual-Link DVI to take full advantage of the resolution. HDMI doesn't go that far. VGA would be such a waste of a monitor, though useful to have for emergencies I guess.

And finally, The display is to DIE for. Oh, and non-glossy, for those that are bothered by such things. (Wasn't a deal-breaker for me as I arrange my workspace accordingly anyway.) Some people have moaned about antiglare coating, but it all seems shiny to me, despite being non-glossy. ;-)

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Dell U2711?

Not for one moment suggesting this is a 'better' monitor - no thunderbolt, microphone, webcam, doesn't match your Mac blah blah. But if you don't want all those extras, it's got the same resolution and seemingly a display that I've not seen beaten by anything (not to say this monitor won't)

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Anonymous Coward

Dell U2711

Yup. Got one. Great display..Only flaws are that the controls are a bit slow, and it does not rotate.

Also, that U2711 can do 10bpp on DisplayPort. Sadly, I don't have a video card that does that.

So I gather that the Mac version of the same panel cannot do that, as the specs in the article say it does only 16m colours?

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Bronze badge

HDMI better than you think

I've run my Dell u2711 at full resolution (2560x1440 same as the Apple display) via its HDMI connection from a ratty old AGP video card. The HDMI standard has been improved over the last few iterations and in the current version, V1.4, it can even cope with resolutions up to the 4096 x 2160 home-cinema format being pushed by Toshiba among others.

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Pint

Very nice but...

...you can get the same panel without the frills for under £400 from Hazro.

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Anonymous Coward

If you want to deal with delaminating glass, dust under the panel, a cheap-ass non-adjustable plastic stand, numerous dead/bright pixels, terrible support, loud buzzing/high-pitched whining from the power supply, DVI-only input, and a high propensity to go dead for no reason, sure, go for the Hazro.

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If it is indeed the same panel, I thought that it cannot have dead bright pixels. If the pixel is undriven (because it is dead), then it is dark. Only the crappy non IPS panels have dead bright pixels.

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FAIL

re: Hazro

So... you can get a completely different monitor for a different price, the only thing in common being the screen size?

The whole point of the monitor is the Thunderbolt expansion. Criticise if you think it's too expensive for that, but to compare it to something completely different is disingenuous at best.

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Experiences

I've had a couple of issues with this display connected to a MBP 15".

Firstly, the USB support is a bit flaky - sometimes after plugging in and waking from sleep a reboot of the laptop is required to get the mouse and keyboard working. There have been a number of firmware updates relating to Thunderbolt, but the issue still occurs about one time in four.

Secondly, there are only 3 USB ports. Printer, mouse, keyboard, headset, micro-USB for Android phone: that makes five. So I end up plugging two of those into the laptop which detracts from the dockiness of it all.

Belkin are apparently bringing out a Thunderbolt hub, but given the expense and amount of space on the back of the display I think the lack of ports is bad design.

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I've seen a preview of the Belkin hub, and it doesn't have a downstream port. That is a deal-breaker for me, because it means no screen! (Who the hell wants a few extra ports at the expense of no screen??)

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Facepalm

Maybe I'm missing something, but...

...if the screen has a downstream port and the hub doesn't then whats to stop you putting the hub on the end of the chain after the monitor? The lack of a downstream port is surely only an issue if you have 2 devices without it? Here we're talking about only 2 devices, one of which has a pass-through port, so put it in the middle.

Alternatively if its just a lack of usb ports then I've got a feeling a standard USB hub that plugs into a USB port will be cheaper than a specialist USB hub that plugs into a thunderbolt port.

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Anonymous Coward

Non standard ports? Bad

That is all.

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Temporarily non-standard

Intel co-created and are pushing Thunderbolt. It's supposed to turn up on all Ultrabooks in the near future because of its value as a break-out connector that requires minimal physical space, both externally and on the motherboard.

That said, so far I think only Sony have actually put out a Thunderbolt-supporting computer that isn't a Mac, so Thunderbolt's ascension to a proper standard is far from a done deal.

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Anonymous Coward

Well, I suppose it is non-standard

After all, thunderbolt comes from Intel and isn't backed by a standard and manufactured by anyone else.

I'd snap up a PCIe thunderbolt card in an instant if there was one ...

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Anonymous Coward

Even the marketing pictures of these monitors have a dirty great big glare across them.

Shiny screens are terrible.

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You do know that was added in Photoshop, right?

Not that I'm a fan of shiny screens, just good screens in general.

Here's an idea for an article, Reg - a review of screens of a similar spec for us non-Apple PC users.

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Shiny screens are the work of the devil

I love my alienware laptop, but the screen... WHY? Oh and then they bring out the next version with the same f'in issue.

I'm happy this screen is out though, even if I don't buy it - if only that it might indicate to the makers that I don't want an f'in 1080 tv you've decided to call a monitor. Looked at replacing my aged 1920x1200 Dell 24" a few months back, and was somewhat shocked that the market seems to have gone backwards.

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Unhappy

"..the only way you’d be unable to make out what’s on-screen would be to..."

...use it in a room with lights on, where they are reflected off the oh-so-glossy screen. OK for watching TV and films, but hopeless for use as a, er, monitor.

Rant over

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It's hugely overpriced as usual.

For £270 I just got a 27" iiyama delivered (arriving today), albeit one with only 1900x1080 resolution.

To match the resolution on this Apple there was a Dell model at £620 - I decided to pass.

£899 would have boght me both, delivered and still left me change :)

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So you'd have a good and a mediocre screen at the end?

Not really the same as one great screen.

I can buy a 5y old Micra and a new Ford Ka for the the price of most family cars, yet family cars are bought for some obscure reason.

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Thumb Down

*sigh*

Is it groundhog day or something? I'm sure that we've been over this before; as you have already pointed out the 27" Iiyama (whilst I'm sure is a fine specimen of a monitor) has a lower resolution that the Apple monitor and an inferior panel technology, which is reflected in the price. It's probably made of plastic, doesn't have the same level of connectivity, an integrated HD web cam or reasonable integrated speakers (NB 'audiophiles'; not great, but better than most integrated speakers). The Dell model to which you refer is seemingly no longer available, had a lower resolution and wasn't IPS. It did't have what is basically an inbuilt docking station either. So neither of the devices that you offer are an equivalent to the Thunderbolt display thus rendering your rather trite point moot.

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Dell u2711

As someone else mentioned earlier the Dell 27" display is the u2711 model, still available from Dell. There are suppliers who will sell you an open-box zero-defective-pixel Dell return model for under 500 quid delivered in the UK. The IPS panel in the Dell is exactly the same as the one Apple use, a Philips product if I understand correctly with the drive electronics and backlight differing.

I'm sitting in front of just such an open-box Dell u2711 display as I type this; it has two DVI-D ports, an HDMI port, a DisplayPort (HDMI with an Apple-specific connector so they don't have to pay licence fees apparently), a VGA port for old-skool types and even a couple of analogue ports if you've got some ancient video kit (like my laserdisc player) that can't talk proper digital. It also has a 4-port USB2.0 hub built-in plus an SD-card reader on the side of the frame.

The Dell's chassis can be bolted to a VESA mount if specialist fitting is required (wall mount or swivel-stand) unlike the Apple display although you can buy a VESA adaptor from Apple for about thirty quid extra.

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Anonymous Coward

@Marvin the Martian

Well, it's more like buying a Mondeo and a Fiesta as a second car for wife instead of buying single Cayenne... Far more practical. This analogy is IMNSHO better as there are not that many family cars for the top-end price.

From the productivity point of view the more monitors the better.

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JC_
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@AnotherNetNarcissist

Half right, but the Dell U2711 is still available, has the same resolution, the same IPS panel and costs £600 on Amazon. It also has a USB hub, so is a docking station, of sorts. That said, the Apple one is clearly prettier and I'm all for the move to making monitors a single-cable hub for a laptop.

Anyone know why DisplayPort monitors with USB hubs don't (in my experience) carry a USB signal on the DisplayPort cable? It's in the spec, right?

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FAIL

Glossy display? No thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

Glossy not always bad...

I hate glossy displays in laptops, which are likely to be used in environments where lighting cannot be controlled as easily. But the fact remains a glossy display provides a sharper and higher contrast image than matt displays (especially Dell, who apply their AG so thick the image ends up very dull and grainy). Rather than knee-jerking 'glossy = bad!' I've come to the epiphany that if I'm spending £900 on a desktop display, I might as well get one that provides the best image possible, and spend a few minutes rearranging the lighting.

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You're wrong.

I own a Dell/Alienware, with a hideous gloss coating and I hate it.

I wish to be able to see every pixel as it is. If I don't like seeming pixels, I can turn on AA or buy a higher-res monitor. Pouring varnish over the screen is not an acceptable solution.

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Anonymous Coward

@goldcd

So you got a laptop with a crappy display and assume all other screens must be the same.

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"priced to make you tighten your scrotum"

What, you mean women folk won't balk at the price tag ?

Maybe women will see this as the right kind of thing to do the job if that's the kind of thing you need to get the job done ? (just a thought)

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Confused

"you can plug the display into a Mini DisplayPort on a pre-Thunderbolt Mac"

later in the review, "Just keep in mind that a Thunderbolt Display needs a Thunderbolt Mac"

Which is it? Will it work with my mid-2010 MacBook Pro which has displayport, but not thunderbolt?

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After a bit of googling, I think it's true that you can plug a tbolt display into a mini-dp mac. Do your own googling though; i'm mostly going off anecdata.

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It will work as a screen on a displayport machine (Mac or otherwise, if there are any others!), but you'll lose out on the extra functionality.

The USB, firewire, webcam, and mic will not be available. The speakers might well work, since DP carries audio - I can't find any evidence either way.

You will get to use the magsafe power cable!

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Joke

Sir

<sexist joke>

Just because the women won't baulk at the price, it's still the bloke that pays for it.

</sexist joke>

<reality check>

A women wouldn't spend money on techie toys for the boys anyway, they're much too clever.

</reality check>

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Thunderbolt Display <-> non-Thunderbolt Mac doesn't work

I've tried this in an Apple Store. It doesn't work--the Mac doesn't recognise the display.

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Tim

I don't understand Apple

This screen is clearly aimed at rich, cool people who live in quasi-industrial penthouse lofts in once-rough-but-now-quite-posh city quarters. Why, then, make it so shiny that it's only of real use in a nerd's windowless basement hermit cave?

Could it be because Tarqin Trustfundington and his artisinal yoghurt-eating chums on the top floor actually just use it as a mirror? The proof will be whether it tilts back 90 degrees so you can do a line off it.

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Anonymous Coward

You've been to Tarquin's parties, then?

Frankly, darling, we generally just use an iPad. There's an app, you know.

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I understand Apple

I think you'll find it's glossy so that, despite the reflections, digital photographs shown on the screen look rich and vibrant in colour with great contrast. Tarquin wouldn't know how the fuck to calibrate a monitor. That's why Apple does it.

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Anonymous Coward

"I don't understand Apple"

no, you really don't, do you?

But hey, don't let that stop you from proclaiming your ignorance for the world to see.

What is it with the McDroid weenies in the comments boards all sounding like thirteen year-olds? Still bitter that mommy and 'uncle' Frank didn't get you the IOS device you wanted last christmas?

Get over it girls, get over it. Puberty is just around the corner.

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zb

Great phrase

"it’s built to a standard that makes you wet your pants but priced to tighten your scrotum."

Oh so true!

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Glossiness

FWIW, I sit near a big window and I've had zero problems with the glossiness of the display, and I have a deep hatred of glossy screens on laptops (I paid more for the matte one on the MBP).

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glossy display

So long as the output from the display is brighter than the reflection, you're ok.

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So how high do I have to turn up the brightness for the black to look black? Until I can smell my eyeballs burning and go blind?

The more I turn up the brightness, the more I see my own reflection, and let me spare you the details, but nobody wants to see that!

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Shiny?

How about those of us who can't read text on glossy screens and were buying anti-glare screens two decades ago? Why does history repeat?

Is it a 24 bit display or does it do the 16/18 bit shimmer while trying to pretend to be a better display?

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