The New MacBook and the Old Thunderbolt Display

Twelve South knows what looks good
Twelve South knows what looks good

Bye, Bye Thunderbolt

Glenn Fleishman, writing for Macworld:

But Thunderbolt is the really big loser in the new 12-inch MacBook: USB-C can’t support Thunderbolt devices.

Since Monday, I have been scouring the internet, looking for a way to continue to use my Thunderbolt Display[1] with the new 12-inch MacBook.

Sadly, I am beginning to think that my efforts will end up being rather fruitless, especially in light of Fleishman’s short piece.

He wasn’t the only one who thought as much:

@toniwonkanobi I don't think it's possible.

— Jason Snell (@jsnell) March 10, 2015

So, the tentative plan is to sell my recently-acquired Thunderbolt display, and choose a suitable replacement (one that will be compatible with the new MacBook).

Choices For A New Display

1. Apple 27-inch LED Cinema Display[2]

$500–600 Believe it or not, this 5-year old monitor is the most viable option for me. It is essentially the Thunderbolt Display, but without the Thunderbolt requirement. With the new 12-inch MacBook, I would lose out on the USB 2.0 ports and MagSafe would be useless to me. But that’s not really the point, is it?

  • Same form factor as my current display, so I can continue to use the BackPack from Twelve South.

  • Apple’s ‘it just works’ assurance. Instead of pouring over spec sheets and reviews of the other two displays, I can just assume that the Apple display will be perfect for my needs.

    This isn’t just blind fanboy-ism either. Apple displays have been historically very well-regarded.

  • Any specimen I find on eBay will likely be old. We’re talking more than 3 years old. Finding one in mint or near-mint condition will be difficult.

  • The Apple Tax™ might hurt me here. As a testament to Apple hardware [lack of] depreciation, the used prices of this display are about equal to the Thunderbolt version that I have now. This could be because, for Mac Pro users between 2010 and late 2013, the 27-inch LED Cinema Display was the “Thunderbolt Display” without Thunderbolt.

    My other option, the LG display, offers much more in terms of experience and utility than the Apple one. Maybe my money is better spent on an upgrade rather than a lateral move

2. LG 34UC97-S[3]

$1,000–$1,200 This would be my choice if I stepped out of the Apple display sphere. Mark Jardine of Tapbots fame loves his.

  • Much more screen real estate. I took out a ruler, and added the extra 7 inches to my current display and: wow. I could have a movie playing on the display in every Space, as well as all my other apps. I would love that.
  • Display offers a USB 3.0 ‘hub’ of sorts, as well as audio line in/out. In other words, this could act as a display for any number of sources, not just computers.
  • Cost. It’s nearly double the price of my first choice, and nearly three times the price of my third choice.
  • It’s big. Like, really big. I could maybe fit small speakers on the very peripheries of my desk, but it might look stupid.

3. Dell UltraSharp U2713HM[4]

$585 This was The Wirecutter’s top pic for a great 27-inch monitor. Everything about this display is, on paper, great.

  • It has basically the same quality display panel as the Apple option (and what I have now).
  • It is so cheap.
  • It’s a Dell[5]
  • It looks atrocious.
  • It’s a Dell.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, Apple does in the display space in the near future. The writing on the wall has been that Apple is moving away from its prosumer and pro markets, and is focusing instead on the more mainstream audience. If so, that’s sad, because Apple has helped defined the prosumer category. That said, everyone thought the Mac Pro was never coming back, and look at the splash it had months back.

Apple Thunderbolt USB USB-C Dongle Display for 2015? I can only hope.