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4K could hit iMacs, Cinema Displays as early as 2014; could trickle down to MacBook Pros in 2015

With Google Inc.'s (GOOGnew "Pixel" Chromebooks beating Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) premium laptops in the pixels-per-inch (ppi) arms race, Apple is reportedly pondering releasing 4K Thunderbolt 2 displays for sometime in 2014.  4K (typically referring to 3840x2160 pixel displays) was a hot item at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.  While many argue it's an exercise in impracticality, others salivate at the super-sharp televisions, which are starting to trickle out onto the market this year.

I. Apple Creeps Towards 4K With New Intel Thunderbolt Release

Intel Corp. (INTC) recently showed off a demo called "Thunderbolt Technology Update", which is basically a second-generation Thunderbolt solution.  The next generation Thunderbolt is capable of piping "4K video file transfer and display simultaneously."

Marco Armanet, co-founder of Tumblr and founder of Instapaper, writes in his blog:

This could enable the first generation of desktop Retina displays: it wouldn’t surprise me if the first standalone Retina display was a 23” panel with exactly 4K resolution (3840?×?2160), run logically as 1920?×?1080 (1080p) at 2X, and driven by upgraded Thunderbolt ports in the next generation of MacBook Pros and Mac Pros.

Mr. Armanet is an avid iOS developer and Apple analyst.

Apple has also long been rumored to be developing a "smart" LCD TV.  If such a product is released in the next couple years, a 4K panel is a likely inclusion.

II. Could 4K MacBook Pros Also be on the Horizon?

If Apple's 4K monitors follow a similar release trajectory to its 2.5K monitors, it could see the tech trickle-down to a premium variant of its MacBook Pro laptops sometime around 2015.  The current ~2.5K MacBook Pro Retina units are rough 220 ppi; a 4K unit would be around 350 ppi.

The prospect of a 350 ppi MacBook Pro would be impressive, but not out of the ballpark.  Currently, the Galaxy S IV by Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) packs a 440 ppi, 1080p, 5-inch display.  Scaling up super-dense displays is difficult, but Apple and Google have shown that it can be done.

Apple currently offers "Retina Display" MacBook Pro laptops, priced at around $200-400 USD above the standard models.  In addition to being thinner/lighter, the Retina models pack the titular monitor, which is 2880xx1800 pixels in the 15-inch model and 2560x1600 pixels in the 13-inch model.

The company also retails a $999 USD Thunderbolt Display for use with its laptops and desktops.  That display packs a "2560-by-1440 LED-backlit display, a FaceTime HD camera, high-quality audio, three USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Thunderbolt port for daisy-chaining additional high-performance devices."

The monitor is basically the same as the 27-inch iMac, sans the motherboard and processor chips.

Apple has drawn flack over its $50 USD sticker for Thunderbolt cables, however some loyal fans say the performance of the high-speed technology is worth the cost.

Sources: Engadget, Marco Armanet

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Interesting but not really an innovation IMO.
By GotThumbs on 4/10/2013 11:34:22 AM , Rating: 0
The company also retails a $999 USD Thunderbolt Display for use with its laptops and desktops. That display packs a "2560-by-1440 LED-backlit display

I use two 30" displays @ 2560x1600 for work each day. Higher resolution displays are an understood inevitability IMO. The technology historically seems to hit the TV market first and then the computing market. With the 4K TV's starting to ramp up (Sony's recent announcement) it's simply a matter of time for the specs/technology hit the PC world.

If it takes Apple "innovating" the market for higher resolution monitors, then fine, but I know there will be PC branded offerings as well. The difference will be price. Apples brand name recognition sells at a very high premium and I'm sure there will be flocks of sheep lining up give away their money. The internals (screen) will most likely be LG or some other monitor manufacturer in asia, so I'll just wait to purchase their models.

Best wishes,

RE: Interesting but not really an innovation IMO.
By jeffbui on 4/10/2013 2:12:37 PM , Rating: 2
Find another laptop with a 2800x1800 display today. Apple released theirs 9 months ago.

By inperfectdarkness on 4/10/2013 6:41:58 PM , Rating: 2
If one existed, I would already own it. The laptop manufacturing segment is about as full of fail as EA is with respect to gaming.

By ritualm on 4/10/2013 10:19:05 PM , Rating: 2
The difference will be price. Apples brand name recognition sells at a very high premium

Apple's financial statements consistently disclosed that its smartphones and tablets moved more volume and higher profit margins than its traditional computers (iMacs, Mac Pros, Macbooks, etc.) did. In fact, the price premium on those shiny Macbooks is maybe $100 tops and the only way for Apple to make a killing there is SSD and RAM upgrades...

... which, not coincidentally, is what every other PC maker does with their offerings.

PCs are cheaper than Macs, at what cost exactly? The user experience from these cheaper PCs flat out sucks. Combining significantly better internal parts with fail-quality screens, keyboards and such, then selling it for several benjamins cheaper, is not innovation. I want everyone, not just ASUS and Samsung, to not solely focus on the dollar sign every time they go out and make things better and cheaper than Apple, is that too much to ask for?

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