Apple’s new Thunderbolt Display is a $999 game changer. A single Thunderbolt cable at one end becomes three powered USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, one gigabit Ethernet port, and one Thunderbolt port on the reverse side of a gorgeous 27 inch LED cinema display. Its built-in universal MagSafe cable provides up to 85 watts of power for charging your MacBook. Its integrated DisplayPort technology allows you to daisy chain up to two Thunderbolt Displays off of a single Thunderbolt connection. The Thunderbolt Display is Apple’s first attempt at a laptop dock since the DuoDock was discontinued in July of 95. With it you can leave all of your peripherals at home and reconnect them to your laptop at the end of the day with a single cable. A Thunderbolt Display is more than an outstanding high-resolution monitor, it will change the way you use your computer.
If I sat down with Apple’s Thunderbolt Display earlier I would have never bought a 13 inch MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook Air. I compromised and got the Pro because it was the lightest laptop available with all of the ports my job required. With a MacBook Air and a Thunderbolt Display I could have had the lightest Mac ever made, with all of the ports I need, and zero compromises. The Thunderbolt Display lets you have the best of both worlds. A fully connected large screen desktop, and a ultra-portable laptop for the price of a high-end MacBook Pro. Unless you require the portable performance of a quad core MacBook Pro a Thunderbolt Display combined with a MacBook Air is a better value.
I could go on and on about the Thunderbolt Display’s color saturation, contrast, and viewing angle, but let’s just say that like all of Apple’s recent cinema displays the Thunderbolt Display is perfect. At 2560 by 1440 it may be missing the vertical resolution of the 1600 pixel tall 30 inch Cinema display, but 160 pixels is easily ignored on displays this size. For people who do not like glossy computer monitors the Thunderbolt Display may be a problem, but unlike the portable display of a MacBook Pro you can always control the surrounding lighting in your own home. The Thunderbolt Display’s vertical viewing angle is adjustable, and although it does not rotate, its foot pivots effortlessly on most surfaces. If there is anything this display is missing it is the opportunity for better speakers, and the option for an easily accessible headphone jack. For podcasting, and video conferencing you will want to use an external mic to go along with the Thunderbolt Display’s built-in FaceTime HD camera. If you are looking for perfect picture, in an aluminum and glass display made to match your Apple portable there is no substitute.
Thunderbolt’s introduction promised exciting possibilities for the future of computer expansion, but it wasn’t until the arrival of the Thunderbolt Display that many of those promises were realized. A high-resolution display, combined with on board connectivity, carried over a single impossibly fast serial connection is only the beginning. Thunderbolt takes PCI Express outside of our computers and makes external graphics cards and lightening fast storage possible. You never know, the next Thunderbolt Display might include more than just ports. It may boost the graphics performance or add to the internal storage of your MacBook Air. Thunderbolt’s extensibility more than graphics performance, storage space, or CPU speed is going to change the way we use our Macs for the better.