Apple Reportedly Planning 5K Display with Built-In GPU

Apple Reportedly Planning 5K Display with Built-In GPU

With 5K iMacs running around, the next obvious choice for a display resulting upgrade is the Thunderbolt display. Those screens currently top out at 4K but a 5K upgrade seems likely. In order to get around a technical barrier, Apple is reportedly planning to use an internal GPU in the monitor to drive the display.

The issue stems from the lack of a proper transport interface to carry the 5K signal. Thunderbolt 2 only carries Display Port 1.2 which doesn’t carry enough bandwidth to support 5K and Thunderbolt 3 isn’t any better. According to rumours, the remaining option and the one Apple will use is to have an internal GPU for the monitor.

Such a configuration would use Thunderbolt 2 or 3 to pass the video stream along. After likely encoding at the source GPU, it would be transmitted over the cable then decided by the built-in GPU and displayed. The advent of GPU encoding has pretty much made this performance free. The other possibility is that connecting to a 5K display would turn off the source GPU and instead, the host system would control the monitor GPU using the PCIe lanes in Thunderbolt. While this would incur a slight performance penalty, most Mac GPUs aren’t fast enough to be impacted.

These options would get around the limitations of dealing with Thunderbolt as it stands right now. Of course, using Display Port 1.3 would resolve the issue but that would require an extra port on Macs at a time when Apple is trying cut out as many as possible.

The use of an internal GPU raises the spectre of quick obsoleteness as that GPU can’t be upgraded. However, Apple isn’t really concerned with this and it doesn’t seem like their users are either given the current Mac landscape. Furthermore, in the first scenario, the internal GPU likely only has to decode the video stream and won’t hold back future performance. Either way, it looks like a 5K display wouldn’t be that hard to implement. Of course, the extra GPU would raise the cost a bit. Would you consider getting a display with an internal GPU?

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