A research note from trusted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, issued to clients last Sunday, claims that Apple’s external monitor featuring 6K resolution is slated to arrive this year.

This note and Kuo’s reporting in general are based on supply chain chatter so take the prediction with a grain of salt, even if Kuo is by far the most accurate Apple analyst out there.

The monitor’s LCD panel will reportedly measure 31.6 inches diagonally. By comparison, the discontinued Thunderbolt Display featured a 27-inch LED-backlit LCD panel.

Apple’s first 6K display

Aside from featuring crisp 6K resolution, the display should adopt a Mini LED-like backlight design, resulting in “outstanding picture quality”, per Kuo’s research note via MacRumors.

Kuo describes the monitor as a “6K3K” display, suggesting about 6,000 pixels horizontally and 3,000 pixels vertically. Doing some math, 9to5Mac’s Jeff Benjamin thinks that it might actually rock a 16:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 6,400×3,600 pixels.

How’s so, you ask…

iMac Pro features a scaled 3,200-by-1,800 pixel resolution

“Apple already uses a scaled 3,200×1,800 resolution for its 5K iMac—a pixel-doubled ‘Retina’ iteration of 6,400×3,600,” he wrote. No matter how you look at it, that’s a big jump in resolution compared to the current 5K displays in the iMac line and LG’s UltraFine 5K display.

Jeff added:

An Apple 6K display with a 6,400×3,600 resolution would have 23,040,000 pixels versus just 14,745,600 pixels found in 5K displays with a 5,120×2,880 resolution. That suggests a 44% increase in usable resolution—a major win for creative professionals.

Here’s the prospective Apple 6K display versus nine native 1080p screens

A 6K display would have enough resolution to fit 9 different full-resolution 1080p videos inside with room to spare.

What is Mini LED-like backlight?

Jeff has more on that Mini LED design, too:

Essentially regions of the backlight can be turned on and off unlike current Mac displays where the whole backlight panel lights up evenly. If you turn a backlight off in a region you get an effect similar to true black OLED, resulting in enhanced contrast ratio. A Mini LED-like backlight design would be more precise, thinner and more energy-efficient.

A huge display

One thing is certain: Apple’s 6K display will be significantly larger than the 27-inch Thunderbolt Display that the company discontinued back in June of 2016.

Jeff illustrates the point by saying:

The 5K iMac and iMac Pro sport 27-inch display panels, but both machines feature substantial bezels and a large bottom chin. In fact, the entire front surface area of the 27-inch 5K iMac is less than 31.6-inches diagonal. That means that the display panel alone for Apple’s upcoming 6K monitor will be larger than the 5K iMac display, including its bezels.

And what about eyestrain?

The larger size display means larger pixels, which results in a display that packs in extra resolution, yet won’t cause needless eyestrain due to on-screen assets being so small. Essentially, the display size has been scaled up to compensate for increased resolution.

With the size and proposed native resolution in mind, the PPI of such a panel would rate slightly higher than Apple’s 5K iMac—226 vs 218 PPI.

A little bit of history

John Paczkowski claimed in a June 2016 report for BuzzFeed News that Apple was working on an external display with an integrated graphics card. That seemed highly unlikely given Mojave’s support for external GPUs via a dedicated Thunderbolt enclosure.

In October 2016, Apple exited the standalone display business to the dismay of the faithful fans and people who saw the discontinued Thunderbolt Display for what it was: a superbly engineered, nicely designed external monitor with great picture quality that happened to double as a Thunderbolt dock with USB, FireWire, Ethernet and other ports on the back.

ROUNDUP: The best USB-C monitors for MacBook and MacBook Pro

Seeing the backlash from the creative communities, the company later changed its mind and promised to build a high-end external display to satisfy the needs of its most-demanding customers. The firm is also working on a modular Mac Pro for a potential 2019 release.

What Apple said

Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller said in April 2017:

With regards to Mac Pro, we are in the process of what we call ‘completely rethinking that machine.’ We’re working on it. We have a team working hard on it right now, and we want to architect it so that we can keep it fresh with regular improvements.

We’re committed to making it our highest-end, high-throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding pro customers. 

As part of doing a new Mac Pro—it is, by definition, a modular system—we will be doing a pro display as well. Now you won’t see any of those products this year; we’re in the process of that. We think it’s really important to create something great for our pro customers who want a Mac Pro modular system, and that’ll take longer than this year to do. 

The following month brought the definite confirmation in the form of the following passage from the press release announcing iMac Pro updates:

In addition to the new iMac Pro, Apple is working on a completely redesigned, next-generation Mac Pro architected for pro customers who need the highest-end, high-throughput system in a modular design, as well as a new high-end pro display.

Summing it all up

The Mac maker currently recommends that Mac shoppers buy LG’s UltraFine 4K and 5K standalone monitors via its website.

We’re digging this Apple 6K display concept a lot!

Yet still, that doesn’t change the fact that Apple customers in the market for a standalone display who want to be fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem are now forced to consider third-party options—not just deep-pocketed creative professionals but anyone looking for a great Apple-branded display for their Mac, really.

Have you ever owned a Thunderbolt Display or some other Apple-branded eternal monitor? If so, how did you like it and would you consider a 6K standalone monitor from Apple?

Meet us in comments!

Apple display concept courtesy of Viktor Kadar for iMagazine