Apple Thunderbolt Display review: Apple Thunderbolt Display

Movies: We tested the Apple Thunderbolt Display using a number of 1080p movie trailers. As with previous incarnations of the display, we were impressed with the deep blacks the monitor achieved.

Color popped from the screen, and dark detail was visible in dark scenes, meaning that the monitor can hit those really low black levels in dark movie scenes without losing detail incorporated in them.

Games: When evaluating the look of games on a monitor, the two most important features to consider are vibrancy and color. If the monitor can display games with a bright and vibrant cleanness, this goes a long way. If colors can also pop with fullness and depth, games can usually look great.

Running at a resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels, Torchlight on the Apple Thunderbolt Display has a definite advantage in presentation; however, it's the fact that the monitor displayed colors in the game with nearly the perfect amount of saturation that really impressed us.

Also, we saw no evidence of streaking while playing, and character reaction to our button presses was quick, with no perceivable lag.

Viewing angle: The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually from directly in front, about a quarter of the screen's distance down from the top. At this angle, you're viewing colors as the manufacturer intended. Most monitors aren't designed to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on the monitor's panel type, picture quality at nonoptimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when not viewed from optimal angles.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display uses an IPS panel, so it has a wide viewing angle from all sides. Although its glossy screen equals a lot of reflections, this wasn't problematic unless the screen was in direct sunlight or when we were viewing a completely dark screen. Otherwise, we prefer the deeper perceived contrast when viewing movies and games on the glossy monitor.

Brightness (in cd/m2)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Contrast ratio
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Power consumption
Editors' note: All power consumption tests were conducted while not charging a MacBook.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display showed high power consumption, with a Default/On power draw of 106.05 watts, compared with the 93.72 watts drawn by the Dell UltraSharp U2711 in the same test.

In our Sleep/Standby test, the Thunderbolt Display used 13.7 watts and the U2711 pulled a lower 1.19 watts.

Based on our formula, the Thunderbolt Display would cost $41.17 per year to run, compared with the U2711's $28.78 per year.

Juice box
Apple Thunderbolt Display Average watts per hour
On (default luminance) 106.05
On (max luminance) 106.05
On (min luminance) 27.5
Sleep 13.7
Calibrated (200 cd/m2) 65.4
Annual power consumption cost $41.17
Score Poor

Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.

Service and support
Apple backs the Apple Thunderbolt Display with a one-year limited warranty that covers the backlight, but only includes 90 days of toll-free telephone support. With the purchase of a $249 AppleCare package, the warranty is extended to three years from the date of purchase, which seems almost like a necessity given the proprietary nature of the display. Compared with what you get from other monitor vendors, the duration and cost of support for the Thunderbolt display leaves a lot to be desired.

Conclusion
The lack of native PC support is still a disappointment. That said, the stellar performance and added connection features, including Ethernet and Thunderbolt, make it a powerful and functional monitor for users of Thunderbolt-enabled Macs.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Display Type LED-backlit LCD monitor / TFT active matrix
  • Interface Thunderbolt
  • Diagonal Size 27 in
  • Image Contrast Ratio 1000:1
  • Image Aspect Ratio 16:9
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