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Apple's new Thunderbolt Display, not (quite) the same as the old Display

We take a look at some of the changes to Apple's new Thunderbolt Display compared with the previous released Cinema Display.

The back of the new Thunderbolt display features some new input additions. Apple

Apple unveiled its new Thunderbolt-enabled, 27-inch display today, aptly named Apple Thunderbolt Display. As CNET's resident monitor dude and having reviewed the Cinema Display, released last year, I was curious as to just what differences we can expect between the two monitors, beyond the inclusion of Thunderbolt, of course.

What's the same?
First, there are a few things that have carried over from the Cinema Display to its Thunderbolt counterpart. The display's basic chassis design seems to have been kept pretty much intact, with the same smooth aluminum finish, 20-degree back tilt, and wide "duck foot"-like foot stand.

According to Apple's tech specs, the new display retains the incredible-looking 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution and its In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel. The previous Cinema Display actually used a Horizontal-IPS panel, which has been known to have a slightly improved contrast over other IPS technologies. I can't see any reason for Apple to change this, unless the company has included an upgraded panel.

Also, both the power cord and Universal MagSafe cable are still built in as well as the camera on the top part of the bezel.

What's different?
Though, like the Cinema Display, the Thunderbolt model includes three USB 2.0-powered ports, that's where the similarities end. The Thunderbolt Display includes three additional ports.

The Cinema Display from last year has less functionality compared with the Thunderbolt Display. Josh Miller/CNET

Of course there's the new Thunderbolt port located right next to the USB inputs, but Apple has seen fit to also include a FireWire 800 port and most unexpectedly (and possibly welcome) is a Gigabit Ethernet port.

That's not something you see every day on a monitor, but it definitely has some potential uses. My hope is that it allows the display to function like Samsung's Central Station, which facilitates wireless connection to your desktop monitor from your laptop and then takes advantage of the monitor's wired network speed. Now, the Thunderbolt Display would likely require a direct connection to the MacBook for this to work, but it would still add a highly desirable a level of convenience.

Still, the aforementioned functionality has in no way been confirmed by Apple and right now it exists as one of my (many) ambitious fantasies. The Ethernet port will allow the Ethernet-free Macbook Air to get get a wired connection, however.

We'll find out soon enough. Apple says the Thunderbolt Display will start shipping in six to eight weeks. Be sure to check back for a full review at that time.

Monitor reviews can be easily accessed from the monitor hub.