Apple Thunderbolt Display Review

In my experience as a solo attorney, Apple products work better, last longer, and generally provide fewer headaches than the alternatives.

Of course, Apple prices don’t always fit into the budget of solo attorney.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display carries a hefty pricetag, but it is an exceptional monitor and worth every penny.

What I like about the monitor

First and foremost, this is a gorgeous screen. The natural display¬†2560 by 1440 pixels. In layman’s terms: that’s a lot. Everything—and I mean everything—is crystal clear. Because of the almost-too-ginormous size, you can easily put two full documents next to each other, and you still have lots of left over real estate. If you like to use dual monitors, do yourself s favor and replace them both with this one.

Apple alleges it has crystal clear viewing from any angle—or 178 degrees of viewability. That means if someone is sitting slightly to side (like a client), they can see the display almost as if they were sitting in front of it. 178 degrees seems like a stretch, but you certainly do not have to look at the screen dead on to get a nice view.

Besides the gorgeous display, my real motivation for purchasing this monitor was the Thunderbolt connection. This monitor was designed to make it easy for laptop users to connect to a monitor with only one cable. My peripherals (printer, scanner, backup drive) all plug into the monitor through USB. Same thing with internet connectivity through an ethernet jack on the back. And all the ports are powered—so it provides the juice to your connected devices.

When I bring in my Macbook Pro in the morning, I only need to plug in one cable—the Thunderbolt cable. It runs everything into one cable, which is awesome if you are a laptop user. The monitor also has a MagSafe connector as well to power your laptop. So when I come in, it takes five seconds to plug in those two cables and I am off and running from my laptop. It’s really that easy and it works incredibly well.

The alternative is plugging (and unplugging) each peripheral when you come and go. That’s not the end of the world, but it’s just so much easier with this monitor.

It also has a built in camera and speaker system with subwoofer. The camera is a standard Apple FaceTime camera, and the speakers aren’t bottom the barrel by any means. They are 49 watts and also have a built in subwoofer to give the bass a little kick.

What I don’t like about the monitor

I have two gripes with the actual monitor—but I would call them fairly minor. One, the monitor could use more connectivity ports. There are only three USB ports (and USB 2.0 at that), along with a Thunderbolt port, an ethernet port, and a FireWire port. Another two USB ports would really help. You can always make a daisy chain, but that can get unsightly. Inexplicably, the monitor lacks an audio out, so if you want to connect speakers, you have to connect to your laptop. That’s really annoying.

For someone like me, who has a very particular musical ear, I want/need better speakers. Having to fumble around with an extra cable is really a bummer (although it takes an extra five seconds).

My last gripe is not about the monitor, but the price. Brand new, these monitors retail at $999.00. I bought mine refurbished for $850, which is still a lot of money for just a monitor. If you are an Apple person, you can buy an iMac for around the same price.

Who should buy this monitor

If you have a newer Macbook Air or Macbook Pro with Thunderbolt connectivity and can stomach the price, this monitor is awesome. It makes it a breeze to jack in and be running in less than a minute. The screen is gorgeous and it works extremely well.

Be forewarned though, Thunderbolt is not backwards compatible with anything. So if your laptop is not fairly new, it probably will not work with this monitor.

Score

Apple Thunderbolt Display

Reviewed by Randall Ryder on .

Summary: The Apple Thunderbolt Display is an exceptional monitor for anyone who wants to connect with a Macbook Air or Macbook Pro.

Overall score: 4.5 (out of 5)

  • John Gambill

    I just hooked up my refurbished Thunderbolt Display to my MBA this morning and I could not love it more. My biggest grip was that my Aug 2012 MBA has the Magsafe 2 connector and is not compatible with the original magsafe connectors (as well as the price). However, a quick Google search turned up the Magsafe to Magsafe 2 adapter that is available for $10 at the Apple store.

    Overall, I love it. The ethernet port is great for me because the lack of one on my MBA does not work so well in my office where the wireless signal is somewhat weak. There was no shortage of comments around the PC office I’m working in re: the newly installed Thunderbolt display.

    • NCBrian

      Just to follow up on John’s post, the TBD now ships with that little $10 adapter…

  • tom

    Two alternatives to your audio cable annoyance:
    1) Use an Airport Express. You can tell it to connect as a client to your existing router wirelessly (instead of acting like a router itself) or use ethernet. Either way, it lets you stream audio to your speakers without a cable at all — and with the router functions disabled, won’t interfere with your existing network. You might need an older version of Airport Utility (v5.5), which can be found on Apple’s site. The older, “wall-brick” Airport Express model on refurb is $69 these days and highly worth it.
    2) Another option, if you can spare an extra USB port on your new display is to add a small USB-audio device as an additional audio output. You can then have the speakers plugged in all the time. It’ll probably run you $25-30 is all. In the past I used a small, simple device from Turtle Beach.

  • NCBrian

    outstanding article!