Two years ago, in my article Why Retina Isn’t Enough, we argued that Apple wouldn’t call an iMac Retina-worthy until it boasted a display capable of at least a 5120 x 2880 resolution.
How time flies. Now, Dell has just announced the first 5120 x 2880 ‘5K’ monitor. And that means similar panels could be coming soon to a 27-inch Retina iMac near you.
Anandtech has a good write up of Dell’s new $2,500 display, noting that it comes in at 218 PPI. Remember, according to Apple, anything over 200 pixels per inch on a laptop is Retina.
The only problem with Dell’s new monitor? It’s so high resolution, there aren’t many computers that can even run it.
Clearly this panel is aimed more at workflow than gaming. This is almost double 4K resolution in terms of pixels, and 4K can already bring down the majority of graphics cards to their knees, but we would imagine that the content producer and prosumer would be the intended market.
Overcast and Instapaper developer Marco Arment says that this means that the only computer in Apple’s current line-up that could even drive Dell’s monitor is a Mac Pro.
A single Thunderbolt 2 bus doesn’t have enough bandwidth. It needs to use multiple cables plugged into two separate buses, meaning the only Mac today that it could even work with is the current Mac Pro. You’d need to plug it into only certain port combinations to have it span two buses, and we don’t actually have any idea if the GPUs and OS X would treat it properly.
For me, this implies that while the monitor technology is there, we’re going to need to wait for silicon to catch up before we see a Retina 27-inch iMac. The Retina iMac could still be a year or two out of reach. But Arment is more hopeful: “If Dell can ship a panel like this, so can others. And maybe a 27” Retina iMac at $2999 isn’t out of the question for this winter.”
Time will tell, but either way, if you have a Mac Pro and $2,500 to spare, you can put one together now.