Is the ThunderBolt Display worth the money?
I love my 13" non-retina MacBook pro and I'm curious if the the Thunderbolt display is worth the money. I don't care about the glare as I will be looking out a window so the sun won't reflect on it. I produce music and an extra display would be of huge help. My concern is, is it reliable? I really don't care about height adjustment or anything but is it a quality-built monitor that will last a while? I have a 19" Dell Monitor but its having problems and I would like to upgrade to something better. I am also a school student and I guess it could help with research papers and such.
- Asked by Jesse H from Clarence Center
- Flag as inappropriate (Is the ThunderBolt Display worth the money?)
12 Answers from the Community
I'm in the very same situation as you.
The Apple Thunderbolt Display is a very capable display, but it's starting to show it's age unfortunately.
The USB Ports are 2.0 (not 3.0), it uses the old generation Thunderbolt ports (not Thunderbolt 2) and has considerably more glare/reflection than the new iMac screens.
For the premium price that Apple charges, I would wait for an update.
- Answered by Vlado K from Leura
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 1
I am in agreement with the answer left by Vlado K from Leura. The display, though worth every penny when I got it when it was originally released (Fall 2011) is not worth this premium today, IMO. If it was about 25% to 40% less, yes. But not the full cost for what is essentially a 3 year old display.
I just ordered a new display from a competitor, a 30" Monoprice Display for a little more than half this cost (but with higher resolution). While I don't believe Apple has abandoned the display market, waiting over two years to update their only display offering is just inexcusable. This should have gotten an update last fall, when the new tapered-edge iMacs were introduced, updating not only the case but also updating the ports (USB3), magsafe, etc.
At least while everyone was waiting for the new Mac Pro there were other Mac choices to work with. Apple gave us one display and forgot the whole division existed.
- Answered by Ralph F from Alexander
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 2
LITERALLY UNUSABLE if you have a Macbook Pro. Works for 15 minutes-30 minutes then the graphic card gets overloaded (my educated guess anyway because no one at the genius bar has been able to help in the least). At the "overload" point any video and audio becomes choppy to the point of utter frustration. Unplug the thunderbolt display and suddenly the problem disappears. The Thunderbolt display should have it's own graphics processor but alas it seems most of the 1k you spend on it goes into aesthetics.
- Answered by Glen C from Brooklyn
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 3
If you're looking for a good quality monitor it's a good purchase. As a docking station, however, it doesn't support USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt 2 so you'd be buying yesterday's connectivity at today's prices.
(If you want it, buy through the "certified refurbished" section of the Apple website and save about $200. I wouldn't pay full retail for this display given the age of its design)
- Answered by Corl L from Rocklin
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 4
You can definitely get a similar display for less money. And as a student, that's what I'd recommend. Especially since this is an old model. If it had Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0 connectivity, then it would be worth it. But if you just need a display, save your money and shop elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of apple products, but I don't have an unlimited budget...
- Answered by Brian B from Glendale
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 5
I bought this as a monitor / docking station for my Macbook Air back in 2012. for the past three years, it has definitely been worth the money. However, this is 2015 and now there are other option on the market that support thunderbolt 2, have more resolution etc.
However, in summary, it is still working GREAT for me and I have no plans of replacing it anytime soon.
- Answered by Elias F from Lehi
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 6
Not until they update it to USB3, no way!
- Answered by Nick W
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 7
I don't really think it would be good to buy it because it didn't have the upgrade for a while and with the non-IPS as well as a different screen to the 27in imac I wouldn't think its worth it.
- Answered by Yuehong Y from Princeton Junction
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 8
I have been using the TBD since it came out. I unfortunately received a bad unit and had to send it in to get the logic board replaced under warranty. Since then the display has been the best display I've ever had until I purchased the 5k retina iMac. Also the functionality as a USB hub is very useful. When the display isn't hooked up to a computer all the USB ports are powered so I can recharge my iPhone, iPad, and other mobile devices. And it seems to charge everything a little faster than the original chargers that come with the Apple devices. I have since brought the TBD to my automotive workshop after I purchased the 5K iMac for my home office and use it for additional workspace on my MBP 17". I did a side by side comparison with 5K iMac and for most applications the TBD looks just as good as the 5K iMac. Now there are instances where the 5K display exceeds in performance but not by much and you have to really get close to the screen. So we know it's an excellent display with a hefty price tag but is it worth the money? I would have to say "Yes it is!". The only situation where I wouldn't buy this as my primary display would be if I needed a computer along with a display. In that situation I would just by the 27in iMac because I needed a computer as well. I have never really seen another display with same quality of color, resolution, and aesthetics outside of iMacs. I use my mac at work to pull paint formulas for automotive application. Normally the color of the paint on the screen is nowhere close to the actual color on the car but on the TBD it is very, very close. No other display I've used before has been able to match real world paint. Also the TBD looks really cool an makes all day computing a pleasure. I really felt iffy on buying a display that costs more than decent computers but after years of usage, I don't regret it one bit. I'm actually looking to see if I can find a clean used one online for additional workspace for my 5K iMac.
- Answered by Jong L from Lincolnwood
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 9
I bought my ThunderBolt Display two years ago to go along with my MacMini. The bottom line? I am very glad that I did. I gained a reliable, versatile and truly beautiful asset to my home network. The built in features (FaceTime camera, Thunderbolt port, etc.) made it an ideal, upscale companion to the comparatively trim MacMini.
Insofar as picture quality is concerned, I would rank it right up there alongside my Samsung 55" UHD television. It is fundamentally impossible to compare the ThunderBolt Display to any Dell monitor in existence. The two units are simply not in the same class. Should your educational path lean towards fine arts, graphic arts, web design or any course of study that demands attention to detail and clarity; you cannot go wrong with the Apple display. As for research papers... Well, it might not help you write any better but it will be much easier on your eyes as the hours of composition mount.
So, in case you couldn't tell, I heartily recommend this piece of hardware. Is it expensive? Perhaps. It does carry a higher price tag than other widescreen computer displays. I can honestly say, however, that this monitor is one purchase that I don't think you will regret any time soon. I know that I don't. Some things are simply worth every penny, in my opinion. My MacBook Pro and iPad Air are certainly examples of things that were to me. So will the ThunderBolt Display be to you.
Written on my iPad Air
Go, Hillary! 45th POTUS 2017 - 2025
- Answered by Christopher F from Metairie
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 10
I bought my screen as a refurbished model from Apple. I use it with my 2013 MacBook Pro Retina and I love that 27 inches of space. For me it was definitely worth the reduced price. If I saw another refurbished model I might buy it again! But at full price I would wait for a newer model. At first I was disappointed with only USB 2 on the display but I only use that for peripherals that don't need high speed. I plug my exterior backup drives into the USB 3 on the MB pro. I also can use the FireWire with my older hard drives which is handy. So overall the only better screen if the iMac 5k. But if you see a refurbished Thunderbolt Display - get it! I barely use the laptop screen at home anymore because the Thunderbolt Display is just do big and beautiful.
- Answered by Joseph P N from Fresno
- Flag as inappropriate Answer 11
- Answered by Dave R
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