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27" Apple Thunderbolt Display: earliest Thunderbolt Macs? Do they support Tiger/Classic?

Trash80toHP_Mini

NIGHT STALKER
Been playing with the 27" Thunderbolt Display I found sitting next to the recycling dumpster of my apartment complex. Given its placement, I'm guessing it's probably in working order, if outdated and cranky about input. It charges the RAM lacking MBP someone at work gave me, so that's a very good sign.

So what machine from the compatible Thunderbolt era should I be looking for to drive it, once tested? Does any machine of that era support Tiger/Classic Mode?
 

LaPorta

Well-known member
Quick research reveals that it needs 10.6.8, bare minimum, which would preclude any use of Classic. Being released in 2011, that would make it only compatible with Intel-based Macs.
 

Trash80toHP_Mini

NIGHT STALKER
I figured that would be the answer. So I need a machine old enough to support the display, but it would seem none would run an OS supported by KiCAD IIRC? So, offhand, no Classic and no KiCAD would leave only Final Cut Studio as a use case for myself?

Too bad, looks like a current-ish 1440p display would be the way to go for my specific needs. However, the only suitable Display I've found with preset mode for columned 1920x1200 output from QuickSilver or MDD would be the Dell UltraSharp U2713H, discontinued and rare. It's amazing, I had one from eBay that was working for about 15 minutes in that mode on the QS02 and its native resolution from the HP Notebook before it died.
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
So I need a machine old enough to support the display, but it would seem none would run an OS supported by KiCAD IIRC?

No, you need a machine *new* enough to run the display. I'm reasonably sure that a brand-new ARM Mac can run that display with the Thunderbolt 2-to-3 adapter Apple sells for $50. (Which is kind of highway robbery, but that's neither here nor there.) The *floor* is 2011-era machines. So...

From that other thread you said you have a 2011 Macbook Pro that you're hoping *may* be possible to resurrect? Looks like the last version of MacOS that runs on a 2011 is 10.13? You should be able to run the builds of 5.1 not specifically tagged with "10_14" available here. It's not ideal to be stuck on an older version but 5.1 should still be good for a while. Obviously it sucks being stuck with such an out-of-date OS, though.

As much as it pains me to suggest this I wonder what your prospects for installing Windows 10 on that laptop would be, if you can actually get it to work. 2011-era machines still support "Bootcamp", right? Linux might also be a possibility. I guess if I had it lying around that's probably the angle I'd attack it from because, yeah, it's just not a practical MacOS "daily driver".

(Or you could install Virtualbox or something on top of whatever the best MacOS you can get on it instead of going bare metal and run Linux or Windows on that. Kicad runs on either and would be perfectly happy; you'd just be burning a fair amount of overhead.)
 

Trash80toHP_Mini

NIGHT STALKER
Nice, thanks, Eudi.! I'll install some RAM in the MBP and see if it gets to the {?} stage when I get a chance. This thing is not quite as heavy as a big CRT, but it's more compact to store. 😬
 

Cory5412

Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
It's worth noting that it's going to be easy to spend more money on supplemental equipment to drive this monitor than you would on a brand new display (which won't have ~10-12 years on the clock). This will become more and more true the more hacks you do to try to make it work. Someone in one of your previous threads about this display mentioned the Mac Pro 5,1 and some PC-brand ThunderBolt "cards" for example, which will cost you more in time alone than a brand new decent 27" display.

If you want a monitor to run on a PowerPC Mac or on an OS 9 computer, just go buy a 24-inch 1920x1200 business LCD like the Dell U2412M. (But there's literally hundreds of models in this segment, they're essentially fungible so don't stress buying a specific year's sub-model too hard.)

If you're looking for a "modern Mac" (whether to use with this display or just in general) honestly your money's best spent on an M1 Mac. Most Intel Macs that cost less than M1s do are outperformed thoroughly by the M1 and are at the tail end of their lifespans, whereas an M1 will be at the start of its service life.

I make the "haha a 2011 Mac is older than a Quadra was when we started the MLA" comparison a lot but a thing that's different is that new Macs tend to cost a bit less today than they did in 2001/2002, and because we're at the start of a Platform Transition, you get a lot for your "cheapest available Mac, slowest that will ever exist on the new platform" dollar.

So what machine from the compatible Thunderbolt era should I be looking for to drive it, once tested?
For the ThunderBolt display (not the LED Cinema, they're different monitors even though they look identical) 2011 and newer is the absolute minimum, and for all intents and purposes, ONLY computers with Thunderbolt can do it.

All Macs 2011 and newer minus the Mac Pro 5,1 and the 2015-17 12-inch MacBooks can do this, but there's also lots of PC hardware with ThunderBolt and the display should work with the TB2<>TB3 adapter. Minimum OS for that era will be 10.6 for the 2011 Macs, 10.7 for the 2012s, so-on and so-forth.

Absolutely nothing from the PPC era will drive this monitor, owing mainly to incompatible interfaces. (Midrange G5 graphics will happily output 2560x1440 to dual-link DVI, provided you have a good enough cable and your monitor supports that input, which not all modern 27s do, so you have to consult the spec sheets.)

As much as it pains me to suggest this I wonder what your prospects for installing Windows 10 on that laptop would be, if you can actually get it to work. 2011-era machines still support "Bootcamp", right?

I can confirm this works well, Windows 10 supports that machine well and it works fine, even without toying too much with BootCamp drivers, although if you decide to bother with that you can probably get some more mileage out of it as a portable machine, some better functionality of the function keys on the top row, the trackpad'll likely work better, etc etc.

In general, as a "modern computer" - Windows or Linux is the best way forward for these machines, which are rapidly approaching twelve years old.

That said: the 2011 Macs also run Catalina fine with the dosdude1 patcher, although we are now to the point where 2015 Macs are absolutely plummeting so if you're (anyone) hard up for a modern Mac, consider just buying a 2015 or newer. (Though: Catalina only has one more year of security updates, and I don't know how well OpenCore patched Big Sur or Monterey work on these almost-twelve-year-old machines.)

You can buy newer Macs, but the problem is that 2015 MacBook Pros (just as one example) are still fetching 400-600 and by the time you're paying $600 for a 7 year old computer with a 9 year old processor in it, you may as well consider budgeting $900 for a MacBook Air (they're on sale regularly) and getting a machine up front with ~8-10 years of life in it. Also, since you're workshopping using it with a 27-inch display, it's worth mentioning the M1 Mac mini - you can get an M1 mac mini for $600.

2014 Mac minis may be worth looking at, those can run the nwest OS (because Apple sold them into mid-2018 or so) and you can get midrange 2014 mini configs for ~200 (2.6 i5 8/256). The base 1.4GHz 4/500 config will probably cost a lot less and you can swap the hard disk for an SSD to offset the low RAM.

The 2012s have more internal flexibility but I'd say skip them (again, in the context of wanting a "modern" mac) because they've already seen their newest official OS version They'll run Big Sur and probably Monterey fine with patchers, but it's annoying to do. You can get the '14 with 16 gigs of RAM and dual storage if that's an important config.

Though, again, there's PCs with thunderbolt too.
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
It's worth noting that it's going to be easy to spend more money on supplemental equipment to drive this monitor than you would on a brand new display (which won't have ~10-12 years on the clock). This will become more and more true the more hacks you do to try to make it work. Someone in one of your previous threads about this display mentioned the Mac Pro 5,1 and some PC-brand ThunderBolt "cards" for example, which will cost you more in time alone than a brand new decent 27" display.

Frankly before spending any money I'd say priority #1 is finding someone with a modern enough Mac to drive it that'll let you borrow it for a few minutes to, yeah, see if this is worth your time at all.

I will say that if the monitor works and is undamaged it may well outclass, well, at least the cheapest 1440 LCDs you could just snag on Amazon; it's an IPS display with LED backlighting so it should hopefully of aged reasonably gracefully. (In my experience LCDs from around 2005 or earlier usually just don't compare well with modern ones no matter how well they've been preserved, but after that you get into the area where a "Mercedes Benz" model from long ago can beat a modern "Kia".) Said cheapest Amazon LCDs start around $230, so if you spend less than that the monitor *could* be worth the hassle but... yeah, it'd suck to spend the money only to find out that the LCD has a big splat in the middle where someone bounced an office toy off it, or that it was used (abused) as a lobby announcement board or something and has serious burn-in. (You have to go out of your way pretty bad to burn in an IPS LCD, but it is *possible*. Being on 24x7 for 10 years could also significantly affect the screen brightness; again, unlikely, but possible.)

If you want a monitor to run on a PowerPC Mac or on an OS 9 computer, just go buy a 24-inch 1920x1200 business LCD like the Dell U2412M. (But there's literally hundreds of models in this segment, they're essentially fungible so don't stress buying a specific year's sub-model too hard.)

Or, honestly, skip the 120 pixels off the bottom and just use any old 1080P monitor. They're so ubiquitous you can get one for free if you watch any given street corner long enough. If you were down the street I'd pitch a spare one at you right now.

(I know, not perfect, I prefer 1920x1200 myself, but it's also not the end of the world. The pen display/tablet thing I use on my Windows 10 machine is 1080P, so to make the most of it I just put the Start bar on the left side instead of the bottom. Problem mostly solved.)

If you're looking for a "modern Mac" (whether to use with this display or just in general) honestly your money's best spent on an M1 Mac. Most Intel Macs that cost less than M1s do are outperformed thoroughly by the M1 and are at the tail end of their lifespans, whereas an M1 will be at the start of its service life.

I have one major reservation about M1 Macs that I'll mention below, but since it mostly applies to used Intel Macs as well I'll second this advice. Even taking the falling prices into account I just can't consider *any* used Intel Mac a worthwhile investment unless you specifically have an x86 dependency and are looking for just another couple years of cushion before sucking down the migration pain. The price delta just isn't wide enough.

Absolutely nothing from the PPC era will drive this monitor, owing mainly to incompatible interfaces. (Midrange G5 graphics will happily output 2560x1440 to dual-link DVI, provided you have a good enough cable and your monitor supports that input, which not all modern 27s do, so you have to consult the spec sheets.)

FWIW, just doing a quick random browse it looks like dual-link DVI is truly dead on new monitors. At least I couldn't find any 1440p monitors (up to at least the $600 price point) that still had it. If you really want this big on a single screen on a PPC machine you'll probably be looking at used screens. And if you're doing that forget 27" screens, get a 2560x1600 30", either an Apple Cinema display if you can snag one for cheap enough (the pain of using these on newer machines does seem to be killing their resale value) or one of the similarly sized Dells or whatnot (The U3011 is schweet) that has a DisplayPort input in addition to DVI, therefore making it still relevant.

That said: the 2011 Macs also run Catalina fine with the dosdude1 patcher, although we are now to the point where 2015 Macs are absolutely plummeting so if you're (anyone) hard up for a modern Mac, consider just buying a 2015 or newer. (Though: Catalina only has one more year of security updates, and I don't know how well OpenCore patched Big Sur or Monterey work on these almost-twelve-year-old machines.)

The page for that says the performance is atrocious without video acceleration, which will effectively be turned off on a 2011 MacBook Pro regardless of whether the accessory GPU works or not, but I guess if you've used it and it feels okay you know better than I do.

To ruminate a little more on the "Used Intel vs. M1" equation, I guess my position would be that if I were comparing a used Monterey-supported Intel Mac with 16GB of RAM to an M1 with 8GB (I'm assuming the Intel is one with soldered down RAM to make it fair) then I would have a really hard time going with the M1, but that's about the only situation where I'd lean Intel...

(Or maybe to put it another way, I would *not* buy an 8GB M1 Mac. Full stop. But I wouldn't buy an 8GB machine for Windows or Linux either.)

... but even then I think the solution, unless I really desperately needed it *now*, would be to wait until another couple hundred bucks find their way into my "saving for a new computer" sock, not to buy the Intel Mac.

Though, again, there's PCs with thunderbolt too.

Thunderbolt seems like it's still a hopelessly confusing mess on PCs, especially desktops. It's built into some higher-end laptops, and I guess if I had such a laptop already and had an Apple Thunderbolt display fall into my hands I'd try it out, but I mostly say that only because I already have one of those Apple TB2-to-3 dongles and nothing better to do with it.(*) But I would never wade into that *just* to try driving an old monitor, that is *definitely* where just buying a new monitor with modern connectivity makes gobs more sense and may well save money.

(* I got it a couple "PC Refresh" cycles ago when I went from a 2015 to 2018 MacBook Pro so I could use Target Disk mode for data transfer. And henceforth it was utterly useless because it didn't support Displayport.)
 

Cory5412

Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
I agree on all counts w/re monitors. An Apple 27, even at a decade old, probably is better or nicer than a new $230 monoprice display.

However, I don't know that I think the Apple display is worth spending more than the cost of the monoprice display unless you pretty specifically want ot have a Mac.


Intel vs. M1 is a really interesting nerd problem right now. I could write aimlessly about different considerations for literally hours on end.

I think the biggest things are going to be "how much money can you budget up front", "when do you need a computer" and "how long do you want the computer to last" (presuming you want a computer with an OS that runs current software and is receiving current security updates.) Not to mention things like "does this machine have the capacity for what you want to do"

Presuming your use case is within its capabilities, an M1 bought today has probably ~8-10 of "gets security patches and runs current software" service left in it.

w/re 8GB of RAM: I think Computer Nerds have a tendency to massively over-estimate what other people need, based on their own habits and patterns. For my part, I suspect we're ~3-5 years away from 8GB being truly insufficient for "normal people". Though, if you want.

I also won't buy another 8-gig machine for myself, but that's because my next laptop is likely going to be in ~3-5 years from today and I'm going to want 5+ years out of it at that time.

That said: Macs are meaningfully worse at this. IME my Windows machines hover around ~4-6 gigs of RAM used on my laptops and 8-12 gigs used on my desktops. My work Mac laptop is hovering around 12-14 gigs used and I use it for way fewer things than my desktop. (Basically the same thing has been true since like 2002: Mac OS X will thank you for every single byte of RAM you can give it.)

With an eye toward "using a single machine for a long time" - a 16/512 M1 Mac mini is $1099 which if you run it for a decade is $3.06/mo (pre-tax).
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
w/re 8GB of RAM: I think Computer Nerds have a tendency to massively over-estimate what other people need, based on their own habits and patterns. For my part, I suspect we're ~3-5 years away from 8GB being truly insufficient for "normal people".

If we were talking about Windows I might agree that 8GB is "fine" for "normal people", but for MacOS I just can't. My 16GB work laptop gets weird sometimes with just a web browser, Pycharm, and WebEx running. I mean, sure, if you're using your Mac as an expensive ChromeBook just to poke at the web (and don't open too many tabs) an 8GB M1 is probably "fine" in the same sense that a 4GB Windows tablet is "fine", but considering the amount of RAM is an irrevocable decision you make when you buy the machine... no. Maybe if you were a corporate or educational purchaser buying terminals for other people that you know will be depreciated on a two or three year schedule, but for a personal purchase I would go to the mat arguing that spending the money for the larger RAM size is non-negotiable.

(A too-small SSD at least has some workarounds.)
 

kitsunesoba

Well-known member
One caveat with older 2560x1600 displays like the U3011 or Cinema Display is that the CCFL backlighting might be getting tired depending on how much usage they've seen, which can give them yellow tint or reduce their brightness. I've had this happen on at least one 2008-era laptop LCD. So depending on one's needs, it might make sense to swap out their backlighting for one of those LED kits, which should extend the display's life significantly and reduce the amount of heat it produces. It's probably easier to do that on the Dell display than on the Apple one.
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
CFFL aging is definitely a concern, but FWIW the U3011 that’s been my daily driver for almost 10 years still looks fine. (My Apple Cinema 30” also looks surprisingly great, but I do know it’s lower mileage than the U3011 is.) I suspect it has a beefier lighting system than your average laptop.
 

CC_333

Well-known member
I've been daily driving a 23" Cinema HD Display for awhile now (while I know neither its precise age nor how hard it was used, it's at least 13 years old, since it was discontinued in late 2008), and while it's not quite as perfect as even my MD101LL/A's display (which is LED-backlit and at least 11 years newer), I find that it nevertheless looks quite good for its age, and I enjoy using it.

I have another one that I suspect was used harder, since it has a kind of ugly greenish yellow tint to it at its default settings. However, as long as I can calibrate it out, that doesn't bother me much.

EDIT: I almost forgot the 20" Cinema Display, which is about 12 years old, that I bought new along with my Early 2008 Mac Pro, and it was my daily driver display through at least 2017 or so. Since I never used it particularly hard, it was still going strong and looked just about like new (save for one scratch) when I packed it away, so I suspect I could probably get many more years out of it if I wanted to.

That being said, I think Apple's desktop LCDs have been some of the highest quality ones I've used, so perhaps that's why ones with light to moderate usage still look so good?

Also, in case there's any confusion: the LED Cimema Display and the Thunderbolt Display both use LED backlighting, so they will probably last a good long while.

c
 

kitsunesoba

Well-known member
Apple's displays have indeed been top notch for me, which is why I wish they'd start making displays aimed at more normal budgets again. The XDR display is nice but I'm not about to drop that much on a monitor. It really sucks though because a consistent thread with displays from other companies is that they suffer similar problems as non-Apple laptops, with some aspect or another being really bad, like problems with backlight consistency or lack of brightness (to this day, many 2560x1440 displays don't get bright enough to be usable in a well-naturally-lit room, which seems nuts to me).

That said, one problem I've encountered repeatedly with the displays in iMacs is dust getting in between the panel layers and causing visual dark/discolored splotches in the picture. I've encountered this on both a 2009 27" iMac and 2017 iMac Pro, which both had otherwise beautiful displays. I hope the forthcoming chassis redesign for the 27" M-series iMacs finally fixes that.
 
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