New panels from AU Optronics may hint at upcoming 4K Apple displays

iTV mockup (AllThingsD 004)

The new Mac Pro, which Apple first introduced at WWDC, is capable of driving up to 3 4K displays simultaneously. This is something the company has mentioned several times, leading to speculation that it has a 4K-flavored display on the way.

Although such a product hasn’t materialized yet, some new evidence has surfaced this week that could indicate it’s still on the way. Apparently, Apple supplier AUO is currently making 27-inch and 33-inch 4K thunderbolt-compatible display panels…

The news comes from Reddit of all places (via Cult of Mac). Here’s the post:

“AUO begins manufacturing of 27″ & 32” 3840×2160 (4k) AVHA, Extended DisplayPort (eDP) panels. Likely next-gen Apple displays. One variation of each size is a wide gamut (Adobe RGB), likely the variation to be used by Apple.

These are the first 4k (well QFHD/UHD) panels manufactured using DisplayPort signaling, which all Apple LCD displays use and is fully compatible with Thunderbolt without any additional signal processing. I’d expect these to release as the Apple Thunderbolt 2 displays along with the release of the new Mac Pro.”

It’s worth mentioning here that Apple uses LG panels in its current Thunderbolt Display. And although AU Optronics was a panel supplier for the original iPad mini, it’s believed Apple dropped them for second-gen mini production due to quality issues.

auo 4k panel listing

Still, the fact that AUO is making 4K panels using the embedded DisplayPort standard supported by Apple is a sign of hope. It proves that not only does the technology exist, but it’s capable of being produced in the mass quantities Apple would need.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like these panels are going to be available anytime soon. According to the above Panelook listing, although the new panels are “in production,” mass panel production isn’t scheduled until the first quarter of next year.

Apple has also been rumored to be working with suppliers on creating a 4K television set.