If you purchased Apple’s new fifteen-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display and Force Touch trackpad, congratulate yourself as you’re the proud owner of Apple’s very first notebook capable of driving external displays in glorious 5K resolution.
The new 15-inch MacBook Pro also support single-stream 4K screens at a 4,096-by-2,160 display resolution at 60Hz, another first for Apple.
According to an updated Apple support document which details using 4K displays and Ultra HD TVs with Macs, Dell’s dual-cable UP2715K 27-inch 5K display is officially supported on the new MacBook Pro.
Some displays with resolutions higher than 4K, such as the aforesaid Dell monitor, require two DisplayPort cables for the full resolution. Aside from the Dell screen, Apple does not support other 5K monitors yet.
The OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 software update originally enabled support for 5K display resolutions on the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display and the 2013 Mac Pro, but now the new MacBook Pro can drive 4K and 5K monitors as well.
Earlier MacBook models supported 4K resolution at 3,840-by-2,160 pixels at 60Hz. But thanks to the 80 percent faster AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics inside the new 15-inch MacBook Pro, that machine is now capable of driving 4K monitors at a full resolution of 4,096-by-2,160 pixels at 60Hz, in addition to 5K screens via a dual-cable DisplayPort setup.
Dual-cable setup is needed because of high bandwidth requirements imposed by the 5K resolution. Keep in mind that dual-cable 5K monitor setup takes up two Thunderbolt ports on the notebook.
If you’re wondering why Apple hasn’t updated its 27-inch Thunderbolt Display with 5K support yet, blame it on Intel. The upcoming Intel Skylake platform will support the latest DisplayPort 1.3 standard which was designed to drive 5K resolutions over a single cable.
However, the Skylake platform is still a few months away, meaning a 5K upgrade for the present-generation Thunderbolt Display is likely due in fall.