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2015 MacBook Air Can Drive 4K Displays at 60Hz

The recently refreshed 2015 MacBook Air can drive 4K external displays at a refresh rate of 60Hz, as confirmed by Ars Technica. The report claims that Intel's new Broadwell processors with integrated Intel HD Graphics 6000 support 4K output at 60Hz using a DisplayPort 1.2 cable, whereas previous-generation notebooks with Haswell processors were limited to lower resolutions at 30Hz.

MacBook Air
Apple's tech specs page for the new MacBook Air lists the notebook as capable of supporting one external display at up to 2,560×1,600 pixels, which clearly is not the case. Apple may be electing not to advertise 4K support for the new MacBook Air on purpose, however, as performance can still be somewhat laggy or jerky and the company has a shortlist of supported displays and configurations.
"Given that the Air is using one of Intel’s integrated GPUs, general OS X user interface performance isn’t too bad while driving the Air’s internal display alongside the 4K display. Dropped frames are clearly visible when entering into Full Screen mode or using Mission Control, and of course you’ll never want to try playing games or doing heavy 3D work at native resolution. But things are more than smooth enough for desktop use."
The new Thunderbolt 2 port included on the refreshed MacBook Air and MacBook Pro is compatible with the DisplayPort 1.2 spec, meaning that Single-Stream Transport is possible using one cable. Meanwhile, 4K over HDMI remains restricted to a 24Hz refresh rate due to the limitations of the current 1.4 spec. Multi-Stream Transport should also be possible using DisplayPort 1.2, although the number of displays will be limited and performance will likely be impacted.

Update: Apple has now updated its tech specs page for the new MacBook Air to note that it supports external displays up to 3840 by 2160.

Related Roundup: MacBook Air
Tags: DisplayPort, 4K displays, 60Hz
Buyer's Guide: MacBook Air (Don't Buy)


Top Rated Comments

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16 months ago
Thanks. How bout a new quad core mac mini i7 with a new 5k TB Display Please. :)
Rating: 9 Votes
16 months ago

It was the first thought that came to mind when it was announced that the MacBook had USB 3 type C. The larger pipe on USB 3 type C could both connect MacBook to an upcoming Apple retina display as a second screen and power it with just one cable.


No no no.

You're supposed to spew hate on the MacBook for not having all the ports of the MacBoo Pro Retina!! :p
Rating: 5 Votes
16 months ago

It was the first thought that came to mind when it was announced that the MacBook had USB 3 type C. The larger pipe on USB 3 type C could both connect MacBook to an upcoming Apple retina display as a second screen and power it with just one cable.


you're thinking the retina macbook. this article is about the macbook air, which i do not believe has a usb-c port.
Rating: 5 Votes
16 months ago

Thanks. How bout a new quad core mac mini i7 with a new 5k TB Display Please. :)


5K Cinema (TB) Display is not happening until a new TB standard with the next DP revision support is released via Skylake CPU coming later this year or early next year.

Either Apple releases a 4K monitor with (3840×2160 at 60Hz) spec that TB2/DP1.2 support or they wait until the CPU/GPU comes with the required ports.

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It was the first thought that came to mind when it was announced that the MacBook had USB 3 type C. The larger pipe on USB 3 type C could both connect MacBook to an upcoming Apple retina display as a second screen and power it with just one cable.


No, USB type C on Macbook does not have a wider "data" pipe. It is still limited to 5Gbps (USB 3.0 or as they now call it, USB 3.1 Gen1), and Retina 5K display is not going to fit 40Gbps+ worth of data down a 5Gbps pipe. Don't you think Apple would've released it by now with TB2 support that's much faster with 20Gbps?
Rating: 3 Votes
16 months ago
Not surprising... When the 2015 MacBook Air only has to drive a 2010 MacBook Air's display, it should have plenty of extra GPU power.

Upgrading the internal display would make too much sense and satisfy too many customers. :rolleyes:
Rating: 3 Votes
16 months ago
2015 MacBook Air Can "Drive" 4K Displays at 60Hz

So this is what all the rumors about an Apple Car were really about. :eek:
Rating: 3 Votes
16 months ago
iMac

Thanks. How bout a new quad core mac mini i7 with a new 5k TB Display Please. :)


you can get that in the iMac right now, i doubt the mac mini + TB display would be cheaper
Rating: 2 Votes
16 months ago

you can get that in the iMac right now, i doubt the mac mini + TB display would be cheaper


True, but I replace my computers every 2-3 years, but keep my displays for 10+ years.

I totally realize that right now 5K is not possible with a single connector. Two DisplayPorts would be needed to cover 5K @60Hz. In the future we'll get the bandwidth in a single cable, but not today.
Rating: 2 Votes
16 months ago

Thanks. How bout a new quad core mac mini i7 with a new 5k TB Display Please. :)


It took Apple 2+ years to release an inferior Mac Mini over the previous generation. I won't hold my breath that Apple will ever offer a value sub-$1000 PC that also has decent performance.
Rating: 2 Votes
16 months ago

Also, and more fundamentally, USB does not support the 20 gbps bandwidth required to drive a 4K display and there is not yet a specification for 20 gbps USB in the future. Maybe someday, but not in the next three years.


USB bus bandwidth isn't used for DisplayPort, when a USB Type-C to DisplayPort connector is used. It ought to be using some of the pins on the connector for a native DisplayPort signal. Bandwidth is limited by the DisplayPort 1.2 spec.
Rating: 2 Votes

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