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New Apple 27" Thunderbolt Display: First Impressions


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Apple sold me a newer Mac Mini (2011 Thunderbolt) and a Thunderbolt 27" Cinema Display. After I purchased both, I discovered that my order made in July would not ship until the middle of September for the Thunderbolt Display.

Finally, I replaced a perfectly wonderful new 27" Cinema Display with a newer 27" Thunderbolt Display. Differences? Big! The Thunderbolt Display has 800 Firewire port, 3 USB Ports, Thunderbolt Port, Ethernet Port. Great! I wanted to remove as many cables from the back of the newer Mac Mini as possible to keep everything simply simple.


I use 4 external OWC HDDs, all powered (no bus power) and connected by 800 firewire. I also use 1 external OWC (Samsung DVD Writer 22X) also connected by 800 firewire. USB connection from rear of Mac Mini to W4S Dac2.


The Thunderbolt Display was welcomed with yesterdays delivery (3 days earlier than promised, expedited shipment, perhaps because I spoke up and voiced my displeasure at the delay).


Returned my perfectly wonderful 27" Cinema Display to its original carton and installed the new Thunderbolt Display taking full advantage of all those ports in the rear of the display.


The configuration I chose was as follows:

Mac Mini (2011/8GB/i7, 2.7GHz/256 SSD:

The Thunderbolt display connected to back of Mac Mini's Thunderbolt port.

The W4S Dac2 to the back of Mac Mini in the outside USB port of the three.

The Harmon Kardon Sound Sticks 2.1 connected to the headphone port.

Power port obvious.


Thunderbolt Display (27" Cinema)

All 4 OWC External HDDs + DVD Writer (piggy backed to each other) connected to the single 800 Firewire port.

Promise Pegasus 12TB Raid 5 Array connected to Thunderbolt port on back of display.

Ethernet cable fro Airport Express to port on back of display.

USB stem Light in one of the 3 USB ports on the back of the display.

USB Belkin Hub in one of the 3 USB ports etc.

iPad2 dock in one of the 3 USB ports etc.


Turned on the system. Booted up. Beautiful display. I am thrilled with the simplified connections and the absence of those to the back of the Mac Mini.

Wait! Were's my Firewire connected components? Where is my Raid 5 array? About This Mac: Thunderbolt>Display shows>That's it! Port status: 0 connected.


Tech support resulted in asking to speak to a Supervisor (more experience) who I hoped understood more than the original provider of tech support. As hoped for, the supervisor and I worked well together. I wanted to make a record in case I was lucky enough to receive a defective Thunderbolt Display out of the box. Best way is to confer with Tech. Support.


Conclusion: After trouble shooting the configurations to determine what was amiss, we discovered that each port was working properly. However, certain combinations of peripherals connected at the same time caused a load that the display could not carry notwithstanding that peripheral connected was self powered (except the iPad2 dock).


I had to seat and reseat the Thunderbolt cable to the back of the display. Too finicky for my satisfaction, but the Promise Pegasus Raid 5 Array finally appeared (and disappeared, and appeared, and disappeared). So far I have had to reseat the cable three times. The Thunderbolt display might support one Thunderbolt HDD and one (1) HDD (self powered) and connected by 800 Firewire (once). The second test only one showed up. All the 800 firewire connected components had to be connected to the back of the Mac Mini (piggy-backed to each other without incident). The Pegasus array removed connected to the display. So too the ethernet which showed up in Air Utility. All the USB connections (2 out of 3 self powered) did not conflict. I did have to reseat the Thunderbolt cable. Worried about that.


Although I had updated the Mac Mini firmware last night and Thunderbolt Display (just offered) "update" which was not even in the Lion OS, I still had to go through a fairly unpleasant and tedious routine to discover what would work and what the limitations are. At least for my configuration.


If any of this long-winded description becomes useful for Others on the forum, I will be glad for that is what prompted me to describe my experience today in the first place. I will keep a close watch to determine if this Thunderbolt display is ready for prime time. My experience with the Mac Mini Thunderbolt edition also included conflicts with migration that was later "recognized" by Apple resulting in an update to correct the misery I went through even with 2nd Tier Tech Support. And before that with bluetooth problems that required a complete new Mac Mini 2011 (2010 version) replacement on the house.


The displays are beautiful. I know many prefer headless but I truly enjoy the carousel of cover art that displays what is playing and preempts those questions by answering them in advance. And the screen saver that shows a patch work of cover art that revolves into different arrangements is attractive to my eye if I remember to look that way.


That's it for now. Back to discovering what else to be mindful of, like Amarra 2.3 (avoided 2.31 because Sonic Studio provided excellent tech support and obviated the need for 2.31). Never a dull moment. And the pay-off is worth it.






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One other note for those in a similar situation to you. I have read that for some reason the thunderbolt/mini displayport port on the new thunderbolt display will NOT properly pass on the signal for a second video monitor to a normal displayport monitor. If that port, however, is connected to an additional thunderbolt device (say a HDD array) with its own daisy-chaining thunderbolt port, the second display WILL work correctly if connected to that.


In other words, if you were to plug your old cinema display (which I assume uses mini displayport as its connection), into your new thunderbolt display, you would not be able to configure it as a second display. Not a limitation of your mini but rather your new display. Some tech sites have been able to get a second displayport monitor working while daisy chaining through the new monitor, but only by chaining in another thunderbolt device between the monitors.


So the conclusion (IMO) is there are a few bugs to be worked out with this unit.


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Yes, I am aware of the 2nd display anomaly having read the piece in Macworld online, Brand B. And yes, as with most of what Apple is offering that is new, there are bugs which change the status quo and defeat many of the advantages which were a benefit that are now broken.


In my case, I do not plan to use my old new 27" Cinema Display for the moment. Probably will sell it along with the old new Mac Mini 2011 (2010 version).


What I am concerned about is the preparedness the ready for prime time and the extraordinary effort to make things work that are used as marketing pluses but are actually broken, changed (not necessarily for the better or at the very least different). The expectations that are based on these marketing platforms are an enormous disappointment. And, realistically, not unexpected in retrospect.


An example is the release of Amarra's 2.3 and problems with authorizations which tech support at Sonic Studios identify as occurring with a segment of their customer base. It took me seconds to discover this problem. What stopped them from addressing this in advance. A file was even absent to the surprise of their tech support person, who, incidentally, took very good care of me for which I am grateful.


The same with Apple including 2nd Tier tech support person who discovered problems with migrating from one Mac Mini to a newer one only a month or so newer yet would not allow migration of files via firewire.


My configuration is not arcane. It's about as simple as it can get. The problem seems to be how routine operations get broken, or are removed and the experience with brand new equipment under performing in certain respects.


What I imagined and what was delivered were two different experiences. One must get used to a sorting out process operationally for new equipment and change (as the constant).


In total, I am still way ahead and grateful for this. What can be anticipated is how things get sorted out, addressed and then the past is forgotten until the next short coming is discovered. It's a symbiotic relationship which provides me with far more than it doesn't.





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Hi Richard,


Sorry to hear about your connection troubles. I was wondering how well the breakout of multiple port types was going to actually work in practice daisy chained off of a single Thunderbolt port. Belkin showed a Thunderbolt hub at IDF last week and I was thinking again how it just seemed a little too good to be true. For yours and the rest of our sakes Richard, I hope that (contrary to the feedback you got from tech support) the issue is either some kind of unit specific defect or something with the 1.0 hardware. With any luck, the fix could come via firmware upgrade and solve the issue for you and anyone else.


I am expecting my own Thunderbolt Display that I plan on pairing with a future Mac Mini and occasionally with my Thunderbolt enabled MBA 11". If you don't mind, I have a completely different question. Given that we're all audio enthusiasts here, I was wondering what you thought of the sound quality from the speaker built into the display? Also, since you had the previous ACD, how would you say it compares? Thanks and best of luck!




I'm nerdy in the extreme. I'm whiter than sour cream...

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Jeff, how thoughtful of you in your response. Hoping firmware gets it right. Or improves the potential for connections. What surprised me was that none of those HDDs and DVD writer, and even the Belkin USB Hub draw power from the bus. They are all self-powered with transformers.


My excitement in unburdening all the connections to the back of the Mac Mini may be naive as those connections eventually arrive there. My hopeful expectation, unrealistic or otherwise, was that in some way connecting to the display might enhance my USB connection from the Mac Mini to my Dac as far as "non-interference".


On the plus side, it's very convenient to have those ports on the back of the display as my Mac Mini is underneath the display and the display is on top of a five shelf BDI stand housing all of my 2 channel equipment and the Promise Raid 5 array, except for my mono amps which are on their own amp stand. Kind of like a marquee showing what's playing in an artful way. Those who prefer headless, that's fine.


In answer to your question about using the display's speakers, of the times I played sound through the display speakers, as opposed to the Harmon Kardon Sound Sticks/Subwoofer 2.1, I would not recommend it other than as a very temporary solution until you create a more Hi-Fi sound presentation. In other words, you will hear sounds but I doubt you will find it adequate to truly enjoy the music. The Harmon Kardon external speakers are merely adequate. And though I thought I might use those 2.1 speakers more often, from time to time, I haven't as I am entralled (yes) with just turning everything on and playing music as I want to hear it through my main system. I leave my amps on all the time (recommended by Wyred) and I find that an advantage. I did have to suppress certain sound effects because hearing those sound effects that are related to computer operations are quite annoying and unpleasant as I have set the output in Audio Midi to my W4S Dac2. There was a time when I thought I could keep the sound effects limited to the display speakers. For example when I type in a snippet using TextExpander, there's an associated sound when TE expands the snippet. Coming through the display speakers is fine, it's a bit explosive through my music system. I imagine your question about sound quality concerns a temporary configuration. I'd rather hear music then not. So it will do until you find the right solution to match your tastes.


As to your second part, ACD, BTW: I used to practice criminal law (10 long years) and when I read the initials you wrote, my first thought went to "Acquittal in Contemplation of Dismissal", which I found humorous. Back to your question, I personally find the ACD marvelous! I know many have commented about glare. I am not at all bothered by that and the location of the display does not provoke the glare. The rendition of the visual is, IMO, excellent. I love the ACD. The only reason I replaced it was for the advantage of the variety of ports on the Thunderbolt version. The maximum resolution is the same. Another advantage is that the tethered cable from the back of the Thunderbolt display has only two (as opposed to three) branches: The Thunderbolt connector and the magsafe connector. Whereas the ACD has three including a USB connector which is handled by the Thunderbolt cable. Again, less connections.


One of my considerations in sharing my experience with installing the Thunderbolt display was to help others should they run into the same circumstance. It was really a let down to anticipate, install and then discover that critical connections were not taking place. And needing to call technical support to insure that I did not receive a brand new display that might be defective. I felt I needed to make a record (pardon the legal analogy) to protect myself and also to take advantage of competent trouble-shooting. As it turned out, the first tech. support person did not even know what a Promise Pegasus Raid 5 array was. She admitted this (it was obvious to me) and focused on USB connections which I had already verified was not a problem. After 25 years of computing, I no longer will tolerate an inexperienced tech support person confining me to his/her experience or lack of. I insisted on speaking to a supervisor so that a more experienced tech support person would be made available. So ACD or Thunderbolt display, they are both "beautiful to behold".


Hope this was useful. Feel free to ask me further if I have not provided you with relevant feedback.


I am happy for you in your anticipation of getting what you desire. Good fortune with everything.





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Given that you are one of the very first people to receive the ATD (I'll use this for Apple Thunderbolt Display) and probably one of the even fewer who has a Thunderbolt peripheral to daisy chain off of it, you may have been the first to uncover this. I think what we will likely see is either mention of this by others as the ATD gets in the hands of more users or, if not, the likelihood that your unit in particular has a problem. The challenge of course is that given the sheer size of the unit, swapping it out for another or taking it in to your local Apple Store (assuming you have one nearby) is no easy task. That's a personal preference as some users would seek to get hardware swap relief immediately while others would be willing to wait and see.


If you can live with the problem for now and if swapping the unit out is going to be a lot of trouble, I would wait and see if others mention similar troubles on the Apple Discussion forums or other user forums like Macrumors (the community there is pretty active). If you see others mention it, then you can be sure that a firmware fix or at worst a hardware fix will be coming down the road. My thinking here is that if there is a widespread issue, there's no likely guarantee that a hardware swap would fix it and the trouble of doing so on a unit like this is no easy task ast stated already. If you don't see anyone talking about similar problems over the next couple of weeks though, I would absolutely pursue a unit exchange.


I had an experience with something like this on my older 24" iMac (Core Duo) where I was one of the first to receive the custom build units with the upgraded video card. As best as I can recall (was something like 5 years ago), there was a problem whereby you would see video distortion or "tearing" onscreen under certain usage conditions. Tech support wasn't of much help as I thought they could be when I called as soon as it came up and reboots did not fix it. As it turned out, I soon saw others mention it in the Apple discussion forums and within something like a month, there was a firmware fix released that solved the issue. Since then, I've seen similar incidents (different technical specifics) come up with newly released Apple hardware and often, a firmware fix comes out to cure it. That's not always the case but my gut tells me that this might be one of those. Since I have one coming my way, I hope so.


Thanks for your feedback on the built-in speakers. I figured they would be very basic, but not able to produce the kind of sound anywhere near what folks on a forum like this would want or expect. I've actually had various speaker solutions over the year including those same Soundsticks (version 1). I've played around with, in home tested, or owned active desktop solutions from Bose, Klipsch, Audyssey, Focal, Harman Kardon, Altec Lansing, and B&W (to name a few). You could say that solutions like these and mini/shelf systems have always been an interest of mine. That being said, I've usually found greater satisfaction for dekstop use in a non all-in-one solution where I used separate components with passive speakers, most notably Dynaudio Focus 110s (and recently a very fun experience testing out some B&W PM1s). Still though, I will take a flyer on new systems here and there and likely will try out Focal's upcoming 2.0 XS Book and/or the 2.1 Bird system.


This ATD will be used in something that is neither my primary, secondary, or really even tertiary listening environment. As such, I don't need a top notch audio solution, and I was just curious. I'll likely put some other speaker solution there.


Thanks again for the feedback and I hope this all gets worked out.




I'm nerdy in the extreme. I'm whiter than sour cream...

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In Audio MIDI Set-up (or whatever it's called) you can route system alerts and the like to one audio output (like the Mini itself) and general audio, e.g., music, to a different one. In fact, I think this is the way Pure Music works when in hog mode.


I'm away from my computer and doing this from memory, but I'm pretty sure the gist is correct (if the details are not).


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Akapod, you are correct. In fact I was reading an article in the latest Stereophile where the reviewer of the Wavelength Proton specifically set sound effects to internal speakers which he claims improved the sound quality of this computer audio playing. Just passing his comments along.

Also, Jeff, I get that speakers contemplated for your up coming configuration are not a critical decision. Nevertheless, for the sake of sharing information, I read about Magnepan latest desktop 2.1 set up which pulled me right in. The $1899 (? or there about) price pulled me right out. The review was so favorable. I know that is not the price point or arrangement you are seeking.

I think I will contact Apple tomorrow and discuss with someone whether or not I need to exchange my new ATD because it is defective, or whether how I configured was not intended for those ports (piggy-backing multiple 800 firewire connected devices). Waiting an longer would be a mistake. In fact that is how my old new Mac Mini 2011 (2010 version) was replaced immediately with a brand new Mac Mini because the bluetooth radio was defective. A second tier (senior) tech support person had the authority to make that arrangement for me trouble-shooting the brand new Mac Mini over the phone. The replacement was not only brand new, it was trouble free.

Thank you both for responding with thoughtful suggestions, information and sharing.

Music for me is good medicine with miracle inducing results. I prescribe it for my clients (I am a life coach and couples relationship therapist).




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Having provided a narrative of my experience after taking delivery of my new Thunderbolt display, and in the interest of keeping this information accurate and timely, I am updating with the following: I decided to insure that the ports on my new display are functional and that the display is functioning properly and not defective as I am concerned about letting any time go by without advising Apple.


I had not succeeded in connecting various devices to all the ports and having them recognized by the OS. I removed one external OWC HDD connected by 800 firewire from the piggy-back chain and connected that drive directly to the 800 firewire port on the display. Fortunately, a connection was, in fact, accomplished with the 800 firewire cable and external hard drive which is self powered by a transformer (rather than bus power). With that successful connection, I now know that each port on the back of the Thunderbolt display is operational: USB/800 Firewire/Thunderbolt/Ethernet.


I have now confirmed that a device can be connected to each of the ports at the same time without negative consequences. I have not investigated whether or not self-power is essential; what the threshold is for the number or kind of devices or the number of piggy-backed devices that can be connected to a display port. That remains to be determined. At present, I am not prepared to mess with what is now working.


And I decided against adding (piggy-back) a second external device by 800 firewire to determine if that is feasible or what the threshold is for overloading the Thunderbolt port. For me, it's enough that the ports for each service are functional. The remaining 4 external devices are piggy-backed to each other with a 800 firewire cables and to the port on the back of the Mac Mini. There are no problems with that connection.


Again thank you all for the support expressed in your posts and for prompting me to insure the new display is in working order. I would have under the circumstances but it's nice to feel the support. And I am thoroughly enjoying the TB display and its functionality. As for future iterations of the firmware for the display, I shall be on the lookout.


Would I recommend this display? Yes! the availability of the Thunderbolt port for the future is so useful as to give the advantage to the TB display. If TB port is not essential, the 27" Cinema Display is excellent (despite issues of glare).





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As a prospective owner of a New Apple 27" Thunderbolt Display with Promise Pegasus 6TB Raid 5 Array, looked in the manual for the Pegasus and it states there to go from computer to Pegasus to Display, of course all with Thunderbolt cables.

Then add other peripherals to the display.

I wonder if this would help with your problems, as stated I will be getting same.





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Alan, Thank you for your support. Your suggested configuration was the one I used initially to connect the Promise Pegasus (which arrived months before the Thunderbolt display) to the port on the back of the newer Mac Mini/2011TB. I connected my "non TB" 27" Cinema Display to the 2nd port on the back of the Pegasus.


When the TB display arrived last Friday, the Apple TB Display manual recommends connecting the TB display's TB cable to the TB port on the back of the Mac Mini. It further recommends connecting the Pegasus to the TB port on the back of the display. That may explain the extra length for the TB cable ($49 from Apple). I matched the configuration recommended in Apple's TB Display Manual so that configuration matched Apple's recommendation should tech support or Apple Care inquire of me. And, I am sure your suggestion would work as well. What the difference might be, eludes me. My guess is that it is not critical. And Apple may have a reason for recommending that configuration. I merely complied for that reason.


To date all the ports on the back of the TB display and the devices connected to those ports are functioning without incident. And every device connected to the back of the Mac Mini/2011TB is functioning correctly. There are no issues with the 800 firewire devices piggy-backed and connected to the port on the back of the Mac Mini. I use all the USB ports on the back of the display. The only USB cable plugged into the back of the Mac Mini is the cable to the W4S Dac2.


The combination of Apple's SSD/8GB/i7, 2.7GHz/Thunderbolt Display/TB ports/Promise Pegasus 12TB Raid 5 array is stunning in performance. Conversions using Max (i.e., from Flac to AIFF) are lightning fast as are those CD/hybrid SACD rips from hard copy to AIFF using XLD, or DVD-A/DVD-Video using DVDAE. Backups using SuperDuper are also much, much faster. Even Time Machine (yes, I have it activated without interference) backups are faster though there's not a lot to backup that changes day-to-day.


If I sound extremely satisfied now that the kinks are unkinked (I think, pun, rhyme not intended), it's because well, I am extremely satisfied.


Thank you again, all, for your support.





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First, thanks for the indirect suggestion regarding expedited sipping. My order, which was placed in late July, hasn't shipped yet. So, I called to inquire about the status and, without even having to ask, I was upgraded to expedited shipping at no extra charge. Not bad at all. :)


As for the "Mini Maggies", I did see those as well as the write up by Steve Guttenberg on Inner Fidelity. The combination does indeed look interesting and I may check them out at my local dealer when they come in. I don't know if I want to do larger desktop satellites and a woofer (though certainly Maggie scores points for thinness :) ), but they probably do make for a pretty killer desktop system.




I'm nerdy in the extreme. I'm whiter than sour cream...

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In case you hadn't already seen: there is a firmware update for Apple's Thunderbolt monitor.






...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Aye, aye, Audio_Elf. May I say I love your "handle". It makes me laugh inside in the nicest way imaging what an Audio Elf might be about.

Yes, I, for one, am aware of both the Thunderbolt display update and the latest update for the Mac Mini 2011. I updated both before installing my new TB Display. Thank you for the attention.

(I am still chuckling when I think about your "handle".


Just Richard


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Whoa? I just clicked on software update and lo and behold the Thunderbolt update that was supposed to be installed last Saturday had not been installed. I had to download the installer and complete the installation. An icon remains in the Utilities folder inside the Application folder. I also noticed that the EFI firmware for the Mac Mini was an incomplete icon that had not or seems had not fully installed and is described in a dialogue box as corrupted or unavailable. Perhaps, it's time to re-download that update (accomplished last Saturday). This is the first time in 3 years that this has ever happened, i.e., an Apple Software update was corrupted or not completely installed. I was standing there when I first updated and did not (or did not know I had not) completed the full installation because it did its usual thing without "complaining". Not good! Over the years I am noticing a lapse in reliability about some things that have caused me much pain, time trying to fix and time on the phone helping them try to fix.

Still, it's pretty good from where I am standing.




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Received my Thunderbolt display and all is working well. I applied the firmware update and didn't run into any issues. One bummer was that while it works just fine with my latest gen 11" MBA, it IS NOT COMPATIBLE with my previous gen MBA 13" with Mini DisplayPort. I was expecting video only (and not support for the FaceTime Camera, speakers, data ports, etc), but even that does not work. That kind of sucks, but oh well. I would guess that an adapter may be made available at some point by a 3rd party.




I'm nerdy in the extreme. I'm whiter than sour cream...

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For me it was the other way around, my new Mac Mini TB (2011) arrived over a month before the TB display which arrived on September 16th. Fortunately, my 27" Cinema Display's cable when connected to the TB port on the back of the Mac Mini worked without incident. The reverse, from your experience, does not work. And, was there a piece about plugging the mini-display cable into a TB device as the last in the chain and that configuration does work for a Cinema display with mini-display connector.

Perhaps, this is not useful for you in the moment. Congratulations on the occasion of your TB Display. The advantages we're positioning ourselves is for the future which is growing nearer.

I am ambivalent for I love new technology but don't like chasing it, yet, somethings are worth the expense. I imagine that, at least for me, I am set for a long time unless something so compelling grabs my impulse to indulge. I could always go for counseling or join a group. Nah!




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