Apple’s desktop monitors can typically be described in just three words: big, stylish, and expensive.
The Thunderbolt Display still ticks two of those boxes. With 27 inches of glossy edge-to-edge glass wrapped in an aluminium skin, it’s a beautiful behemoth.
But this time around there’s a bevy of features which tamp ‘expensive’ down to merely ‘costlyâ€. (After all, being a kanga shy of $1,200 isn’t cheap by any measure).
Using the Intel-designed Thunderbolt connector technology, Apple has cleverly turned its flagship desktop screen into a notebook docking station bristling with the features your laptop lacks.
That’s especially true if you’re running a MacBook Air, which has just two USB ports and relies on Wi-Fi for internet access.
Hook up the Thunderbolt Display and you’ve suddenly got a superfast Gigabit Ethernet socket to deliver consistently high-speed internet rather than the vagaries of wireless.
You’ve also got a surprisingly crisp 2.1 speaker system â€“ meaning left, right and a small sub-woofer for respectable bass â€“ and an inbuilt webcam for video chat sessions.
There are also three additional USB jacks, all powered so they can recharge your iDevice, which like the other ports are tucked neatly out of sight on the rear panel.
It’s all accomplished with just one Thunderbolt cable running from your MacBook Air into the monitor, instead of a half-dozen cables snaking their way across your desk.
That also removes the bother of unplugging all those cables before you take your MacBook on the move, and reconnecting them all when back at your desk.
The only other cable running into your laptop is an AC lead with Apple’s MagSafe connector so the battery remains topped up. The bonus here? Keep the MacBook’s AC adaptor stashed in your laptop bag so you’ll never accidentally set off without it.
The widescreen high-def display itself is stunningly sharp, although the gloss surface will catch bothersome reflections from bright light overhead or streaming through a window.
And the 27-inch panel is a massive usability upgrade for your MacBook Air â€“ you’re suddenly facing a screen so big it needs its own postcode.
Add a cordless keyboard and mouse and you’ve got desktop comforts without cutting back on ultrabook convenience.
That said, Apple could have rounded out the roster with an audio jack for headphones or a Skype-style headset and doubled the number of USB ports.
Your printer, external drive and keyboard/mouse combo will fill the display’s three ports in a flash, so don’t bin your desktop USB hub just yet.