The new 2015 MacBook Air will support 60HZ 4K displays as Apple moves deeper into ultra HD

by on March 25, 2015

Stephan Jukic – March 25, 2015

First there was the A8 chip in the latest iPhone 6, capable of supporting 4K resolution even though the phone itself has only a Full HD screen, then came rumors of Apple TV moving toward 4K content and after that Apple’s release of its new iMac with a native 5K Retina monitor display and now Apple takes its laptops into the same ultra HD resolution zone, but indirectly.

It turns out that the new, MacBook Air 2015 edition can support monitors with a resolution of up to 4K at a full-blown 60Hz of refresh rate. Officially, Apple is claiming that the MacBook was designed only for external monitor support at 2K resolutions of up to 2560 x 1600 pixels but recent tests have confirmed the capability for full 4K support.

The tests, conducted by people at the tech site Ars Technica, were done between the Air laptops and a Dell P2415Q 24 inch 4K ultra HD display and when attached to the external UHD monitor, the MacBook, correctly identified the attached monitor at 4K resolution and switched the user interface into HiDPI mode automatically.

Refresh rate tests also conducted during the hookup of the two devices also confirmed that the external monitor was running at a cool 60Hz and without problems since its interface components were doing just fine and smoothly enough for normal desktop use at the full UHD resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.

Dell's Dell P2415Q 4K UHD monitor, with which the MacBook Air's 4K capacity was tested

Dell’s Dell P2415Q 4K UHD monitor, with which the MacBook Air’s 4K capacity was tested

According to Ars, however, there were some problems with getting the MacBook to perform some animation-intensive activities on the external monitor. These included entering full-screen mode on something with high intensity animated movement. In this case, the Dell screen showed what was claimed to be “clearly visible” frame lag, indicating that the MacBook’s Intel HD 6000 graphics card was being pushed to its limits on this test.

The limit of the graphics card then also got exceeded when the testers used the MacBook OS X’s built-in resolution scaling features. In this case, the integrated GPU turned animations on the external screen into the equivalent of flip books thanks to the intensity of the lag on frame rates. Even scrolling suffered here.

The interesting thing in all of this is that the MacBook Air’s tech specifications page doesn’t even list 4K compatibility. This despite the fact that Apple’s own 4K display support documentation lists it as a machine that can indeed handle ultra HD at 4K levels at 24 to 30Hz. And now Ars Technica has also chipped in with a test that proves not only support at 30Hz but even at 60Hz, albeit with some limitations.

Apple, among laptop manufacturers is still behind other less regarded competitors due to its notebooks not being built with their own 4K screens, despite them being easily capable of handling the resolution, as this test underscores. Thus far, several other manufacturers including Acer, Toshiba and Asus have released ultra HD laptops.

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