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Dell has announced that they're going to release a 4k monitor under $1000 in the beginning of 2014, and also has a 24" 4k monitor around $1300. The product page for the 24" one mentions:

Optimal resolution:
3840 x 21601 at 60 Hz (DP1.2*)
3840 x 21601 at 30 Hz HDMI

The superscript 1 displays this warning:

Important Details
In order to display the 3840 x 2160 native resolution, please ensure the graphic card and its drivers used on the PC/Laptop is capable of supporting resolutions up to 3840 x 2160 at 60Hz via DisplayPort connectivity.

So the question is: Can the video card and Thunderbolt ports on a 2013 Macbook Air 13" support resolutions up to 3840 x 2160 at 60Hz via DisplayPort connectivity?

The EveryMac page for this model says it may be able to drive two daisy-chained 2560x1600 Thunderbolt monitors, and this ars report claims that two TB monitors was possible on the 2012 models. So, I'm hopeful that the laptop should be able to drive that many pixels, but I'm not sure whether the Thunderbolt ports, in mini-DP mode, speak the DP1.2 standard necessary to drive this monitor at 60Hz.

  • Incidentally, I think there should be a "4k" tag for this question, but that tag doesn't exist yet and I don't have enough rep on this site to create it. – Evan Krall Dec 28 '13 at 5:47
  • There's your tag. Regarding the question, I think that the MBA 2013 has Thunderbolt 1 and you need thunderbolt 2 to drive 4k, but I'm not sure yet. – Martin Marconcini Dec 28 '13 at 8:22
  • I really doubt you need Thunderbolt 2 for 4k. I'm sure 10 Gbps is more than enough. 4k isn't all that radical of a jump. – user10355 Dec 28 '13 at 11:52
  • This question is very similar, but does not have an accepted answer, and also doesn't really talk about 4k. – Evan Krall Dec 29 '13 at 22:02
  • 1
    There is a discussion about that on apple.com which mentions that the graphics chip on Macbook Air mid 2013 should theoretically handle 4K but this option seems disabled. – therealmarv Jan 8 '14 at 17:01
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No, it won't support it. The Thunderbolt 1 controller in the Air only supports DisplayPort 1.1 and you need DisplayPort 1.2 to get 4K support, as you mention in your question.

Check out http://www.anandtech.com/show/7049/intel-thunderbolt-2-everything-you-need-to-know and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbolt_(interface)#Thunderbolt_2

2

No. Thunderbolt 2 is required.

What is Thunderbolt 2?

Thunderbolt 2 is an update to the original Thunderbolt specification and takes the original’s two 10 Gbps bi-directional channels and combines them into a single 20 Gbps bi-directional channel. The amount of data able to go through a Thunderbolt connection hasn’t increased, but the throughput of a single channel has been doubled.

What does Thunderbolt 2 have to do with 4K video?

4K video (a video format that has four times the resolution as 1080p and is gaining popularity with video professionals) requires more bandwidth than the original Thunderbolt can accommodate. Thunderbolt 2 will be able to stream that 4K video and write it to disk at the same time.

Excerpt from this MacWorld Article

2

It might be able to.

According to http://www.anandtech.com/show/7007/intels-haswell-an-htpc-perspective:

Haswell does have 4K display support and we will have a dedicated section to see how well it works.

The whole section that they're talking about:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7007/intels-haswell-an-htpc-perspective/7

A quote:

The good news is that Haswell's 4K over HDMI works well, in a limited sort of way.

So, maybe it will, maybe it won't, since mid-2013 and early-2014 MacBook Air only has mini-DisplayPort, so, you're adding the uncertainty of a rubbish adapter into the already fragile mix.

It would be nice if someone actually tries it extensively, and reports with some more certain results.


UPDATE 0:

According to http://www.redsharknews.com/technology/item/1646-editor-hacks-2011-macbook-air-to-output-4k from 2014-04, it looks like even 2011 MacBook Air may be able to support 4K resolution, albeit only at 25Hz and with some reliability issues, and 2011 had HD Graphics 3000, as per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacBook_Air#Specifications, whereas mid-2013 and early-2014 have HD Graphics 5000 from a Haswell CPU.


UPDATE 1:

Additionally, there is a report of a 2012 MacBook Air, which has merely HD Graphics 4000, supporting a 4K Seiki -- http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1681560. So, I'd say chances are very good that a mid-2013 MacBook Air wouldn't have much problems with 3840x2160@30Hz, either.

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Nope. 4K just isn't possible for owners of MacBook Air made in 2013 or 2014. The problem is with the Intel HD5000 graphics card and Mac OS – and there is no amount of fiddling, EDID goofing, SwitchResX playing, or wishful hoping that makes this work under Mac OS.

I decided to keep the Seiki and use it @4K under Windows (which works fine). It's a software issue. I also tried the patches on the internet (for Mac OS) and multiple different firmware updates for the display, but to no avail. Alas!

  • Interesting, so the hardware is actually capable of driving 4k at 30Hz, as long as you're in Windows? – Evan Krall Nov 12 '14 at 6:51
  • (I guess my original question asks about 60Hz, but that's not much of a concern on the Seiki monitors.) – Evan Krall Nov 12 '14 at 6:54
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I just tried with the 4k Seiki and my Macbook Air 2013 with an Accell B-86B-008B adapter. The tv picks up the signal at the correct resolution, however it looks like there's a problem specific to the graphics driver for the Intel HD 5000 display adapter that causes half of the screen to get corrupted.

This was done following the instructions listed here: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3633447. After doing this I ran into the problem described here: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1646972.

From what I can tell there doesn't seem to be a solution to this as of now. Others report this working on old Macbook Airs and mac minis so I think its specific to the MBA 2013.

0

2013 MacBook Air update:

I have a 2013 MacBook Air, the 39" Seiki 4k tv, and the Accell MDP-to-HDMI active adapter.

I have tried flashing 3 different firmware to the tv (39" version, 50" version, and a special version I found online that was hacked for 1080p @ 120Hz). I have tried both the HDMI cable that came with the tv as well as a top of the line HDMI 1.4 cable. I have tried this in HDMI-1 input and HDMI-3 input (the side).

Nothing worked, so I downloaded SwitchResX and tried to make some custom profiles. I cannot get it to work with the 2013 MacBook Air, but it seems to work fine under windows.

This leads me to believe that the Accell adapter, the Seiki tv, the HDMI cable, and the HDMI port are not part of the problem. I think the solution would be one of the following:

1) Apple issues an update and the HD 5000 graphics card will be able to use 4k.

2) Seiki releases a firmware update and then it'll work.

3) Someone that knows a lot more than I do has figured out a setting within SwitchResX to make this work. I'm tinkering, but I have no idea what I'm doing.

After a week, I am putting this tv on Craigslist for a couple hundred bucks, then regretting that I sold my Thunderbolt Display just to get a 1080p monitor :(

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