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I'm curious if my new machine will support (for example) 3840x2400 retina-quality external monitor in additional to the built-in screen or whether that will exceed the capacity of the video card.

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From the Tech Specs page over at Apple:

13":

Dual display and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on up to two external displays, at millions of colors

15":

Dual display and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on up to two external displays, at millions of colors

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I don't have any direct experience with this so YMMV, but some research suggests that the maximum supported total resolution of Thunderbolt is 3840 x 2400 WQUXGA @ 60Hz.

In regards to the graphics card question, it is unlikely your graphics card will be substantially stressed unless you are pushing a videogame. Working in the UI and document editing should be fine.

Reference

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Thanks @da4! Apple have updated that page now:

HDMI video output

  • Support for 1080p resolution at up to 60Hz
  • Support for 3840-by-2160 resolution at 30Hz
  • Support for 4096-by-2160 resolution at 24Hz

So I can have one external 4k monitor at 30Hz - certainly good enough for programming.

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