Tuesday, 09 May 2017 11:45

Why the Apple LED Cinema Display doesn't work with a Thunderbolt 3 adapter

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Ross Mclauchlan writes in with a display problem:

I recently purchased a MacBook Pro and have an Apple LED Cinema Display, and am perplexed that I can’t get the display to work.

Ross is using an Apple Thunderbolt 2 to 3 adapter, but the trouble is the Apple LED Cinema Display models don’t use Thunderbolt 2. We’ve written about this before but it’s truly non-obvious, even when you’re paying close attention.


DisplayPort connector symbol (left); Thunderbolt 2 (right)

The LED Cinema Display series relies on DisplayPort for both the physical connection and the logical one—the way in which video is encoded as data and sent across the physical wiring. The Mini-DisplayPort connector is identical to a Thunderbolt 2 in appearance, except for a tiny logo. The Mini-DisplayPort logo that appears on a cable jack and an adapter port looks like a monitor holding its hands up in surrender (a rectangle with a vertical line on either side). Thunderbolt 2 jacks and ports have a lightning bolt. (Ironically, Apple’s Lightning standard doesn’t use a lightning bolt.)

Plugging a Mini-DisplayPort monitor’s jack into a Thunderbolt 2 port on a Mac or at the end of a chain of Thunderbolt 2 devices was supported through clever backwards compatibility that fails with Thunderbolt 3, including a Thunderbolt 2 to 3 adapter.

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SPEEDEE spends his day searching the internet for the information you need to better use your Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and all else Apple.

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