Rumor: next Thunderbolt Display could pack an integrated GPU

As I noted yesterday, a revamped Apple Thunderbolt Display could be announced at the upcoming Worldwide Developer Conference. If not then, almost certainly whenever new MacBook Pros are introduced (probably in August). A new rumor says the displays could include an integrated GPU.

A GPU, or graphics processing unit, is a single-chip processor that creates lighting effects and transforms objects every time a 3D scene is redrawn. These are mathematically-intensive tasks, which otherwise, would put quite a strain on the central processing unit (CPU).  Removing this burden from the CPU frees up cycles that can be used for other tasks.

According to 9to5Mac, the next gen Thunderbolt Display will feature a 5K resolution display of 5120×2880 pixels (as does the iMac with 5K Retina Display) and will integrate a dedicated external GPU into the display itself.

“Due to the immense graphics needs required to push 5K worth of pixels, normal super high-resolution displays require connected computers to include significantly powerful GPUs,” says 9to5Mac. “As Apple wants to keep making MacBooks as thin and light as possible, which typically cannot include powerful GPUs by nature, the company has been exploring ways to introduce a 5K display that can be relevant with a wider Mac lineup — it wants to be able to release thin and light MacBooks and MacBook Pros that all work with its 5K external display.”

The article adds that technology within OS X upgrades will enable the process to “happen seamlessly and automatically.”

Chances that this rumor is true (IMHO): 90%. I think Apple will announce the display and the OS X upgrade at WWDC. However, the display won’t be available until new MacBook Pros arrive — and that could be anytime from now until October.