Apple building support for driving 4K displays at ‘Retina’ resolution, 60Hz output from 2013 MacBook Pros


4K display running at “Retina” resolution on 10.9.3

Earlier today, Apple provided developers with the first beta for the upcoming release of OS X Mavericks version 10.9.3. Apple did not disclose any new features coming in 10.9.3, but we have discovered that the update includes notable enhancements for users with Macs connected to 4K-resolution monitors. With 10.9.3, Mac users can now natively set their 4K monitors to run the Mac operating system at a pixel-doubled “Retina” resolution.

The new settings, which appear nearly identical to the settings on a standard Retina MacBook Pro display, can be seen here on a 10.9.3 Mac connected to a 4K monitor:


Our tests connected a late-2013 MacBook Pro with Retina display to a 4K Seiki monitor over HDMI. Running OS X pixel-doubled on a 4K display means content is much sharper than before. It is the same as running a Retina MacBook Pro at standard Retina resolution or as using a Retina iPhone or iPad. The screen pushes double the resolution in the same amount of space in order to provide the user with sharper graphics.


Before this update, users with Macs connected to a 4K display would simply experience their content on a larger scale with window elements spread out. Macs on 4K displays essentially were given ~4000 lines of room to accomplish their tasks. Prior to this 10.9.3 beta, users have solely been able to run their Macs at a Retina/pixel-doubled resolution using unofficial hacks.

The same computer running 10.9.2 and connected to the same 4K display provides the following options in display settings:


In addition to the changes for running Macs pixel-doubled on 4K screens, multiple users are reporting that 10.9.3 has unlocked the late-2013 Retina MacBook Pro to be capable of driving 4K Macs with a refresh rate of 60Hz. We cannot (yet) independently verify the 60Hz support claims with our in-house hardware. Previously, compatible Macs were curiously solely able to drive 4K screens at 60Hz via the Windows operating system.

On Apple’s website, the company notes that the current Retina MacBook Pro can only drive 4K displays at either 24Hz or 30Hz over HDMI:

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 7.22.07 PM

As 10.9.3 indicates, this will likely soon change. As for the Mac Pro, that computer does currently support 60Hz output over the display port, but setup is more complicated than just working with Apple’s display settings. It would seem that 10.9.3 will make that 60Hz setup process simpler for Mac Pro users as well. 60Hz support makes the computer and display feel much smoother in comparison to 30Hz or 24Hz setups.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 7.30.39 PM

Apple building in improved 4K display settings and support for driving 4K screens at 60Hz could indicate that the Cupertino company is nearing the launch of a high-resolution external monitor. Sources say that Apple has been developing 4K, high-resolution large standalone displays and iMacs. With these new settings and Tim Cook’s claims of “big plans” for this year, perhaps an Apple-built 4K display to take advantage of the latest hardware and software is on tap for 2014.

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  1. mikhailt - 9 years ago

    Awesome. I hope I still have a good job in two years to save for a new rMBP along with a 4K Apple Cinema or a cheaper Dell 4K panel.

  2. Thomas Müller-Thurgau - 9 years ago

    Does it work now with Dell UP3214Q @ 60Hz?

    • Thomas Petrach - 9 years ago

      Yes it works on 1920×1080 but only @30Hz

      • John Turner - 9 years ago

        Thomas, do you have a Dell UP3214Q that you’re testing a Macbook Pro using DisplayPort 1.2 and OS X 10.9.3? This should work at 4k, 60Hz.

  3. “Previously, compatible Macs were curiously solely able to drive 4K screens at 60Hz via the Windows operating system.”

    Nothing curious about it – if a software update enabled it then the hardware could do it all along, Apple just didn’t write a driver to enable it within OSX.

    • It’s not just a matter of a device driver, but an object independent layer with mixed ppi and scalability, hence Resolution Independence.

      Not all of the Interface should be scaled up. It would depend on your work flow. Having the ability to assign menus, inspectors and other common UIs this scale up, while keeping objects scalable to your choosing, on demand, would work very nicely for Engineering, CGI, Compositing, etc.

  4. Michael Gross - 9 years ago

    I want that

  5. PMZanetti - 9 years ago

    That’s good. That’s very good.

  6. tebow420 - 9 years ago

    Give people 120hz support too, the pixel clock has been patched and I run 120 on 10.8.3. Already running 3840×2160 at 30hz, this is a little misleading because HDMI 2.0 supports 60hz over 4k, currently you would need Displayport.

    • tebow420 - 9 years ago

      Didn’t read it all sorry, good article, just excited!

  7. George Kyriakos - 9 years ago

    When is Apple going to update its Thunderbolt display?

    • zoidbert - 9 years ago

      I’ve been holding out for a new display since a lighting bolt (no kidding) took out my original one last summer. I wasn’t even looking for 4K. I’m “making do” with a Monoprice monitor (a nice 30″) but want an Apple Display (lots of reasons). Here’s hoping, eventually, we see not only a solid replacement for the current one, but an actual line again — several choices, several sizes, 4K and not (at least for the time being).

  8. Edward Sanchez - 9 years ago

    I am so buying one the minute it comes out! I used a 4k TV as a display and holy crap the real estate is amazing!!

  9. This guide is laid out nicely, thanks!

  10. Théo Hudry - 9 years ago

    Hey Marc, I’m planning to buy a Seiki 4k Display, would you recommend it after using it with the 10.9.3 beta? Thanks!

    • sarman (@sarman) - 9 years ago

      Hello! I have a Seiki 4k and it has BGR supbixel order, and mac os good only with standard RGB order. I cannot see any changes about font rendering – ugly! Good only if i rotate display by 90. Still waiting for fix…

  11. domadoma - 9 years ago

    And what about 2013 iMacs? Do they support 4k/60Hz/retina settings with 10.9.3 over displayport (thunderbolt)? Thanks!

  12. Martin Basil - 9 years ago

    Got 2 x 30″ 2560 x 1600 and a 1600 x 1200 monitors working with OSX and Windows 8.1 with any mix OSX/WIN on late 2013 MacBook Pro 15″ Retina plus the 2880 x 1800 through 2 thunderbolt and HDMI 4 screens and no drop on screen response for normal use, set video ram 1Gbyte and Directx10. Well pleased

  13. hbarradah - 8 years ago

    I have not been able to get the retina scaling to show up. I’m running 10.10.3. All I get is the list of resolutions. I tried three different monitors. Philips 288P6LJEB, Samsung U28D590D, and Acer B276HK.
    The problem is that even using SwitchResX all I can get is 1080 HiDPI, which at 28″ looks huge. I want to see the scaled 2560 x 1440. Which I have yet been able to get my Macbook Pro 13 to do.