Macbook Air - Best & Most Compatible External Display

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by The Rain Man, Sep 16, 2013.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Sep 10, 2013
    Hi all,

    I'm pretty new to Mac as I've been a windows user all my life but decided to take the switch, listening to all the positive reviews by my friends and family members alike. So, I'll be getting my first MacBook Air 13" today and I'm pretty darned excited about it.

    The problem I have is that for my scope of work, a 13" laptop would be too small for my daily needs and instead of having a separate CPU at home.. I was thinking of getting an external display and linking it up with my MBA. However, the 27" Apple Thunderbolt display is a little out of my budget and well.. a little too big for my comfort.

    I'm not really good with computer configurations but I just wanted to ask you guys if there were any good external monitors (Dell, Lenovo, HP, etc) that you would recommend for a MBA. I'm looking at getting a 20" or so external monitor but am just worried about it's compatibility with a Macbook.

    Thanks again in advance and I really appreciate all the help guys :)
  2. macrumors regular

    Jul 13, 2012
    I have a 2012 13" Air, 4GB RAM. Works fine with a 27" Dell U2713H 'PremierColor' monitor. There is a 24" version.

    Be careful with the lower quality end of Dell monitor range, they often have problems with excessive backlight bleed. The higher end 'PremierColor' series are much less affected, far as I can tell, mine is fine.

    I think all the 'PremierColor' monitors have a Display Port connection, and come with a Display Port to Mini-Display Port cable, so they can plug straight into a ThunderBolt port. Not all 3rd party versions of that cable work so well.
  3. macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2012
    I recommend one of the Dell Ultrasharp displays. They're available in different sizes and the 27" models cost about 2/3 of the Thunderbolt display, while at the same time being more useful with other devices (don't forget that you can use the Thunderbolt display with Apple computers only).

    The display quality is on-par with the Thunderbolt display, if not even better.
  4. macrumors regular

    Jul 13, 2012
    The U2713H has a beautiful picture, very happy with it. It also has a great anti-glare coating, best I have seen.

    Got mine on sale for 30% off, direct from Dell, delivered to my doorstep. :)
  5. macrumors 68000

    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    Just about any monitor should be compatible if you have the correct adaptor. I've been using an 23" Apple Cinema HD Display that I originally bought for my PowerMac G5 back around 2004. Still looks great. All I needed was a miniDisplayPort to DVI adapter that I got at Best Buy.
  6. macrumors member

    Jun 15, 2013
  7. macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2013
  8. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 10, 2013
    Thanks for all the recommendations guys, I really appreciate it! After reading through numerous reviews and suggestions.. I've decided to go with the Dell Ultrasharp U2312HM as it was the most affordable monitor, at least to me.

    Now the only issue that I'm having is whether to get a Mini-DP to DVI or Mini-DP to VGA to ensure the best performance. I'm not sure on the difference between DVI and VGA.
  9. macrumors 6502

    Aug 20, 2013
    You want DVI..
  10. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 27, 2012
    I'm surprised that so many people buy displays for their laptops. I thought the point of a laptop was its portability, that it isn't tied to a desk and monitor/display. I use mine all around the house and occasionally at the local coffee shop.
  11. macrumors 6502

    Mar 3, 2011
    The great state of Texas

    Best of both worlds. For example there are times when I want a number pad.
    So using a full size keyboard and mouse on my desk it's great. Also it's enjoyable to have a BIG screen to browse the web or just sit and watch a movie/game. Yes bigger is better.
  12. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 27, 2012
    I use mine to watch a movie sometimes as well. Hook it up to my Sony Bravia TV for that as at 40 inches, that's bigger than most monitors.
  13. macrumors 68000

    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    It isn't *tied" to a desk, I can still use my MBA anywhere I want. But it's powerful enough to be my primary computer and I don't want to be limited by the small screen and keyboard.

    Either you have enough money to buy a separate desktop and laptop machine, or you just don't use professional software that requires a large screen to be productive. Vectorworks, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro can all be used on my 11" MBA, but they work a lot better on a big screen. :)
  14. macrumors 65816


    Apr 11, 2007
    Some people require external displays and a keyboard/mouse to do their real work, but still need the ability to take the machine (and their work) with them on the go.
  15. macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2013
    United Kingdom
    Sorry to resurrect and older thread but I'm considering a new monitor and had a question about connectors:

    I have a Thunderbolt to HDMI cable I've just bought - would that be just as good as the DVI connector, or is there an advantage of using the DVI ?
  16. macrumors regular

    Hog Milanese

    Mar 19, 2012
    Pacific Northwest
    I'm using a 23" LG monitor with 1080p resolution (IPS/LED), connected with my Mid-2012 Air 13.3" by an HDMI-to-MiniDisplayPort cable, and the performance is abysmal.

    Lots of lag, the fans turn on frequently, especially if watching Netflix on one screen or the other.

    If you use clamshell mode, the lag on mouse is unbearable, so you have to leave it open, and mirror displays and dim the laptop's display.

    Not a fan. The Air is really underpowered when powering another display.
  17. macrumors 65816

    Apr 19, 2004
    I can't say about advantage/disadvantages, if it works that's all that should matter! I have a Dell Ultrasharp 2408WFP. I tried using Apple's mini-display port to DVI adapter and couldn't get a signal to the monitor. Fortunately the monitor has multiple ports, one being a display port. So for $6 I got a mini-displayport to displayport cable from Tried it and it works like a charm.
  18. macrumors 6502


    Aug 25, 2013
    I found the following, related to the Intel HD4000 chipset that the MBA 2012 has:
    "Intel graphics does not support dual-link, therefore 1920x1200 is the maximum for DVI and HDMI, 2560x1440 is only possible with a displayport port"

    So it seems there's no difference between thunderbolt-to-DVI and thunderbolt-to-HDMI.
  19. macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2013
    United Kingdom
    Thanks guys, that helps :)

    Now to find a monitor a newer monitor.
  20. macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2013
    To plug a 2560x1440 (27'' or above) monitor, you would need a Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter. Which means it will occupy both a usb and thunderbolt port. This is precisely the reason I'm thinking about selling my superb Samsung IPS monitor to buy a thunderbolt Apple monitor. It occupies too many ports, it's a hassle every time to plug in and out, and half of the time you have a snowy screen, so you would need to turn off & on until you get a clear screen.
  21. macrumors member


    Mar 27, 2012
    Brighton, UK
    I use a 42" Samsung 1080p LED TV linked via VGA adapter.

    I did use it in clamshell mode because of the issues with the inability to use full screen apps in dual screen mode, but now I'm on mavericks this has been addressed.
    There's no lag and it works great.
  22. macrumors member

    Dec 13, 2011
    I just got a 27" 2650x1440 monitor yesterday and hooked it up to my 2011 MBA (Intel 3000) directly via Displayport.

    It looks beautiful. However, there does seem to be some serious occasional lag going on. Windowserver is idling at 6% and pegs up near 30% when moving and opening windows.

    Is my MBA choking trying to draw such a high resolution? Anything I can do to help?

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