4k monitors and older Macs?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by brianrumsey, Aug 6, 2019.

  1. brianrumsey macrumors newbie

    Jan 13, 2012
    I'm still running a 2010 MacBook Pro 15. Still mostly does what I need. About ready to upgrade but want to hold out for some hoped-for changes in future revisions, like a nicer keyboard, and (probably hoping too much here) now that Jony Ive is gone, maybe a little better user serviceability/upgradeability.

    I'm interested in a monitor that would be a nice complement to a hypothetical new Mac purchased within the next year or so, but also nicely functional with my current MBP as long as I'm using it. I'm thinking maybe something in the range of 4k/32 inches. What do I need to know about 4k monitors and Macs, and particularly about connecting to older Macs? I know that my current MBP can drive no more than 2560x1600. Would a 4k monitor scale acceptably to 2560x1600 (or more likely 2560x1440)? Or at least work well at full HD? Would some be better than others for this?
  2. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    You should be able to get at least 1080p.
    Maybe even 1440p.

    BUT... you probably DON'T want a 32" 4k display.
    WHY NOT?

    Because when you eventually DO get a Mac that can run it at 4k, it's going to run in "HiDPI mode", which "looks like" 1080p.
    BUT... 1080p on a 32" display is going to appear "overly blown up" to the viewer.

    5k on a 32" display running in HiDPI mode would look pretty good, because "5k in HiDPI" "looks like 1440p".
    BUT... to my knowledge, nobody makes a 32" display that can run 5k (or if they do, they're very expensive).

    If you want a 32" display size, my recommendation is to get one with a native 1440p resolution. That will yield a pixel size of about 0.2775mm -- not too small, not overly large -- very readable, good for graphics, too. Take a look at the HP "Omen" 32" 1440p display.

    If you want a "4k display" that can be used now at "less than 4k", but will look good later on with a 4k-capable Mac, get one that is 27".
  3. brianrumsey thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 13, 2012
    Thanks. I used to know all this stuff back in the day (relative of the technology of say 2005) but I've slipped.

    For some additional context, the reason I'm thinking 32 inches is for some decent size to function in place of a TV, as well as a monitor. I actually have a 27" 1440p monitor that serves me really nicely right now, but my wife needs a new monitor, so the thought is she could inherit mine and I'd get a new future-ready one. But it's a good point about 1080p being overly blown up at 32 inches.

    A 32 incher at 1440p would not be bad (and should be fully compatible with the 2010 MBP too I'd think). I guess I was assuming that 4k (or 5k) was really the wave of the future but maybe it's not that cut and dried.
  4. whosthis macrumors member

    Aug 21, 2008
    I am late to the party, but use(d) a 32 inch Eizo 4k for quite a while.

    I usually set the resolution to 3008x1692. It's not the optimal (but unsuable as too big) 1:2 ratio, but I found it to be very usable, and much better than any non-HiHPI modes (or screens at a lower native resolution). It is taxing on your hardware, though - the HiDPI mode means it is rending at 6016x3384, so an old integrated video card might not work out.

    Compared with the 5k iMac screen, the sharpness is of course not the same, but really it was a huge improvement over the 30 inch Samsung 305T (2560 x 1600) I used before. That being said, I did like the 16:10 in the 30" better than the 16:9 in the 32" or the iMac 27". The 32" always felt a bit too wide, and the 27" could be just a bit higher.

    One more thing to consider: my Samsung needed the DVI connection, and that meant I had to use the expensive active Apple adapter (around 90 USD). Which also draws current from USB, and didn't work well in every combination and needed a couple of tries - but maybe mine was faulty.

    So if you absolutely want to get a screen now, it's a tough one. Getting a cheap used 1440p and upgrading that one too might be a sensible choice (if it can be connected without that crappy active adapter, that is).
  5. brianrumsey thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 13, 2012
    I appreciate your response and it's still helpful as I haven't bought anything yet. Good to hear your perspective that the scaled 3008x1692 was better than 2560x1600 native resolution on your other display. I'm confused, however, as to why the GPU would have to be rendering at 6016x3384? When you run the display at a full 3840x2160 it doesn't have to render at twice that, does it?

    I do like 16x10 better too and wish it was still more widely available. In the past I used a 1920x1200 monitor until it gave up the ghost. I'm actually already using a cheap used 1440p (Asus PB278Q) and it suits my needs completely fine, but my wife needs something like that so I was thinking if she took this monitor then I wanted to figure the best future-proof replacement. Thinking the larger 32 inches so it can serve in more of a TV role too. But I'd jump at a decent 27 inch 1440p for say $100.

    "If you absolutely want to get a screen now" -- so you think better monitors for this application may be on the horizon? 32 inch 5k perhaps, at a somewhat reasonable price?

    Thanks again for your thoughts.
  6. whosthis macrumors member

    Aug 21, 2008
    I was confused, too. But it seems that in HiDPI mode it starts out with the double resolution (no idea why - and just from observations from what I saw). It's probably not set in stone and dependent on their current implementation. It's also a bit vague on how to get that information. I think I was simply doing a screenshot lately, and looked at the real pixel dimensions, which should be a give away here.

    I have absolutely no idea regarding the future. It's just that the current devices are a bit limited. The easy plug-and-play devices with USB-C / Thunderbolt tend to lack the other input connectors, and vice versa. So if you need it to run with your old machine, this is limiting what display to get. And if you're switching to another MacBook (Pro), that one-cable-setup including power is surely attractive.
  7. brianrumsey thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 13, 2012
    Thanks for these further insights. HiDPI is going to be a whole new world for me.
  8. Fabmac macrumors member


    Apr 5, 2017
    i have an 2015 macbook air and an LG 4K 27 inch Monitor (i use this one mainly for the xbox one x;)

    you will use it on 2K for me on 4K things get to small....

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7 August 6, 2019