4K with MacBook's - a ton of questions.

seveej

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Dec 14, 2009
822
50
Helsinki, Finland
Hi there,

I'm getting old (and so are my eyes), and have greatly enjoyed the 5K iMac I have at work (as with the 15" rMBP I had earlier), and notice that retina seems to be the only way I don't need reading glasses (something to do with my astigmatism, my optician says). Now, I need to find a setup for home.

I was set on getting a 21,5" 4K iMac, but started playing with the idea of using a portable and an external 4K display. The more I search, the more confused I'm getting and thought of turning to this forum for a definitive answer...

Please note, although I'm posting in the MacBook Pro section, I'm also considering a MacBook 12" (if feasible)

Apple has a Support document on using 4K (and 5K) displays with Macs, but honestly (even though the source is definitive) it's confusing. Also Apple documents tend to be less than the whole truth. I've also done a search here, but most threads are either outdated or handle specific issues.

What I don't quite understand, is:
- Although Apple lists the laptops (MBPr Late 2013 ->; MBA early 2015 -> and MB early 2015 ->) which can handle 4K/5K, it says nothing on how *well* they handle 4K/5K.
- If a MacBook is able to handle 4/5K, is it then also able to run it as retina (pixel doubling), or would it run the display at native res?
- The support document makes an issue of differentiating between SST and MST, but most displays I've been looking at do not mention whether they are SST or MST. Is there an alternative indicator to look for in the display specs?

So my questions are:
- Are there (within the 30Hz segment) any real differences in how well Mac laptops (MB, MBA, MBPr) handle 4K?
- Am I to understand that the only way to get 60Hz out of a Mac laptop is an MBPr (2016 and later)?
- Are all combinations of 4/5K and supported Mac laptops run in "retina" or natively?
- As I will me mostly working with text, how significant is the difference between 30Hz and 60Hz?
- I'd prefer a smallish 4K display (24" and lower) besides the LG Ultrafine, are there other alternatives which people have good experiences with?

All decent comments are appreciated.

RGDS,
 

casperes1996

macrumors 603
Jan 26, 2014
5,022
2,926
Horsens, Denmark
- Are there (within the 30Hz segment) any real differences in how well Mac laptops (MB, MBA, MBPr) handle 4K?
Yes in terms of how powerful their respective graphics processors are. In day-to-day light usage, I wouldn't really say it should be noticeable, but if you run intensive GPU taxing software on them, it will be. But for running a web browser or a text editor, I shouldn't really think so.

- Am I to understand that the only way to get 60Hz out of a Mac laptop is an MBPr (2016 and later)?
The MacBook definitely supports 60hz as well. More than that I don't really know off top my head.

- Are all combinations of 4/5K and supported Mac laptops run in "retina" or natively?
As far as I know, they'll all run in Retina mode unless you manually specify otherwise. They used to run in native resolution modes prior to OS X 10.9.3 I think, but that's quite a while ago now.

- As I will me mostly working with text, how significant is the difference between 30Hz and 60Hz?
For scrolling the text it will be very noticeable. For static images, not at all. The difference between 30hz and 60hz is in movement smoothness.

- I'd prefer a smallish 4K display (24" and lower) besides the LG Ultrafine, are there other alternatives which people have good experiences with?
In general I've always had good experiences with LG panels, but that's about all I can say
 

.Danny

macrumors newbie
Jan 6, 2006
16
3
Croatia
- As I will me mostly working with text, how significant is the difference between 30Hz and 60Hz?
I'll answer this one since I worked at 30Hz for several years. I'm also a gamer and have a 144Hz 1440p gaming display so the contrast between these two is pretty big.

Having said that, for browsing and coding I don't truly mind 30Hz. It's only really noticeable when you move windows around and scroll (and the scrolling you get used to really). The mouse also feels like it "lags" when you move it around.

Now having said THAT, I do much prefer 60Hz. When I went to a 5k iMac the 60Hz change is the biggest thing I noticed right away. Everything seemed so much more fluid.

So can you work with and get used to 30Hz? Sure. Is 60Hz a lot nicer? Definitely.

- I'd prefer a smallish 4K display (24" and lower) besides the LG Ultrafine, are there other alternatives which people have good experiences with?
I have a Dell UP2414Q. It's several years old at this point so I'm not sure what the current version of that is, but I've been really happy with it. Really good color accuracy and super crisp everything with the retina resolution. I also feel like the display size hits a really nice sweet spot. Unless you like to multitask a lot, in that case the 5k iMac is just amazing.
 

bruinsrme

macrumors 604
Oct 26, 2008
6,596
2,350
I'll answer this one since I worked at 30Hz for several years. I'm also a gamer and have a 144Hz 1440p gaming display so the contrast between these two is pretty big.

Having said that, for browsing and coding I don't truly mind 30Hz. It's only really noticeable when you move windows around and scroll (and the scrolling you get used to really). The mouse also feels like it "lags" when you move it around.

Now having said THAT, I do much prefer 60Hz. When I went to a 5k iMac the 60Hz change is the biggest thing I noticed right away. Everything seemed so much more fluid.

So can you work with and get used to 30Hz? Sure. Is 60Hz a lot nicer? Definitely.



I have a Dell UP2414Q. It's several years old at this point so I'm not sure what the current version of that is, but I've been really happy with it. Really good color accuracy and super crisp everything with the retina resolution. I also feel like the display size hits a really nice sweet spot. Unless you like to multitask a lot, in that case the 5k iMac is just amazing.
Are you running the dell along side the iMac?
If so how do you have it configured?
Thanks
 

.Danny

macrumors newbie
Jan 6, 2006
16
3
Croatia
Are you running the dell along side the iMac?
If so how do you have it configured?
Thanks
I'm not, the Dell will be hooked up to my new 13" MBP as soon as I get the thunderbolt 3 dock I ordered. I don't imagine it being any different between the 2 though. What configuration are you referring to? Resolution? Or do you mean brightness / color stuff?
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,609
6,825
Unless you "need the portability", I believe you'd probably like a 27" 5k iMac better.
My opinion only...
 
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bruinsrme

macrumors 604
Oct 26, 2008
6,596
2,350
I'm not, the Dell will be hooked up to my new 13" MBP as soon as I get the thunderbolt 3 dock I ordered. I don't imagine it being any different between the 2 though. What configuration are you referring to? Resolution? Or do you mean brightness / color stuff?
I was just curious if you had the dell running off the iMac.
I’m thinking about picking up the iMac pro later this year and running a dell UP271X along side. (I’m waiting for a colleague to decide if they’re upgrading)

Maybe by then there will be more USB-C /TB3 monitors to choose from.
 

seveej

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Dec 14, 2009
822
50
Helsinki, Finland
Yes in terms of how powerful their respective graphics processors are. In day-to-day light usage, I wouldn't really say it should be noticeable, but if you run intensive GPU taxing software on them, it will be. But for running a web browser or a text editor, I shouldn't really think so.

The MacBook definitely supports 60hz as well. More than that I don't really know off top my head.
That (The MacBook supporting 60Hz) is interesting, as it goes against what the Apple support document says. Would it be possible to verify this?

For scrolling the text it will be very noticeable. For static images, not at all. The difference between 30hz and 60hz is in movement smoothness.
Yeah, right. Did not think of that scrolling -part. Thanks.

Now having said THAT, I do much prefer 60Hz. When I went to a 5k iMac the 60Hz change is the biggest thing I noticed right away. Everything seemed so much more fluid.

So can you work with and get used to 30Hz? Sure. Is 60Hz a lot nicer? Definitely.
Thanks, again. My main reason for wanting high-res/retina is that my experiences until now have been, that it's way more easy on my eyes. Again, I do not know how much the 30Hz -issue would pester me in real-life, and that remains to be seen.

Unless you "need the portability", I believe you'd probably like a 27" 5k iMac better.
My opinion only...
Yeah, I love my 5K iMac and I'm pretty sure I'd love to have one at home as well. My rationale for thinking "laptop" is that while most of my "hard work" is done at a desk (and honestly' It's me doing the hard work, not the CPU), I do need the mobility as well.

But my current thinking is influenced by trying to minimise the number of systems I work with. - so instead of having a workstation at work, a workstation at home (which currently is a MP 5,1) and a laptop for carrying around, I could make do with a laptop and a 4K display at home.

By the way. What happens when you plug in a 4K display on a machine which has no way of supporting 4K, say a 2012 Mac mini?

RGDS,
 

casperes1996

macrumors 603
Jan 26, 2014
5,022
2,926
Horsens, Denmark
That (The MacBook supporting 60Hz) is interesting, as it goes against what the Apple support document says. Would it be possible to verify this?
According to the "Tech Specs" on Apple's website, it does support 60hz. I just checked.

By the way. What happens when you plug in a 4K display on a machine which has no way of supporting 4K, say a 2012 Mac mini?
That depends on the display. The Mac will send the best signal that it can, in the case of the Mac mini, I think that'd be 2560x1600 (1440 if 16:9). Now 90% of displays have what is called a scalar, so that they can still fill the screen with the lower res input, it just won't look at sharp. If the display as unlikely as it seems doesn't have a scalar, it will either show nothing at all, or only fill up the amount of pixels that it's getting a signal for
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,609
6,825
I would reckon that if you connect a 4k display to a 2012 Mini, you'll be able to get either:
- 1080p (should look pretty good)
or
- 1440p (may or may not look good, due to pixel interpolation).
 

casperes1996

macrumors 603
Jan 26, 2014
5,022
2,926
Horsens, Denmark
I would reckon that if you connect a 4k display to a 2012 Mini, you'll be able to get either:
- 1080p (should look pretty good)
or
- 1440p (may or may not look good, due to pixel interpolation).

And this depends entirely on the scalar in the display. If it's a good scalar, the 1440p resolution will be superior, and the scalar will know how to deal with the upscaling for optimal results - if the scalar isn't quite that good, 1080p is simple to upscale
 

bhatiak

macrumors member
Oct 25, 2017
65
17
I have a 2017 nTB 13" that I use with a 1080p, and it seems to get fairly hot. And if I'm doing too much with my external monitor connected, I'll definitely get frame drops and lots of lagginess. I'm pretty sure a normal 12" MB will perform poorly for any extended use on a 4k. My nTB fan will often turn on because it's getting too hot with the 1080p display plugged in - I can only imagine the MB will get hot and throttle with a 4k monitor. If you want a 4k monitor and a smaller MBP, I'd suggest going for a 2016 or 2017 13" TB.
 
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