A few questions about monitor resolutions

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by smirk, Jan 5, 2017.

  1. smirk, Jan 5, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017

    smirk macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    Orange County, CA
    Hi, I've been using my late-2013 15" MacBook Pro a lot more lately, and am thinking of getting a separate monitor for it. I was hoping you experts could share some of your knowledge and answer a few questions. Here goes:
    1. If you drive modern monitors at non-native resolutions, do they get blurry? My dad's old non-retina 27" iMac gets kind of fuzzy at lower resolutions. The reason I ask is because I was thinking of getting a 4K display, but my MacBook can only drive 2560x1600 at 60Hz.
    2. My PC at work has two 1080p displays, and maybe I'm spoiled by my retina display, but they look so blocky! You can see individual pixels and it's a little distracting. Would a 27" or 28" display at 2560x1600 or 2560x1440 look smooth like my 27" retina iMac?
    3. Looks like my iMac runs at 2560x1440 (Apple's default), even though it can go up to 5120x2880. At 2560x1440, text is amazingly sharp and clear. Would a 2560x1440 display be similarly (or acceptably) sharp?
    4. For software development and web browsing, is driving the display at 30Hz or 24Hz distracting (versus 60Hz)?
    Thanks! My goal with a new display is more real estate but also that smooth rendering that my 27" iMac has. There are some 4K displays out there for around $400, seems like a decent time to buy one. :)

    P.S. Some of my terminology may be wrong; I called it '4K' but I guess there's also Ultra HD which is similar.
  2. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    Yes, to one degree or another; or, put more succinctly, they are sharpest at their native resolution.

    If this is the case, I wouldn't bother spending the money on a 4k.

    I wouldn't count on it.

    If the screen and pixel density are the same then yes, it would be similarly sharp.

    30 Hz is probably okay, but 24Hz would not look smooth - think of movies on film vs. video.
  3. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    The answer is no. You have been "spoiled" by your retina imac display because it's 5k, and once you have been nothing else will do. I used to use an external 30" 2560x1600 display on my MBP, but since the day the imac arrived it's been switched off as it's just too low resolution.

    1. A 4k display will not only be wasted, but it will look terrible when run at 2560x1600 as that's not native to the panel.

    2. Your retina 27" display is 5120x2880. Any similarly sized display at 2560xwhatever will look awful by comparison

    3. You are confusing resolution with OSX scaling. Your display is showing 5120x2880 at all times on the retina display. It is scaling the items on the screen such that they look the same size as they would at 2560x1440 (if you're running at default). But the text and other details on the screen are being rendered at the higher resolution which is why they look great. No, a 2560x1440 display would look blocky as you previously described.

    4. Yes, driving the display at lower than 60Hz is a grim experience, particularly with respect to mouse pointer movement and suchlike. You might be able to tolerate it -- some people can and some people can't. I'd suggest trying it out before you buy if you can.

    A smaller 4k display (say 21-24") would produce an experience similar to the 27" imac (although obviously at a smaller size). But you will need the hardware to drive it properly, which it sounds like you don't have with the MBP. More recent MBP models can drive more monitors at higher resolutions.

    I'm sorry, but you're not going to get the retina experience with your current laptop.
  4. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    A 27" display running at 2560x1440 will not look "as good as" a retina 27" display or a 5k 27" iMac.

    But... it might still be perfectly acceptable, if an external display is required.

    This will depend on how sensitive your personal perception is, and what you'll be using the 2560x1440 display for...
  5. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    I have a personal 15-in MBP late 2013, with GPU, and drive a Dell 2715Q set most of the time to 1440p. It looks great. Sometimes I also connect an older Dell 2412 HD display right next to it. Side-by-side it looks pretty crummy (though when I first got it, it looked pretty good!). I also have a 2014 15-in MBP w/o a GPU (Intel graphics). It struggles a small bit with the Dell set to 1440p. Takeaways: 2560 on a 2715Q looks pretty good, but may need some horsepower depending on what you're doing. Putting different displays next to each other make lead you to think that one looks better than the other.
  6. smirk thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    Orange County, CA
    Everyone: thank you for your awesome responses! It sounds like driving a 4K display at 1440p won't give the best results (and @kohlson, my 2013 MBP has integrated graphics so it'll likely struggle even more than yours).

    Although the new monitor will sometimes be used by my retina iMac, which does support 4K, most of the time it will be connected to the MacBook, so perhaps the wisest choice will be to get an actual 1440p display instead of 4K.

    Thanks again for the help!
  7. smirk thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    Orange County, CA
    Just a quick update: I did buy a 27" 1440p display and @tillsbury was correct: I couldn't get past the fat, blurry pixels (i.e. a normal, good-quality non-4K display). My 5K iMac has totally ruined me.

    Ended up returning it and buying a 4K display, and it looks awesome. Works very nicely with my Late 2013 MacBook Pro, too, so looks like I had misinterpreted Apple's documentation when I thought the MBP couldn't drive a 4K.

    Anyway, couldn't be happier with the new display!
  8. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68040

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Yes, you were probably looking at the specs for the internal display, rather than for external displays. External is: HDMI up to 3840 by 2160 pixels at 30Hz or 4096 by 2160 pixels at 24Hz. Thunderbolt up to 3840 by 2160 pixels at 30Hz.

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7 January 5, 2017