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MrRaupi

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 6, 2022
12
8
Hello everyone,

i currently have a 27 inch monitor with 1440p (2560x1440 - 109 PPI). As others have mentioned, my text looks blurry. Now if I switched to a 27 inch with 4k (3840x2160 - 163 PPI), would the text look better? Sure it doesn't come close to a MacBook display or anything, but probably better than a 1440p monitor, am I wrong?

I currently have this model here Dell U2722DE, but could still switch to the new 4k model, that would be this Dell U2723QE.

I would then set the scaling to "looks like 2560x1440" for the 4k monitor.

Thanks for the help!
 
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Sheepish-Lord

macrumors 68020
Oct 13, 2021
2,301
4,737
Read this and use the chart for your research.

 

chekie

macrumors member
Sep 11, 2013
93
62
4k monitors are definitely worth upgrading to.

I'm using U2723QE with 1440p scaling. I don't have a studio display, but I've owned a bunch of retina macbooks (2013 MacBook Pro 13", 2018 and 2019 MacBook Pro 15", and currently 2021 MacBook Pro 16" XDR). The difference in text sharpness between U2723QE and MacBooks are so minor that I really couldn't tell any with normal viewing distance. And they all are way way better than 1080P monitors and 1440p monitors I own(ed). For text sharpness, if the macbooks are 10 out of 10, 1080P/1440P is 1 or 2 out 10, I would rate 4K at least 8 out of 10.

And I haven't noticed any shimmering effect when scrolling that article mentioned. It might affect UI designers with that 1px shimmer. But as a developer, I don't really notice it. For working with media and texts, definitely go with 4k if studio display if out of your budget.
 

Fravin

macrumors 6502a
Mar 8, 2017
803
1,057
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
... would the text look better?

Sure thing.

I use an 27"4K LG display and it's showing text so smoothly... Looks like a laser printer output. Damn sharp!

Screen Shot 2022-05-08 at 11.32.36.png
 
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Amethyst1

macrumors G3
Oct 28, 2015
9,371
11,513
I use an 27"4K LG display and it's showing text so smoothly... Looks like a laser printer output. Damn sharp!
A screenshot doesn't show what the picture actually looks like on the monitor. You need to photograph the monitor to show that.
 
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Mac Hammer Fan

macrumors 65816
Jul 13, 2004
1,259
463
I have read that on a 27inch monitor 4K text is very small. You have to scale to 2560x1440 resolution and then text isn't sharp anymore. Only a retina display can scale accurate.
 
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theorist9

macrumors 68040
May 28, 2015
3,712
2,817
I have read that on a 27inch monitor 4K text is very small. You have to scale to 2560x1440 resolution and then text isn't sharp anymore. Only a retina display can scale accurate.
That's not quite the case.

When it comes to the size at which text is displayed, there's two things to consider. The first is UI text, and the second is text within applications. The latter can be adjusted using Zoom functions and/or font size to whatever size you please.

UI size, however, is fixed by the pixel density (ppi) and scaling factor (which you can think of as magnification). A typical 27" 4k monitor (like my Dell P2715Q) has a native resolution of 3840 x 2160. If you view it at 1x scaling, the UI will indeed be very small. But you can also use 2x scaling (to 1920 x 1080). This will actually make the UI look somewhat larger than on a Retina monitor with default scaling (also 2x), but I personally think it's a nice size—especially if you're viewing it on a relatively large screen, i.e., >=27").

Now what about sharpness? Scaling to a non-integer multplier will compromise sharpness. That's why Apple warns you when you select scaling that works out to a non-integer value:
1654055746350.png


However, it doesn't give you that warning when you select "Looks like 3840 x 2160" (which is 1x) or "Looks like 1920 x 1080" (which is 2x), because these can be scaled exactly, with no loss of sharpness.

Bottom line: Exact integer scaling is available for non-Retina monitors, which enables sharp test. They won't be as sharp as a Retina monitor, but that's because their pixel densities are lower (163 ppi for a 4k 27" vs. 218 ppi for a 5k Retina 27"), not because you can't get exact scaling with them.
 
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kvic

macrumors 6502a
Sep 10, 2015
516
459
I have read that on a 27inch monitor 4K text is very small. You have to scale to 2560x1440 resolution and then text isn't sharp anymore. Only a retina display can scale accurate.

That's not quite true. Text and everything is still sharp, especially viewing from a normal distance (say 60cm) for 27 inch displays.

Pixel sniffers can tell the difference though when they compare 4K (at "look like 2560x1440") and 5K side by side.

Personally I worry a few things about 4K display for macOS. Loss of sharpness/crispiness is never one of them. Unless you're a pixel sniffer, your job requiring you pixel sniffing and pixel-perfect output (as instructed by your applications), I won't worry.
 

mfram

Contributor
Jan 23, 2010
1,316
354
San Diego, CA USA
I have a Dell U2722DE at work. I've plugged my 2020 MBP into it and sure enough... the text was pretty blurry. I have a couple nice 27" 4K monitors at home. I run my UI scaled to 1440p. The text looks pretty sharp to me. Maybe not as sharp as the internal monitor, but it's WAY better than the 1440p native of the U2722DE. That being said, make sure you get a quality 27" IPS monitor. I've had a cheaper 4K LG monitor and was not impressed with the picture quality. There were artifacts with that monitor. You get what you pay for. If you're considering a 4K monitor that costs under $500, you may be disappointed. My favorite monitor is my Dell UP2718Q. Obviously, it's not available anymore. But I would strongly recommend any of the Dell UP-series monitors. Be warned, they are expensive.
 
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lecureuil

macrumors newbie
Jan 18, 2022
17
8
Hi there,
I am looking for a 27" Dell monitor to replace my U2415 connected to my M1 Mac Mini.
At first I wanted to go for the dell U2722DE but now i feel like i should go for the U2723QE instead?
 

chikorita157

macrumors 6502
Mar 8, 2019
283
439
Germantown, MD
I have a Dell U2722DE at work. I've plugged my 2020 MBP into it and sure enough... the text was pretty blurry. I have a couple nice 27" 4K monitors at home. I run my UI scaled to 1440p. The text looks pretty sharp to me. Maybe not as sharp as the internal monitor, but it's WAY better than the 1440p native of the U2722DE. That being said, make sure you get a quality 27" IPS monitor. I've had a cheaper 4K LG monitor and was not impressed with the picture quality. There were artifacts with that monitor. You get what you pay for. If you're considering a 4K monitor that costs under $500, you may be disappointed. My favorite monitor is my Dell UP2718Q. Obviously, it's not available anymore. But I would strongly recommend any of the Dell UP-series monitors. Be warned, they are expensive.
I disagree. I have a LG Colorprime 2K monitor, which is a color-accurate display (99% Adobe RGB)from 2014 and the text, while not as sharp as Retina is still looks good enough. The Dell U2919D I had was a disappointment though, which I used as an interim monitor due to not having as accurate colors.

The problem is that macOS expects either 110 PPI for non-retina and 220 PPI for retina, which is double/ This is why people have issues with scaling as 4K 27" will scale at 1080P, which is ridiculously big and you lose a good chunk of screen real estate. However, doing 2K scaling is not optimal on 4K as it actually upscales the 2K to 5K and downscales it to 4K, which causes graphical issues. macOS only does integer scaling, 1X or 2x, not in between unlike Windows so that developers don't have to make their apps high-DPI aware, it's done automatically.

This article explains it best:
Mac external displays for designers and developers

Also, 2K scaling on a 4K monitor causes performance issues in apps that use the GPU, since scaling the 2K scaling in 5K and downscaling it to 4K has a performance penalty.

If one wants the best text with 2K scaling and without the performance penalty and graphical issues, one needs a 5K monitor. I just received the Studio Display, which is my main display (the 2K is my secondary) and the text is very sharp and I don't need to deal with the scaling issues. I would recommend a Studio Display if you can afford it over a 4K 27" or 32" display if you are going to use it on a Mac.

There is no way around the 4K scaling issues and I would never buy a 4K 27"/32" monitor, it's not a great experience from what I read on macOS.It will either look too big at the default settings, too small at native resolution, and in-between resolutions causes scaling and performance issues, especially on M1 only Macs. 4K is only meant for 24-inch or 21 inch displays. It's too bad there is hardly any more affordable 5K options that suited for Mac users, besides the Ultrafine 5K, which has a lot of build quality and hardware issues and the Studio Display, which is pricy, but give the best experience from my first impressions.

If you can't afford a 5K monitor, just go with a high quality 2K monitor as it's the sweet spot on macOS, although not as sharp as retina.
 

Mac Hammer Fan

macrumors 65816
Jul 13, 2004
1,259
463
Hi there,
I am looking for a 27" Dell monitor to replace my U2415 connected to my M1 Mac Mini.
At first I wanted to go for the dell U2722DE but now i feel like i should go for the U2723QE instead?
I bought the Dell 32 inch U3223QE yesterday and the text is really sharp scaled on a 3008x1692 resolution, so I think his smaller sibling will have sharp text on 2560x1440. Colors and contrast are very good. I recommend this monitor and the design looks good in combination with a MacMini or MacStudio. I was sceptical before but it was a pleasant surprise now that I use this display.
 

theorist9

macrumors 68040
May 28, 2015
3,712
2,817
I disagree. I have a LG Colorprime 2K monitor, which is a color-accurate display (99% Adobe RGB)from 2014 and the text, while not as sharp as Retina is still looks good enough. The Dell U2919D I had was a disappointment though, which I used as an interim monitor due to not having as accurate colors.

The problem is that macOS expects either 110 PPI for non-retina and 220 PPI for retina, which is double/ This is why people have issues with scaling as 4K 27" will scale at 1080P, which is ridiculously big and you lose a good chunk of screen real estate. However, doing 2K scaling is not optimal on 4K as it actually upscales the 2K to 5K and downscales it to 4K, which causes graphical issues. macOS only does integer scaling, 1X or 2x, not in between unlike Windows so that developers don't have to make their apps high-DPI aware, it's done automatically.

This article explains it best:
Mac external displays for designers and developers

Also, 2K scaling on a 4K monitor causes performance issues in apps that use the GPU, since scaling the 2K scaling in 5K and downscaling it to 4K has a performance penalty.

If one wants the best text with 2K scaling and without the performance penalty and graphical issues, one needs a 5K monitor. I just received the Studio Display, which is my main display (the 2K is my secondary) and the text is very sharp and I don't need to deal with the scaling issues. I would recommend a Studio Display if you can afford it over a 4K 27" or 32" display if you are going to use it on a Mac.

There is no way around the 4K scaling issues and I would never buy a 4K 27"/32" monitor, it's not a great experience from what I read on macOS.It will either look too big at the default settings, too small at native resolution, and in-between resolutions causes scaling and performance issues, especially on M1 only Macs. 4K is only meant for 24-inch or 21 inch displays. It's too bad there is hardly any more affordable 5K options that suited for Mac users, besides the Ultrafine 5K, which has a lot of build quality and hardware issues and the Studio Display, which is pricy, but give the best experience from my first impressions.

If you can't afford a 5K monitor, just go with a high quality 2K monitor as it's the sweet spot on macOS, although not as sharp as retina.
I do agree you want to avoid non-integer scaling, so in the following I'm assuming we're always using Apple's default integer scaling.

But as to everything else you've written, it depends on your use case. I primarily work with text, and I find 110 ppi is a poor choice for that. ~100–110 ppi used to be fine for text, up through Snow Leopard (10.6). After SL, they changed how they displayed text, such that you needed ~160 ppi (e.g., a 4k 27") for it to look sharp. That worked great through High Sierra (10.13). After HS, they abandoned native subpixel text rendering, forcing me to use a Retina display for text (if I didn't want to get a headache). That's why, when I had to upgrade beyond High Sierra, I also had to upgrade my main monitor to a 5K 27" Retina (which I did by buying an iMac).

Having said that, if you do mostly text work and don't have access to a Retina display, a 27" 4k (~160 ppi) is a far better choice than a 2K monitor with ~100–110 ppi, even if you have to use an OS that doesn't have subpixel text rendering.

Most programs that use text (text editors like Word, spreadsheet programs like Excel, symbolic math programs like Mathematica, Unix interfaces like Terminal, etc.) have relatively small UI's. Thus, even with 2X scaling, their UI's don't take up that much real estate on a 27" 4k. What matters much more when it comes to the effective real estate you have with these programs is the magnification factor you are able to use within the app itself. And you can use a much smaller magnification factor with 160 ppi than with 110 ppi and still have the text be readable (e.g., with 160 ppi, you can use Excel with 12 point font and 50% magnification and the text remains sharp enough to be legible), thus allowing you to display much more info. on the screen at once, and thus effectively giving you much more real estate.

And there's also personal preference involved. Given that the UI's I use don't take up much space, I actually prefer the larger UI elements on a 4k 27", since when I'm working quickly I can target and click on them much more rapidly than the smaller UI elements on my 5k 27, which require more precise targeting. I also like the thicker scroll bars on the former. I think when Apple chose the smaller UI as its target, it was thinking more of creatives than other users (as Apple is wont to do), and thus thinking of apps like Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, where the UI does typically take up a much greater percentage of the screen.
 
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chikorita157

macrumors 6502
Mar 8, 2019
283
439
Germantown, MD
I do agree you want to avoid non-integer scaling, so in the following I'm assuming we're always using Apple's default integer scaling.

But as to everything else you've written, it depends on your use case. I primarily work with text, and I find 110 ppi is a poor choice for that. ~100–110 ppi used to be fine for text, up through Snow Leopard (10.6). After SL, they changed how they displayed text, such that you needed ~160 ppi (e.g., a 4k 27") for it to look sharp. That worked great through High Sierra (10.13). After HS, they abandoned native subpixel text rendering, forcing me to use a Retina display for text (if I didn't want to get a headache). That's why, when I had to upgrade beyond High Sierra, I also had to upgrade my main monitor to a 5K 27" Retina (which I did by buying an iMac).

Having said that, if you do mostly text work and don't have access to a Retina display, a 27" 4k (~160 ppi) is a far better choice than a 2K monitor with ~100–110 ppi, even if you have to use an OS that doesn't have subpixel text rendering.

Most programs that use text (text editors like Word, spreadsheet programs like Excel, symbolic math programs like Mathematica, Unix interfaces like Terminal, etc.) have relatively small UI's. Thus, even with 2X scaling, their UI's don't take up that much real estate on a 27" 4k. What matters much more when it comes to the effective real estate you have with these programs is the magnification factor you are able to use within the app itself. And you can use a much smaller magnification factor with 160 ppi than with 110 ppi and still have the text be readable (e.g., with 160 ppi, you can use Excel with 12 point font and 50% magnification and the text remains sharp enough to be legible), thus allowing you to display much more info. on the screen at once, and thus effectively giving you much more real estate.

And there's also personal preference involved. Given that the UI's I use don't take up much space, I actually prefer the larger UI elements on a 4k 27", since when I'm working quickly I can target and click on them much more rapidly than the smaller UI elements on my 5k 27, which require more precise targeting. I also like the thicker scroll bars on the former. I think when Apple chose the smaller UI as its target, it was thinking more of creatives than other users (as Apple is wont to do), and thus thinking of apps like Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, where the UI does typically take up a much greater percentage of the screen.
The reason Apple probably went with 2K with it's Cinema displays and iMacs before retina is for the fact that it can fit a full 1080p timeline. With 5K with 2x scaling at 2K, it can fit a full 4K timeline.

I don't like 1080P scaling mostly because it brings out the huge disadvantages of 16:9, which is the loss of vertical space. That means more scrolling on web pages and programs like Office was the ribbon takes up more vertical space, which reduces the viewable area on a 16:9 display, which I hate. That is why I preferred 16:10 displays in the past. 2K is a good compromise as at least there is more resolution to make up for the lack of vertical space. I kind of wish there were more 16:10 high res displays, especially a 5K one, but of course economy of scale. Also, I am use to 2K since I got my first 2K monitor in 2016 and used it as a main monitor without issues. I also use my MacBook Pros with the more space option as well so I can fit more content.

Still, the lack of sub-pixel text rendering doesn't bother me as I used non-retina displays for a long time before I upgraded my main display with a Studio Display. Sure, a 4K would be cheaper, but 2K scaling from the articles I read had tradeoffs that are big deal breakers, including performance issues. Also, 2x 1080p scaling defeats the purpose of getting a 4K monitor due to the loss of screen real estate and brings back the disadvantages of 16:9 at 1080p that I do not like.

If you have a 4K 34 inch monitor, you basically have what a 27" 2K display have without scaling issue. Still, it's up to preference, but 5k in my opinion is better than 4K given the scaling issues and macOS handles High DPI better than Windows. I had to set the high DPI when I used a Surface Pro 2 and it was a disaster since not all apps support high-dpi. Some apps appear blurry while others appear small, especially Photoshop for a long while, until it received support.
 
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Andrew Montreal

macrumors member
Jul 24, 2022
51
5
I have been testing out monitors and I’ve discovered that for me, 1440p is a no go for a 27” screen. It’s 4k all the way. I have tested similar signals on numerous monitors in store using my laptop as well as at home with various screens, cables, and sources. It always seems to come to the same result… PIXEL DENSITY! Perhaps it has to do with the fact that my comfortable viewing distance is no more than 2 feet… I don’t know. I was really impressed with the Dell S2722QC. I hadn’t intended on checking Dell out (No idea why) but it was there so I figured why not. Stunning solidity. Even at various scalings, it remained relaxing for the eyes and pleasant. I am curious to try out the U3223QE (even though it’s a lower DPI) but I can’t find any here in Montreal.
 
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seek3r

macrumors 68020
Aug 16, 2010
2,321
3,337
There is no way around the 4K scaling issues and I would never buy a 4K 27"/32" monitor, it's not a great experience from what I read on macOS.

I use a 32" 4k (UHD) display as my main monitor and it looks rather nice and very sharp, but I do run native and just usually up the text size a bit on all my apps
 

Andrew Montreal

macrumors member
Jul 24, 2022
51
5
I use a 32" 4k (UHD) display as my main monitor and it looks rather nice and very sharp, but I do run native and just usually up the text size a bit on all my apps
Sadly, it seems Logic Pro (my primary software) doesn’t allow for text scaling. I have no idea why… would it be that difficult to implement? I would LOVE for that to be possible. I would forever work at 4k.
 
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seek3r

macrumors 68020
Aug 16, 2010
2,321
3,337
Sadly, it seems Logic Pro (my primary software) doesn’t allow for text scaling. I have no idea why… would it be that difficult to implement? I would LOVE for that to be possible. I would forever work at 4k.
Ooof, I didn't know that, that's crappy. I wonder if that's Apple's way of passive aggressively pushing people to 5k displays with scaling
 

theorist9

macrumors 68040
May 28, 2015
3,712
2,817
The best way is to see for yourself. Since it will be hard to find a store that has a Mac hooked up to a 4k monitor, I'd suggest going to the closest store to you that sells Macs, and looking at text on the 27" Studio Display (or 24" iMac). Or if you can't find one of those, look at the M1/M2 Air or 13" M1 MBP. Those will all be 221 ppi (5k in 27") rather than 163 ppi (4k in 27"), so they will look somewhat sharper (I own both a 4k 27" and a 5k 27", and I can see the difference). Nevertheless, they will be close enough that, by looking at text on them, you will be able to get a sense of what text would look like if you got a 27" 4k. [Text will be the same sharpness on all of the Macs I listed, but I'd still suggest looking at a larger display, if possible, so you can more closely replicate the overall large-display experience you'll get with a 27" 4k.]

Also: If you do get the 4k 27", the UI and default text size will be 1/3 larger than what you see on those Retina displays. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I actually prefer the larger UI on my 4k since it allows me to more rapidly grab scrollbars and hit buttons with my mouse (larger targets).
 

RM-Architect

macrumors newbie
Jan 28, 2008
3
0
Interesting and informative discussion. I note that neither of the available 5K monitors (LG 27MD5KL-B or Apple Studio Display) has HDR. That may be more important to me than slightly better text.

Also, is there a possibility that the performance of a 4K monitor could be improved in future releases of MacOS?
 

xraydoc

Contributor
Oct 9, 2005
10,833
5,298
192.168.1.1
Interesting and informative discussion. I note that neither of the available 5K monitors (LG 27MD5KL-B or Apple Studio Display) has HDR. That may be more important to me than slightly better text.

Also, is there a possibility that the performance of a 4K monitor could be improved in future releases of MacOS?
1) While it's true that the Ultrafine and the Apple Studio Display don't have an HDR mode, the peak brightness, at least for the ASD, is far higher than most consumer 4K monitors can produce in HDR mode anyway.

2) No. Display scaling on macOS is what it is. However, 4K monitors at "looks-like" 1440p don't look terrible (especially at 27"; 32" is too big at 1440p, IMHO). While I'm a recent 5K convert, text on a 4K really isn't that bad. But what is a minor loss of detail for some is an unacceptable loss of detail for others.
 
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