Cheapest, decent external display for MBP!


macrumors member
Original poster
May 23, 2011
I have recently received a 15" MBP and I want to get an external display for it.
Now it has the thunderbolt connection and yes in an ideal world I would love to buy that display but its just so expensive!

Can anyone suggest a good cheap alternative? I know the older Apple displays are decent aswell but any other good cheap displays from other brands?



macrumors 601
Oct 3, 2006
Saying that you want a cheap and decent monitor is not a whole lot to go on.

Do you have a preference of size?
Do you have a preference of resolution?
Do you have a preference of aspect ratio?
Do you have a budget?


macrumors 65816
Apr 25, 2011
Yeah, you need to at least indicate your preferred price range, size of screen and resolution.

1080P displays around 21-24" are very cheap today and it's hard to find a totally crap unit. Personally I wouldn't go smaller than 24, but that's just me. It just feels more comfortable reading on a 24" display I think, although people with younger eyes may disagree... A smaller screen also takes up less deskspace, if that's a concern, although the difference is relatively minimal.

Panel quality is more complicated; most displays (by far!) still use TN LCD panels. These have very bad color reproduction, even worse viewing angles and quite disturbing color and contrast shifts if you move your vision off a straight-on-center angle. They are the cheapest alternative though, and switch fast, and can be quite bright.

Next step up are various VA panel types, these have better angles (but still not great), better color accuracy (and again not great), much better contrast, and slower pixel response time, although modern LCD controllers have ways around that by using overdrive, which can be quite effective at hiding the lag so it's usually not a (big) problem. Overdrive can introduce its own types of visual artefacts but only a nitpicker ought to be annoyed by this in a good, modern VA display. BenQ produces a number of cheap, high-quality VA displays. You can find reviews at places like Anandtech for example.

IPS panels give the best overall image quality; the best colors and viewing angles, which is why they're used in high-end professional monitors from makers like NEC and Eizo, as well as high-end smartphones and tablet computers. The major point here is that even though IPS doesn't have the best contrast (still good though, 800-1000:1 are common figures), you don't get huge shifts in the image just by leaning from one side to the other in your computer chair, something which happens with cheaper panel types. There are now quite affordable IPS displays using 6-bit-per-pixel panels; these don't have quite the same color accuracy as a full 8-bit panel, but the lower price makes up for it.

PLS displays are only made by Samsung (it's their proprietary tech) and is a variation of IPS; said to be cheaper and sometimes better. It's not really better actually, but still really good, especially compared to VA and TN displays. PLS displays typically aren't available in the budget bracket though, and for computers, not really found in smaller, lower-rez sizes either. I own and use the Samsung SA850 display which is a 27" 2560*1440 pixel monster that costs US$850 at Newegg. It's a really nice monitor and fairly cheap for its size and performance, but not really what you call cheap in absolute terms.


macrumors newbie
May 29, 2012
I use a Dell Ultrasharp U2212 on my mini. For just a bit over $200 it is a pretty good 21/5" diagonal IPS display. It's a 6 bit color per channel display that fakes 8 bit through dithering. It's good enough for photo editing in the sRGB color space. I'm pretty picky and I like that display and would buy it again. I'm sure you can hook that model up to your MBP.


macrumors 6502a
Oct 29, 2008
Are you specifically looking for a cheap ATD alternative? If so your options are basically one of the korean brands floating around on ebay for around $300 which uses the same panel but has no bells or whistles. You can also find eIPS 23~ in the $200 range if you can wait for a decent deal.

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