External display recommendations for MacBook Pro

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by riverbum75, Oct 7, 2015.

  1. riverbum75 macrumors newbie

    Jan 20, 2015
    I have a MacBook Pro (Retina 13", late 2013) and I want to purchase an external display, but I am confused by all the choice and advice I have read so far... I would really appreciate some recommendations for current models based on other people's experience! This is what I am looking for:
    • 27-32" screen size (I'd be interested to here arguments for different sizes)
    • Up to £400 max
    • Renders text very clearly
    • Won't be used for gaming
    • Will be used for image editing
    • Kind on the eyes if used for long periods
    Thanks in advance for your input!
  2. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    In the absence of any specific recommendations...

    If you want to go 4k (might stretch your budget a bit) the advice from Apple is here: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT202856 - although how smooth that would be on the integrated graphics in your MacBook I don't know.

    My concern with 4k monitors is that the 'natural' mode in which to use them from a Mac is 'retina' 1080p i.e. the icons, fonts and buttons are the same physical size (in relation to the screen) as on a 1920x1080 display, but at twice the resolution. That makes them a bit large (but very sharp) on a 27" or bigger screen. You can get different effects using 'scaled' mode, but that puts extra load on the GPU. The ideal resolution for a 27" Mac screen is 5k (like the iMac) but that's out of your league (and wouldn't work on your MacBook).

    There's a Dell 24" 4k monitor, the UP2414Q, which seems to me like a better size for '1080p retina' - but that's pushing your price bracket.

    Assuming you're not going 4K:

    The thing to look for is 2560x1440 resolution (for 27" or above) or 1920x1200 (in a 24" display) rather than the optimistically-named 'full HD' 1920x1080 displays.

    Personally, I've got a Dell U2412M (24" 1920x1200) with which I'm very happy, but is probably a bit on the small side for you & an old model (but still available). OTOH you could get two for your budget, and dual screen computing is addictive... The Dell Ultrasharp range has a good rep and the newer ones are a bit prettier - today, I might go for a dell U2715 - but I can't give a personal recommendation.
  3. jimthing, Oct 8, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2015

    jimthing macrumors 65816


    Apr 6, 2011
    London, UK (Europe, Earth, Space)
    Go for a second hand Apple 27" Cinema Display or even better Thunderbolt Display.

    They go for ~£400-450 on Ebay. Just remember most sellers won't ship as most delivery companies don't insure damaged computer monitors or TVs anymore, so you'd likely have to source a reasonably local one to collect/manually get delivered to you.

    Oh, and being Apple, they both are highly compatible and as a bonus hold their value if wanting to upgrade to 4/5K sometime in the future, and want to sell on again.

    I did just this, and haven't been happier, given 4/5K is not really viable for such budgets.
  4. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    That's not a bad idea. I use a 27" Apple Cinema Display at work and its a lovely display (but then I didn't have to pay for it!). Nothing else on the market gives you the same sort of docking functionality as the Thunderbolt display (USB2 hub, half-decent speakers, webcam, microphone, Ethernet, Firewire, Thunderbolt-through and built-in magsafe power).

    Just be aware of the caveats and decide whether its right for you:
    1. You can get a brand new 27" 1440p display (or a dual-screen 24" setup) with comparable display quality for the same price as a second-hand Cinema or Thunderbolt
    2. The Thunderbolt display only works with post-2011 Macs The Cinema Display (DisplayPort) is a bit more flexible but still only has one input. A third-party 27" screen will typically have multiple, switchable inputs for at least 2 out of DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, VGA etc. so it can work with older Macs, PCs, games consoles, BR players etc.
    3. They have glossy, polished glass screens (more glossy than the current iMacs) - personally, I see glossy vs. matte as swings & roundabouts, but some people just hate glossy.
    4. The USB hubs in these displays are USB 2 only.
    5. The Cinema (non-Thunderbolt) version cost as much new as the Thunderbolt version, but has less functionality, and this still seems to be reflected in the second-hand prices.
    6. Ergonomics are not the best: no height adjustment, no front-accessible USB ports.
    In my case, (2) was the deal-breaker, because I have various old macs, PCs etc. that I want to connect to & switch between. Your mileage may vary.
  5. jimthing, Oct 9, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015

    jimthing macrumors 65816


    Apr 6, 2011
    London, UK (Europe, Earth, Space)
    Yep all very good valid points. One thing that I never found a solution to for my Cinema Display is switching between 2 macs without unplugging each time.
    I tried a Kanex switcher thingy that didn't work, but nothing since. :-|

    Incidentally, I have cable solution I used for distances too (Mac Mini <-10 metre cables/adaptors-> Cinema Display), here:

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4 October 7, 2015