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macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 12, 2015

I'd like to purchase an external screen for my Macbook Air. I want to purchase a Samsung, Dell or Viewsonic or basically of that price range. The 22-23 inch screens are a good fit for me at 1920 x 1080 resolution.

However, I see the new 27 inch screens are also of 1920 x 1080 resolution. E.g.

My questions:

a) I am not sure if the maximum resolution is for Windows, or applies to Mac as well. If I connect the above screen (27") to my Macbook Air, will it really give a (low) 1920 x 1080 resolution?

b) If so, won't that look pixelated given that a 22" inch screen also fits the same resolution? If not, what is the biggest resolution a Macbook air can handle for that screen size?

c) Any recommendations for a good fit for Macbook Air if I do want a 27" inch screen around the Samsung cost range?

Thanks in advance!


macrumors 604
Mar 2, 2008
Always a day away
If the monitor's max resolution is 1920x1080, then that's the best you're going to get - doesn't matter what the video source is (Windows, Mac, Apple TV, TV tuner, or whatever). It won't look any more pixelated than a 22" screen at the same resolution, just that the pixels will be larger.

The highest resolution your MBA can display is both a function of the MBA itself (I didn't see that you posted any specs on it) and of the monitor - you can display any resolution that both pieces of hardware support. It has nothing to do with screen size and everything to do with resolution.


macrumors 601
Aug 28, 2012
Between the coasts
The spec sheet for your Mac will tell you what screen resolutions it supports.

This is what the specs for the 2015 Macbook Airs state (both 13" and 11" models):
Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 3840 by 2160 pixels on an external display, both at millions of colors
The displays on the 11" and 13" Macbook Airs have had the same native resolution since the Late 2010 models. However, the resolution for external displays has improved over the years. Be sure to check the specs for your specific model.

To me, the point of getting a larger display is to have more pixels as well as larger pixels (that 27" 1920 x 1080 display simply has larger pixels than the 22-23" 1920 x 1080 displays). My 27" (non-Retina) iMac has a native resolution of 2560 x 1440 - that means I can spread a whole lot more stuff across the desktop than I could on the 1440 x 900 display of a 13" Macbook Air (multiple windows side by side, for example). The stuff on screen is also a bit larger on that 27" display - altogether, much easier on my eyes and also more productive thanks to the larger workspace.


macrumors member
Apr 29, 2016
Hi, as ApfelKuchen notes, if your MacBook Air is 2015 or newer, it will support 3840x2160 externally (4k), which is awesome! If you've got that, then I'd recommend one of the Samsung 28" 4k monitors: the ones I know of are the U28D590D (from 2014) and the U28E590D (from 2015) - just search Amazon for those model numbers. I use the former with my 2014 15" MBP & it's really spoiled me! If you're willing to live with a unit that's in used-but-good condition, they can both be had for < $400 USD on Amazon Marketplace, which I find pretty astounding, especially given the price of the 5k iMac.

If 3840x2160 sounds like an ungodly amount of pixels - is it! ;) The point of doing this is not to make everything super-small, it's to enable the Mac's "retina" scaling, the main benefit of which is to make text incredibly sharp. When you do retina like this, the System Preferences Displays pane gives you 5 "steps" for scaled resolutions, ranging from "larger text" through "more space." One warning - retina text on a 28" screen spoils you immediately, so much so that it will be hard to go back to using your MacBook Air's internal LCD ;)

You should also probably be sure that the Thunderbolt (Mini DisplayPort) to HDMI cable you get is capable of supporting 4k - older ones might not be able to do that.

And one caveat - at least on my mid-2014 15" MBP, the fastest refresh rate I can successfully drive the U28D590D at over HDMI is 30Hz. This is totally adequate for me - doesn't bug me in the slightest. If, for some reason, things don't immediately "plug and play" to give you retina, you can use the SwitchResX utility to tweak things.
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