MacBook Pro external monitor

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by otiso, Jul 30, 2017.

  1. otiso macrumors newbie

    Jul 29, 2017
    I have a mid 2010 Macbook Pro but will be upgrading to a new Macbook Pro next year. I am looking for a monitor with up to date technology (4/5k?) that will be compatible with the latest Macbook Pro as well as my older laptop. I am looking to spend under $1000, closer to $500. I will be using it for web and graphic design.

    I’m hoping I can use a Dual-Link DVI adapter and/or cable. My mid 2010 Macbook Pro is 2560x1600 (30hz). It has a miniDisplay port and USB 2.0.

    I appreciate the guidance.
  2. cruisin macrumors 6502a


    Apr 1, 2014
    4K/5K has too much signal to fit into Dual-Link DVI (2560 × 1600). UHD (kind of 4K) is 3840 × 2160 and actual 4K is 4096 × 2160. 5K is even higher (5120 × 2880).

    You either need to limit your monitor purchase to 2560 × 1600, or find a monitor that accepts a lower resolution as input and then upscales the signal internally. UHD is 4x the resolution of HD (1920 x 1080) so it should be possible.

    4K monitors usually use DisplayPort or HDMI or USB C (since other cables cannot supply the full resolution) and your future MacBook uses USB C (and you can get a few converters if needed), so you will definitely need to find a converter for your old MacBook. DVI converts easily to HDMI (same signal but HDMI has audio added) but the new monitor might not accept your old MacBook. I would suggest to get a DVI to HDMI adapter and test the new monitor before committing.

    If you are happy with 30 Hz you can get a ultra wide monitor (2560 x 1080) which should work over DVI with the 30 Hz limitation.
  3. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Frankly, I'd wait until you have your new MacBook Pro rather than compromise your choice of display to get something that works with your old machine. Also, be aware, that "standard def" (2560x1400 or 1920x1080) from an older MacBook "upsampled" to 4k by the display is not the greatest quality (and doesn't hold a candle to the more sophisticated, GPU-driven "scaled mode" on the new Macs) - its perfectly usable, but a bit "soft focus" and not what you'd want from a brand new display. If you wanted a display specifically for a 2010 MBP then a 27" 2560x1440 or a 24" 1920x1200 would be more practical.

    That said: I just tried connecting a mid-2010 13" MBP to my Dell S2817Q 4k display using a StarTech active MiniDisplayPort to HDMI adapter ( and:

    (a) It works at 1920x1080 (things are a bit large) and 2560x1440 (slightly "soft")
    (b) It actually works at 4k!!! (3840x2160)@30hz - very small type, but (eyesight depending) starting to become usable on a 28 or 30" 4k display. No proper "scaled modes" (they probably need a modern GPU) though. I think the 2010 MBP deserves a medal for that, though! Oh for the "good old days" and NVIDIA motherboard chipsets...

    That's just a brief test - I can't vouch for how well it works when used in anger or how the MBP deals with pushing all those pixels around.

    However, if you do want to connect a 4k to your 2010 Mac then I'd suggest an active MiniDP-to-HDMI converter such as the StarTech is the best bet (most 4k displays support HDMI and DisplayPort). When I tried to connect my newer 2011 MBP to the Dell with the usual MiniDP-to-DP, it didn't work (probably needs a newer version of DP) but the active HDMI did the trick.

    Dell S2817Q 4k display: 4k for (currently) $399 - Nice clear, sharp display if you want real-estate for coding, spreadsheets etc. and has speakers good enough for basic sound (if that is a consideration - not a replacement for separate speakers, though), good choice of DP, MiniDP and 2xHDMI connections. I haven't noticed any viewing angle problems (often an issue wi. However, colour is a bit washed-out - not a good choice for photography/video, no swivel/height adjustment (which also makes the cables a pain to connect cables) and cheap, fiddly control buttons. I'd say that it was good value at the price, as a secondary monitor or if you're on a tight budget, but if you can spend more, you probably should. Works on 2017 iMac with the "Pluggable" USB-C to DP cable, so should be fine on new MBPs.
  4. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
  5. otiso, Jul 31, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017

    otiso thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 29, 2017
    I don't really want to buy an external monitor just to use with my 2010 MBP as I will be replacing it soon, but I can't afford to buy both a new MacBook Pro and a new monitor at the moment and was hoping a monitor for a new Macbook Pro could possibly work with my old one as well.

    Thanks for the input.

  6. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    If you don't currently have any external display then 1440p-upscaled-to-4k is perfectly usable, it's just going to be a disappointing pay-off for spending the thick end of $1000 on a new display. I wouldn't consider it unless you're totally committed to getting a properly 4k-capable new MBP in a few months.

    However, if you're even thinking about 5k then hang fire - the Apple/LG 5k Thunderbolt 3 display is now pretty much the only game in town (the Dell is discontinued, the HP costs $How Much?!) and that definitely won't work on your old MBP.

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