Monitor purchase advice please

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by hajime, Apr 15, 2017.

  1. hajime macrumors 601

    Jul 23, 2007
    Hello, my MBP 2010 17" still serves me well except that it is a bit heavy to carry it to work almost daily. I don't know when it will be out of order. I was planning to buy a MBP 2016 but I do not like some of the design features. The MBP 2017 probably won't be out until later this year. The announcement of the Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2 have also been delayed. Sometimes I feel the need of an extra large screen monitor. As you know, this MBP 2010 17" does not support 4K monitor but if I am going to buy a new monitor, I might not be wise not to buy a 4K one. It would be 30"-43" 4K or two 30"ish monitors. What suggestions do you have?
  2. theluggage, Apr 16, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017

    theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Non-recommendation: I just got a Dell S2817Q 28" 4k display to try with my Hackintosh box in the hope that it would also work with my 17" early 2011 MBP at 2560x1440 (2 DisplayPort inputs was a selling point). Long-term plan is to switch to a Fabled New iMac + MacBook combo and use the cheap Dell as a second display for both.

    Sadly, while it works fine with the Hackintosh (in glorious 4k), so far I can't get my MBP to display anything (an older 2010 MBP will do 1024x768 but nothing more). EDIT: Workaround found - see later post.

    Both the MBPs are on Mavericks, so I don't know if a newer OS would do better (but they're still on Mavericks for a reason).

    Also, even if it works, the display quality on an old Mac driving a 4k screen is going to be poor c.f. a native 2560x1440 screen. I've tried forcing the Hackintosh to 2560x1440 "low-resolution" mode* - which is what a non-4k Mac would do if it worked - and the result is rather soft and fuzzy compared with a true 1440p display. Perfectly usable, but not optimal - and that's at 28" - it's going to be even more noticeable on a 30-43" screen.

    My take-home lesson is to be patient and wait until you have a 4k-capable Mac, or your display choice is going to be hobbled by the need to support the old MBP and you'll be living with sub-optimal displat quality until then. (If you're desperate, 2560x1440 displays are cheaper and very not rubbish).


    Apart from that, on the Hacknitosh, the S2817Q display is great for a "budget" 4k (slightly muted colour, but I quite like that - I'm not a fan of Kodachrome Gold) and 28" is about the sweet spot where 4k native res starts to become just about usable, and the scaled modes very usable. Downsides are the lack of a swivel/height adjustable stand which also contributes to the cables being very hard to plug in and a genius bit of bad design whereby the latch on a latched displayport cable faces the casing and is the devil of a job to undo. The menu buttons are really fiddly, too.

    *On a 4k-capable machine, you have to option-click on "scaled" then check "show low resolution modes" and select "2560x1440 (low resolution)" to simulate what you'd get on a 2010 MBP - everything rendered at 1440p and then scaled up by the display. Otherwise, in the high-res, scaled, "looks like 2560x1440" mode, the screen is still being driven at 4k, most of what you see is being rendered at high resolution and the result is better than a native 1440p screen. The difference between that and "2560x1440 (low resolution)" and is night and day.
  3. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    I liked theluggage's advice about NOT buying a 4k display until you have a 4k capable Mac.

    The 4k display market is still relatively "nascent", with a few nice ones, and some that perhaps aren't so good.

    I'm still using a 2012 Mini for my desktop, and it doesn't support 4k. But... if I needed a new display, I might consider something like this:
    It ought to run "good enough" @2k (1080p) now, and easily jump up to 4k with a new Mac.
  4. MRrainer macrumors 65816

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland

    If money is not an issue: NEC PA 302.
    30" 2560x1600.
    DELL U3014 or HP z30 for a less glorious display.
  5. hajime thread starter macrumors 601

    Jul 23, 2007
    Thanks for the experience and advice. As I am not rich, I wait and get a better large screen 4K monitor and a new computer later. If I cannot resist the waiting, I get a decent 20"ish non-4K and get a 30"ish 4K as the main monitor later.
  6. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    Also BenQ BL3200PT at 32" 2560x1440 if you can drive that. Nice display and available at reasonable prices (I suspect it's being phased out).

    I will second (third?) theluggage's advice re 4K monitors.
  7. HDFan macrumors 65816

    Jun 30, 2007
    Assuming your MBP works fine with a 4K monitor (although at lower resolution), the question is how important is 4K to you when you can use it and how long do you plan to keep your monitor? 4K will likely become the standard monitor resolution. Monitors typically have a much longer life than computers, which tend to have a 3 year life cycle. My 30" Cinema display has been going for 10+ years without a glitch, while I've had 3 Macs during this same timeframe. When it dies I'll replace it with a 4K monitor (hopefully it will last until the new "PRO" Apple monitor comes out) so I'll be ready for 4K when the next MacPro comes out.

    The downside is that in a few years out a 4K monitor will likely be cheaper and maybe have more features. There might be connector issues, but hopefully that won't change again at least for a few more years. However you won't have to buy a new monitor, so figure in your upfront and depreciation costs.
  8. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    #8 2011 MacBook Pro 17" would like to disagree with you :) and I also wonder whether todays "4k"/UHD displays are actually going to be heirlooms like the previous generation.

    4k/5k displays have had a slow start and are still in flux somewhat. We've got a "connector war" (Displayport vs. HDMI vs. DisplayPort-over-USB-C vs HDMI-over-USB-C vs Thunderbolt 3), a shaky uptake of DisplayPort 1.3/1.4 and a NVIDIA-vs-AMD battle over adaptive sync (G-Sync vs. FreeSync) - although Apple doesn't seem to have a dog in that fight yet.

    Then there's the "true 4k" vs. UHD thing, and the very limited choice of 5k and/or USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 displays at the moment.

    Plus, to re-iterate: 1440p does not look brilliant when upscaled to 4k (its not the same the "looks like" mode on a retina/4k-capable Mac) even at 28" and the icon/system font size - just right for 27" - is getting a bit big for a 30"+ display. So you're going to be putting up with a sub-optimal result until you get your 4k-ready Mac.

    If you must buy a new display while your pre-4k Mac is waiting for the grim reaper then I'd at least look on it as a potential second screen for when you upgrade to a new Mac + high-res display.
  9. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Found a fix for this: rather than MiniDP-to-DP I tried an active miniDP-to-HDMI converter into one of the display's HDMI inputs and, bingo.

    The MBP (17" early 2011, AMD 6750M) will even do 3840x2160, bless it - pin sharp, would be very usable on a 30"+ screen, but only at 30Hz (and you soon notice that moving the cursor or dragging windows looks jerky). 2560x1440 works fine @60Hz but, as I predicted, is somewhat "soft focus" c.f. a real 1440p display (I use a 27" Apple Cinema display at work).

    So, that's me a bit happier (and a possible hint if you get stuck with a 4k display that won't work with your old MBP) - but my point stands: if you go 4k before upgrading your Mac, you'll be looking at a sub-optimal display (30Hz or up-sampled).
  10. MRrainer macrumors 65816

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland
    That's a good idea. Deprecation on displays is huge. Only buy what you really need, when you need it.
    If you current system doesn't output 4k, it's pointless to buy a 4k-display.
  11. HDFan macrumors 65816

    Jun 30, 2007
    Having your monitor fail sucks. Sounds like you just had bad luck unless there was some sort of production problem. I've been using monitors for, let's just say a lot of years, and have never had a failure. Here's a DPRreview article (latest I could find),

    which says an LCD has a lifetime of about 3,000,000 hours. Just divide that by the number of hours you use a day and you get an idea of how long it potentially could last. Lots of variation though: if you keep it at maximum brightness, there could be an electronics failure (I'm paranoid that my monitor power block fails since it can't be repaired/replaced), etc.
  12. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    I haven't had a monitor failure (well, not recently).

    When I question the future-proof-ness of current 4k/5k monitor I'm talking about the odds of them working with - or producing acceptable quality from - your next/next-but-one computer.

    I think that's a particular issue with 5k displays that rely on MST (which includes the Apple/LG 5k Thunderbolt display) - a kludge which will be obsoleted by DisplayPort 1.3/1.4, and the Apple/LG 4k (which bets the entire farm on USB-C taking over the world but is also, AFAIK, stuck at DisplayPort 1.2a).

    ...while, on the other side of the equation, computers are staying viable for longer. The only two things really wrong with my 2011 MBP are lack of USB3 and poor external display connectivity (although it turns out it can actually do 4k at 30Hz): the newer alternatives are a bit faster, but nothing like twice the speed as they would have been in the Good Old Days.

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