If you’re looking for an external display for your MacBook Pro including the latest M1 and M2 chip MacBook Pros, here we’ve looked at the best monitors for the MacBook Pro of 2022.
The MacBook Pro is an amazing machine but the one thing it doesn’t have is much screen estate.
Buying an external monitor for a MacBook Pro is an effective way to boost your productivity, improve gaming and an external display is virtually essential if you’re a professional doing video editing, graphic design or music production.
Of course the best Apple displays for all Macs including the MacBook Pro are both the Apple Pro XDR and Apple Studio Display – but not everyone has that kind of budget to spend.
Here we’ve looked at everything from the best budget displays to the best 5K monitors for the MacBook Pro which are excellent alternatives to Apple’s monitors.
In our research, we found the superb 5K LG 34 inch Ultrafine is the best monitor for the MacBook Pro as an alternative to the Apple’s displays.
- Intel vs M1/M2 MacBook Pro Monitor Support
- How To Choose A Monitor For A MacBook Pro
- Is The MacBook Pro Compatible With All Monitors?
- Can You Use An iMac As A Monitor For The MacBook Pro?
- 1. LG 34BK95U-W UltraFine 34”
- 2. Dell UltraSharp U2720Q 27 Inch 4K UHD
- 3. Apple 32-inch Pro Display XDR
- 4. Apple Studio Display
- 5. LG Monitor 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27″
- 6. BenQ PD3220U 32 inch 4K Monitor IPS
- 7. Samsung 34 inch CJ791 Curved
- 8. Acer SB220Q
- Best Monitors For MacBook Pro Compared
Intel vs M1/M2 MacBook Pro Monitor Support
Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are two types of MacBook Pro out there.
Although Apple still sells refurbished Intel MacBook Pros, the company only sells Apple Silicon M1 and M2 chip MacBook Pros from new nowadays.
All of the monitors reviewed here work perfectly well with both Intel and Apple Silicon MacBook Pros as they have either USB-C, Thunderbolt or HDMI ports to connect them to.
Intel MacBook Pro External Monitor Support
The amount of external monitors supported by an Intel Mac depends on the model, size and year it was made.
The 2014 13 inch Intel Retina MacBook Pro supports up to three external UHD or 4K monitors, two via Thunderbolt and one via HDMI.
The 16 inch Intel MacBook Pro can support up to four external UHD or 4K monitors. Alternatively, it can support up to two 5K or 6K displays.
M1 & M2 MacBook Pro External Monitor Support
The 14-inch or 16-inch 2021 MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chip can support two external displays up to 6K over USB-C or Thunderbolt and one at up to 4K over HDMI 2.0
The 14-inch or 16-inch 2021 MacBook Pro with M1 Max can support three external displays up to 6K over USB-C or Thunderbolt and one at up to 4K over HDMI 2.0.
Be aware however that the base model 2020 13 inch M1 MacBook Pro and 2022 13 inch M2 MacBook Pro can only support one external monitor at up to 6K.
There are workarounds however to make a basic 2020 M1 MacBook Pro or 2022 M2 MacBook Pro support more than one external monitor although they require external hardware.
This isn’t a problem however with the 2021 MacBook Pro as it can be customized with the more powerful Pro and Max chips which can support more than one external display.
If you need more than four external monitors with your Mac, then we strongly recommend getting a Mac Studio instead which can support up to five external displays with the M1 Ultra chip.
How To Choose A Monitor For A MacBook Pro
Almost any monitor will work with a MacBook Pro but the amount of choice and port connections is overwhelming so we’ve done the hard work for you by shortlisting the best ones.
Here’s an overview of some key things to look for when choosing the best display for a MacBook Pro including M1 and M2 chip models.
USB-C Vs Thunderbolt
One of the most important factors when choosing an external display for a MacBook Pro (and indeed any Mac) is USB-C or Thunderbolt port support.
Most new Macs since 2017 have Thunderbolt 3 ports and the M1 MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt 4 ports but not all external displays have a Thunderbolt port.
Thunderbolt and USB-C are interchangeable though and without going into too much boring technical detail, Thunderbolt is simply Apple’s version of USB-C.
As long as the monitor has a USB-C port, you can connect it to your MacBook Pro Thunderbolt port easily.
There’s often confusion between USB-C and Thunderbolt because the cable and ports are exactly the same but the extent of external monitor support is often different due to the different USB 3, 3.1, 3.2 and 4.0 designations within USB-C.
The main difference is that Thunderbolt cables and ports are Apple specific and support faster transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps.
This is important when it comes to transmitting high quality images from your Mac to the display such as the 6K resolution of the Apple Pro Display XDR.
Thunderbolt also supports 10-bit color representation for the best quality color reproduction compared to USB-C.
The other advantage of USB-C and Thunderbolt is that they can deliver power for the monitor via the cable so you don’t need an external power supply to plug the display into.
If a monitor has more than one Thunderbolt or USB-C port, you can also connect them together which is known as “daisy chaining” your monitors.
MacBook Pro & HDMI 2.1
The HDMI port in the latest M1 and M2 MacBook Pros doesn’t support the latest HDMI 2.1 standard as it uses the older HDMI 2.0 standard instead.
This means you can get 4K resolution but you can’t get the highest refresh rates of 120Hz via the HDMI port in the MacBook Pro.
HDMI 2.0 only supports a maximum display resolution of 3840 x 2160 with a 60Hz refresh rate but it does still support audio.
HDMI 2.1 supports the same 3840 x 2160 resolution but at up to a 120Hz refresh rate and can also support resolutions of 7680 x 4320 at 60Hz.
There are in fact no Macs on the market that support the newer HDMI 2.1 yet.
Many cheaper monitors only have HDMI ports which will still connect to M1 MacBook Pros but won’t charge it like a USB-C or Thunderbolt monitor will.
If you’re a creative professional then another thing to look for is that the monitor has a wide color gamut coverage which means 97% DCI-P3 or above.
The higher the color gamut, the more colors the monitor can display.
In terms of resolution, the M1 and M2 MacBook Pro Liquid Retina XDR display has a stunning resolution of 227 ppi which can handle 8K video and you simply won’t find an external monitor that can come close to that.
Almost all of the best external displays for the MacBook Pro support 4K and some of them are even 5K although none of them will match the MacBook Pro’s own internal screen.
Cheap Full HD (FHD) and Quad HD (QHD) monitors however produce terrible image quality compared to the MacBook Pro liquid Retina XDR screen and should definitely be avoided.
We’ve therefore excluded all FHD and QHD monitors as they simply do not provide good image quality when connected to a MacBook Pro.
Another factor to consider for the best image quality is the refresh rate of the display.
USB-C and Thunderbolt can support higher refresh rates than HDMI which means higher quality image reproduction.
The M1 MacBook Pro has a refresh rate of 120Hz and you won’t find many external monitors that support a rate that high.
You should be looking for a refresh rate of at least 60Hz for the best quality images and you’ll definitely get this with either USB-C or Thunderbolt if the monitor supports it.
Most MacBook Pro compatible Thunderbolt monitors support a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz although some like the Samsung 34-Inch CJ791 Ultrawide Curved Monitor has a refresh rate of 100Hz which is only really necessary for the demands of gaming.
Is The MacBook Pro Compatible With All Monitors?
As long as the monitor has a USB-C/Thunderbolt or HDMI port (which almost all displays have at least one of nowadays) it will work with a MacBook Pro.
You can also buy HDMI to Thunderbolt adapters to connect HDMI only monitors to Macs that don’t have an HDMI port.
Note that there have been reported issues with some external monitors not working with MacBook Pros running macOS Monterey and these seem related to updates in macOS Monterey which are still being resolved.
There have also been some issues with poor resolution on external displays when connected to M1 & M2 Macs.
Most displays work well when connected to Apple Silicon Macs but you can find some ways to fix resolution issues on external displays here.
Can You Use An iMac As A Monitor For The MacBook Pro?
If you’ve for an old iMac lying around, you can use an iMac as an external display for the MacBook Pro but it’s not as straightforward as it should be.
The latest iMacs support up to 5K resolution which is the same as the Apple Studio Display so in theory, it would make perfect sense to use an old iMac with a MacBook Pro.
However, Apple dropped what’s known as Target Display Mode for retina Macs like the iMac back in 2014 which previously allowed you to use an iMac as an external monitor with another Mac.
There are still ways to use an iMac as a monitor but there are very few that support 5K resolution reliably and our advice is you’re much better off getting a dedicated external monitor.
With all this in mind, here then are the best external monitors for the MacBook Pro of 2022 including the latest M1 and M2 Macs.
1. LG 34BK95U-W UltraFine 34”
If you need the highest possible resolution outside of the Apple Pro XDR, then the superb LG UltraFine 34 offers 5K resolution.
In fact, we think the 5K LG UltraFine 34 inch monitor is the best non-Apple monitor for the MacBook Pro and the best alternative to the Apple Studio Display.
Although it can’t come close to the Apple XDR Display which supports 6K, it’s still a very economical alternative as the XDR costs almost $5000.
You can get full 5K 5120 x 2160 resolution (also known as 5K2K) with the LG34BK95 including on the M1 and M2 MacBook Pros.
When it was originally released, the LG UltraFine 34 inch did not scale resolution correctly on M1 MacBook Pro but that has now been fixed and it works fine at full 5K with M1 and M2 Macs.
It can of course also easily handle 4K video and the wide viewing angles make it an excellent choice for those in desktop publishing or video editing.
Because its a 34 inch 5K screen you get over 30% more screen estate on the LG34BK95U-W UltraFine than on a standard 4K monitor.
You can change the tilt and height on the stand that comes with the LG34BK95U-W UltraFine but if you need swivel, you’ll have to add a VESA stand mount connection.
In terms of ports, apart from the standard HDMI there’s a dedicated Thunderbolt 3 port with 85W of power which offers DisplayPort Alt Mode.
There are also an additional 3 USB-C ports.
The refresh rate of the LG34BK95U-W UltraFine is only 60Hz but that’s about as good as you’ll find in an external monitor that’s compatible with the MacBook Pro.
There are no speakers in the LG UltraFine 34 inch but there is a 3.5mm audio out jack that you can connect speakers to.
There is no integrated webcam in the LG UltraFine 34 inch either although you can connect one via USB-C.
- 5K resolution with 5K2K support
- 3 USB-C ports plus Thunderbolt port
- Huge screen estate
- 3 year LG guarantee
- Sound or brightness can’t be controlled from Mac keyboard
- Swivel requires mounting a stand
- No internal speakers
- No internal webcam
2. Dell UltraSharp U2720Q 27 Inch 4K UHD
The 27 inch Dell UltraSharp U2720Q is a great all round external display and the best budget external monitor for the MacBook Pro.
The 4K display looks great connected to a MacBook Pro and makes it ideal for editing photos, watching films, designing and more.
The Dell UltraSharp U2720Q has two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C and one HDMI ports so you can connect it to both Intel and M1/M2 MacBook Pros.
The Thunderbolt port also means it will charge your MacBook Pro and doesn’t require an external power supply with 90W of throughput power.
This means you can connect up to 3 of them to a MacBook Pro M1 with M1 Pro or M1 Max chips.
The Dell UltraSharp U2720Q has a stand that can swivel, pivot and adjust vertically which is another bonus as many external monitor stands don’t offer such flexibility.
At around $500, you won’t find many better quality external displays for the MacBook Pro in this price range.
If you need an Ethernet connection for your monitor, you should also check out the newer Dell UltraSharp U2723QE which is an upgraded version of this model and allows you to connect the display directly via Ethernet.
- Lots of ports for connectivity
- Great crisp 4K quality images
- Excellent color gamut
- Excellent value for money
- Brightness controls are poor
- No internal speakers
- No internal webcam
3. Apple 32-inch Pro Display XDR
Easily the best external monitor for creative professionals with a MacBook Pro is the amazing 6K Apple 32-inch Pro Display XDR.
There’s nothing else on the market that can match the 6K resolution on the Apple Pro Display XDR.
The XDR stands for Extreme Dynamic Range and goes way beyond the usual High Dynamic Range (HDR) you get in most monitors.
The stunning XDR is the first 32-inch Retina display to support up to 1600 nits of brightness and 218 pixels per inch (PPI which is the same as DPI).
This makes it easily the best external Mac display for professional video and photo editors and the XDR can adjust its brightness to reach HDR during playback.
Other highlights of the display include:
- Support for up to a billion colors
- Super-wide viewing angle
- 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio
- P3 Wide Color Gamut
The XDR display is available in Standard Glass and Nanotexure and Standard Glass, the latter offering a sharper picture.
Nanotexture has a more textured looks but is designed to reduce loss of quality due to reflections.
The Standard Glass offers the same sharp look that you get on a Macbook Pro or an iPhone.
The Apple 32-inch Pro Display XDR automatically adjusts picture quality based on what you’re watching or doing on it so it’s optimized whether you’re doing video editing or music production.
The Apple 32-inch Pro Display XDR also adjusts brightness automatically depending on lighting up to a maximum of 1600 nits.
Of course, because it has 4 Thunderbolt ports, it will also fully charge a MacBook Pro when connected via Thunderbolt cable.
Note that the XDR display does not include a stand which you have to purchase separately for $999.
Despite the eye popping price tag of $5000, surprisingly The Apple Pro XDR display also does not have any integrated speakers or a webcam.
- By far the best external monitor for Macs
- 6K resolution
- 4 Thunderbolt ports
- Available with both glass and nanotexture
- 1600 nits of brightness
- Automatically optimizes picture depending on what you’re doing
- Support for one billion colors
- Stand is sold separately
- No integrated speakers
- No integrated camera
4. Apple Studio Display
The Apple Studio Display was released on 13th March 2022 by Apple and offers much cheaper alternative to the Apple 32-inch Pro Display XDR.
The Apple Studio Display is definitely the best Apple alternative to the Apple Pro XDR display. Although it can’t compare with the XDR’s specs, the Apple Studio Display is easily the second best external monitor for Macs and starts at just $1,599 compared to $4,999 for the Pro XDR display.
Like the Pro XDR, the Apple Studio Display supports 218 PPI although it can only handle a maximum 5K 5120 x 2880 resolution compared to 6K in the XDR.
It also only supports 600 nits of brightness compared to 1600 in the XDR which although impressive, is not quite enough for professional video editors that need the added brightness to reach HDR during video playback.
It does however have the same True Tone Anti Reflective Coating and is available with nano-texture glass like the XDR.
There are also some advantages to the Studio Display over the Pro XDR. The Apple Studio Display also has a 12 MegaPixel Ultra Wide camera with Center Stage thanks to a powerful internal A13 Bionic chip.
It also has a music studio quality three-mic array which makes it definitely the best monitor for music production on a Mac.
This includes a six speaker sound system with Spatial Audio.
Finally, the Apple Studio Display also comes with a tilt and height adjustable stand although you’ll have to add a VESA mount adapter if you want to add swivel to it.
- Much cheaper alternative to the XDR Pro
- Supports 5K
- 3 Thunderbolt ports
- 12MP camera
- Three-way microphone
- No 6K support
- 600 nits brightness support compared to 1600 in Pro XDR
- Maximum size is 27 inch
5. LG Monitor 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27″
The LG 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27 inch monitor is marketed at Apple Mac users as it offers excellent compatibility and quality compared to most when used with a Mac including M1 MacBook Pros.
If you don’t need the wider screen of the LG UltraFine 34 inch, the LG 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27 is the best compact 5K monitor for the MacBook Pro with crisp, sharp images.
Highlights of the LG 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27 inch monitor include:
- 5K UHD 5120 x 2880 Resolution with 16:9 Aspect Ratio – 500nits Brightness
- 27 Inch Wide-Screen Flat-Panel IPS Monitor – DCI-P3 99% Color Gamut
- The monitor features both a built-in camera and a speaker
- Thunderbolt 3 Port with up to 94W Power Delivery – 3 x USB Type C Ports
The LG UltraFine 5K display is over 50% bigger than a 4K display with a maximum of 218 PPI which is the same as both the Apple Pro XDR display and Apple Studio display.
The LG UltraFine 5K display supports P3 gamut & 500 nits of brightness which is only 100 nits lower than the Apple Studio Display.
The Thunderbolt 3 connection can transmit 5K video, audio and data simultaneously to M1 and M2 MacBook Pros.
The LG 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27 inch monitor only has a 60Hz refresh rate but it still performs very well for gaming and fast moving media such as when video editing on a MacBook Pro.
If you want a compact, value for money 5K monitor for your MacBook Pro, the LG 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27 inch is an excellent choice.
- 5K quality resolution
- Wide P3 gamut
- 218 PPI
- Built-in web camera
- Built-in speakers
- Internal speaker quality is poor
- Small screen estate
6. BenQ PD3220U 32 inch 4K Monitor IPS
The BenQ has not only a Thunderbolt 3 port but also a USB-C port but also a DisplayPort port for older Intel MacBook Pros.
The BenQ PD3220U is an IPS monitor which means In-Plane Switching and uses liquid crystals in parallel to produce richer colors.
It supports P3 wide color gamut and HDR with a 60Hz refresh rate so it’s ideal for digital work including Adobe’s RGB profile.
The wide P3 gamut of the BenQ PD3220U is ideal for working with Adobe RGB profiled images and RAW photos which covers Rec BT 709 although not up to Rec BT2020.
Other highlights of the BenQ PD3220U include puck adjuster for controls, KVM switch, ability to hot-swap color profiles and display two profiles at once.
The BenQ PD3220U has recently upgraded the firmware to support 60Hz refresh rates on M1 Mac Minis and updates to macOS Monterey have also improved compatibility.
On the downside, the viewing angle is a little narrow although not bad for a 32 inch monitor. The glass finish also suffers from glare in bright sunlight although as long as you avoid this, it’s fine.
The BenQ PD3220U does have internal speakers but the quality is very poor and you’re much better off using external speakers.
Display Pilot also does not work on M1 Macs including the Mac Mini due to a lack of support for Rosetta in macOS.
- Wide P3 color gamut
- Easy to use, fast user interface
- Thunderbolt 3 port
- Lots of other ports
- Uses IPS for richer colors
- Internal speakers
- Viewing angle could be better
- Stand works nicely, no buttons or levels.
- Internal speaker quality is poor
7. Samsung 34 inch CJ791 Curved
The Samsung 34-Inch CJ791 Ultrawide Curved Monitor was the first curved monitor with Intel Thunderbolt 3 ports and is the best gaming monitor for the MacBook Pro.
It’s mainly designed for gaming with an incredibly high 100Hz refresh rate and for those that love gaming on curved screens, it’s easily the best external monitor for playing games on the MacBook Pro.
There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports which means you can not only connect and charge your MacBook Pro but also other Thunderbolt peripherals such as external storage drives and external graphics cards.
The Samsung 34-Inch CJ791 Ultrawide Curved Monitor also includes DP, HDMI and USB ports.
The speakers in the CJ791 are also better than most. It includes built-in 7-watt stereo speakers which are ideal for watching videos, films and gaming.
The curved 34 inch widescreen monitor is ultrawide which gives you the feel of two monitors in one in terms of screen estate.
It also has a contrast ratio of 3:1 compared to the 1:1 ratio of many monitors in this price range which gives crisp, clear contrast.
You can even enjoy Picture-in-Picture by displaying two sources of data on the display by resizing one of the sources up to 25% which you can place anywhere.
Initially you may find that text looks a little pixelated and jagged on the Samsung CJ791 Ultrawide Curved Monitor but if you switch Game Mode to “Always On”, it seems to fix the problem.
- 2 Thunderbolt ports
- Curved 34 inch display feels huge
- Excellent for gaming
- Good quality internal speakers
- Supports Picture-in-Picture
- 100Hz refresh rate ideal for gaming
- VESA mountable
- Picture in Picture tricky to configure
- Large text can look pixelated without Game Mode on
- No integrated webcam
8. Acer SB220Q
The Acer SB220Q is the best cheap monitor for the MacBook Pro under $200. The Acer SB220Q 1080p monitor has a surprisingly sharp picture and crisp brilliant colors for an external display in this price range.
The SB220Q is amazingly thin at just 19.6 x 8.3 x 15.1 inches and weighs just over 5 lbs.
The Acer SB220Q has a 75 Hz refresh rate which isn’t great but sufficient for most general users that aren’t playing high performance games on a MacBook Pro.
For this price, you won’t get USB-C or Thunderbolt ports but there is an HDMI port to connect it to all models of MacBook Pro plus a VGA port.
You will however need an HDMI cable to connect it to your MacBook Pro as it doesn’t come with one included. You can also use an HDMI to Thunderbolt adpater to connect it to a Thunderbolt port on your MacBook Pro.
There are no internal speakers although there is a 3.5mm audio output jack to connect external speakers to which we generally recommend with external monitors anyway.
There are attachment points for a VESA wall mount although the wall mount is not included in the price. The monitor does come with it’s own stand though which also allows you to tilt it slightly.
The Acer SB220Q obviously feels a bit flimsy and cheap at just $200 and the digital menu controls are poorly thought out but at this price, you can’t complain much.
- Excellent value for money
- Slimline design
- VESA attachment points
- Audio jack
- HDMI only
- Poor build quality
Best Monitors For MacBook Pro Compared
If you’re still not sure which monitor to get for your MacBook Pro here’s a side-by-side comparison of our top alternatives to the Mac Pro XDR and Apple Studio reviewed here to help.