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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 with the latest M1 MacBook Pro having a maximum screen size of 16 inches.

Buying an external monitor is an effective way to boost your productivity, improve your gaming experience and an external display is virtually essential if you’re a professional doing video editing, graphic design or music production.

Here we’ve looked at everything from the best budget displays to the best 5K monitors for the MacBook Pro which are the best external monitors for the MacBook Pro’s Liquid Retina XDR display.

In our extensive research we found the 5K 34 inch LG UltraFine was the best monitor for the MacBook Pro of 2022.

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.

Thunderbolt and USB-C use the same cables to connect and are better than HDMI for stability, ease of connection and image transfer speeds.

You can also buy HDMI to Thunderbolt adapters to connect HDMI only monitors to Macs that don’t have an HDMI port.

Of course the best MacBook Pro compatible Apple displays are both Apple’s own Apple Pro XDR Display and Apple Studio Display – but they don’t come cheap at $4,999 and $1,399 respectively which is why we’ve mainly focused on alternatives.

There have been reported issues with some external monitors not working with MacBook Pros running macOS Ventura and Monterey although there are some workarounds to fix these problems.

These problems often occur when a new version of macOS is released and Apple usually fixes them eventually when it pushes out minor updates to macOS.

However, 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.

Intel vs M1/M2 MacBook Pro Monitor Support

It’s important to understand that there are two types of MacBook Pro out there.

There’s the older ones with an Intel chip and since 2020 onwards, the Apple Silicon M1 Macs such as the M1 MacBook Pro with the latest M1 chip and more recently the M2 chip.

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.

M1 & M2 MacBook Pro External Monitor Support

m1 macbook pro ports

M1 MacBook Pro 2021 Connectivity

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.

Intel MacBook Pro External Monitor Support

intel macbook pro ports

Intel MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch Mid 2014 Connectivity

The number of external monitors supported by older Intel Macs 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.

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 if it has an M1 Ultra chip in it.

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 buying and external display.

With this in mind, here then are the best external monitors for the MacBook Pro of 2022 including for the latest M1 and M2 Macs.

1. LG 34BK95U-W 5K UltraFine 34”

best 5K monitor for macbook pro

Important Note: Outside of the USA, this model is marketed more commonly as the as the LG 34WK95U-W

If you need the highest possible resolution outside of the Apple Pro XDR, then the superb LG UltraFine 34 offers 5K resolution with 163 pixels per inch (ppi).

LG monitors are some of the best displays you can get for Macs and Apple even helped LG develop the UltraFine display as it contains a very similar panel to the 27 inch 5K iMac display.

In fact, outside of Apple’s monitors, we think the 5K LG UltraFine 34 inch monitor is the best 5K display 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 LG 34BK95-W including on M1/M2 Macs and the Mac Studio which is great for video editing although for reading text, you might want to scale down the resolution as it does make everything look much smaller.

The display supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) which, like Dolby Vision, makes bright and dark parts of an image incredibly intense and contrasted.

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 also making it arguably the best USB-C monitor for the MacBook Pro too.

The refresh rate of the LG34BK95U-W UltraFine is 60hz but that’s about as good as you’ll find in an external monitor that’s compatible with the MacBook Pro and good enough for most gaming.

There are speakers in the LG UltraFine 34 inch 5K but the sound is poor and it’s best to connect some external speakers to it.

There is no integrated webcam in the LG UltraFine 34 inch either although you can connect one via USB-C or use a digital camera as a webcam.

You can read our full LG 34BK95U-W 34 inch 5K monitor review for more.

Outside of the USA, this model is more commonly available as the LG 34WK95U-W which is almost exactly the same with a few minor differences.

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Pros:

  • 5K resolution with 5K2K support
  • 163 ppi
  • 3 USB-C ports plus Thunderbolt port
  • Huge screen estate
  • 3 year LG guarantee
  • Supports HDR

Cons:

  • Sound or brightness can’t be controlled from Mac keyboard
  • Swivel requires mounting a stand
  • No internal webcam

2. Apple Studio Display

best apple monitor for macbook pro

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 Apple 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.

The Apple Studio Display retails at $1,599 from Apple although you can currently buy them refurbished for $1,399.

You can check out our full Apple Studio Display review for more.

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Pros:

  • Much cheaper alternative to the XDR Pro
  • Supports 5K
  • 3 Thunderbolt ports
  • 12MP camera
  • Three-way microphone

Cons:

  • No 6K support
  • 600 nits brightness support compared to 1600 in Pro XDR
  • Maximum size is 27 inch

3. LG Monitor 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27″

best monitor for macbook pro

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 & and impressive 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.

You can read our full LG 27MD5KL-B 5K UltraFine 27″ monitor review for more.

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Pros:

  • 5K quality resolution
  • Wide P3 gamut
  • 218 PPI
  • Built-in web camera
  • Built-in speakers
  • Supports volume and brightness control from Mac

Cons:

  • Internal speaker quality is poor
  • Webcam quality isn’t great
  • Doesn’t support High Dynamic Range (HDR)

4. Dell UltraSharp U2720Q 27 Inch 4K UHD

best budget monitor for macbook pro

The 27 inch Dell UltraSharp U2720Q is a great all round external display and the best budget monitor for the MacBook Pro at little more than $500.

The 4K display looks great connected to a MacBook Pro and makes it ideal for editing photos, watching films, designing and more.

Unusually for a monitor in this price range, it supports HDR (High Dynamic Range) which not even Apple’s own Apple Studio Display supports.

HDR, like Dolby Vision, makes bright and dark parts of an image incredibly intense and contrasted with whiter whites and blacker blacks.

The Dell UltraSharp U2720Q has two USB-C ports and one HDMI port so you can connect it to both Intel and M1/M2 MacBook Pros.

The USB-C port also means it will charge your MacBook Pro and doesn’t require an external power supply with 90W of throughput power.

However, the lack of Thunderbolt port means it won’t support the maximum transfer speeds of 40Gb/s that Macs are capable of.

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.

You can read our full Dell UltraSharp U22720Q review for more.

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Pros:

  • Lots of ports for connectivity
  • Great crisp 4K quality images
  • Excellent color gamut
  • Excellent value for money
  • Supports HDR

Cons:

  • Brightness controls are poor
  • No internal speakers
  • No internal webcam
  • No Thunderbolt port

5. BenQ PD3220U 32 inch 4K Monitor IPS

external macbook pro display for designers

The BenQ PD3220U is aimed at creative professionals and is easily one of the best monitors for designers that work on MacBook Pros.

The BenQ is packed with ports and among them are a generous two Thunderbolt 3 ports, USB-C ports, HDMI and DisplayPort.

This means it’s easy to daisy chain other monitors to the BenQ PD3220U and one of the ports will also charge your MacBook.

The BenQ PD3220U also has a special Mac mode to automatically optimize it for use with Macs.

The BenQ PD3220U is an IPS monitor which means In-Plane Switching and uses liquid crystals in parallel to produce richer colors than most displays.

It supports P3 wide color gamut and HDR with a 60Hz refresh rate so it’s suitable 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 a convenient HotKey puck adjuster for controls, KVM switch, ability to hot-swap color profiles and even display two profiles at once.

The BenQ PD3220U has recently upgraded the firmware to support 60Hz refresh rates on M1 Macs and updates to macOS Ventura and Monterey have also improved compatibility.

On the downside, the maximum brightness of 350 nits means it may not be bright enough for some considering the Apple Studio Display is capable of 600 nits.

The BenQ PD3220U also has internal speakers but the quality is very poor and you’re much better off using external speakers or sound bar.

You can check out our full BenQ PD3220U review for more.

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Pros:

  • Mac mode designed for connecting to Macs
  • Fast user interface access via Hotkey Puck
  • Amazing color depth thanks to wide P3 color gamut
  • Thunderbolt 3 ports for daisy chaining other monitors
  • Lots of other port connections

Cons:

  • Lack of brightness
  • Internal speaker quality is poor
  • No integrated webcam

6. Samsung 34 inch CJ791 Curved

best monitor for gaming on macbook pro

The Samsung 34-Inch CJ791 Ultrawide Curved Monitor was the first curved monitor with Intel Thunderbolt 3 ports and is the best ultrawide 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 CJ791 also supports daisy chaining Thunderbolt devices meaning you can connect them all together meaning you only need one Thunderbolt cable connected to your monitor.

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.

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Pros:

  • 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
  • Supports daisy-chaining Thunderbolt devices

Cons:

  • Picture in Picture tricky to configure
  • Large text can look pixelated without Game Mode on
  • No integrated webcam
  • QHD not as high quality as 5K

7. Acer SB220Q

cheapest monitor for macbook pro

The Acer SB220Q is the best budget 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.

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Pros:

  • Excellent value for money
  • Slimline design
  • VESA attachment points
  • Audio jack

Cons:

  • HDMI only
  • Poor build quality

8. Asus ProArt Display 4K

best monitor for artists macbook pro

If you need the best in color accuracy outside of Apple’s displays then the Asus ProArt Display is designed with graphic designers and drawing tablet artists in mind.

The Asus ProArt Display is available in sizes ranging from 27-inch to 34-inch and supports 4K HDR UHD (3840 x 2160 resolution).

It also has an LED backlight display with an IPS 178° wide viewing angle panel.

The color accuracy is one of the best things about the Asus ProArt Display with a wide color gamut of 709 and Delta E < 2 color accuracy.

For DisplayPort connections, you can connect via USB-C with 65W of charging power to charge your MacBook Pro’s battery while you use it.

There’s also HDMI and USB 3.1 ports although we recommend using the USB-C connection to connect to your MacBook Pro’s Thunderbolt port.

For video editors or gamers, there’s also Adaptive-Sync technology that adjusts automatically between 40Hz to 60Hz for animated content or fast action footage.

ASUS also include ProArt Presets and ProArt Palettes that allow you to configure and save color settings depending on what you’re working on.

One drawback of the Asus ProArt Display is that Mac users may need to update the firmware for it to calibrate it correctly with the MacBook Pro.

You can download this for free from the Asus website although the latest models should come with the firmware already updated.

Pros:

  • Excellent color accuracy
  • Available between 27 to 34 inches
  • Ideal for artists and graphic designers

Cons:

  • May require firmware update for Macs

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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 six picks of the best displays for the MacBook Pro.

LG 34BK95U-W UltraFine 34" 21:9 5K 2K (5120 x 2160) Nano IPS LED UltraWide Monitor, 600 cd/m² HDR, Thunderbolt 3 / USB Type-C Inputs Black
Apple Studio Display - Standard Glass - Tilt-Adjustable Stand ​​​​​​​ (Renewed)
LG Monitor 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27" IPS LCD 5K UHD Monitor for Apple Mac
Dell UltraSharp U2720Q 27 Inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) LED Backlit LCD IPS USB-C Monitor (7GZ651)
BenQ PD3220U 32 Inch 4K IPS AQCOLOR Computer Monitor with Thunderbolt 3 for MacBook, HDR, Mac-Ready, Display P3, 95% DCI-P3, sRGB, Rec.709, Hotkey Puck G2, Daisy Chain, ICC Sync and Eye-Care Tech
SAMSUNG J791 Series 34-Inch Ultrawide QHD (3440x1440) Computer Monitor, 100Hz, Thunderbolt 3 Daisy Chain, QLED, HDMI, USB Hub, Height Adjustable Stand (LC34J791WTNXZA), White
LG 34BK95U-W UltraFine 34" 21:9 5K 2K (5120 x 2160) Nano IPS LED UltraWide Monitor, 600 cd/m² HDR, Thunderbolt 3 / USB Type-C Inputs Black
Apple Studio Display - Standard Glass - Tilt-Adjustable Stand ​​​​​​​ (Renewed)
LG Monitor 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27" IPS LCD 5K UHD Monitor for Apple Mac
Dell UltraSharp U2720Q 27 Inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) LED Backlit LCD IPS USB-C Monitor (7GZ651)
BenQ PD3220U 32 Inch 4K IPS AQCOLOR Computer Monitor with Thunderbolt 3 for MacBook, HDR, Mac-Ready, Display P3, 95% DCI-P3, sRGB, Rec.709, Hotkey Puck G2, Daisy Chain, ICC Sync and Eye-Care Tech
SAMSUNG J791 Series 34-Inch Ultrawide QHD (3440x1440) Computer Monitor, 100Hz, Thunderbolt 3 Daisy Chain, QLED, HDMI, USB Hub, Height Adjustable Stand (LC34J791WTNXZA), White
$1,024.00
$1,399.00
$1,074.00
$547.69
$1,123.95
$549.00
-
-
-
-
-
LG 34BK95U-W UltraFine 34" 21:9 5K 2K (5120 x 2160) Nano IPS LED UltraWide Monitor, 600 cd/m² HDR, Thunderbolt 3 / USB Type-C Inputs Black
LG 34BK95U-W UltraFine 34" 21:9 5K 2K (5120 x 2160) Nano IPS LED UltraWide Monitor, 600 cd/m² HDR, Thunderbolt 3 / USB Type-C Inputs Black
$1,024.00
-
Apple Studio Display - Standard Glass - Tilt-Adjustable Stand ​​​​​​​ (Renewed)
Apple Studio Display - Standard Glass - Tilt-Adjustable Stand ​​​​​​​ (Renewed)
$1,399.00
-
LG Monitor 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27" IPS LCD 5K UHD Monitor for Apple Mac
LG Monitor 27MD5KL-B Ultrafine 27" IPS LCD 5K UHD Monitor for Apple Mac
$1,074.00
-
Dell UltraSharp U2720Q 27 Inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) LED Backlit LCD IPS USB-C Monitor (7GZ651)
Dell UltraSharp U2720Q 27 Inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) LED Backlit LCD IPS USB-C Monitor (7GZ651)
$547.69
BenQ PD3220U 32 Inch 4K IPS AQCOLOR Computer Monitor with Thunderbolt 3 for MacBook, HDR, Mac-Ready, Display P3, 95% DCI-P3, sRGB, Rec.709, Hotkey Puck G2, Daisy Chain, ICC Sync and Eye-Care Tech
BenQ PD3220U 32 Inch 4K IPS AQCOLOR Computer Monitor with Thunderbolt 3 for MacBook, HDR, Mac-Ready, Display P3, 95% DCI-P3, sRGB, Rec.709, Hotkey Puck G2, Daisy Chain, ICC Sync and Eye-Care Tech
$1,123.95
-
SAMSUNG J791 Series 34-Inch Ultrawide QHD (3440x1440) Computer Monitor, 100Hz, Thunderbolt 3 Daisy Chain, QLED, HDMI, USB Hub, Height Adjustable Stand (LC34J791WTNXZA), White
SAMSUNG J791 Series 34-Inch Ultrawide QHD (3440x1440) Computer Monitor, 100Hz, Thunderbolt 3 Daisy Chain, QLED, HDMI, USB Hub, Height Adjustable Stand (LC34J791WTNXZA), White
$549.00
-

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

best monitor macbook pro - connectivity

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.

The more Thunderbolt ports your monitor has, the more other external devices you can also connect to it too such as hubs, microphones, speakers, external storage drives and eGPUs.

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.

Image Quality

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 even many Quad HD (QHD) monitors however produce poor image quality compared to the MacBook Pro liquid Retina XDR screen and should definitely be avoided.

We’ve therefore excluded all FHD 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.

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3 Responses

  1. Rick

    I bought the LG 34BK95U-W in October 2021. Since then it has had to be repaired twice by LG. The first time, April 2022, whenever I closed my MacBook Pro M1 Max 16″ lid, the monitor also turned off. This didn’t happen to two other monitors I tested my laptop against. The 34″ monitor was fixed by LG, although I was without the external monitor for 2 weeks, and it stayed awake when my laptop lid was closed.

    The second time, November 2022, the monitor made a ‘pop’ sound and a light blue vertical line appeared down the centre of the screen and on the right-hand-side, a 5-7 cm wide vertical line of flickering started. I’m still waiting for the monitor to be returned by LG.

    Reply
    • MacHow2

      There are many satisfied customers of the LG 34BK95U-W but with any model of monitor there are always going to be defections because of the huge numbers of them that are manufactured. Unfortunately if LG are repairing the model you’ve returned it can take several weeks to receive it back again but again this the case with most manufacturers unless they issue a direct replacement.

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