It doesn’t matter whether you are looking for an Apple monitor for your Mac mini or Mac Pro or a second screen for your iMac or MacBook: the choice is huge. Prices also vary wildly. But which external display is right for you?
To help you, in this article we’ll discuss the 6 best monitors from five different price ranges. We start with a budget-friendly Full HD monitor for a small purse and end with a professional 5K screen.
1. Dell P2419H as Apple display (€ 199)
For the small purse
For everyday office tasks (surfing and typing) and sometimes watching a movie, a monitor with the well-known Full HD resolution 1920 x 1080 is sufficient. We would no longer recommend anything less today. In principle, any Mac can display this resolution with any connection and you don’t have to dig deep into your pockets for a good Full HD monitor. Things to watch out for are a wide viewing angle – that the screen display remains good when you sit diagonally in front of it – and thin edges around the screen. In addition, compatible connections such as HDMI and DisplayPort are important, so that you do not need different adapters.
Our favorite monitor in this category is the Dell P2419H. With a screen diagonal of 23.8 inches, the display sits in between the two iMac sizes. It is adjustable in height and can even be rotated ninety degrees. That way you can view websites and documents in A4 format. The edges measure only 10 mm – very practical if you want to place several monitors next to each other. In addition, the image does not change up to a viewing angle of 89 degrees, so the colors remain the same.
The pixel density is not that great at 92 ppi; but that’s what it’s a budget-friendly monitor for. If you want one with a sharper image, choose a monitor with a so-called ‘Quad HD’ resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. For the connections, the Dell has old-fashioned VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort. As the only extra, the monitor has a USB hub with four USB connections.
|Screen size||24 inch|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080 pixels|
|Sharpness||Full HD (1080p)|
|Pixels per inch||92 ppi|
|Connections||HDMI, DisplayPort, USB (4x), VGA|
|Contrast ratio||1000: 1|
2. Liyama XUB2792UHSU-B1 as MacBook screen (€ 379)
For when your monitor also needs to have a 4K Retina image
4K monitors have four times the pixels of a Full HD monitor. This allows you to watch recorded 4K movies from your iPhone in full screen and you have a lot more space for windows. Ideal for video editors, for example. MacOS can also use these screens for Retina resolutions. This shows images and icons with more pixels, but the size on the screen remains the same at lower resolutions. The result: a much sharper image, easier on your eyes. Once you’ve worked with Retina displays, you don’t want to go back. Common 4K Retina resolutions are 3840 x 2160 or 4096 x 2160 pixels. Just keep in mind that it won’t work on old Macs. Do you have one from before 2015? Then check whether your Mac supports the resolution and connection of the monitor.
In this category we choose the Liyama XUB2792UHSU-B1 of € 379 . As soon as you unpack the screen you get a compact-looking matte black copy with ditto foot in front of you. The screen has a screen area of 27 inches and a 4K resolution of 3840 × 2160 pixels. On the left side are two USB ports, one of which is specifically intended for charging devices. On the back you will find three connections: DisplayPort, HDMI and DVI. The latter offers only 30 Hz at full resolution, but as a second input for Picture in Picture (PiP) it works fine. All in all, the monitor delivers a sharp image, at a pretty competitive price.
|Screen size||27 inch|
|Resolution||3840 x 2160 pixels|
|Sharpness||4K (Ultra HD)|
|Pixels per inch||163 ppi|
|Connections||HDMI, DisplayPort, USB (3x), DVI|
|Contrast ratio||1000: 1|
|Particularities||Sharp Retina image|
3. Samsung C34H890 as Mac screen (€ 605)
For a lot of extra screen space
Curved displays, also known as ultra-wide monitors, have an aspect ratio of 21: 9 instead of the usual 16: 9 or 16:10. Since the display is curved, the viewing distance is the same everywhere. On such a curved screen, much more content fits in the width of the screen. Handy for music and film projects where you want an extra long timeline visible, or office tasks where it is nice to work with two (or more) windows next to each other.
In this category we choose the Samsung C34H890, which also has that. The pixel density is 109 ppi. The oldest model that could handle the full resolution in our test was a MacBook Air from 2014 via Thunderbolt 1. To connect a Mac, you can choose between HDMI, DisplayPort or USB-C. Via the latter you can even charge a MacBook with 45 watts. There is also a built-in USB hub, but with an older Mac you will need a USB-A-to-USB-C cable for that. You will only find a USB-C cable in the box.
A nice feature is the picture-in-picture mode. This allows you to connect two Macs to the monitor at the same time, with the second reduced in part of the screen, in Full HD.
|Screen size||34 inch|
|Resolution||3440 x 1140 pixels|
|Pixels per inch||109 ppi|
|Connections||HDMI, DisplayPort, usb-c, usb-a (2x)|
|Contrast ratio||3000: 1|
|Particularities||Lots of screen space due to Ultra Wide|
4. LG UltraFine 5K as iMac monitor (€ 1399)
For with your 5K iMac
If you have an iMac 5K or an iMac Pro, you can already enjoy super-high resolution, super-sharp images and very natural colors. Of course, if you’re looking for a second monitor for these Macs, you don’t want one of poorer quality. For this purpose, 5K screens have been invented, with a resolution of 5120 x 2880 pixels. All Macs with Thunderbolt 3, the Mac Pro from 2013, all 5K iMacs and the MacBook Pro with the graphics card R9 M370K from 2015 achieve that. The only decent connection for a 5K display is Thunderbolt 3; HDMI does not work at all, with DisplayPort you have to use two monitor cables for enough bandwidth.
In our opinion, the best 5K monitor is the LG UltraFine 5K. Like Apple’s built-in screens, this monitor supports the extended DCI-P3 color gamut. The connection is Thunderbolt 3; check if your Mac has this. Older Macs with a Thunderbolt 2 port can be used with Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter and a second Thunderbolt cable. Even older Macs only support the 4K resolution 3840 x 2160 in combination with the UltraFine.
When MacBook Pros are connected to the LG UltraFine, they are charged at 87 watts. That’s enough for the most powerful 15-inch MacBook Pros, too. At the back of the monitor you will find three USB-C connections for peripherals. The built-in stereo speakers sound good, although they can’t quite compete with the speakers of the iMac. Also practical is the Full HD webcam that sits in the slightly thick edge at the top.
|Specs||LG UltraFine 5K|
|Screen size||27 inch|
|Resolution||5120 x 2880 pixels|
|Pixels per inch||218 ppi|
|Connections||Thunderbolt 3, USB-C (2x)|
|Contrast ratio||1100: 1|
|Particularities||Perfect for a 5K iMac|
5. Eizo CS2740 as an external display (€ 1499)
With the CS2740, Eizo recently released a very good professional monitor. Eizo itself mentions photographers as a target group and they will be able to work fine on the 4K screen (27 inch) with 3840 × 2160 pixels.
Thanks to its high resolution and 99% Adobe RGB color space coverage, anyone involved in image editing will be happy with this monitor. The screen is already calibrated and rolled out of the factory. The Eizo also supports the display of HDR content. With an iPhone 12 Pro (Max) you can now even make video recordings in HDR, so the monitor also comes in handy here. Many people will say that the CS2740 is not a cheap monitor. On the other hand, we think it is a cheap monitor, but for professionals. For the price of about 1500 euros you get more than a list of specifications. For the target group, it is an investment in a future-proof 4K workplace.
|Screen size||27 inch|
|Resolution||3840 x 2160|
|Pixels per inch||164 ppi|
|Connections||HMI, usb-c, DisplayPort|
|Contrast ratio||1000: 1|
|Particularities||99% Adobe RGB coverage|
6. Apple Pro Display XDR as monitor (€ 5,529)
For the true professional
Do you want the best screen of the moment? Then the Pro DisPlay XDR from Apple ( € 5,529 ) is your Apple monitor. With a screen diagonal of 32 inches, it is not only Apple’s largest display ever, but also the first in the world with a 6K resolution. The chic aluminum housing contains an IPS panel with 6016 x 3384 pixels – with a Retina resolution that equates to a pixel density of 218 ppi. Plenty of room for a 4K movie in Final Cut Pro, photos at 100% in full resolution or long recordings in Logic.
You connect the display with a single Thunderbolt 3 cable, so you have three extra USB-C connections at the back of the Pro Display XDR. Like the MacBook Pro and iPhone, the Pro Display XDR supports True Tone technology and adjusts its color temperature to the ambient light. Pros will be delighted with the accurate display. The display covers the DCI-SP3 color space precisely, and you can also switch between different modes for movie and photo editing. The default brightness of the display is 1000 nits, but can temporarily be increased to 1600 nits – an unprecedented value on today’s displays. If the display is too expensive for you, you can check out the article Alternatives Pro Display XDR . There you will find more professional Mac monitors.
|Specs||Apple Pro Display XDR|
|Screen size||32 inch|
|Resolution||6016 x 3384|
|Pixels per inch||218 ppi|
|Connections||Thunderbolt 3, ub-c (3x)|
|Contrast ratio||1: 1000000|
|Particularities||First monitor with 6K resolution|
iPad as an external display
Maybe you already have your monitor at home, because did you know you can use an iPad as a screen? That works with a relatively new feature in macOS: Sidecar. For this you need a Mac with macOS Catalina or newer, plus an iPad that can handle iPadOS 13 or newer.
What should you pay attention to with an Apple monitor?
Not quite sure which monitor suits you best? We explain what you should pay attention to when making your purchase.
Mac screen size
Monitors from 21 to 24 inches with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels have been the standard for many years. In recent years, however, larger screens have become a lot more affordable. These 27 to 32 inch models with a so-called ‘Quad HD’ resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels) offer more workspace at a small extra cost. Many pixels on a smaller surface, which ensures fantastically sharp images. Just look at an iPhone with its gigantic resolution on a screen of more than 5 inches. Text and photos look extremely sharp on such a screen.
The resolution stands for the number of image pixels in width and height. If you combine screen size and resolution, you get the pixel density – the number of pixels per inch (ppi). The higher the pixel density, the sharper the image. If you can no longer recognize the individual pixels, Apple will put the Retina label on them. All Mac screens now support Retina resolutions, but many third-party monitors do not yet. So pay attention to this when making your choice.
The image refresh, also known under the English name ‘refresh rate’, stands for the number of images that a monitor can display per second. This is indicated in the unit Hertz (Hz). The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the moving picture appears. Ideally, the refresh rate is 60Hz, or 60 frames per second, higher values macOS does not currently support. Older Macs only reach 30Hz for displays with very high resolutions. You will notice this by glitches, for example when you drag a window. In the long run that gets annoying. When in doubt, it is better to manually choose a lower resolution (via ‘System Preferences> Displays’) and enjoy a higher refresh rate.
Color range Apple monitor
The color range indicates which part of the color spectrum a monitor controls. Because a screen always only displays part of the colors that the human eye can perceive. Most monitors stick to the so-called sRGB color space. That’s enough for most users who want to watch photos and movies every now and then. But the colors often don’t match the real world. For example, red quickly takes on an orange tint. Professional photographers and video editors swear by the extensive AdobeRGB color space. It contains more saturated colors than sRGB. The MacBooks from 2016, the iMac 4K from 2017, the iMac 5K and the iMac Pro have a screen with a color gamut that is the same as Adobe RGB, but covers a different area called DCI-P3. As far as quality is concerned, it comes down to the same thing.
Color depth Apple screen
The color depth is interesting for photography. It describes the number of gradations within the color channels red, green and blue – in other words, this is the number of colors that a monitor can display. Most monitors have an 8-bit color depth: 256 degrees of brightness are available per channel, so that a total of 16.7 million colors can be displayed. The more expensive monitors in our test support 10-bit. Each channel has 1024 gradations, which equates to 1.07 billion colors. The biggest advantage is that you can apply even more accurate corrections to (RAW) photos.
Ultimately, your monitor should of course connect to your Mac. To display 4K and other high resolutions, you almost always need HDMI or (even better) DisplayPort. All Macs of today support DisplayPort via USB-C or Thunderbolt 3, the Mac mini and Mac Pro also have HDMI. So make sure that the monitor has one of these connections. Finally: if you want a monitor for your MacBook, look for a model with a built-in USB hub. You simply connect all your peripherals to your monitor. This is done via USB-C or Thunderbolt 3. With some monitors and MacBooks, you can even have the image and sound go via USB-C. You then only have one cable from your monitor to your MacBook and you can easily take the portable computer with you and connect it again.