How To Pick an External Display For Your Mac

If you want to get a second screen for your MacBook or iMac, or the primary screen for a Mac mini, here are some things to think about, including my recommendations for resolution and connections.

Comments: 16 Responses to “How To Pick an External Display For Your Mac”

    JC
    4 months ago

    Thanks for the info on a confusing subject! I have a question. The maximum resolution of my iMac 27 inch is 3200 x 1800. When I do a full screen capture, the resolution of the image is 5120 x 2880. Why the difference?

    Denise Ronalter
    4 months ago

    My 2013 iMac is reaching the end of it’s life. I’m thinking of replacing it with a MacBook. Would I be able to use my 27″ iMac as a monitor on the new MacBook?

    4 months ago

    JC: What makes you think the maximum resolution of your Mac is 3200×1800? Not sure which model you have, but it is probably 5120×2880.

    4 months ago

    Denise: Probably not. Only much older iMacs can do “Target Display Mode” and those are not UHD so you probably don’t want to bother with that.

    Arnie Keller
    4 months ago

    The latest version of Big Sur (11.4) appears to have fixed a bug that caused 27″ and larger screens to randomly go blank. I have an LG monitor and that was really annoying. Although I can’t find anything in the 11.4 release notes that mentioned the problem, it seems to have been resolved. The Lord Apple works in mysterious ways.

    Jez Vibert
    4 months ago

    Arnie that’s interesting thanks. Mine does that but I assumed it was the monitor. I’m still running 11.3.1 so will upgrade now

    JC
    4 months ago

    In system preferences, it actually says “Looks like 3200 x 1800”. I overlooked the words “Looks like”. Does that mean that if I want a second display to look as close as possible to my native display, I should choose a resolution close to 3200 x 1800?

    4 months ago

    JC: So that means macOS is taking your 5120×2880 screen and displaying things as if it were a 3200×1800 stretched to 51280×2880. But there are still that many pixels. You wouldn’t need to match that with a second display at all. You should use whatever works best for you. A second display is unlikely to be the same physical size as your iMac, and probably not the same quality, so use what suits you best.

    Phil Friend
    4 months ago

    Brilliant, clear, easy to follow and very helpful. Thank you.

    Tom Craig
    4 months ago

    Good video, Gary! After years using Dell & Samsung displays, I bought an LG Ultrafine 27″ 5120×2880 $1300 display from Apple store for my 2019 MacBook Pro 16. I am totally happy! My wife was so impressed, we bought another LG Ultrafine 27″ 5120×2880 for her 2020 M1 MacBook Air. Color & quality are super. FYI, my 2019 MacBook Pro 16 was advertised as Retina 3072×1920, but it actually has 3584×2240 pixels.

    Mike Ganey
    4 months ago

    Arnie, my 27″ LG monitor has also blacked out for several seconds over the past few months, so I’ll get the OS update going, too.

    Ken Vignona
    4 months ago

    Gary, Not sure which Thunderbolt cable my mac uses. New Mac Book Pro (M1 2020) 13″. Where do I find this out? Thanks again. Ken

    4 months ago

    Ken: All of the M1 MacBooks use USB-C Thunderbolt ports.

    Ramon Perez
    4 months ago

    Thanks, very useful and pertinent.

    Don J J Carroll
    4 months ago

    Hi Gary great and timely video topic.
    Currently I have a iMac Retina 5K 27 in Late 2015 (5120 x 2880) – Great computer I use it primarily for photography editing.
    Whenever more iMacs with M1 chips come out I may want to upgrade, probably next year 2022. My question is that since I really like the current screen on my current iMac, can I use this 2015 27″ iMac as a second monitor?
    I currently use as 2nd monitor an older NEC PA241W 24″ 1920 x 1200 unit

    4 months ago

    Don: No, you can’t use that Mac, or any modern iMac with a Retina display, as a stand-along screen.

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