5/27/219:00 am 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. Video Transcript: Hi, this is Gary with MacMost.com. Today let me help you pick out an external display for your Mac. MacMost is brought to you thanks to a great group of more than 1000 supporters. Go to MacMost.com/patreon. There you can read more about the Patreon Campaign. Join us and get exclusive content and course discounts. So there are many reasons you may want an external display for your Mac. A Mac Mini or a MacPro, of course, needs an external display. If you have a MacBook then you may want to place it at your desk and have an external display as either your second screen or your primary screen. For an iMac you may simply want to have a second display and having a second display can really enhance your Mac. It can double the amount of space that you've got to move things around on the desktop and work with windows. Now Apple only has one external display that they sell. That's the very expensive professional model. So most likely you're in the market for a much cheaper, but pretty good quality, display that you can buy at an electronic store or online in places like Amazon or just about anywhere. There are many different factors that you need to consider. For instance there's physical size, how big the display is. But also the Resolution which is not necessarily related to physical size. Just having a larger screen doesn't mean you have more pixels. Then there's also the Connection type. Cheaper screens may only have HDMI which is primarily used for TV's and then require an adapter to go from your Mac to the screen. Also some of the more advanced screens will have power through their connection. So if you have a MacBook you could plug it into the screen and not only will it act as an external display to your MacBook but also provide power so you don't have to plug it in in addition to connecting it to your display. Some screens also act as a USB dock. So you can plug in other USB devices into the screen and then when you connect your MacBook to the screen you see those extra devices just like they were plugged in directly to your Mac. So say you could have a printer plugged into the screen and then when you plug into the screen you not only get the display but the printer as well. Some screens have Speakers. Now this would be very important say if you have a Mac Mini which doesn't really have real speakers. So with the screen connected not only do you have the visual part of the screen but also now you get stereo speakers. But if you're using it as a second display for an iMac then you really don't need that or maybe you're just using a set of external speakers anyway so you're not going to use the ones that are in the screen. Then, of course, there's Quality. You want to make sure you get something that's going to last, something that also is going to be nice and bright and is going to show good colors and things like that. Of course the one factor that ties into the rest of them is Price. You have to spend more to get higher quality and to get better features. So you have to kind of look at your budget and decide what it is you can afford. First let's talk about size. So there are three main sizes that you will find when looking for screens. 24", 27", and 32". There are other sizes as well and sometimes 27" screens are called 28" screens and things like that. But basically most screens are going to fall into those three sizes. So here's a 24" screen. Of course I'm using American measurements here. Note that these measurements are from one corner to the other so it's not the width or height, it's the diagonal measurement. You can see if you go to a 27" screen it looks a little bit bigger. Actually it's a lot bigger because, of course, you're getting the area not the width and height. If you go to 32" it's even much bigger than that. If you can get to a computer store that sells screens at some point and look at the different sizes and get an idea of what these are. 24" really seems quite small. 27" kind of seems normal and 32" seems quite large. So you probably don't want to buy these blind. You want to actually see these screens even if they are not the exact models you're looking at, at least see the sizes so you get an idea of what it is you have space for and what you want. Now Resolution of the screen is a different matter. Now awhile ago most screens would have been about 1920 x 1080. This is sometimes called HD or 1080p. What you get here are basically 2 million pixels. Now years ago Apple introduced what they called Retina displays. That's where there are 4 pixels, a square of 4 pixels, where there used to be just one. So the screen sizes are the same but you have more pixels, twice as many wide and twice as many high. So when you go from 1920 x 1080 to 3820 x 2160 notice the number of pixels goes up four times. So now you have more than 8 million pixels. This is quite an improvement and quite a difference. Pictures will display using all of these extra pixels. So they are going to look a lot closer to say a printed photo than with a 1080 screen. Text will look a lot clearer. It's hard to illustrate. But if you look say under a magnifying glass at text on a 1080 screen you may see something like this. Now, of course, shrunk down your eye is just going to see the word. But here's what it looks like on a retina display, also called UHD for ultra-high definition. You could see that there are a lot more pixels here. This is going to look a lot smoother to your eye at the regular size. So even while at first it may not seem like there is much of a difference, I mean you could read the words in either case. It's going to mean that the text looks a lot smoother. It's going to have a lot less eyestrain. It's going to look a lot better. Now all new Macs, the MacBooks, the iMacs, they come with a retina display. So you're going to see the equivalent to a UHD screen. So if you want the real Mac experience don't bother with the standard definition screens anymore. Only look for UHD or retina displays. Another things to consider is the Connection. So on your Mac you have one of four different kinds of connections. You could see those here on the left. You've got HDMI available on some older Macs but none of the current ones. On older Macs also you're going to have ports that look the same but they're slightly different. Very older Macs are going to have mini DisplayPort ports. Newer Macs will have Thunderbolt 2. They look the same and indeed Thunderbolt 2 can carry mini DisplayPorts. So if you have either one of these two all you need is a mini DisplayPort cable. It doesn't matter if a Thunderbolt 2 or an older mini display port. Then you can go from there to your screen. Now all current Macs have USBC also known as Thunderbolt 3. This also includes a mini DisplayPort. So you can connect a mini display port cable to this USBC Thunderbolt 3 port. Of course it has to match the physical type of USBC. So it's a different kind of cable. But going from USBC Thunderbolt 3 to a screen that has a mini display port is a direct connection. Your Mac is actually sending mini display port signals out right to the screen. On the right you'll see screen tab. Just about any screen you see now is going to have at least HDMI. But if that's all its got it's probably not a great match for your Mac. A lot of screens will have mini DisplayPort or DisplayPort. I don't have a symbol for it here but it's a larger port. It's the same thing as a mini display port. It carries the same information. But it's a different shape. A lot of times when you get a screen that has the older full size mini DisplayPort it also comes with a cable that goes from the full size DisplayPort to mini DisplayPort on the other end. Then numerous screens will also have USBC. So let's take a look at some combinations here. If you've got a Mac with HDMI and you go to a screen with HDMI you can go directly with just a simple HDMI connector. Now if you've got something that's got USBC, like a newer Mac or even an older Mac with Thunderbolt 2, then you can get a cable that goes from those to the HDMI port on a screen. However, I put X's through this because you shouldn't do that! Now it technically works and on some screens it may work just as well as anything else. But on other screens it's not going to work well at all. Time and time again people have asked me about problems they are having with their external screen and I find out they are going from either USBC or Thunderbolt 2 to HDMI on the screen even though the screen has a DisplayPort or mini DisplayPort port on the back. Just go directly from the mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt 2 to the DisplayPort port on the back. Keeping it all in DisplayPort that's kind of the computer language of talking to a screen, that always gets you the best results on the Mac. Trying to go to HDMI, just because you happen to see HDMI on the back, that could often leads to problems. Only use HDMI if that's the only possible way to connect with the screen. Of course, avoid any screen that only has HDMI. Go for at least something that has DisplayPort or mini DisplayPort on the back. Now you can also, of course, go from USBC Thunderbolt 3 port on all of the current Macs to either a DisplayPort on the back of your screen which is great and will work just fine. But if you're going directly to a USBC port that some of these have then you're going to get some extra benefits. For instance, that may also carry a USB signal which means that there are USB ports on the back of the screen you can use the screen as a hub, as a dock in other words. So you can connect other things to it. Then also you get some other things like if there are speakers then those speakers would show up on your Mac with just that one cable. In addition, you can often get power this way. So if the screen supports it it will send power back to your MacBook. So this is only important, of course, if you have a MacBook. If you have an iMac and this is the second display it doesn't matter. But for a MacBook you can connect one cable if you go from the Thunderbolt 3 port on your MacBook to a USBC Thunderbolt 3 port on the screen and you'll get power back to your MacBook and also usually get other USB connections that are on the back of the screen. So it acts as a dock as well. Even speakers too. So one cable can carry just about everything that you need. So let's look at some examples. Here is a very inexpensive Acer display. You can see it's $130. It is a 24" screen. So it's a very small screen compared to everything else and it's 1920 x 1080. So a 1080 screen. So you're getting a good price on this. It's pretty cheap. Hard to argue with how cheap it is. But you're not going to really get the full potential of your Mac with something that's standard resolution and it's going to be pretty small as well. If we look at the back here we could see that it has basically some older type connections and a HDMI connection. So you need to get a mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt or USBC to HDMI cable which is going to cost a little bit and then that's all you'll be able to use to connect to the screen. It will be fine because the screen is so low resolution it's really not going to matter. So this is an example of one of the cheapest ways to connect. But if you're spending the money to get a Mac then at least spend a little more money to get a decent screen. So here's the Samsung screen that is 27". So much more normal size. But it's still 1080. So you're still going to get the standard resolution. It's a little more expensive for the larger size and it's better quality. Also notice that in addition to the HDMI it has a DisplayPort. So you can connect directly from a mini DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 3 port with the right cable directly to this and you'll get good results. But you're still at 1080p. It also works as a USB Hub so you can connect USB cable to it and now you've got some extra USB ports. But it carries no power here so you're going to have to also plug in your MacBook if that's what you're using with this. Of course if it's a MacMini or an iMac it doesn't matter. So this is a better option for a little more money but it's still doesn't get you the really good resolution that you should be using with your Mac. Here's another option and this one is definitely more expensive. But you're getting UHD. So you're getting the equivalent to Apple's retina display. So you can see here it's 3840 x 2160. It also has a USB type C connection. So you'll be able to plug that cable directly into say a MacBook. If you look down here at some of the specifications you'll see it delivers 60 watts of power. So you want to check that against whatever you've got. So, for instance, if you have a MacBook Air and you look at the tech specs for a MacBook Air you'll see that under Battery & Power it comes with 30 watt power adapter. So certainly the 60 watts delivered here is going to be more than enough. Even if the power adapter is a little bit more, like the MacBook Pro is 61 watts, 60 watts will be fine to fully power the MacBook Pro. So you'll be able to connect your MacBook with one cable and get the screen and power at the same time. So those are just some examples. Models switch out all the time so perhaps by the time you see this there will already be different model numbers and all of that. So you just have to search for different displays, read the specs. It can be confusing. There can be a lot of different ones to look through so it takes a little bit of patience to find exactly the one that fits your needs. So here are my recommendations for all the things I talked about at the beginning here. So Physical Size: I wouldn't consider a 24" one unless you have a really good reason that you want a tiny screen. Go with 27" for a standard size or 32" if you want something even larger. Then for Resolution: don't mess with anything less than 4K. There are screens that are 5K and even higher nowadays. But they are going to cost a lot more. 4k is kind of the standard at the moment. So look for 3840 x 2160 for a screen. Connection Type: Always go with a screen that has DisplayPort for standard screens like adding a second screen to your iMac or connecting something to your MacMini. But if you're connecting a MacBook make sure you're getting power back through the connection which is usually specified as USBC or Thunderbolt 3. As for whether it's a USB dock it's probably not that important. I mean usually there are not too many USB ports on any of these. So if you have a lot of external devices you're going to get a USB Hub and they're pretty cheap anyway. But if it's something you want take a look at that. Speakers: Really only if needed. It's easy to get external speakers which are probably always going to be better than any built into a screen. But if speakers aren't that important to you but you still kind of need them, you know to watch videos and things, then that may be something you want to look for. How about Quality: People always ask me about brands and, of course, I only have experience with the brands I've used in the past. I can tell you that LG makes pretty good screens. So does Samsung and so does Dell. As a matter of fact a lot of the screens actually have some of the same internal parts. I know Samsung makes a lot of the displays that Apple has used over the years and LG is probably putting some of those same displays into theirs. The are other brands as well but I've never really used them and I don't really consider them when I'm shopping for screens. So if you're looking for brands those are the three that I can say are usually pretty good but it doesn't mean the other ones are necessarily bad. Price: Price is really subjective. For some people spending $1500 for a really good screen because they do graphics work. It's totally worth it and easy to justify because they make money using their Macs. For other people they want to spend as little as possible and stick to $400 or less. Another thing I would suggest is to make sure it's pretty easy to return a screen in case you get it and something is wrong with it because I'd say 95% of the time everything is fine but it's a pretty high error rate for getting screens with dead pixels or maybe they don't work quite right with your model of Mac. So you want to make sure it's easy to just bring it back so you can try another one. If it's a local store ask them if it's easy to return and just bring it right back to them. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. If it's a online store make sure it's really easy to take it somewhere to return it because, of course, shipping a screen back can be a real hassle because they are so large. So if you're in the market for a screen for your Mac I hope this helps you pick one out. If you have any questions ask them in the comments below.Related Subjects: Mac Hardware (43 videos) Related Video Tutorials: No related posts. Comments: 18 Responses to “How To Pick an External Display For Your Mac” JC 3 years 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 3 years 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? Gary Rosenzweig 3 years ago JC: What makes you think the maximum resolution of your Mac is 3200x1800? Not sure which model you have, but it is probably 5120x2880. Gary Rosenzweig 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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? Gary Rosenzweig 3 years ago JC: So that means macOS is taking your 5120x2880 screen and displaying things as if it were a 3200x1800 stretched to 51280x2880. 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 3 years ago Brilliant, clear, easy to follow and very helpful. Thank you. Tom Craig 3 years ago Good video, Gary! After years using Dell & Samsung displays, I bought an LG Ultrafine 27" 5120x2880 $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" 5120x2880 for her 2020 M1 MacBook Air. Color & quality are super. FYI, my 2019 MacBook Pro 16 was advertised as Retina 3072x1920, but it actually has 3584x2240 pixels. Mike Ganey 3 years 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 3 years 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 Gary Rosenzweig 3 years ago Ken: All of the M1 MacBooks use USB-C Thunderbolt ports. Ramon Perez 3 years ago Thanks, very useful and pertinent. Don J J Carroll 2 years 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 Gary Rosenzweig 2 years ago Don: No, you can't use that Mac, or any modern iMac with a Retina display, as a stand-along screen. Diane Runkle 2 years ago Gary: When I am looking for a display for the new MacBook Pro M1, it seems to be a difficult job. I am trying to follow your suggestions. How does one know if the display is compatible with a MacBook Pro? It is not very often the specs say the display is for both Windows and Mac. Thank you. Gary Rosenzweig 2 years ago Diane: Displays are standard. Any modern computer display should work with a Mac, PC, or whatever. I'd avoid any that doesn't offer DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort or USB-C as a connection option. HDMI-only is a sign that the screen isn't very good. On Amazon, you can search Q&A and reviews. Search for "Mac" to see Mac users commenting how they like it with their Macs. Comments Closed.