For decades, Apple has made Macs that everyone from creative professionals to engineers have been eager to work with.
The MacBook Pro laptop offers superior power, but with one catch — you have to work on a small, 13" or 15" screen and now we've got a 12" new MacBook as well.
While that display has quickly increased in quality with a Retina display and a clear, bright pixels, sometimes you need something a little bigger to work effectively.
Don't worry — you don't need to throw your Mac to the wolves! Instead, consider getting an external monitor and extending your display. This lets you use your MacBook as the power behind the screen, and the secondary monitor for the display.
In this guide, we'll help you get started with picking the best external monitors including one USB Type-C compatible option and offer some tips and tricks to help you set it up.
Need to briefly get the whole picture? Here's a quick overview of each of our best choices:
LG Electronics 4K 27" LED-Lit Monitor with USB Type-C - Recommended for you if: you're using the newest MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, and don't mind paying a bit more to get a high-end monitor and put it in your workplace or at home.
- IPS Monitor, Offers a game mode and black stabilizer
- USB Type-C compatible
Acer H277H smidx 27-Inch IPS Full HD Widescreen Display - Recommended for you if: you need speed and high quality (perhaps for gaming or similarly taxing tasks) on a monitor that looks sleek and get the job done.
- Fastest response time, rated at 4ms
- Built-in speakers along the back of an HD and IPS screen
Lenovo 23-Inch FHD LED-Lit 16:9 Widescreen Monitor - Recommended for you if: you would like a good monitor to use regularly, but don't want to spend a huge amount of specs you don't need.
- Sleek with a small desk footprint
- A great compromise for size at 23", it's not quite compact but not huge either
Dell UltraSharp U2715H Screen LED-Lit Monitor - Recommended for you if: you're trying to create a powerful workstation or are considering extending to multiple monitors.
- Extremely versatile in terms of positioning and can even be rotated 90 degrees
- QHD IPS display packs more pixels for a higher resolution and bright graphics
- Available in two larger sizes- 25" and 27"
Who Should (& Should Not) Get This?
An external monitor is a great asset if you consistently use your MacBook Pro at a single location or travel with it infrequently. It's also practical because it allows you to work in detail without hunching over a small 12", 13" or 15" screen all day. Most offer extremely high-quality displays, so you won't see a loss between your Mac and the monitor.
However, an external monitor setup isn't for everyone. If you like to work in a variety of locations or positions, an external monitor isn't going to help your workflow or provide as many benefits as it would to a user who works frequently in a single location. After all, you can't simply pack up your monitor and move like you would with just your laptop.
Buying an External Monitor: What to Consider?
When deciding what size monitor to purchase, make sure to consider both the space you have available and what you hope to get out of your monitor. If you simply want to enlarge your display proportionally to make it easier to see you may not need as big of a monitor as someone who hopes to gain physical workspace to open multiple app windows at once. Make sure to measure the space available on your desk before purchasing an external monitor, or consider mounting it to the wall rather than setting it on the desk.
Resolution is how many pixels are packed into the monitor you choose, and the higher the numbers the sharper your screen will appear. Most users will be satisfied with a 1920 by 1080p display, which is generally considered the modern standard. However, you could go QHD with a 2560 by 1600p display. Beyond that, most users will find a 4K display unnecessary and expensive unless you're editing extremely high-quality videos or similar creative work.
A great monitor is more than just a display. Look for models that come with additional ports, or a built-in webcam if you feel you need it. Other helpful capabilities include adjustable stand heights and viewing angles, as well as non-reflective screens or other personalization abilities. These are the sort of features that make a computer your own and can help you feel significantly more comfortable while you work.
It's safe to say that USB-C is the future once Apple introduced Thunderbolt-3 ports into its newest MacBook Pros with colorful touch bar. So buying an external USB-C monitor for your new MacBook is a no-brainer. But the thing is USB-C related accessories are usually not that affordable, compared to USB 3.0 based ones. So, if you're using an old MacBook Pro, you may still prefer a display that supports normal USB 3.0 ports. Don't forget that for those who hold the latest MacBook, you can extend your its limited ports with a USB-C hub.
Best External Monitors for MacBook Pro: Our Picks
Please note that the following recommended items are chosen based on our criteria as mentioned above, plus our personal preferences. They are, however, not intended to be ranked in the current order.
If you are a professional graphic designer or photographer looking for highly accurate color, then this LED monitor from LG is definitely worth considering. It comes with over 99% coverage of the sRGB spectrum, supports display 4K video, even charges your other device using the single USB-C cable.
- Pros: The 4K Ultra HD resolution creates an amazing clarity and details. Also, it comes with Color Calibration Pro which works together with Calibration hardware to ensure accurate color.
- Cons: It's on the expensive side, compared to other options.
With an astonishing 27 inch screen, this option from Acer boasts a 4ms response time and a high quality 1920 x 1080 HD display. The stand has 10 degrees of freedom to tilt for comfort, and the monitor includes VGA, DVI, and HDMI connections. It's also an IPS display, so it will be truer to your MacBook Pro's display.
- Pros: It includes built-in speakers on the back of the full HD screen. IPS technology makes viewing comfortably at every angle and will be truer to the display on your MacBook Pro. It also has an extremely fast response time.
- Cons: Beyond the basic visual connections (HDMI, DVI, etc), we have to point out that this monitor is fairly limited in regards to ports. Don't expect a plethora of new USB ports to become available.
For a large but compact monitor, this 23-inch monitor from Lenovo will do a great job fulfilling your needs. The screen and stand are slim, barely taking up any additional space on your desk. The display is anti-glare and also HD, with a 1920 x 1080p resolution. Response time is advertised as 7ms, with a refresh rate of 75Hz.
- Pros: Slim profile will look sleek and have a barely noticeable footprint on your desk. The three million to one dynamic contrast ratio will keep things looking sharp, while the 7ms response time means you won't experience "ghosting". The screen is non-glossy to make it easier on your eyes.
- Cons: The display doesn't come with additional ports beyond those needed for basic connectivity.
Available in both 25" and 27" sizes, this monitor from Dell offers stunning visuals and a plethora of extra ports you never knew you needed. With a QHD resolution, you'll never complain about image quality. The stand is extremely adjustable as well, with tilting, swiveling, and even 90-degree rotation capabilities!
- Pros: It offers the most position flexibility you could possibly get with a single monitor, a good variety of ports, and a stunning QHD and IPS display. It also includes a great warranty that covers even a single broken pixel.
- Cons: Unfortunately, it doesn't come in a more compact 21" or 23" display size.
Useful Tips & Resources
Now that you've seen some of the best external monitors for MacBook Pro in the market, you're probably wondering how to make them work with your Mac.
What you'll essentially be doing is using your MacBook for its hardware, computing power, and graphics drive but using the external monitor as the screen. This means you'll need to physically connect the MacBook and the monitor, which can be done in several different ways.
We've collected a few guides to get you started. For a general overview of which cords to connect and the differences between extending a MacBook Pro versus a MacBook Air, this Apple guide contains a good amount of detail. If you need a more step-by-step explanation, this video tutorial is clear, concise, and should be extremely helpful.
Regardless of how you connect your monitor, keep in mind that you will need to buy at least one new cord and possibly an adapter depending on your MacBook's age simply because most people don't keep HDMI cables on hand.
External monitors and extended displays are becoming more and more common as people realize the versatility the setup affords. You can disconnect your MacBook Pro and travel with it at any time, but at home or work you can sit back and enjoy the comfort of a large screen with space for all your apps at once.
Do you currently use an external monitor with your MacBook Pro? Kindly let us know which model you think is the best.
Published Nov 29, 2017.