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For decades, Apple has made MacBook Pros 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″, 14″ or 15″ screen. Even though the new 16-inch MacBook Pro was considered a big leap in the industry, the high price tag made many hesitate.
While that display in newer MacBook Pros has quickly increased in quality with Liquid Retina XDR display and 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 Pro 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 and offer some tips and tricks to help you set it up.
Who Should 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 13″, 14″ 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.
Best Monitor for MacBook Pro: Top Picks
Please note that the following recommended items are chosen based on our criteria as mentioned below (the “Buying Guide” section), plus our personal preferences. They are, however, not intended to be ranked in the current order.
1. LG 4K UHD 27UD88-W 27″ LED-Lit Monitor with USB Type-C
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.
Highly recommended if you’re using the newest MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 (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.
- 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.
- It’s on the expensive side, compared to other options.
2. Acer R271Q Bbix 27.0″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS Monitor
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.
Recommended for those who need speed and high quality (perhaps for gaming or similarly taxing tasks) on a monitor that looks sleek and get the job done.
- 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.
- 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.
3. Lenovo ThinkVision M14 14″ Full HD 1920×1080 IPS Monitor
If you prefer to get a portable and compact monitor, this 14-inch lightweight 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 FHD, with a 1920 x 1080p resolution. Response time is advertised as 6ms, with a refresh rate of 60Hz.
- 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 6ms response time means you won’t experience “ghosting”.
- The screen is non-glossy to make it easier on your eyes.
- Might be a bit too small for some users.
In case you don’t know how to connect two monitors, then it’s also a very simple process, you just have to follow a step-by-step guide for it.
4. Dell Ultrasharp U2719DX 27-Inch IPS Monitor with Infinity Edge Bezels
Available in a large 27″ size, this monitor from Dell offers stunning visuals and a plethora of extra ports you never knew you needed.
With a QHD 2560×1440 resolution, you’ll never complain about image quality. The stand is extremely adjustable as well, with tilting, swiveling, and even 90-degree rotation capabilities.
Recommended for those of you who are trying to create a powerful workstation or are considering extending to multiple monitors.
- 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.
- It doesn’t come with a USB-C cable.
5. SAMSUNG J791 Series 34-Inch Ultrawide QHD
No matter if you are working or video, the Samsung J791 is hard to beat for a truly immersive experience.
This option has a curved 34-inch screen with QLED technology that provides precise and detailed colors and images. It also easily connects to your MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 ports that project 40bps processing speeds for extra fast performance.
Curved screen and low blue light emissions make this easier on the eyes during long hours working or watching videos. This is a high-performance and recommended ultrawide choice.
- 100Hz refresh rate with AMD FreeSynch makes this a great monitor for video.
- Curved screen and low blue light emissions make this easier on the eyes during long hours working or watching video.
- Can be too large for smaller workspaces.
6. BenQ PD2700U 27 Inch (Best for Photographers)
This BenQ monitor is an excellent solution for photographers who use a MacBook Pro and want a 4K addition to enhance their workflow and editing capabilities.
The 27-inch monitor has an ultra HD display of 2160p that allows for wide viewing angles at a 60Hz refresh rate.
It also has custom view modes to work with CAD/CAM Darkroom Animation and picture-in-picture modes for added versatility.
- HRD10 support gives you the ability to preview video content in HDR when editing
- Comes precalibrated with a unique report
- 60Hz refresh rate can be a little slow when editing video
7. LG 27UN850-W Ultrafine UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS Display
This is another high-quality 27-inch monitor that will work well with a MacBook Pro.
It features a UHD IPS display that provides crisp colors and enhanced definition. The 3-side virtually borderless display extends the viewing range of the screen for a very immersive experience.
It also comes with a height/swivel/pivot/tilt stand that allows you to get everything set up for work or entertainment quickly.
- UHD display has excellent definition and constituent color quality.
- The stand is included and allows for customizable adjustments.
- Some issues with the brightness adjusting controls have been reported.
8. Lenovo L27q-30 27-inch QHD Monitor
If you are searching for a more affordable monitor that still provides excellent clarity and definition, the Lenovo L27q-30 is worth a look.
It features a high-quality 27-inch QHD screen that gives you a resolution of 2560X1440. With AMD FreeSync tech and over a billion colors supported, it also stands out ahead of the competition for more budget-focused monitors.
- Excellent performance, especially for a cheaper monitor.
- Minimal design and edgeless bezels make the monitor seem larger than it is.
- It does not have an adjustable height feature on the stand.
Buying an External Monitor for MacBook Pro: What to Consider
Monitor technology improves fast, so when selecting the one that fits your need, make sure to take the following things into consideration.
When deciding what size monitor to purchase, 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 the 1920 by 1080p display, which is generally considered the modern standard. For designers, you may also go for a 4K display.
Beyond that, most users will find a 5K 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 the latest MacBook Pros with a colorful touch bar.
MacBook Pro 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 models all don’t have USB 3.0 ports. So buying an external USB-C monitor for your new MacBook Pro 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 (prior to the 2017 model), you may still prefer a display that supports normal USB 3.0 ports. Don’t forget that for those who hold the latest MacBook Pro, you can still extend the limited ports with a docking station or a USB-C hub (learn the differences here).
MacBook Pro Monitor FAQs
Here are some related questions you might have about the topic, we’ll answer them briefly below.
Can You Use Any Monitor with a MacBook Pro?
Yes, the older USB ports Mac and the latest Thunderbolt-4 ports Mac can work with external monitors. You just have to ensure that your monitor has the right connecting ports – i.e USB, USB-C, HDMI to connect your Mac with.
Read this guide to find out what ports your Mac has, and you might want to consider getting a port adapter if it doesn’t match with the monitor.
Can MacBook Pro Run 144hz?
Yes, MacBook Pro can run 144hz with either Dual-Link DVI or DisplayPort connection to provide the power needed (read here). Without it, you may only reach 60 to 100 Hz depending on your MacBook Pro version.
Other 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. If you want to find out how many displays MacBook Pros can connect, whether you need an adapter, this Apple guide has 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.
Also Read: How to Connect MacBook Pro to TV
External monitors and extended displays are becoming more and more common as people realize the versatility the setup provides. 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? Let us know which model you think is the best.About Eric
I have a Late 2012 MacBook Pro with Catalina OS. I really want an iMac but do not feel like spending $2K+ on one. I really need a bigger screen because of research I do for my Masters, other research, using multiple documents, and studying I do. I hooked up an old 2009 Dell (Thunderbolt to VGA adapter) monitor and it works fine, but I want to buy an updated monitor. I read a review for the HP 24f 23.8″ IPS LED FHD monitor, at Best Buy, and a MacBook owner said the text is fuzzy and grainy. So my question is: What should I look for in a monitor that is compatible with my MacBook? Is using a small LED TV good to use? Thank you for any guidance and suggestions you can provide!