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Best monitor: top picks for MacBook Pro, 4K, gaming & more

LG 27uk850
(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz/iMore)

If you're trying to set up the ultimate workspace for your Mac, Mac mini, or MacBook, chances are you'll be looking for a monitor. Having a dedicated monitor to use as a second screen (or main screen) is a huge boon to productivity and can help you enjoy gaming with your Mac much more. More screen equals more room to multi-task, a better screen to watch movies, and the ability to use intricate editing tools or other software you need to get big projects done.

While many great monitors for Mac make up some of the best USB-C monitors you can find, the best monitor for you might need to be more specific. We certainly think the LG UltraFine 4K monitor is the best overall Mac monitor for most people — it's not the only option.

What is the best Mac monitor?

In short, the best Mac monitor is the monitor that allows you to do what you want. If that means you want a monitor to stay at your desk, so you have a larger screen to get work done and get the best one to help you accomplish that goal. If you want to spend hours playing your favorite game on your MacBook Pro and, maybe sometimes, connect your favorite console, you'll want a monitor that excels at gaming. Perhaps you do a lot of photo editing and video work, which means you need a monitor with a fantastic screen and brilliant colors, so you can see every single different shade as you modify your images.

This versatility makes external monitors such a useful tool for a wide variety of professional and personal uses. It's also why shopping for the right monitor can be a little daunting. There are many options and a lot of displays that do similar things - that's why we made this list.

If you want a great all-around monitor, our top pick is the LG UltraFine 4K. Although it's a couple of years old now, it was designed with Mac specifically in mind, making it a fantastic monitor that almost seamlessly seems like an extension of your Mac.

While portability isn't always the first thing that comes to mind when you think about an external monitor, we live in a world where working remotely is becoming imperative to many industries. Sometimes working on your laptop in a coffee shop is necessary, but it can be a pain, especially if you're used to using an external monitor. Luckily, the ASUS ZenScreen Go is the ultimate battery-powered portable screen so you can work-on-the go.

Lastly, we know that monitors can be expensive. Plenty of monitors (particularly gaming monitors) can run you thousands of dollars, but the reality is you don't need to spend that much. This list is full of great monitors, and many don't even crack the $1,000 mark. If you're genuinely looking for value, the LG 27UK850-W is probably the best Mac monitor we have used that strikes a fantastic balance between price and functionality.

Two LG Ultrafine 4K displays

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

1. LG UltraFine 4K

Best Mac Monitor Overall


Screen Size: 23.7 inches
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Connectivity: Thunderbolt 3 (2), USB-C (3)

The LG UltraFine 4K is a 23.7-inch display with 3849 x 2160 resolution. It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports and three USB-C ports for connecting to Macs, Mac laptops, and iPad Pro devices. You can quickly connect two UltraFine 4K displays to each other using the included Thunderbolt 3 cable and connect that to your MacBook Pro for dual UHD 4K resolution. Plus, with the 85W power delivery through the Thunderbolt 3 ports, you can charge most MacBooks (all but the 16-inch model) with the monitor itself, making it the ultimate workhorse.

Now, about that dual-4K monitor support. When we did our LG UltraFine 4K review, there was some worry that using two monitors wouldn't seem as seamless as one reliable monitor would. It turns out daisy-chaining the two UltraFine 4K monitors together works just as smoothly as any single monitor we have used. No lag at all. Items drag across the gap between screens like magic. It didn't miss a beat in terms of productivity. If you're the type of person who loves two screens side-by-side as their set up, you can't go wrong.

The LG UltraFine 4K supports True Tone and Night Shift on Mac. When the MacBook screen adjusts to the ambient lighting in the room, so does the monitor. When it's nighttime and you're still working, the connected monitors dim slightly and take on a slight yellow hue with Night Shift. It's little things like this that the LG UltraFine 4K feel like Apple designed the monitor itself.

The monitor display stand has adjustable height and can tilt to various positions, though it doesn't support a vertical view. You can easily adjust the height by simply pulling up on the monitor, thanks to the hydraulic style adjustment system. If you don't want to use a stand, the monitor comes with a VESA plate to switch out to use with your favorite VESA wall mount.

Dell Ultrawide Monitor Lifestyle

Source: Dell (Image credit: Source: Dell)

Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3818DW)

Best Ultrawide Monitor for Mac


Screen Size: 38 inches
Resolution: 3840 x 1600
Aspect Ratio: 21:9
Connectivity: USB-C (1), HDMI (2), 3.5mm AUX (1), USB (2)

This 38-inch ultrawide is our favorite curved monitor for Mac, and has plenty of features that will make connecting with and using your computer an incredibly productive and enjoyable experience. The monitor has a special flicker-free screen that won't irritate your eyes as other screens can. This allows you to happily spend hours on end using your monitor for editing pictures, videos, creating slideshows, or any other type of work. If you tend to get migraines or discomfort from eye-strain, you'll be happy to know that this monitor allows you to rearrange and align your open documents to reduce your eye movements while viewing your screen.

One of the downsides users report about this monitor is that if you're a Mac user, the built-in volume and brightness control on Mac keyboards won't work with the monitor. Mac users also may lose access to the display manager. However, you can control the basic settings directly from the monitor.

The picture quality of this ultrawide monitor is elevated through the perfectly curved screen. It offers a 21:9 aspect ratio, which allows you to create elegant designs for work, watch movies, or game-out with excellent image quality. This monitor is great for individuals who frequently engage in photography, videography, or design.

BenQ Entertainment Monitor

Source: BenQ (Image credit: Source: BenQ)

BenQ EW3280U Entertainment Monitor

Best Mac Monitor for Entertainment


Screen Size: 32 inches
Resolution: 3840x2160
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Connectivity: USB-C (1), HDMI (2), 3.5mm AUX (1), Display Port (1)

The BenQ EW328OU is a 32-inch 4K UHD monitor with a 16:9 ISP display. It uses proprietary HDRi technology to provide various high dynamic brightness options for activities you may want to use your monitor. It has a 5ms response time and a 24P cinematic frame rate. This is a monitor designed for gaming and watching movies, and golly, it's a pretty great way to watch movies.

With one of the three HDRi settings enabled, you'll immediately be able to see how brightness and color temperatures adjust. The hue spectrum also changes to provide crisp, clear images on the screen. These settings may cause eye strain when you're just typing away in a document so that you can switch over to one of the standard or low-blue light settings with just a couple of clicks on the physical buttons. To make adjustments even easier, the BenQ 328OU comes with a remote control with quick access to the HDR settings, so switching around modes is easy. Writing a 1,000-word article and want to switch over to a movie? Two clicks, and the BenQ EW3280U is ready to watch the newest movie you can find.

What's surprising is the BenQ EW3280U comes with a pair of built-in speakers, not super common in monitors these days, but they leave a little bit to be desired. They don't sound terrible by any means, but even a small, inexpensive set of external speakers would likely serve you much better in the long run. I wouldn't watch a full movie with the speakers unless you absolutely had no other option.

All in all, our BenQ EW3280U Entertainment Monitor review hits the nail on the head. The BenQ EW328OU has a crisp, clear, and bright display that really maximizes the visual experience for movies and games. And, at its price, it has plenty of value.

ASUS ZenScreen

Source: ASUS (Image credit: Source: ASUS)

ASUS ZenScreen Go

Best Portable Mac Monitor


Screen Size: 15.6 inches
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Connectivity: USB-C (1), micro HDMI (1)

The ASUS ZenScreen Go isn't meant to be a high-end gaming monitor, nor is it meant to be a workhorse monitor you might use at your desk every day. Instead, it's a portable 1080p 15.6-inch screen that is light enough to go with you anywhere — working at a coffee shop for the afternoon? Pull out the ASUS ZenScreen Go and get working. It's got a built-in 7800mAh battery that should give you about 4 hours of screen time on a full charge. Why does that matter? If you're working on a powerful enough laptop, it will just draw power from that, but you can hook the screen up to a smartphone (provided your smartphone can support that), giving the ASUS ZenScreen Go a nice little bonus in functionality.

It's not the best display you will find out there. The color gamut isn't as wide as meaning other monitors, and with only about 220 nits of brightness, it may be hard to see in direct sunlight. Basically, it has its limits, but those limites don't stop it from being one of our top portable monitors.

The good news is with the included case, which will help keep that screen from scratches when you're carrying it around, it can stand on its own—both in portrait or landscape orientation, meaning you can work any way you like. Plus, if you don't want to carry the stand around, you can insert a pen — an ordinary pen, I kid you not — into the hole on the bottom of the display and have that be your stand. Is that gimmicky? Yes. The ASUS ZenScreen Go weighs 1.9 pounds without the case on, making it extremely portable and easy to fit in most laptop bags that can hold a 16-inch device.

Samsung Ultrawide Monitor Lifestyle

Source: Samsung (Image credit: Source: Samsung)

Samsung CRG9

Best Mac Monitor for Gaming


Screen Size: 49 inches
Resolution: 5120 x 1440
Aspect Ratio: 32:9
Connectivity: HDMI (1), Display Port (2), USB 3.0 (2), USB 2.0 (2)

The Samsung CRG9 is a curved gaming monitor that boasts a huge 49-inch display with a 32:9 aspect ratio. It is designed with a 1800R curvature, which allows you to immerse yourself in your gaming experience from all angles. This monitor is great for hardcore gamers as it comes equipped with Quantum Dot technology. This means that you will be exposed to a billion shades and tones of accurate color, elevating your gaming experience and making it more lifelike.

If you're playing a game that takes place in a dark environment, this monitor comes with High Dynamic Range Features, allowing you to see extreme detail on dark and bright screens.

With this monitor, you can expect your gameplay to be smooth as it comes equipped with AMD FreeSync 2 technology. The 120Hz high refresh rate paired with the 1ms ultra-fast response time will put you right into any game or movie. You'll catch every single detail without any motion blurring or lagging; it'll look like it is happening right in front of you.


(Image credit: LG)

LG 27UK850-W

Best Mac Monitor on a Budget


Screen Size: 27 inches
Resolution: 3840 X 2160
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Connectivity: HDMI (2), Display Port (1), USB 3.0 (2), USB-C (1), 3.5mm AUX (1)

Great computer monitors must offer rich color, brightness, and sharpness. On these three points, the LG 27UK850-W blew us away and is considered the best MacBook Air monitor on the market. It's also one of the best 4K monitors for Mac this year. We found the color spot on and didn't require any additional fine-tuning during setup. In doing so, the monitor provides a natural extension to any workspace.

There are a few things to keep in mind when considering the LG 27UK850-W. For one, the monitor's 5W speakers are lackluster, but we live in a world where external speakers or headphones are pretty commonplace. This shouldn't affect most people. We're also unimpressed with the display's flimsy control stick next to the LG logo on the bottom bezel — it's just a little hard to use. Lastly, the pixel density (163 PPI) is slightly lower than some people might like, especially if you're doing lots of intense photo and video editing.

Speaking of setup, the entire process for the 27-inch monitor takes less than 10 minutes. The same speediness can't be said about other monitors on the market. We're also impressed with LG's decision to add multiple ports on this monitor. As a MacBook Air owner, you're going to stick with USB-C primarily. However, with two USB-A and two HDMI ports also available, you have the flexibility to use the monitor elsewhere. Plus, the USB-C port supports a 60W power delivery so you can charge a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro with the monitor.

As mentioned in our LG 27UK850-W review, it's just a fantastic monitor that gives so much value for its price. We really think that almost anyone picking up the LG 27UK850-W won't be disappointed.

A quick guide to the important details of monitors

Picking the right monitor is about finding the monitor that fits your space, workflow, and lifestyle the best. There's no ultimate solution that works for everyone, but that doesn't mean there aren't some universal truths about monitors that can help you make a decision. There's a lot of technical jargon that can get in the way of what's important to a monitor when you go shopping. So, we've made a handy guide on understanding some important aspects of monitors to help you make a better choice.

What is Thunderbolt 3, and why should I care

USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 both utilize the same reversible port, leading to a lot of confusion surrounding the terms. While a USB-C port and a Thunderbolt 3 port look the same, Thunderbolt 3 has some extra hardware compared to the more widely-adopted USB-C. Remember, all your USB-C accessories and cables will work with a Thunderbolt 3 port. All Thunderbolt 3 ports are also USB-C ports. However, the same cannot be said for the other way around; not all USB-C ports are also Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Basically, it all comes down to data transfer speeds. Thunderbolt 3 can achieve data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps, whereas standard USB-C can only reach up to 20Gbps, but typically gets lower than that.

Another advantage that Thunderbolt 3 has over USB-C is daisy-chaining. You can connect up to six peripherals to a single host Thunderbolt 3 port by chaining them together serially. This becomes super important if you want to chain together multiple monitors to set up a dual-display.

Most newer Macs have at least one Thunderbolt 3 port, if not more, so if you get a Thunderbolt 3 compatible monitor (which most of the options above have), you're going to be able to take advantage of more functionality and faster transfer speeds.

How important is refresh rate?

You'll notice many monitors specs will talk about refresh rate, which is the technical way of saying how often the screen refreshes every second. It's measured in Hertz (Hz) and typically comes in multiples of 30 — 30Hz, 60Hz, 120Hz, etc. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother an image will appear on the screen, especially when it transitions from image to image or scrolling down a page.

Most newer Macs have at least one Thunderbolt 3 port, if not more, so if you get a Thunderbolt 3 compatible monitor (which most of the options above have), you're going to be able to take advantage of more functionality and faster transfer speeds.

Take the Samsung CRG9 that we have on the list above. It has a refresh rate of 120Hz, which is one reason it's so good for gaming. The higher refresh rate allows the screen to refresh much quicker (twice as quick) than a standard 60Hz, meaning that the image is refreshing more often as you're playing games. So if you're playing a super fast first-person-shooter, and you're running around a lot, the screen is constantly displaying new information. A higher refresh rate in that instance will allow your monitor to keep up with the action.

How important is refresh rate? That depends on your needs. 60Hz is more than suitable for day-to-day usage and getting work done. It also is typically sufficient for watching movies, and gaming on a 60Hz monitor isn't actually that bad for games that aren't super fast-paced.

We highly recommend USB-C hub

Lastly, if you are using a Mac or MacBook, chances are you're already familiar with using USB-C accessories like hard drives. But, if you're new to Mac, or you're worried about losing the use of one of your ports to connect your new monitor, We can't recommend a USB-C hub enough.

The best USB-C hubs for MacBook Pro are going to give you more use out of a single port on your Mac (or your monitor) than you ever thought possible.