Best Monitors for MacBook Air iMore 2020
When it comes time to purchase an external monitor for your MacBook Air, there are several things to keep in mind, including display performance, size, and price. Each year at iMore, we look at the newest monitors and put them through the paces. Based on this, we consider the LG 27UK850-W the best monitor you can currently buy for the Apple laptop. We've gathered other noteworthy models to help you choose the one that fits your needs best.
- Best Overall: LG 27UK850-W
- Best Value: HP Envy 27
- Best Premium: LG UltraFine 5K 27MD5KL
- Best Portable: AOC I1601FWUX
- Best Curved: LG 38WK95C-W
- Best Gaming: BenQ EW3270U
Best Overall: LG 27UK850-W
Great computer monitors must offer robust color, brightness, and sharpness. On these three points, the LG 27UK850-W blew us away. 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.
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. (The USB-C port supports 60W power transfer so you can charge your laptop during use.)
Not everything about this monitor is positive. For one, the monitor's 5W speakers are lackluster, at least. We live in a world where external speakers or headphones reign, so this probably won't matter. Given the price point for this monitor, however, we were expecting more. We're also unimpressed with the display's flimsy control stick next to the LG logo on the bottom bezel. The Pixel density on this monitor also uninspires, as it's just 163 PPI versus the MacBook Air's 227 PPI Creatives should probably look elsewhere.
- Multiple ports, not just USB-C4K display
- Great performance
- Easy setup
- Poor speakers
- Weird onboard controls
- Weak pixel density
A great-looking monitor with a stunning display.
Your Macbook Air will love this monitor on nearly every crucial point. Look for discounts to bring the price down.
Best Value: HP Envy 27
The 27-inch Envy has a great display that looks as good as its hardware. It's ultra-thin with a "micro-edge" bezel, meaning it has a 3-sided nearly bezel-less edge, so you see more on the screen than, say, an iMac's 27-inch screen. The USB-C connector powers up to the 13-inch MacBook Pro (it'll trickle charge the 15-inch MacBook Pro, too) so you won't have to worry about battery drain.
It's got a small base for minimal desktop footprint and can be mounted on a wall. With two HDMI ports, a DisplayPort, and support for AMD FreeSync, it's the perfect gaming display, movie-watching screen, and everyday monitor.
- 4K display
- Fast 60Hz refresh rate
- Zero lag for gaming
- No vertical adjustment
- Stand is flimsy
An affordable option that looks as great as it performs.
The HP Envy 27 is a quality model monitor for this price. You're getting the biggest bang for your buck.
Best Premium : LG UltraFine 5K 27MD5KL
Ideally, Apple would be making 5K monitors itself to go with the company's lineup of laptops. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. Instead, the iPhone maker wants you to purchase a 5K monitor from LG. With a breathtaking 5120-by-2880 resolution and P3 wide color gamut, this 27-inch LG UltraFine 5K Display is an excellent choice - if you can afford it.
Featuring a Thunderbolt 3 cable (2 m) and USB-C cable (1.5 m), the 27MD5KL contains one Thunderbolt 3 (input) port and three USB-C (USB 3.1 gen 1, 5 Gbps) ports.
This monitor is more than double the price of our overall pick, and that by itself shouldn't come as a surprise. In 2020, 5K monitors aren't yet in the mainstream. Our biggest beef about the monitor isn't the price, but instead that it looks bland and boxy like dozens of other displays available. All you have to do is look at any of LG's OLED televisions to see that the company has design skills. Unfortunately, it's missing here. There's also the question of whether spending this amount of cash for only a 27-inch monitor is worth it. That's up to you to decide.
- DCI-P3 wide color gamut
- Single cable for display and charge
- Lots of ports
- Pricey, obviously
- Not an Apple experience
- Is 27-inches too small?
Gorgeous display for a price
If a 27-inch display is your sweet spot and you want 5K, by all means, get this monitor. Otherwise, it's okay to keep looking!
Best Portable : AOC I1601FWUX
Portable monitors get the job done for folks on the go, especially business travelers who might sometimes appreciate a larger display than the MacBook Air can provide. These types of monitors offer a good, not great, display appearance.
The 15.6-inch AOC portable monitor weighs less than two pounds and is only 8.5mm thick. It offers an IPS screen and full HD 1080p resolution and features a smart cover that protects it when not in use. You can use the cover as a screen holder in both portrait or landscape orientation.
We love this monitor solely for its portability and price. Though it's one of the brightness portable monitors around (212.6 nits) and offers excellent color accuracy, it's color gamut lacks. And the stand isn't the sturdiest around. Regardless, for what it is, the monitor shines.
- Great price
- Weighs just 1.81 pounds
- 1080p resolution only
- Wobbly stand
- Weak color gamut
Travelers, take note
Offering a bright display for less, this portable monitor is great in a pinch when a lightweight, larger screen is needed.
Best Curved : LG 38WK95C-W
The 38-inch LG 38WK95C-W UltraWide curved monitor is ideally suited for mirroring what's happening on your MacBook Air or act as a secondary display. The result is a highly functional device that can also support the rest of Apple's lineup of laptops, plus the iPad Pro.
Offering a resolution of 3480-by-1600, the wide-screen monitor includes data transfer and 60W charging using USB-C. It also has two USB-A ports, two HDMI ports, and a DisplayPort. The 38WK95C-W also has a relatively decent set of speakers, a setup that's a breeze, and a joystick-style button at the bottom edge of the screen for monitor control that's a surprising joy to use!
Less impressive is the monitor's plastic backside that LG, for some reason, elected to make white. Luckily this odd design choice is only a problem if the monitor is sitting in the middle of a room. Also: the wide display isn't Retina; sometimes those extra pixels-per-inch are missed.
- Plenty of ports
- Well-designed base
- Screen resolution isn't as good as Retina
- White plastic backside
Here's a tremendous curved display that enhances the MacBook Air experience. You'll miss the Retina, however.
Best Gaming : BenQ EW3270U
Finally, there's this 32-inch 4K HDR monitor from BenQ. Featuring low blue light and flicker-free technology to reduce eye strain, this monitor is an excellent choice for Mac gamers who need a bigger screen. Besides a USB-C port, the monitor offers two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort 1.2, and a 3.5mm audio out.
With AMD Freesync technology, this monitor has done a great job of removing broken frames, image tearing, and choppy gameplay often associated with external monitors. However, this is still a sub-$400, so you should expect some drawbacks starting with the poorly designed speakers. We're also shaking our heads over the confusing control panel and missing power passthrough.
Despite these limitations, we like this monitor immensely. The EW3270U covers 100 percent of Rec. 709 and 95 percent of DCI-P3 standards. Yes, the colors are accurate, and the 4K content is wonderfully rendered.
- Offers USB-C, HDMI 2.0, and DP1.4
- AMD FreeSync
- 95% DCI-P3
- No power supply passthrough
- Poor built-in speakers
- Onboard controls difficult to use
Look at that color!
This 4K monitor provides a nice balance between features and price. Though limitations remain, for most gamers, this one will work very nicely.
If you're in the market for an external monitor for your MacBook Air, you'll quickly notice there's a wide selection from which to choose. Our favorite model, the LG 27UK850-W, is a terrific choice for anyone looking for a great performance monitor at a fair price. Yes, it has weird onboard controls and lackluster speakers. Most external monitors do, unfortunately. I appreciate the beautiful colors, brightness, and sharpness instead.
Besides offering lots of great features, this monitor is also reasonably priced, which is suitable for students and the budget-conscious alike. Look around and find the best deal for you!
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. Penn State (go Nittany Lions) graduate here, also a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Thanks for reading. @bryanmwolfe
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