Best MacBook Air monitors iMore 2021
When it comes time to purchase an external monitor for your MacBook Air, there are several things to consider, including display performance, size, and price. Each year at iMore, we look at the latest MacBook Air monitors and put them through the paces. Based on this, we consider the LG 27UN850-W to be one of the best monitors for MacBook Air that you can currently buy. In addition, we've gathered other noteworthy models to help you choose the one that fits your needs best.
- Best overall: LG 27UN850-W 27 Inch Ultrafine UHD IPS Display with VESA
- Best alternative: HP E27d G4 QHD Advanced Docking Monitor
- Best budget: Acer SA240Y 23.8" Full HD IPS Ultra-Slim Edge-to-Edge Monitor
- Best premium: LG UltraFine 5K Display
- Best Portable: Gechic 1503H 15.6 inch IPS 1080p Portable Monitor with HDMI
- Best curved: LG 38WK95C-W 38-Inch Class 21:9 Curved UltraWide WQHD+ Monitor with HDR 10
- Best gaming: BenQ EW3270U 32-inch 4K Monitor | With Eye-care Technology
Best overall: LG 27UN850-W
Great computer monitors must offer full color, brightness, and sharpness. On these three points, the LG 27UN850-W blew us away, which is why it's considered the best MacBook Air monitor on the market. The color is spot on and didn't require any additional fine-tuning during setup.
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 also supports a 60W power transfer so that you can charge your laptop during use.)
Not everything about this monitor is positive. For one, the monitor's 5W speakers are lackluster. Of course, 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. Overall, however, this is the best MacBook Air monitor you can buy.
- Multiple ports, not just a USB-C 4K display
- Great performance
- Easy setup
- Poor speakers
- Weird onboard controls
Best alternative: HP E27d G4 QHD Advanced Docking Monitor
The HP E27d G4 QHD Advanced Docking Monitor is the perfect productivity hub for anyone looking to connect to various peripherals using USB Type-C. It also includes a port for RJ-45 and four for USB 3.1. With a native resolution of 2560x1440, this monitor is designed to please, with an included webcam to match.
With a single button (SPO), you can turn on the display and your laptop simultaneously — even when the laptop lid is closed. Then, connect, charge, and power your computer up to 100W through the included USB-C cable.
- Includes a webcam
- Single-button for display/laptop on/off
- Multiple ports make it a great docking station
- Good in networking environments
Best budget : Acer SA240Y
The Acer SA240Y is a great budget pick for the MacBook Air. It comes with a USB-C port, so you can directly connect your MacBook Air without a dongle, which is excellent for the budget price range. The USB-C port also features 15 watts of power delivery to power your computer. It also contains an HDMI port and Display Port.
You will not see 4K on this Acer in the budget range, but you will get an excellent 23.8 inch full HD IPS display. Speakers are built-in, albeit they're soft-sounding 2w speakers. Since most people will use external speakers, this really won't be an issue.
- USB-C connectivity with power delivery
- Very thin
- Weak 2w speakers
- No 4K
Best premium : LG UltraFine 5K Display
Ideally, Apple would be making 5K monitors itself to go with its lineup of laptops. But, unfortunately, that isn't the case. So instead, the iPhone maker wants you to purchase a 5K monitor from LG. With a breathtaking 5120x2880 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 and USB-C cable, the 27MD5KL contains one Thunderbolt 3 (input) port and three USB-C (USB 3.1, 5Gbps) ports.
This monitor is more than double the price of our overall pick, and that by itself shouldn't come as a surprise. In 2021, 5K monitors still aren't 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 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
- Doesn't offer an Apple experience
- Boring design
Best portable : Gechic 1503H Portable Monitor
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. In addition, these types of monitors offer a good, but not great, display appearance.
The 15.6-inch Gechic portable monitor weighs less than two pounds and is only 1.1cm 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. The stand isn't the strongest, however.
- Includes speakers
- Great price
- Weighs just 1.75 pounds
- 1080p resolution only
- Somewhat wobbly stand
Best curved : LG 38WK95C-W
The 38-inch LG 38WK95C-W UltraWide curved monitor is ideal for mirroring what's happening on your MacBook Air or acting as a secondary display. The result is a highly functional device that can support other Apple MacBooks, plus the iPad Pro.
Offering a resolution of 3480x1600, 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 sits in the middle of a room. Also: The wide display isn't Retina. Sometimes, those extra pixels per inch are missed.
Should you get a curved monitor? We have some answers.
- Plenty of ports
- Well-designed base
- Screen resolution isn't as good as Retina
- White plastic backside
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 sometimes associated with external monitors. However, there are some drawbacks, starting with 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% 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 challenging to use
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 MacBook Air monitor, the LG 27UN850-W 27" 4K Ultrafine UHD IPS Monitor, 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, suitable for students and the budget-conscious alike. So 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
Mark Goldschmitt is the father of three boys and loves anything Apple. Born and raised in Queens, NY, and currently residing on Long Island, Mark is a lifelong New York Mets fan.
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