LG UltraFine 5K display: What you need to know before buying

MacBook Pro with two 5K displays
MacBook Pro with two 5K displays (Image credit: iMore)

Though many were hoping Apple would announce a new Thunderbolt display at its October event, the company went a different route: the LG Ultrafine 5K display, which went on sale earlier this week. If you're wondering how LG's 27-inch works with your Mac, Apple recently published a support document.

When you connect the display using a single Thunderbolt 3 cable (included), it provides up to 85W of charging power to your MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports. The display has three downstream USB-C ports (5 Gbps) that offer additional connectivity and power to compatible devices and accessories.

That's right. Not only can you use the LG 5K display with your Mac, it'll charge your new MacBook Pro at the same time thanks to the Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports.

What is the LG UltraFine compatible with?

Your Mac, even if the hardware is compatible, must be running macOS Sierra 10.12.1 or later. It works with the following models:

  • MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2016)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)

If you don't own the latest and greatest MacBook Pro, you'll need a USB-C to ThunderBolt 2 adapter and a Thunderbolt cable to connect an older Mac to use the LG UltraFine as a 4K (or lower) resolution display. It is compatible with the following models:

  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014) and later
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2014) and later
  • iMac (Retina, 27-inch, Late 2014) and later
  • iMac (Retina, 21.5-inch, Late 2015)
  • iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2015)
  • MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook Air (11-inch, Early 2015)
  • Mac mini (Late 2014)

What doesn't work with the LG UltraFine?

If you're using an older model Mac, basically anything older than the MacBook Pro 2016, you won't get the additional charging benefit. The adapter and Thunderbolt cable don't support charging via the LG UltraFine, so you'll have to connect your laptop to a power source.

If you're using the LG UltraFine with a Mac mini or Mac Pro, Apple recommends you still use a main monitor. The display may not turn on until you boot into macOS. Pre-boot features like Boot Picker or macOS Recovery may not be available on the display.

What if I can't get the LG UltraFine 5K display to work?

First, make sure you are using the correct cable, either the one that came with the UltraFine, or a Thunderbolt 3 cable capable of delivering 5A of power.

If you still can't get it to work, Apple says, contact LG.

What do you think?

Are you getting an LG UltraFine 5K display? I want to know what you think of it. Post your thoughts in the comments.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).