Best monitor for MacBook Pro: the top picks for your Apple setup


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While the MacBook Pro is an impressive and powerful device with a fantastic display, it doesn’t have the largest screen. And as long as you’re not working on-the-go, you’ll likely want to pick up a secondary monitor for your office to give you more room to work and play, or just a single display that’s a little more suited to a desk.

But at the same time, Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops (and their entire Mac range) have incredible Retina screens that are vibrant, colorful and super-detailed. How do you make sure you get a monitor that doesn’t ruin that overall experience?

Fear not, we’ve trawled the hundreds of monitor options available now to help you find the best monitor for MacBook Pro users, including looking at touchscreen monitors for anyone who is looking for that functionality. Whether you’re a designer, a video editor or you just love sketching on your MacBook, these monitors are a great choice.


Best monitor for MacBook Pro


What is the best monitor for MacBook Pro right now?

It’s hard to say what the single best monitor is for MacBook Pro because it depends on what you’re using it for. MacBook Pro users will work on a wide spectrum of projects or might just be everyday users who wanted a powerful device.

Which is why we’ve taken a look at a broad range of monitors to suit different needs. There are those suited more to serious creatives who want a wider space to work on designs, and others that prioritize touchscreen functionality over color reproduction and sharpness.
It’d be great if there was a touchscreen monitor that ticked all the boxes of being super-high resolution and amazingly bright, but that’s not the case yet. Touchscreen functionality isn’t a priority for most secondary monitors – most people who want the best functionality will buy a drawing tablet instead.

We’ve picked out what we think is the best overall choice, with the features that most people will need, but we’ve also looked at portable, touchscreen and ultra-wide options too. And of course, we know some MacBook Pro users are Apple customers for life, so we’ve taken a look at the best Apple monitor for MacBook Pro too.

Is the MacBook Pro compatible with all monitors?

The MacBook Pro is compatible with pretty much any monitor. The issue is connectivity. The MacBook Pro doesn’t have the same DisplayPort or HDMI port connections that a laptop or PC tower does. Instead, it relies on Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt is an excellent port, capable of carrying visual and audio data but also working with peripherals too. You can connect a load of devices to a Thunderbolt port, and you can do it all at once if you use a Thunderbolt hub.

However not all monitors can connect to Thunderbolt directly, so you’re either going to need to buy specialist cables or, more likely, an adapter for your MacBook Pro to allow you to plug an HDMI or DisplayPort cable into the Thunderbolt port instead.

One benefit though – if you do choose a monitor that can connect directly to the Thunderbolt port via USB-C, some are capable of powering the MacBook Pro at the same time. By plugging in the monitor and connecting it to the MacBook Pro, you can power both with just the one mains cable.

That’s not the case for all USB-C monitors though, so make sure you check the power delivery. How much power you need depends on your MacBook Pro model, but 60 watts will work on most, and 85 watts likely being enough to handle the latest MacBook Pro at full load.

Things to consider when purchasing a MacBook Pro monitor

There are a couple of key things you need to consider when buying a monitor for a MacBook Pro. One of the most important is connectivity, as we’ve already covered. Look out for one that has a USB-C upstream port ideally – be careful that it’s not just a downstream port that can power your phone.

If you find a monitor that you like that doesn’t have USB-C as a connection type, you’ll need to make sure you buy an adapter for your MacBook Pro. Bear in mind that these can cost around $70 for an official Apple one, so if you’re working on a budget then you’ll need to factor that cost in.

Then there’s the touchscreen factor. MacBook Pro laptops don’t have a touchscreen, despite it being one of the most wanted features for the last couple of years. Remember that MacBook Pros are mainly designed for creatives. They’re not gaming laptops and they’re not for people who spend intensive amounts of time using Microsoft apps. A touchscreen would make sense.

So, it’s worth looking at options to add a touchscreen monitor to your MacBook Pro setup. But again, bear in mind that touchscreens aren’t going to be as responsive as a dedicated drawing pad or tablet.

Also make sure you don’t ever buy a resistive one. These don’t work with multitouch controls and require a harder mechanical press to work, massively reducing sensitivity options.

Best monitor for MacBook Pro: Understanding the specs

Here are the key spec you need to be looking out for when choosing a monitor for your MacBook Pro:

Size

Most people buy a monitor for their MacBook Pro to get a larger screen. Depending on the size of your workstation, you’ll need to factor in how big of a screen you can fit (and afford). 22-24” is on the smaller side but will still be a significant improvement over the MacBook’s own display but aim for a 27” monitor if you can fit one. Or, if you want a wider working area, an ultra-wide 34” monitor is a fantastic choice.

Resolution

The MacBook Pro’s Liquid Retina XDR display doesn’t have a typical resolution, but it’s closer to 4K than Full HD. If you want to replicate that quality, you should be looking for a 4K or even a 5K monitor to get the most out of the larger screen. 5K monitors are rare and often not worth the extra cost, so 4K is probably the best choice.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with Full HD for some tasks, and they’re a more budget-friendly option. On a 27” display Full HD will just about hold up.

Brightness

Brightness is really important for creatives. Your MacBook Pro display will look amazing, and you don’t want a monitor that looks faded in comparison.

Most monitors are measure in candelas per square meter (cd/m2). As a guide, 1 cd/m2 is the same as 1 nit, so if you see a display advertising nits then you can easily compare. Basic monitors will be around 250 cd/m2.

300 and above is good but beware of monitors that only advertise peak brightness without any extra color-accuracy features. Anyone can crank up the brightness without considering contrast or color reproduction.

Panel type

We’d recommend an IPS panel for a MacBook Pro user. IPS panels have much better color accuracy and viewing angles than a TN monitor and maintain that color at a wider viewing angle compared to a VA display.

Read more: TN vs IPS vs VA

How we test and choose the best monitors for MacBook Pro

We always try to make sure that we physically test the products that WePC recommends before we publish our guide. Sometimes though that’s not possible – as is the case with the best monitors for MacBook Pro – and so any that we’ve not fully tested we’ve chosen instead based on our knowledge of prior models from the brand and our expertise in the spec.

We will perform tests of all the monitors we recommend in this and our other guides – and if we need to change our recommendations, we’ll do so immediately.


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