Advice on external monitor for macbook pro
June 8, 2015 5:57 PM   Subscribe

I need advice on which monitors will work well for my older MacBook Pro.

Here are the machine specs for my MacBook pro:
  • 13" MacBook pro mid-2012
  • 2.9 Ghz, i7 duo core
  • 16 GB RAM, 255 SSD
  • Intel 4000 HD Graphics
I have only one thunderbolt, 2 USB, 1 firewire, ethernet, and power.

I am overwhelmed with all the specs. Asus? Dell Ultrasharp? LG? Samsung?

Apple's present thunderbolt display is pricey and getting kind of long in the tooth, while anything new coming at WWDC is out of my price range. What single monitor would you recommend to maximize my non-retina hardware? I would like to do this for less than $700 and 27" or above is fine. Also, recommendations on thunderbolt to whichever connector for said monitor.

Things I do are pretty modest. I surf, use productivity software, Adobe CS but not serious design that requires perfect color calibration all the time though it would be nice and I do not game. I cannot stand any lag, or bad resolution.

Thanks for any help.
posted by jadepearl to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: In before anyone recommends the Dell UltraSharp line, or the comparable HP Z-series. Monoprice also has some decent deals on 27" screens, though you need to be careful to get one with DisplayPort on it, as the cheap cheap DVI-only ones need a $100 adapter to work with your computer. Whichever you get, head to Monoprice for a cheap Mini DisplayPort->DisplayPort (or DVI) cable (whichever port the monitor has, but a lot of those 27"s are going to be full-sized DisplayPort) to connect it to your computer. The video signal on the Thunderbolt port is DIsplayPort so the connector is the same and all that.

If none of these tickle your fancy, the key words you really want to look for here are IPS panel and LED backlight. 24" and under should be at least 1920x1080 resolution (1080p); if you want to stay sharp at 27" or higher, the resolution should be 2560x1440. (If your eyesight is starting to fade some, a 27" that runs at 1080p may be easier to read.)

Personal rec: I had UltraSharps at $old_job for ages and ages (and still have a few ancient ones that work fine), and bought a HP Z 24" when I migrated to $new_job - I'd like to replace it with a LED-backlit 27" but it still works fine so it kinda seems pointless to do.
posted by mrg at 6:32 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There's no reason to bother with anything nicer or more expensive than the $400 monoprice monitor with displayport.

It performs the same as the apple "thunderbolt display", minus having the extra ports/usb hub, cool looking metal case and uh... the speakers are nicer on the apple one? Seriously, that's it.

Save your extra $300(or $600, vs the apple one) and spend it on something else. Just remember to grab the proper cable. You'll have a blast.

Also, don't bother with a 4k display. They're also available on monoprice for a reasonable cost... but the 2012 macbooks don't support them at the full 60hz refresh rate, only 30hz. They'll seem sluggish and laggy.

The dell ultrasharps are a little nicer, but honestly you'll only notice it if you need a super calibrated mega professional screen. These are pretty well a commodity item at this point, and all use similar displays. The AHVA 27in screens are super duper nice and rival the internal displays on the macbook pros, which have always looked great.(Although, unless you have the retina model, aren't even IPS. You'll notice the improvement)
posted by emptythought at 7:00 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Monoprice also has some decent deals on 27" screens, though you need to be careful to get one with DisplayPort on it, as the cheap cheap DVI-only ones need a $100 adapter to work with your computer.

It's funny you say that, because Monoprice themselves have a Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter for like $6. I have one myself (for my Macbook Pro), works fine with any standard DVI monitor.
posted by neckro23 at 6:42 AM on June 9, 2015

The cheap (cheap) 27"s with just dual-link DVI will not work with the $6 adapter. (Or, rather, they will, but you won't get them to run at their actual resolution.) Single-link DVI does not provide enough bandwidth to run at 2560x1440. The $100 adapter (and it does usually run around $100, no matter where you get it) is active and essentially combines two DVI ports into one, which then does have enough bandwidth to run at that resolution. (This is a very simplified explanation here. Also, fun fact: the first-gen Retina iMacs essentially do the same thing internally to power the 5K display - only the most recent version of DisplayPort has enough bandwidth to do 5K at 60Hz, so Apple did a custom thing to jam 2 DP connections together.)
posted by mrg at 10:04 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Single-link DVI does not provide enough bandwidth to run at 2560x1440.

Ah yes. My monitors are all lower-rez than that so I forgot about dual-link.
posted by neckro23 at 11:32 AM on June 9, 2015

Response by poster: Folks, you are all winners. In combination of keywords, model lines and the wirecutter site, I chose the Dell Ultrasharp U2715H, which was competitive to Monoprice's increased pricing. I stuck to 27" though 50" was priced in the range too.
posted by jadepearl at 7:03 AM on June 15, 2015

Response by poster: I am throwing this out there for folks who maybe reading. If you are using wifi and every time your wifi tanks when plugged into the external monitor then change your wifi channel. Dell monitors seem to have a wifi interference problems and you need to change the channel to get decent wifi on your laptop. This is not necessary if you are using ethernet cables.

The things you learn!
posted by jadepearl at 9:09 AM on June 30, 2015

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