Please recommend a high-quality USB-C monitor
December 12, 2020 3:09 PM   Subscribe

I asked this last week but I didn't explain right what I need help with. I have a 13-inch Macbook Pro and I am looking for a monitor that I can use that will look the same as my Macbook in terms of resolution, and I'm finding this a difficult thing to evaluate when looking at the listings because all of these numbers mean nothing to me without being able to actually see it. Could you recommend one please and thank you? I can't spend more than $500 and the cheaper the better.

If I had unlimited budget I would just get the one Apple is pushing but I do not soo.
posted by bleep to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
If you can't afford the 5K resolution monitor that Apple is pushing, stick with LG anyway but go for an ultra-HD (4K) resolution monitor that connects via USB-C.

LG 27-inch 4K (not 5K) Ultrafine monitor, USB-C, $450


Same specs, but not "ultrafine", $350
posted by emelenjr at 3:39 PM on December 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

I use a Macbook Pro for work and the USB-C monitor my company sent me is the LG 27BL85U-W. I don't notice a difference switching between the two screens, but I'm not a designer.
posted by fairfax at 3:45 PM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

When you say "Look the same ... in terms of resolution", there's a couple things I think you might mean. Take the one of the following options that sounds right to you:

1: You want a monitor that is as similar to the macbook screen as possible: A 13 inch macbook pro has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and a 13.3" diagonal. If you want a monitor that will be the same size, shape, and resolution, then get a 13.3 inch monitor with a 2560 x 1600 resolution. This is a pretty rare combination of specifications; newegg only carries one such monitor and it probably isn't very good.

2: You want a larger monitor with the same resolution, so that it is an exact copy of your laptop screen except larger: In this case, the only specification that matters is the resolution. Any monitor that is 2560 x 1600 will satisfy this requirement. This is not a common resolution; 2560 x 1440 is much more commonly available.

3: You want a larger monitor such that the actual, physical size of objects (like measured with a ruler) is the same on your macbook screen and on the monitor: In this case, it's the pixels-per-inch that matters, and on your laptop the PPI number is 227. Your goal is just to find a monitor with a similar spec. This is also rare, especially at lower prices. If you're doubling the screen diagonal, then you need to double the number of pixels in each dimension to maintain the PPI. That means if you want a 27" monitor (a very standard size) at the same PPI, you need a resolution of 5120 x 3200.

The overall takeaway from this is: depending on your exact goal, it may be impossible to achieve.
posted by dbx at 3:49 PM on December 12, 2020 [8 favorites]

I just purchased this HP 4K 27” USB-C monitor for $509 to go with my new MacBook Pro, based on this recommendation from the Wirecutter, though looking for that recommendation now, I’m seeing a similar model for $400 or less.
posted by ejs at 4:17 PM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Buy a 4k monitor w/ HDMI that is the size you would like (27" is common) and an adapter from usb-c to HDMI (about $15). This will likely be much cheaper than a monitor w/ direct usb-c input but will not lose any quality.
posted by NoDef at 5:21 PM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Although the USB-C monitor has the advantage of being able to charge your laptop, if minimizing cables is important to you (as it is to me).
posted by ejs at 5:33 PM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

You can buy any 4k monitor you want, and just get a USB C to HDMI cable (preferably right angled) so you can directly plug it in, that's what I do. I got this one, but half price because it was open box. I do graphic design work, for reference.
posted by yueliang at 7:03 PM on December 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

USB C to HDMI cable

If you do this make sure it specifically says it supports 4k @ 60fps. Because there are a bunch of cheap adapters that don't and then it will be crummy.
posted by aubilenon at 10:42 PM on December 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

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