Monitor madness
February 1, 2021 2:52 PM   Subscribe

New job, new work-issued laptop, new external display problems...

In my personal life, I use Mac laptops. In my previous job, despite the fact that they issued us PC laptops, I was able to work remotely using my 16" MacBook Pro. Maybe not ideal, but my vision is steadily deteriorating (and I haven't been able to see an optometrist due to These Times), and either the 16" screen of the MacBook or the ancient Thunderbolt Display which I could connect to it by daisy-chaining some adapters were much much MUCH more comfortable than the 13" screen of the PC. Due to These Times, I was going to buy a second display for work, and asked about that here, but before that happened... job. 12.5" Dell Latitude, with DisplayPort, NOT Thunderbolt. 12.5" screen even more difficult to use. Not able to use my MacBook (probably just as well...). Latitude cannot drive a Thunderbolt display of any variety. I'm going to have to buy another external display (infuriating). But while jobs come and go, my personal laptop being a MacBook is (semi)forever. I don't want to buy a monitor for work that does not ALSO play well with the MacBook. The Apple co-branded display are all Thunderbolt-only, so I guess that means I've got to go into the wider market. What are my best and most future-proofed options for a display that will work well with both my machines? Less expensive is better, but up to about $1500 might be manageable for a truly excellent choice.
posted by praemunire to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Best answer: Any HDMI/DisplayPort display will play well with a MacBook - you just get a Thunderbolt to HDMI or Thunderbolt to DisplayPort adapter. The other way is essentially impossible (making a Thunderbolt display work with HDMI/Thunderbolt).

If you're looking for a suggestion, I would suggest a 27"-32" 4K monitor. They are the same sort of "retina resolution" displays that your MacBook has (when viewed from normal distances). You can easily find one in the $500-$700 range. I'm a fan of the Dell P2721Q. It has a nice (but not unique) feature of supplying USB C power and having "DisplayPort Alt Mode" on the USB C connector. At the very least, you'll be able to power your laptop from your monitor (removing one cable). Your laptop may also support DisplayPort Alt mode, in which case you'd also be able to drive the monitor from the same cable (removing two cables).
posted by saeculorum at 3:10 PM on February 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: One small warning - many (most?) HDMI adapters for USB C only support 30 Hz output at 4K. Doesn’t matter much for work (though it’s observable), but it’s a bummer if you want to use it for video or games. Displayport, or native USB C (which is Displayport as well inside), is a safer connection strategy.

I like LG’s line of USB C monitors myself. Dell is generally solid as well.
posted by doomsey at 3:15 PM on February 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Did you see this page?
posted by oceano at 7:57 PM on February 1, 2021

Best answer: Samsung TU87F... 32 inch, 4K (3840x2160) X 60 Hz, Thunderbolt 3 AND DisplayPort AND HDMI (and built-in USB hub)
Less than 600 on Amazon.
posted by kschang at 11:17 PM on February 1, 2021

Oceano's comment has it, the the tl;dr is Thunderbolt 2 and Mini-Displayport shared a connector because Apple's laptops before Thunderbolt used the Mini-Displayport connector for external displays. You're not going to blow anything up by using an Apple bidirectional Thunderbolt 2/Thunderbolt 3 adapter, and your existing screens will work with a displayport<>USB-C adapter as other comments say.

Also, making that Dell screen usable, can you up the relative scaling to 1.5x or 2.0x in Windows?
posted by k3ninho at 1:40 AM on February 2, 2021

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