Best monitors for Mac Studio (and other Macs) in 2022

Best monitors for Mac Studio (and other Macs) in 2022

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The Studio Display, Pro Display XDR, iMac 24″ and 16″ MacBook Pro.
From left to right: The 16-inch MacBook Pro, the 24-inch iMac, the Studio Display and Pro Display XDR.
Photo: Apple

The introduction of a brand-new desktop called the Mac Studio brought new life to the Mac, and it deserves a great monitor to match. But the Mac Studio is only part of the story. You may want a desktop monitor when you’re at home with your MacBook Pro, a display for your Mac mini, or a second display for your iMac. Or, maybe you’re jumping in on the headless MacBook Pro bandwagon. What’s the best monitor for your Mac?

Apple introduced its own Studio Display alongside the Mac Studio, and it seems reasonably priced compared to Apple’s other offerings. But what does the broader market for midrange displays look like?

Here’s a display buying guide to help you find an appropriate monitor to go with your Mac.

This post contains affiliate links. Cult of Mac may earn a commission when you use our links to buy items.

Best Mac monitors: Top picks

Best Retina display for Mac

1. Apple Studio Display

Best monitor for Mac Studio: The new Apple Studio Display is a beaut, but it's pricey.
Apple’s new Studio Display is a beaut, but it’s pricey.
Photo: Apple
  • Size: 27-inch
  • Resolution: 5120 × 2880 (Retina)
  • Price: $1,599

Apple giveth and LG taketh away. The arrival of the Studio Display comes with the discontinuation of the slightly cheaper LG UltraFine 5K — not that anyone’s complaining.

It’s a bright panel at 600 nits, but it doesn’t support high dynamic range (aka HDR) or ProMotion, Apple’s name for an adaptive, high refresh rate, 120Hz display. Some reviewers found the Studio Display to be a little short, and upgrading to a height-adjustable stand costs an additional $400. (Apple can do this after purchase — for a price.)

Ports on the back of the Studio Display include one Thunderbolt 3 and three USB-C. The built-in camera supports Center Stage, which lets the camera follow subjects during video calls. However, some have criticized it for being slow to react to movement and delivering inconsistent quality. Apple plans to improve the Studio Display via a software update.

Nonetheless, the Studio Display remains the cheapest Retina display at its size.

Buy from: Amazon
Buy from: B&H Photo

2. LG UltraFine 4K

Mac Studio monitor buying guide: The LG UltraFine 4K is close to what a 24-inch Retina display from Apple would be like.
The LG UltraFine 4K is close to what a 24-inch Retina display from Apple would be like.
Image: LG
  • Size: 24-inch
  • Resolution: 3840 × 2160 (Retina)
  • Price: $700

LG UltraFine 4K is a middle-of-the-road option. Since the Apple Studio Display only comes in one size, this is the closest you can get to a 24-inch display from Apple.

Keep in mind it also doesn’t come with a webcam, so you’ll need to buy a separate one. However, you’ll find a lot of ports on the back — two Thunderbolt 3 and three USB-C. It uses a standard C-13 power cable rather than Apple’s hard-to-remove cable that uses a custom plug.

Personally, I would rather take the budget LG 24UD58-B. The UltraFine 4K costs over twice as much for a brighter panel, Thunderbolt ports on the back and only a marginal improvement to build quality. It’s not better enough to justify twice the price.

Buy from: Amazon
Buy from: B&H Photo

3. Apple Pro Display XDR

Apple Pro Display XDR: If you thought the Studio Display was expensive...
If you thought the Studio Display was expensive…
Photo: Apple
  • Size: 32-inch
  • Resolution: 6016 × 3384 (Retina)
  • Price: $5,999 (with stand)

The best display money can buy, Apple’s Pro Display XDR, comes at a price. A very steep price. The display can deliver up to 1,600 nits in brightness as it supports HDR with a billion colors.

Like the Studio Display, it also comes with one Thunderbolt 3 and three USB-C ports. Like the UltraFine 4K, it uses a standard power connector and lacks a webcam. Admittedly, it’s the only display on the market with specs that high. But with rumors of a big spec bump coming sometime soon, it’s hard to justify that price.

This display has such a narrow use case amongst professional graphic designers and video editors that if you actually need these features, you don’t need to look at anything else on this list. And if you aren’t absolutely sure that you need a display like this, don’t even consider it.

Buy from: Amazon
Buy from: B&H Photo

Best standard display for Mac

4. Samsung S60A

Samsung S60A monitor
The Samsung S60A is a big display at an affordable price.
Image: Samsung
  • Size: 32-inch
  • Resolution: 2560 × 1440
  • Price: $300

If you take the 6K resolution out of the Pro Display XDR, you get the Samsung S60A: a 32-inch panel and HDR-10 with a billion colors. However, it has a bit less screen space, and the S60A’s panel is less bright at just 300 nits.

It surpasses the Pro Display XDR with a screen refresh rate of 75 Hz. Plus, it comes with a stand that tilts, rotates between portrait and landscape, and swivels left and right.

You can plug it into the new MacBook Pro, Mac Studio and Mac mini directly over HDMI; to use it with a MacBook Air, base MacBook Pro or the new iMac, you will need a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort cable. To use the four USB ports on the back, you will need to connect the USB-B to USB-A pass-through cable. The Samsung S60A is a great option if you want the biggest high-quality HDR display at an affordable price. You can also buy a 27-inch version with the same resolution for $419.99 or a 24-inch version for $349.99.

Buy from: Amazon

5. Samsung M8 Smart Monitor

Samsung M8 Smart Monitor
The Samsung M8 Smart Monitor is a fine screen with an iMac vibe.
Photo: Samsung
  • Size: 32-inch
  • Resolution: 3840 × 2160
  • Price: $700

The Samsung M8 Smart Monitor packs the same size as the Pro Display XDR, but with a little more screen space. Also similar to the Pro Display XDR, the S60A offers HDR10 with a billion colors and a 60 Hz refresh rate, although the S60A’s panel is not as bright at only 400 nits. You can plug it in over USB-C.

This monitor, like the Studio Display, comes with a built-in chip — but unlike Apple’s, this monitor allows you to “browse the web, edit documents and work on projects” on its own. Why you would want to do this on a low-power, low-performance chip running Android instead of your Mac is beyond me, but I will not judge. Well, not a lot.

Unlike the iMac, you need to pay an extra $30 to get a fun color like pink, green or blue. Quite frankly, I would rather save a bit of money on resolution and “smart” monitor features with the Samsung S60A.

Buy from: Amazon
Buy from: B&H Photo

Best ultrawide display for Mac

6. LG 40-inch Curved UltraWide

LG Curved UltraWide display
The LG Curved UltraWide offers a lot of Pro specs comparable to Apple’s displays.
Image: LG
  • Size: 40-inch
  • Resolution: 5120 × 2160
  • Price: $1,800

At the high end, there is the LG 40-inch Curved UltraWide. Like the Studio Display, it’s powered by Thunderbolt 4 and offers 96W charging for a MacBook Pro.

It’s an IPS display with a wide viewing angle, a must-have for a display this size. It supports HDR with a billion colors and the P3 wide color gamut like the Pro Display XDR, although only at 300 nits. It has a higher refresh rate at 72 Hz. The included stand tilts, raises and lowers, but for obvious reasons, does not rotate to portrait. It comes with a Thunderbolt 4 port with Power Delivery, another Thunderbolt port for a daisy-chained display or storage device, and two USB 3 ports.

Buy from: Amazon
Buy from: B&H Photo

Best small display for Mac

There are plenty of reasons why you might want a small display with your Mac.

Perhaps you have a small desk in a dorm or apartment with limited space. Maybe you’re running a Mac mini remotely as a server-in-a-closet and you want a small display as a backup. Perhaps you occasionally need to take your whole setup on the go, including your extra monitor.

Whatever the case, here are some small display options.

7. Dell E2020H

Dell E2020H monitor
The Dell E2020H is a small monitor with good build quality.
Image: Dell
  • Size: 20-inch
  • Resolution: 1600 × 900
  • Price: $126

The Dell E2020H has the same 250 nit brightness as the aforementioned LG 24UD58-B. You will need a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort cable as it does not have HDMI. Most small displays are built very cheaply, but the Dell E2020H offers similar quality to the aforementioned SE2422H.

Buy from: Amazon
Buy from: B&H Photo

Best budget displays for Mac

Here are low-cost alternatives for every category listed above:

8. Cheap Retina display: LG 24UD58-B

The LG 24UD58-B is a budget-friendly way to get a 4K 24-inch Retina display
The LG 24UD58-B is a budget-friendly way to get a 4K 24-inch Retina display.
Image: LG
  • Size: 24-inch
  • Resolution: 3840 × 2160 (Retina)
  • Price: $299

If you don’t need that much screen space, you can save a substantial chunk of change with the LG 24UD58-B, the cheapest Retina display on the market. Like all the other Retina displays, it still has an IPS panel for a wide viewing angle without color distortion, but that’s about where the similarities end.

It has a dimmer panel at just 250 nits, no USB-C or Thunderbolt ports on the back, a fixed stand and an even cheaper body than the UltraFine 4K made of shiny black plastic. You can plug it into the new MacBook Pro and Mac Studio over HDMI. To use it with a MacBook Air, base MacBook Pro or the new iMac, you will need a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort cable.

If you only care about a Retina display — you don’t need a super-bright panel, a huge screen, ports on the back or a matching aluminum design — it’s hard to beat the value of the LG 24UD58-B. In fact, you literally can’t.

Buy from: Amazon
Buy from: B&H Photo

9. Cheap standard display: Dell SE2422H

Dell SE2722H monitor
The Dell SE2422H and SE2722H are 1080p displays at a very low price.
Image: Dell
  • Size: 24-inch
  • Resolution: 1920 × 1080
  • Price: $165

The Dell SE2422H offers a standard 1080p resolution at 24 inches. It slightly larger brother, the Dell SE2722H, offers a 27-inch panel at the same resolution and specs for $25 more.

Like the Samsung S60A, these displays support a high refresh rate (75 Hz), offer a good contrast ratio (3,000:1) and add an antiglare coating. You can plug it in over HDMI or with a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort cable.

I have personally used this display before — four of them at one PC, in fact — and I can say it offers a good, solid build quality for a plastic body. The downside is that colors are distorted when you view them off-angle.

Buy from: Amazon

10. Cheap ultrawide display: Sceptre IPS 43.8-inch Ultrawide

Sceptre Ultra Wide display
The Sceptre Ultrawide offers a double-1080p display at a low price.
Image: Sceptre
  • Size: 43.8-inch
  • Resolution: 3840 × 1080
  • Price: $484

An even wider display can be had for cheaper with the Sceptre IPS 43.8-inch Ultrawide, a larger IPS display with a smaller 1080p vertical resolution. The advantage of the lower resolution is that this display supports up to 120 Hz over DisplayPort using a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort cable.

It supports 125% of the sRGB color range, which is not the full HDR spec used by the Pro Display XDR, but is certainly nicer than a standard display. It is also brighter than most displays on this list at 600 nits — same as the Studio Display. In my experience, Sceptre displays suffer from a pretty terrible build quality — the built-in speakers, especially, sound worse than iPod earbuds — but it has some nice specs for a low price.

Buy from: Amazon

11. Cheap small monitor: Dual HP V20 HD+ bundle

HP V20 HD
The HP V20 HD can be bought in a pack of two.
Photo: HP
  • Size: 20-inch
  • Resolution: 1600 × 900
  • Price: $190 ($95 each)

The HP V20 HD+ monitor can be bought in a bundle of two. These also come with a 20-inch panel at 1600 × 900 resolution, but at a lower 600:1 contrast ratio and 200 nits brightness. One monitor can plug in using your Mac’s HDMI port if you have one, but the second monitor will need an HDMI-to-Thunderbolt cable. For an average price of $95 each, this is a very cheap way to get a dual-screen setup.

Buy from: Amazon
Buy from: B&H Photo

Mac monitor comparison table

Display Price Size Resolution Rate Brightness HDR Stand
Studio Display $1,599 27″ 5120 × 2880 60 Hz 600 nits No Tilt
LG UltraFine 4K $700 24″ 3840 × 2160 60 Hz 500 nits No Tilt, Height
Pro Display XDR $5,999 32″ 6016 × 3384 60 Hz 1,600 nits Yes Tilt, Height, Rotate
Samsung S60A $300 32″ 2560 × 1440 75 Hz 300 nits Yes Tilt, Height, Rotate, Swivel
Samsung M8 $700 32″ 3840 × 2160 60 Hz 400 nits Yes Tilt
LG Ultrawide $1,800 40″ 5120 × 2160 72 Hz 300 nits Yes Tilt, Height
Dell E2020H $126 20″ 1600 × 900 60 Hz 250 nits No Fixed
LG 24UD58-B $299 24″ 3840 × 2160 60 Hz 250 nits No Fixed
Dell SE2422H $165 24″ 1920 × 1080 75 Hz 250 nits No Tilt, Height, Rotate
Sceptre Ultrawide $484 43.8″ 3840 × 1080 120 Hz 600 nits Partially Tilt, Height, Swivel
2× HP V20 HD+ $190 20″ 1600 × 900 60 Hz 200 nits No Tilt

Buying advice

What’s a Retina display?

Retina displays offer twice the resolution of standard displays, making text and images look perfectly crisp. In order for a display to be a Retina display, the pixels have to be small enough that you can’t see them at a normal distance — that equates to a 4K resolution on a 24-inch display or 5K on a 27-inch display.

2018 MacBook Air
Apple popularized Retina displays, and now we can’t live without them.
Photo: Apple

Apple has been building Retina displays into all of their devices for years. Every iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac and Apple Watch made today has a Retina display.

While this buying guide lists the best Retina displays, it may as well be titled “only Retina displays.” Twelve years after the introduction of the Retina display on the iPhone, 10 years after it was brought to the MacBook Pro, and eight years after it made its way to the iMac, high-DPI displays are still hard to come by. You can count them on one hand, and half of them are Apple’s.

Should I get a Retina display?

If one of the Retina display options meets your price point or fits what you want, you should absolutely get a Retina display. Text is easier to read, images are sharper, videos look better.

Of course, there are some reasons you might not need a Retina display. If you need a very big display at or above 32″, your only Retina option is the very pricey Pro Display XDR. While Mac gaming isn’t a huge market, gamers do not opt for Retina displays because frame rate is more important to them. Most Retina displays, because of their very high resolution, cannot exceed 60 FPS.

Retina vs. non-retina display
It’s much more difficult to pick out individual pixels on a Retina display.
Image: uxplanet.org

If you don’t care about Retina resolution, there is a big wide world of options out there. You can get displays optimized for price, size, refresh rate and more.

How big are desktop displays?

While most laptops come in between 13 inches and 16 inches, desktop displays vary greatly in size. A small desktop display measures between 18 inches and 22 inches. A standard display falls between 23 inches and 26 inches. A big display measures 27 inches and above.

What is a good display brightness?

Display brightness is measured in nits, a unit of brightness. You might also see it written as cd/m², or candela per square meter.

Even the cheapest displays are around 200–250 nits. A good display is typically around 300–450 nits. The best displays are 500 nits and above.

Nits are a hard unit to conceptualize, so the best way to understand what you need is to look up the brightness of the display you’re looking at and judge if you need something brighter than that or not. Here is the maximum brightness of some devices you might have:

  • iPhone 7, 8, X, XS, 11: 625 nits
  • iPhone 11 Pro, 12 Pro, 13 Pro: 800 nits
  • MacBook Pro (2016–2020): 500 nits
  • MacBook Pro (2021): 1,000 nits
  • MacBook Air (2019–2020): 400 nits
  • iMac 4K, 5K, Pro (2017–2020): 500 nits
  • LG UltraFine: 500 nits

Should I get an ultrawide display?

Here is a quick rundown of common aspect ratios, or, how wide the display is compared to how tall it is. “Widescreen” videos, TVs and PC monitors use a 16:9 aspect ratio; most Mac displays have a slightly taller 16:10 aspect ratio; old TVs and computers used an even taller 4:3 (or, 16:12) aspect ratio.

Ultrawide monitor
Ultra wide monitors give you a lot more room to work.
Photo: Nate Grant/Unsplash

Ultra wide displays are usually in either 21:9 or 32:9 aspect ratios. This means you can get the same amount space as two separate displays uninterrupted, without a gap or a seam in the middle. Ultra wide displays can offer a more immersive experience for watching movies, as cinematic film is in a significantly wider 21:9 aspect ratio (roughly speaking).

If you like a big workspace but you don’t like two displays (and, like most people, the Pro Display XDR is outside your price range) you might consider an ultra wide display like the LG 40-inch Curved UltraWide.

What is ProMotion? Should I get a high refresh rate display?

Standard displays use a 60 Hz refresh rate. PC displays can come with 75 Hz, 90 Hz, 120 Hz or even 240 Hz refresh rates. This means any movement on the screen from scrolling a page, dragging a window or playing a game will appear smoother.

Of course, Apple handles high refresh rates in a more advanced way. PC monitors use a fixed refresh rate. Apple uses a technology called ProMotion, which updates the screen at 120 Hz when content is actually moving and slows down to 24 or 30 Hz when nothing is moving at all. If you’re watching a video, it’ll match the frame rate at 24, 30 or 50 Hz so there’s no motion blur.

Higher refresh rates
Higher refresh rates are smoother and significantly reduce motion blur.
Photo: Pixeltv.it

Doubling or tripling the refresh rate of a display takes more graphics power and bandwidth, which is why most PC monitors with high refresh rates only have a 1080p or 1440p resolution. High refresh rates at resolutions greater than that stretch the limits of most computers — and what an HDMI or Thunderbolt cable can even support. Apple, of course, prioritizes Retina resolution over high refresh rates, which is why their desktop displays use the standard 60 Hz.

ProMotion is only currently available on the iPad Pro, iPhone 13 Pro and MacBook Pro. If you want a high refresh rate with a desktop Mac, you will need to buy a third-party monitor.

What is an HDR display?

An HDR display can show more colors at a higher brightness. All of Apple’s latest iPhones can shoot HDR videos and pictures. You can still see HDR videos and see pictures on a standard display, but they won’t be as vibrant.

HDR vs. non-HDR
HDR displays look a lot better, but they’re also much pricier.
Photo: Samsung

Not a lot of displays have HDR right now, so you’re not missing out if you can’t afford one. When it comes to the Mac, Apple only uses HDR displays on their most expensive products: the new MacBook Pro and Pro Display XDR.

You can test if the device you’re using right now has an HDR display by clicking this link — if you do, then you’ll see the word “White” very brightly.

Further Reading

If you would like to learn more about Mac displays, Marc Edwards has written an article that covers more details and qualities not discussed here:

  • Retina displays can be set to a higher resolution than they support natively. For example, a 15″ Retina display can be set to scale down a 17″ image. You get more space, but this will slightly blur the image.
  • Color space is much more nuanced than I let on. There are many different standards. sRGB and P3 add more colors to the standard RGB palette; HDR-10+ and Dolby Vision are competing standards for HDR content. Apple is using Dolby Vision in their cameras and displays; Samsung is using HDR-10+.
  • Bit depth determines how many colors a computer and display are capable of processing.
  • The quality of a mini-LED panel varies by how many dimming zones (or backlights) a display has. A display with a lot of dimming zones can precisely separate bright and dark areas of an image; a display with fewer dimming zones will glow when displaying an image with a lot of bright and dark together. A traditional LED panel has only one backlight.
  • True Tone and Night Shift are two features built into Apple’s displays that vary the color temperature (how orange or blue the image is) based on the environment and the time of day.

You can read Edwards’ article here.