What’s the best monitor for your Mac? Desktop displays aren’t just for desktop computers anymore — 77% of you are buying MacBooks, but you probably want a nice setup when you’re at home. And if you do have a Mac mini or Mac Studio, you want to make sure you’re picking the right display.
Apple introduced its own Studio Display last year, which has been well-received and is reasonably priced (at least compared to Apple’s other offering). 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.
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Best Mac monitors: Top picks
You can also watch my advice here in this video:
Table of contents
- Best Retina display for Mac
- Best standard display for Mac
- Best ultrawide display for Mac
- Best small display for Mac
- Mac monitor comparison table
- Additional buying advice: Retina display, nits and more
Best Retina display for Mac
1. Apple Studio Display • Best overall
- Size: 27-inch screen
- Resolution: 5120 × 2880 (Retina)
- Price: $1,599
Apple’s own Studio Display is reasonably priced for what you get, and will play the nicest with your Mac.
It pairs a very high 5K resolution with a bright panel (600 nits). It doesn’t support high dynamic range (aka HDR) or ProMotion, Apple’s name for an adaptive, high refresh rate. 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.) You also can put it on a monitor stand.
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 and stay zoomed in on your face during video calls. Pairing an Apple monitor with your Apple computer, you never have to turn it on; it comes on automatically when you wake up your Mac or plug it in.
2. LG 24UD58-B • Cheapest
- Size: 24-inch screen
- Resolution: 3840 × 2160 (Retina)
- Price: $299
If you don’t need that much screen space, or the Studio Display’s premium specs, you can save more than a thousand bucks 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 tilting stand and a cheap body made of shiny black plastic. You can plug it into a new MacBook Pro, Mac mini or Mac Studio over HDMI. To use it with a MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro or the new iMac, you will need a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort cable.
I bought this display for my Mac mini. The panel is still bright and clear enough for a well-lit office, so long as it doesn’t get a direct laser beam of sunlight on it. The stand gets wobbly over time; I have to tighten the screws every once in a while. But saving money on the display got me more storage on my Mac, so it’s a reasonable compromise. I run it in a scaling mode so I get just as much screen space.
If you only care about a Retina display — you don’t need the best-in-class, the ports on the back or a shiny aluminum design — it’s hard to beat the value of the LG 24UD58-B. In fact, you literally can’t.
3. Apple Pro Display XDR • Apple’s best
- Size: 32-inch screen
- Resolution: 6016 × 3384 (Retina)
- Price: $5,999 (with stand)
Apple’s best Mac monitor, the Pro Display XDR, comes at a price. A very steep price. The display can deliver up to 1,600 nits of 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 LG, it uses a standard power connector and lacks a webcam. Admittedly, it’s the only HDR display on the market with such a high resolution. 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 among 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 your work requires a display like this, don’t even consider it.
4. Dell UltraSharp 32 • Undercut price, overshoot specs
- Size: 32-inch screen
- Resolution: 6144 × 3456 (Retina)
- Price: $3,200
Dell’s UltraSharp U3224KB display made a splash when the company announced it earlier this year at CES. It doesn’t quite match the full HDR of the Pro Display XDR, but it matches it in brightness and passes it in resolution and connectivity. Plus, it comes with a built-in camera and costs just a fraction of what you’ll pay for Apple’s best monitor.
The camera does not help Dell’s display in the looks department. It has a rather chunky forehead, and the camera still protrudes from that. It’s a nice camera, at least, with 4K resolution and an ultra-wide field of view.
And underneath, it’s ports-a-plenty: Thunderbolt 4 with 140W power delivery for charging, another Thunderbolt 4 port for peripherals, three USB-C, five USB-A ports and ethernet.
And that’s not your only option. You can go even higher resolution to a whopping 8K panel, and still undercut the Pro Display XDR by $2,000 (although you lose the webcam on that model). It’s the highest-resolution 32-inch display money can buy.
In my opinion, this makes it a better choice for most people.
Buy from: B&H Photo (6K)
Best standard display for Mac
1. Samsung S60A • Best overall
- Size: 32-inch screen
- 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, though. 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 included USB-B to USB-A cable. The Samsung S60A is a great option if you want the biggest high-quality HDR display at an affordable price. You also can buy a 27-inch version with the same resolution for $419.99 or a 24-inch version for $349.99.
Buy from: Amazon
Buy from: B&H Photo Video
2. Dell S2421H • Cheapest
- Size: 24-inch screen
- Resolution: 1920 × 1080
- Price: $120
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 a similar 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 very distorted when you’re not looking directly at it.
Buy from: Amazon
3. Samsung M8 Smart Monitor
- Size: 32-inch screen
- Resolution: 3840 × 2160
- Price: $700
The Samsung M8 Smart Monitor packs the same size as Apple’s Pro Display XDR, but with a little more screen space. It’ll look good sitting next to your iMac — and the display will look better in comparison. 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. I would rather save a bit of money on resolution and “smart” monitor features, instead opting for the aforementioned Samsung S60A.
Best ultrawide display for Mac
1. LG 40-inch Curved UltraWide • Best overall
- Size: 40-inch screen
- 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 a curved 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. Its slightly higher refresh rate of 72 Hz is impressive considering its big resolution. 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.
It’s expensive, but not when you consider that it’s comparable to buying two monitors, not one.
2. Sceptre IPS 43.8-inch Ultrawide • Cheapest
- Size: 43.8-inch screen
- Resolution: 3840 × 1080
- Price: $484
An ultra-wide display can be had for cheaper with the Sceptre IPS 43.8-inch Ultrawide, a wider IPS display with a shorter 1080p vertical resolution. The advantage of the smaller overall number of pixels is that this display supports a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz 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 you get nice specs for a low price.
Buy from: Amazon
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, but you want a small display on hand as a backup. Perhaps you occasionally need to take your whole setup on the go.
Whatever the case, here are some small display options.
1. Dell P2223HC • Best overall
- Size: 21.5-inch screen
- Resolution: 1920 × 1080
- Price: $119.73
The Dell P2223HC is for when you want a small monitor, but not a cheap monitor. If you pay a little extra, you can get it with 65W power delivery — so your display charges your MacBook and you can keep your MacBook cable in your bag. You also get four USB ports, so this display is a full docking station.
It has the same 250-nit brightness as the aforementioned LG 24UD58-B. Unlike other compact displays, this one sports a full HD panel.
2. Sceptre E205W-16003R • Cheapest
- Size: 20-inch screen
- Resolution: 1600 × 900
- Price: $78
The Sceptre E205W-16003R runs a little below standard 1080p, but you get a high refresh rate of 75Hz and about the same amount of screen space as a midsize laptop. The bezel is slim and the display is lightweight. At only $78 on Amazon at the time of writing, it’s remarkably cheap.
From my experience with Sceptre monitors, they’re nothing to write home about in terms of quality. The price is this one’s best feature. It’s a computer monitor that costs less than a fancy dinner date.
Buy from: Amazon
Mac monitor comparison table
|Studio Display||$1,599||27″||5120 × 2880||60 Hz||600 nits||No||Tilt|
|LG 24UD58-B||$299||24″||3840 × 2160||60 Hz||250 nits||No||Tilt|
|Pro Display XDR||$5,999||32″||6016 × 3384||60 Hz||1,600 nits||Yes||Tilt, Height, Rotate|
|Dell UltraSharp U3224KB||$3,200||32″||6144 × 3456||60 Hz||450 nits||Partially||Tilt, Height, Rotate, Swivel|
|Dell UltraSharp UP3218K||$4,000||32″||7680 × 4320||60 Hz||400 nits||Partially||Tilt, Height, Rotate, Swivel|
|Samsung S60A||$300||32″||2560 × 1440||75 Hz||300 nits||Yes||Tilt, Height, Rotate, Swivel|
|Dell S2421H||$120||24″||1920 × 1080||75 Hz||250 nits||No||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|
|Sceptre Ultrawide||$484||43.8″||3840 × 1080||120 Hz||600 nits||Partially||Tilt, Height, Swivel|
|Dell P2223HC||$120||21.5″||1920 × 1080||60 Hz||250 nits||No||Tilt, Height, Rotate, Swivel|
|Sceptre E205W-16003R||$78||20″||1600 × 900||75 Hz||250 nits||No||Tilt|
Buying advice: Mac monitors
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 must 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.
Apple has been building Retina displays into all of its devices for years. Every iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac and Apple Watch made today comes with 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 Apple brought it to the MacBook Pro, and eight years after it made its way to the iMac, high-DPI displays remain hard to come by. You can count them on one hand, and Apple makes half of them.
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 require a very big display at or above 32 inches, your only Retina option is the very pricey Pro Display XDR. While Mac gaming isn’t a huge market, gamers typically do not opt for Retina displays because the frame rate is more important to them. Most Retina displays, because of their very high resolution, cannot exceed 60 FPS.
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 or 250 nits. A good display typically comes in between 300 and 450 nits. The best displays hit 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 are the maximum brightness levels of some devices you might own:
- 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, aka 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.
Ultra-wide displays usually come in either 21:9 or 32:9 aspect ratios. This means you can get the same amount of 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).
Some ultra-wide displays are curved, so that no matter if you’re looking at the middle or the far edge, you’re always looking straight on at the display. This can be helpful, although curved displays are more expensive.
If you like a big workspace but you don’t like using 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 — 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 things on the screen are moving and slows down to 24 or 30 Hz when nothing is moving. If you’re watching a video, it’ll match the frame rate at 24, 30 or 50 Hz so there’s no motion blur.
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 pictures on a standard display, but they won’t look as vibrant.
Not a lot of displays offer 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 its 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, you’ll see the word “White” very brightly.
Further reading on Mac displays
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-inch Retina display can be set to scale down a 17-inch 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 uses Dolby Vision in its cameras and displays; Samsung uses 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) the 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. Micro-LED displays individually light every single pixel, but those remain incredibly expensive.
- 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.
Note: We originally published this article on July 7, 2023. We updated it with additional information.