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LG 27UK850-W: An Acceptable 27-inch Display for the Mac

If you’re used to the coherence of the Apple cocoon, the PC monitor market is a strange and frightening place. Despite a long history of producing quality screens like the 27-inch Thunderbolt Display, Apple no longer makes monitors other than the insanely priced $5000 Pro XDR Display. Instead, Apple endorses the $700 24-inch LG UltraFine 4K Display and the $1300 27-inch LG UltraFine 5K Display by virtue of selling them—and them alone—in the online Apple store. Alas, those monitors are costly and, in my opinion, underwhelming apart from their pixel density.

Buying a monitor is like navigating a minefield. The market is full of 27-inch and larger screens that support only 1080p resolution and a pixel density of around 100 pixels per inch, about half of any Retina display you’re used to. Even if you find a sharp enough monitor, you may have trouble connecting it to your Mac. Many displays still feature hoary VGA ports that first appeared in 1987. Some have only HDMI ports (that’s a TV, not a monitor), and HDMI is chock full of gotchas: you could buy a 1440p monitor and, thanks to weird HDMI limitations, be stuck at a blurry 1080p resolution. Or you could buy a monitor that advertises USB-C connectivity only to find that the USB-C port works only for power and accessory connections, not video. One false step, and boom, you’ve got a worthless monitor.

Here’s what I, and I assume most Mac users, want in a monitor:

  • At least 4K native resolution (meaning approximately 4000 horizontal pixels)
  • Reasonably high pixel density for crisp text
  • No ghosting or refresh rate weirdness
  • Good colors, preferably HDR
  • DisplayPort (or Mini DisplayPort) input for older Macs and USB-C video for newer ones

If you use a 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display like many of us here at TidBITS, it’s easy to be spoiled by its pristine image quality. Unfortunately, there’s no way to press a Retina iMac into service as an external display—Target Display Mode works only with a small subset of pre-Retina iMacs. It’s challenging to find a reasonably priced display that fits the bill, especially since 5K monitors never took off (see “What Happened to 5K Displays?,” 16 November 2018).

During a recent Black Friday sale, Amazon reduced prices on LG monitors, which caught my attention because LG makes the panels Apple uses in iMacs. I’ve been in the market for a new monitor because my Dell monitor had developed an intermittent shadow across the display. Sometimes resetting the monitor’s settings would dispel it temporarily, sometimes not, and I had grown tired of fighting it all day.

When I focused on LG’s 27-inch screens, a couple of patterns emerged:

  • 4K resolution (typically 3840 by 2160 or UHD) commands a roughly $100 premium over 1440p (2560 by 1440 or WQHD)
  • USB-C video connectivity also commands a $100 premium

Staring these cold, hard facts in the face, I decided to spend a bit more than I had hoped and buy the LG 27UK850-W, which usually sells for $450 but was on sale for $380. Even at full price, it’s $250 cheaper than the LG UltraFine 4K display and $850 less than the LG UltraFine 5K.

LG 27UK850-W

LG 27UK850-W Tech Specs

The LG 27UK850-W features a 27-inch IPS panel with a 3840-by-2160 resolution, which I calculate to be about 163 ppi. By comparison, the 21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K display features 219 ppi, and the 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display offers 218 ppi. LG advertises 10-bit color, though a careful reading of the specs reveals that it’s actually an 8-bit display plus A-FRC, which approximates the other colors. The display features HDR10 support for the handful of Macs that support it, plus the Apple TV 4K and various videogame consoles. It supports 99% of the sRGB spectrum.

The screen can produce up to 350 nits of brightness, which is much less than the 500 nits that the Retina 5K iMac can emit. This isn’t a problem for my light-sensitive eyes, but it could be a dealbreaker if you like your brightness cranked up.

Sadly, you won’t find support for P3 wide color or Apple’s True Tone technology. The screen is matte, unlike the iMac’s glossy screen, and it features an anti-glare coating.

LG advertises a few features for gamers, like AMD FreeSync support (relevant only to PC and Xbox gamers), but with a somewhat slow 5 millisecond response time, I wouldn’t recommend it for hardcore gaming. But with HDCP 2.2 support, it should work just fine with any streaming media box, Blu-ray player, or game console.

In terms of connectivity, the LG 27UK850-W features one USB-C port that supports data, video, and 60-watt charging; one DisplayPort; two HDMI ports; two USB-A ports; and a headphone jack. It comes with white USB-C, HDMI, and DisplayPort cables.

Finally, the LG 27UK850-W has two built-in 5-watt speakers.

Industrial Design

The LG 27UK850-W’s design is very Apple-esque, at least as of about 2005. The back of the monitor is encased in white plastic. The front bezels are black. LG advertises the display as “virtually borderless,” which means there is a bezel, but it’s a thin one on the top and sides. It has less bezel space than the iMac, though the thicker bezel on the bottom bothers me somewhat because it’s uneven (the iMac has a chin as well).

LG 27UK850-W rear

I especially like the curved stand, which I believe is aluminum. It provides sufficient weight to keep the monitor stable. The ergonomics aren’t as slick as the $1000 stand Apple sells for the Pro Display XDR, but it’s easily adjustable with one hand. Unlike complaints I’ve heard about the UltraFine monitors, I haven’t noticed any shaking or instability in regular use.

Note that the panel and stand do not come preassembled, but putting it together is as easy as putting the display face down on a table and clicking the stand into place. It also comes with a plastic ring you can clip around the stand arm to hold cables in place.

In addition to a height adjustment of 4.3 inches (110 mm), the display also tilts between -5º and 20º and rotates 90 degrees. However, I wouldn’t recommend buying this monitor to use in portrait orientation because the screen is so tall you feel as though you’re staring into the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It also tends to pull at the cables a bit when you do this, so you need to be sure they have plenty of slack. The panel features a VESA mount if you’d prefer a different stand or monitor arm.

LG 27UK850-W portrait
You can do this in theory, but I’m not that brave.

I like how the cables connect in the rear. Unlike my old Dell monitor, which awkwardly forced me to insert cables upward, the cables on the LG 27UK850-W plug straight into the back, making life much easier.

LG 27UK850-W plugs

I’m more ambivalent about the LG 27UK850-W’s internal settings control system, a small joystick behind the bottom of the panel. A quick flick up or down shows display information. A flick left or right controls speaker volume. You click the joystick to access the menu or select on-screen items.

LG 27UK850-W menu

The menu offers four options: Power Off on the top, Settings on the right, Game on the bottom, and Input on the left. After a bit of practice, I can quickly navigate the options, but there was a learning curve. I also wish I could customize the menu. The Game option switches to an overly bright setting supposedly suited to videogames, but choosing it again doesn’t change things back—you have to dig through the Settings menu to do that. It would also be nice to have separate buttons to change inputs quickly, or perhaps LG could let users remap the volume up and down functions for those who don’t care about the built-in speakers.

I’m even less happy about the gap between the screen and bezel, something that’s still commonplace among monitors. Don’t spray cleaner on the screen, as it could drip down and short out electronics because there’s nothing to block moisture and dust. I love the laminated, gapless display of the iMac for that reason. You’d think monitor makers could at least add a gasket, but cutting costs seems to be the main priority for most PC peripherals.

An interesting fact about the LG 27UK850-W is that, unlike most monitors that take a standard, three-prong power cable, it comes with a power brick that connects with a DC barrel plug. Some online reviewers complained about this approach, but I like that if the power supply fails, I can replace it without cracking open the monitor. I also like not having to fool with a big, clunky power cable if I need to move the monitor. Those three-prong power cables can be a bear to insert and remove.


Connectivity is almost as important as image quality. It’s hard to find monitors with the right assortment of ports. And they always have too many HDMI ports. I’d prefer two USB-C ports, two DisplayPorts, and just one HDMI port, if that. As noted previously, the LG 27UK850-W provides one USB-C port, one DisplayPort, two HDMI ports, two USB-A ports, and a headphone jack.

The USB-C port works as advertised, at least with my 2019 iMac and my 2016 MacBook Pro. I plugged the included cable into both machines and the picture popped up almost instantly. A nice feature of the LG 27UK850-W is that it prompts you to switch to the appropriate input when it detects a new device; just click the joystick to switch over. When my 13-inch MacBook Pro is connected to the monitor through USB-C, the monitor keeps the laptop charged.

DisplayPort also works as it should. I get full 4K 60 Hz video output and audio passthrough.

HDMI, as always, is thorny. My Apple TV 4K connected to the LG 27UK850-W beautifully, with full 4K and HDR right away. I decided to connect my iMac to the monitor through HDMI, to leave the monitor’s DisplayPort open for my ThinkPad and its USB-C port for my MacBook Pro. However, the iMac doesn’t have HDMI output, and none of my USB-C hubs support 4K output. I ended up buying an inexpensive Anker USB-C to HDMI adapter, which works fine with full 4K 60 Hz output.

One minor annoyance is I can’t control the monitor’s speaker volume from the Mac; I have to use the monitor’s volume control. This seems to be a macOS limitation since I can control it from Ubuntu Linux on my ThinkPad just fine. It would be a bigger deal with a Mac mini, but since the iMac’s speakers are so much better than those in the LG 27UK850-W, I use those instead.

Finally, we have the monitor’s two USB-A ports. If you connect to your Mac through USB-C, the Mac can use any devices connected to the USB-A ports. If your Mac doesn’t have a USB-C port, you can use a USB-C to USB-A cable to take advantage of the built-in hub. But here’s the weird thing: if you connect directly to a USB-C port, those USB-A ports are limited to USB 2.0 speeds. If you use a USB-C to USB-A cable, the USB-A ports can take advantage of full USB 3.0 speed.

My guess is that the extra bandwidth used by video over USB-C necessitates the lower speed limit for the USB-A ports. It’s yet another example of USB-C being a confusing mess. I seldom use USB hubs built into monitors, but if you do, I recommend sticking to simple things like keyboards and mice.

Image Quality

You’re probably wondering how the LG 27UK850-W compares to Apple’s Retina displays given that its 163 ppi is much lower than the 218/219 ppi in Apple’s iMacs. The LG 27UK850-W is still plenty crisp, but I noticed some eye strain after a few days of using it. Upon close inspection, I noticed that text on it is ever so slightly fuzzy compared to the 27-inch iMac. Even with font smoothing disabled, text on the LG 27UK850-W is fuzzy.

I think this is primarily an artifact of how Apple tunes macOS to look best on Retina displays.  When I crank my Linux machine to 4K, text on the LG 27UK850-W looks as razor-sharp as it does on the iMac’s screen, if not more so. (Don’t take this as an endorsement of Linux; it has more than its share of headaches, such as poor support of scaling to ultra-high-resolution displays.)

Speaking of scaling, the first thing I had to do when I connected my Macs to this display was open System Preferences > Displays. Then, on the window that appeared on the LG monitor, I selected Scaled and then the second option, which scales the resolution to match the 2560-by-1440 resolution of my iMac’s screen.

LG 27UK850-W Mac settings

You may be wondering if the scaling affects text crispness. The first option (from left to right) makes text look huge. I couldn’t see any difference between the first and second options in terms of crispness. Text gets smaller as you go to the right, which might lead you to think that it will sharpen up, but in fact, the opposite happens: not only does it get smaller, it gets blurrier as well.

The LG 27UK850-W has a feature called Super Resolution+ that adds an extra layer of sharpness to the image. In other words, it adds aliasing or “jaggies.” It can be helpful when viewing soft text or upscaled content, and if you’re the sort of person who hates how smooth text looks on the Mac, you’ll probably love this feature.

I can confirm that the LG is not as bright as the iMac. I cranked up the brightness on both, and the LG is considerably dimmer. That said, I tend to find Apple displays painfully bright, so if you’re somewhat light-sensitive like me, this isn’t a big deal.

As for color, it looks pretty good after some calibration. I used the RTINGS settings for the LG 27UK650-W and installed their ICC color profile, which got me pretty close to the iMac’s display. Looking at the two side-by-side, the LG looks slightly duller than the iMac, though I don’t do enough graphics work to care much.

LG offers software to interface the monitor with a hardware calibrator, but it reportedly does not work with macOS 10.15 Catalina. That might be a dealbreaker for some professionals, but the good news is that the LG 27UK850-W has a slew of fine calibrations. Beyond just three-color adjustments, you can make six-color adjustments for red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow. I haven’t found that necessary.

The LG 27UK850-W has several built-in presets, none of which are particularly helpful. There’s a reader mode that acts like Night Shift, putting a yellow haze over the screen to reduce blue light, but it looks much weirder than Night Shift. There are the typical photo and cinema modes, which again look strange to me. There’s an HDR effect mode that tries to make everything look like HDR video, which is odd but interesting. And there are three special gaming modes: two for first-person shooters and one for real-time strategy games, which is something I’ve never seen before. I can’t comment on these modes, though I have found gaming presets helpful in the past because they often do special tricks to enhance the display’s response time.

Speaking of HDR, I don’t have a compatible Mac, but I do have an Apple TV 4K, and despite its 8-bit panel, HDR looks great on the LG 27UK850-W. The Apple TV 4K immediately turned on both 4K and HDR, and I was able to bump the chroma setting without issue. I sampled a few films that take advantage of HDR, such as Mad Max: Fury Road and The Fifth Element. Both looked great, with the full, rich color you’d see on an HDR-compatible iPhone or iPad. However, note that the LG 27UK850-W supports only HDR 10 and not Dolby Vision.

Mad Max HDR
This still from “Mad Max: Fury Road” shows the rich colors of the LG 27UK850-W in HDR mode.

At first, I thought the display looked a bit soft when watching movies, but after sampling a few, I realized that it was the camera that was soft. While Mad Max: Fury Road had some soft edges, I could count every spec of film grain next to Bruce Willis’s head in The Fifth Element. That’s remarkable sharpness, though a bit annoying.

Fifth Element grain

Viewing angles are fine. I haven’t noticed any color change or brightness dropoff as I move around my office. Nor is there any ghosting or other issues associated with cheap LCD screens.

My one quibble with display quality is that my unit came with a single dead pixel. It took me a couple of days to notice it, so it’s not worth the trouble of trying to exchange the monitor.

Audio Quality

The built-in 5-watt speakers are way better than those in my ThinkPad but not as good as my iMac’s speakers. I’d say they’re middle-of-the-road for speakers built into an LCD screen. However, I do enjoy the convenience of connecting an HDMI or DisplayPort device and having audio right there without having to set up additional speakers on my desk. It will make Apple TV testing easier.

The speakers have a feature called MaxxAudio, which acts like the Boom app on the Mac (see “FunBITS: Boom for Mac Pumps up the Volume,” 18 April 2014), artificially boosting the volume and sound levels. I find that it makes audio very “boomy” with overdriven bass. It works well for movies but makes YouTube videos sound weird.

I tested the headphone port while sampling movies from the Apple TV 4K. Sometimes monitor headphone jacks diminish the audio quality, but I was blown away at how good the audio sounded on my Sony MDR-V6 headphones. I much prefer connecting my headphones directly to my computer, but that’s not an option with the Apple TV 4K. If you want your monitor to act as a personal movie machine, the LG 27UK850-W is a great pick. Note that MaxxAudio is disabled when headphones are connected.

Final Verdict

Is the LG 27UK850-W a good monitor for your Mac? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.


  • Significantly less expensive than LG’s UltraFine series
  • USB-C provides full-resolution video and enough power to charge a 13-inch MacBook
  • Good mix of ports to support multiple devices
  • HDR-capable for compatible devices
  • Cables plug in straight
  • Convenient built-in speakers


  • Not as crisp as Apple’s iMac Retina displays or LG’s UltraFine displays
  • No P3 wide color or support for True Tone
  • Imperfect macOS integration (HDMI and DisplayPort volume control, can’t control brightness from the keyboard)
  • An extra USB-C or DisplayPort jack would be nice
  • Speakers are thoroughly mediocre

But to mix up the usual tech reviewer formula, let’s add in hard realities to our pros and cons:

  • Outside of Apple’s Pro XDR Display, most monitors don’t integrate well with Macs
  • 5K displays are almost nonexistent, and the LG UltraFine 5K is expensive
  • Manufacturers are stingy with ports on inexpensive monitors

The LG 27UK850-W is a good monitor for the price, but no monitor on the market is as good as I’d like. If only Apple would bring back a modernized Thunderbolt Display!

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Comments About LG 27UK850-W: An Acceptable 27-inch Display for the Mac

Notable Replies

  1. Thanks for that very nice review, @jcenters.

    I’m in the market for a 4K monitor myself as my trusty old 27" Dell U2717D is just 2560x1440. I’m sure the LG UltraFine 4K is nice, but I don’t feel like stepping down to 24" for a whopping $700. OTOH the UltraFine 5K is just too expensive IMHO for those extra pixels. So in that sense this LG seems to offer an interesting alternative. I’m not sure I like the stand and I have to admit I really don’t like having to put up with another power brick under my desk for something as large as a screen.

    Would you care to offer any comment on how you think the LG 27UK850-W compares to say a Dell P2721Q? IMHO Dell is an awful company, but their quality screens have in my experience always delivered. Never had any issues.

    $304 but no USB-C



  2. A word of caution: I had a LG 27UK850, through my job, and spent several months trying to make it work right. This included sending it into LG for service, and my laptop into Apple for service. None of this ultimately helped.

    The issue was the monitor being really slow to wake up when connected to my 2018 MacBook Pro. It was so slow to wake up that it apparently cycled through several low resolutions in the wake-up-and-connect process, which regularly resulted in all my windows being resized – including to impossible sizes. I got fairly good at locating 1x1px windows and restoring them.

    I wound up returning it to my job, and getting a different monitor. I’m using a Dell now. First time I turned it on I worried sleep on my laptop was broken, because I’d forgotten that a second or so to wake was normal

    I’ve seen other positive comments about this model, so I’m certainly willing to believe it might have been some specific issue with my particular monitor, maybe specifically in combination with my precise laptop model and OS version or something. :man_shrugging:t2:

  3. The Wirecutter recently updated their 27" 4K Monitor reviews. Their top picks for general purpose monitors were the Dell U2720Q and HP Z27. However, the article listed the LG BL85U at the top of the ‘Other Good 4K Monitors’. It appears, from the BH Photo Site that the difference is that that UK850 has a Game mode while the BL85U does not. Anyway, the reason for the lower rating on the LG Monitor were the lower charge capacity of the USB-C port, only having 2 USB-A ports, and the look and feel of the frame and base. Note that the picture in the article is clearly NOT either LG Monitor.

  4. Good link, @aforkosh, thank you.

    The U2720Q and U2720QM are the exact same panels as far as I can tell. The Q comes with DP cable (work use?), the QM with HDMI (home use?). Otherwise it’s just an extra $127 on Amazon. Though fortunately, Wirecutter links to a less pricey Dell offer.



    $598 (was $555 yesterday)

  5. Probably not relevant to your problem but an SMC reset can resolve some Mac hardware issues:

    My Retina Macbook needs a reset once in a while.
  6. I’ve always had great experiences with Dell UltraSharp displays, but I can’t recommend buying any of their products anymore after seeing how Dell flat-out scammed a Linus Tech Tips secret shopper by bundling and charging them for antivirus software and extended warranties that were explicitly refused multiple times.

    You won’t encounter this problem if you don’t phone Dell’s sales department and instead buy from Amazon or a retail store (or probably even Dell’s own web site), but I don’t want to support any company that condones these practices.

  7. Some more info:
    The UK850 is a 2018 model. The UL850 is latest.
    Using with a Mid 2019 MacbookPro 13" is supported to charge, as its only 60W on the LG USB-C/Tbolt port. A 16" MBP requires a rated 96Watt charger and isn’t supported for charging and display. You need to use the provided USB-C cable from LG to work as Apple’s charger cable is not the same. The BL85U has a 3yr warranty (B is for business) and the 27UL850 model has only 1yr warranty (consumer model–otherwise BOTH are identical in specs).
    I have the 27BL85U-W (W is Wide) at home on my Windows PC and it is a game changer. I do not use the Freesync feature, but since 1/2019, certain nvidia GPUs now work with Freesync. Who knew! I may need to investigate this further. I have played a few games on it, and since it replaced a Dell 27" Ultrasharp that had CCFL lamps, I’d say big improvement on power use and image. I also have two of these at work, as a dual display for a Dell Optiplex, along with the 2nd feeding from my 13" MacbookPro (Mid-2019) that charges and displays well enough. Its a few menu steps to switch to the input for the MBP, as there is a little “toggle” under the middle of the display front. Also, I had to force my 13" MBP Later 2019 to see the resolution of the LG and it was really disappointing-it was not an automatic sensing-resolution change.
    The speakers work well enough for applications, and I use them to test sources and in a pinch, zoom audio out. However, I personally use external amplified speakers, since iTunes and video editing benefit. I always recommend a DAC or amplified external speakers as display companies focus on the display, not the audio quality. Another issue is that in a multi-platform environment, I only have one set of decent speakers at home. So I may either come up with a switchable amp source or move the Monsoon speakers to the PC and use Bluetooth headset, Airplay or Home pod for audio playback of the mac (not the cleanest method but satisfactory and the benefit of remote control from my phone and Siri).
    I know we are mostly Mac Users here, but since I’ve come to accept and profess my Windows work is more reliable, stable, cheaper and faster than my Mac workflow, I admit that I prefer the higher resolution on Windows is better than the MacOS X Finder and font display. Matter of fact, I now hate the look of the anti-aliased type on Mac compared to the same font on Windows (using Opentype). (talking outloud- does the Mac finder look dated and rather…toy like?)
    I work with Adobe and Microsoft products on both platforms, and keep finding myself using the Windows side more than ever. Blasphemy? Maybe but I look as this as I type and everything has a fuzz to it. Where on LG using Windows, I can fine typefaces without eye strain - it is sharp, as it should be. If anyone at Apple is listening, a serious revamp of the Finder is long overdue.
    I was going to purchase another LG for home, to have dual display setup identical to work, and retire the Ultrasharp for repairs/setups/side hustle as my only Mac Mini display (it can’t do 4K res unless I get tbolt to PCI card interface).
    Update: And I just backordered a 27BL85U-W from BHPhoto for $429+tax (total $458 w/free shipping)
    (note edits for typos)

  8. Apple’s charging cable is fine, but it’s intended for charging. It doesn’t support data beyond USB 2 so you don’t want to use it for anything but charging. You especially don’t want to use it with a dock or a hub setup (like on this monitor) where you have downstream data ports that could have their bandwidth hobbled by using an insuffient pipe on the uplink side.

    Instead, use a USB-C cable rated for 3.1 Gen 2 (ideally, Gen 1 will do if you’re not attaching high b/w storage). Doesn’t have to be expensive, even at 100W power rating.

    2m / 6.6’ for $14.39 (discounted)

    1.8m / 6’ for $16

    Both are fine cables. A bit thick perhaps, but they’re high quality, braided to resist damage, and smooth so no sticking or knots.

    This one here is the Wirecutter pick. It’s only 1m and it costs $20. They liked it because it’s USB-IF certified.

  9. Well, actually there’s even a 27UN850-W now. No idea if there’s any real difference compared to the UL850 or the UK850. In terms of price, Amazon clearly makes the UL850 seem most attractive right now.

    UN850 $450

    UL850 $397

    UK850 $450

    Edit: I see the L has 3.0 uplink (Gen 1), whereas the K still had 3.1 (Gen 2) uplink. It’s a moot point though because the downlink are both 3.0 so it’s not like the user could exploit the better uplink. I guess at some point LG realized this waste and opted for the cost saving Gen 1 uplink. The N has Gen 1 too of course. Also, the K supports DP1.2 but it’s DP1.4 on the L and N.

  10. Sadly, you won’t find support for P3 wide color or Apple’s True Tone technology, but the screen is matte, unlike the iMac’s glossy screen, and it features an anti-glare coating.

    If you’ll be even thinking about sending anything out for professional printing, I recommend not even thinking about an anti glare matte screen. It will mess up colors.

    When I got my MacBook Pro about a million years ago, my husband talked me into buying one with an anti glare matte screen, and they were getting good reviews in the press. Two other people I knew were unhappy with the color, and the very nice sales guy at the Apple store tried to talk me out of it because of the color issues. I should have listened. It does dull colors, and it’s probably the reason why Apple discontinued the feature in subsequent MacBook Pros.

  11. I’ve been following this discussion thinking about how to replace my 5 year old 21" iMac in the not too distant future.

    I may be confused, but it appears to me that none of these 3rd party monitors comes close to the resolution of the iMac’s displays.

    I’ve been thinking as well about the complaint about iMacs that to upgrade the CPU, say to whatever Mx iMacs come with next year, you have to ‘throw away’ (or repurpose) a perfectly good monitor.

    So, my question to knowledgable folks discussing these 3rd party monitors is, is it possible to create a Mac Mini + 3rd party monitor setup that has as good a screen, and is as economical as a comparably spec’ed iMac?

  12. That’s because these are 4K monitors. The 27" iMac comes with a 5K screen.

    There are very few 5K monitors and they aren’t cheap. If you go back and check @jcenters’s article, you’ll find a link to the LG 5K display on the Apple Store. It’s $1300. Amazon has them refurbished for $1000.

    This 5K screen would work just fine with a Mac mini.

  13. I have an LG display to which I have attached a sound bar. I can control the volume of the sound bar using SoundSource from Rogue Ameoba

  14. Recent iPhones use the wide gamut color space. A wide gamut monitor will cost about $1000. If you have any interest in using the monitor for digital imaging, I think its worth it. I use one of the NEC wide gamut regular def monitors along with the iMac 5K. A matte screen and lower resolution can actually make editing a bit easier. In a dual screen set up, the color calibration is useful to get the two monitors close - but the iMac will always look different due to the glossy screen. I bought mine in 2014 and the price is about $100 less now and the tech is the same.

  15. Thanks Simon.

    Apple’s charging cable is fine, but it’s intended for charging. It doesn’t support data beyond USB 2 so you don’t want to use it for anything but charging. You especially don’t want to use it with a dock or a hub setup (like on this monitor) where you have downstream data ports that could have their bandwidth hobbled by using an insuffient pipe on the uplink side.

    Instead, use a USB-C cable rated for 3.1 Gen 2 (ideally, Gen 1 will do if you’re not attaching high b/w storage). Doesn’t have to be expensive, even at 100W power rating.

    I mentioned this as the issue: I had assumed the Apple cable would do both video and charging; it does not (nor states it-its just a charging cable) as I just willfully connected the Apple cable to the display and nothing. When I used the LG cable, it charged and displayed fine. Just a cavaet to a lesson I learned.
    And thanks for the tip on the newest N model. I just needed the L version to have matching displays and that it was $20 less, and has 3yr warranty vs the consumer 850series with 1yr. A comparison of these two models (UL vs UN) shows no differences other than pricing and some terms (enter and compare models on LG’s site).
    Tip: Another good site for display comparisons/specs.

  16. But have you seen the nano-texture option iMac 5K screens?

  17. I can’t speak on the Dell P2721Q as I haven’t seen one. Dell monitors have a good reputation, but as I mentioned in my review, I had a shadow develop in my old Dell.

  18. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping I don’t have reliability issues with this LG display, but it’s such a crapshoot. I’ve had a lot of bad luck with LCD TVs because they’re so flimsy and fragile.

  19. I haven’t been near an Apple Store for months before the pandemic began, and I wasn’t aware of this option. I did some searching and found that these could be problems:

    • Price — $500 premium over standard glossy display.
    • Extra care required — A special cleaning cloth is required to clean the display.

    And especially for anyone who proofs for print or any large format media:

    • Reduced sharpness — Text isn’t quite as tack sharp as it is on the glossy 5K iMac display.
  20. Yeah, I personally prefer glossy screens. Many people don’t, but I just don’t find the color on matte screens to be anywhere as good.

  21. One thing you should be aware of in order to make an informed purchase decision is that my personal experience with LG Tech Support and Customer Service has been abysmal. On my 2019 65" $3K OLED TV the motherboard had issues and I had to wait weeks for the service provider replaced it with a refurbished “bastard” board for a TV only a few months old whose serial number did not reflect the model number of the TV. My attempts to get a proper board with escalation ultimately failed as I was basically told to live with it since it is working. Earlier on LG indicated it was going to upgrade the software on all C8 model TV’s to be compatible and then after several months of promises they decided not to with no explanation as to why. In my opinion they LG is not a customer focused or customer centered company. Unfortunately, I did have purchase the LG 5K 27" monitor as it was the only completely compatible monitor for the W5700 GPU in my MacPro 2019 Desktop computer, other than Apple’s $5K RDX monitor (plus $1K for the stand), both which support the GPU’s Thunderbolt connection. It has absolutely no controls, not even a power button. At times it acts a bit flakey. Not sure if it is the monitor or the GPU. Thank goodness I chose to get an extended warranty on it. In any case after attempting to get traction from Apple on a watchdog error at shutdown for the last 8 months, Apple is finally going to replace the GPU in attempt to finally fix the issue. If the monitor intermittently still acts flakey, then I will likely have another nightmare on my hands in having to deal with LG tech support again.

  22. If you have two monitors, as I prefer, Big Sur presents a problem because it will support only one monitor from USB ports. The fix is a second one fed from from the HDMI port

  23. That’s cool, thanks for pointing that out. I’ll have to try it.

  24. Which makes perfect sense. LCD panel manufacturers are making 4K panels in massive quantities for the TV market, so 4K computer displays aren’t very expensive. But 5K displays are only sold for computer use - they are manufactured in smaller quantities and therefore cost more.

  25. End 2016/start 2017 was a big upgrade (and product investment!) time for me.

    Firstly, I bought the first 2016 TB3 15MBP, maxed-out with ACare (£4.5K). A lot at the time, and still now IMO.

    Secondly, I bought two of the LG UltraFine 5K’s in Mar 2017 – just after the insulation issue on the late 2016 ones was updated (£1748: £874@).

    As some may not remember, when Apple released the first TB3 MBPs, they had some flak about users having to upgrade accessories to TB3, so they announced a temporary 1-yr 25% price reduction on all the TB3 accessories they sold. This included the LG 5K display luckily, hence the price for two fell from £1179 to £884 (a nice ~£600 saving on two).

    At that price it was a no brainier if wanting extra displays, given Apple’s own TB Display was £900 a few years earlier (same in US$, AFAIR). So for the same money you got 5K text-crisp Retina res P3 gamut displays with built-in speakers, 1080p webcam, 3x USB-C 5Gb ports, 15MBP charging, and (ultra importantly, so no fiddling about with screen joysticks or similar!) seamless Apple integration (inc. sleep).

    Sure they were not the prettiest and still aren’t compared to Apple’s own, but they look utilitarian and business-like –which I prefer– rather than cheap and “made for gamers” looks, which I don’t like. The 218ppi was the most important thing to me, as I absolutely wanted them to match Apple’s own Retina quality displays.

    The trouble for buyers now in (nearly) 2021 and 4-yrs later, is it being hard to swing ones head around spending the nearly £1.2K full price on EXACTLY THE SAME display (well the current minor rev. B has vanilla USB-C output functionality along with TB3, but still).

    If I was looking around, I’d likely get a used/refurbed, and wait it out until the marketplace moves on to new tech. As the seamless Apple integration and 218ppi are absolutely key over anything else for me.

    I’d justify it by suspecting there simply won’t be any new offerings for another 2-3 years until UHD 8K (or even 10K, to match the same 20% greater as the 4K vs 5K difference we have now) will arrive.

    While understandable due to 5K’s niche over 4K panels, it’s still a real pity that the marketplace (especially Apple!) hasn’t pushed more (prettier, to match Apple aesthetics!) product options out. Apple are clearly completely uninterested in their non-‘super pro’ market to bother.

    One has to wonder –given the LG is the only Apple-seamless option that exists– if the next (8K/10K) generation of displays will ever release a fully-seamless Apple-orientated product. Or will the LG 5K be the last one?
    Real shame if so for the Apple eco-system of users. :confused:

  26. Yep, that’s it; 4K panels are mass produced due to being the current TV standard, but 5K ones seemingly aren’t unfortunately.

    And the difference in pixel count is big too:

    • 4K pixels: 8.3 million/megapixel.
    • 5K pixels: 14.7 million/megapixel — so 5K has significantly more pixels, with a 77% higher pixel count.

    …We just need 16K now, so we can have 132.7 megapixel displays, lol!
    (apparently aimed at VR stuff, rather than video.)

  27. This entire situation is quite frustrating. In the end, there is just no suitable substitute for the Apple-endorsed LG 5K display. No other display offers all the USB C ports, the pass-through charging that has enough juice to charge a 16" MBP, the resolution, color accuracy, the built-in webcam that actually works with FaceTime without a hitch… and the fact that it integrates with the OS keyboard shortcuts for sound, brightness, etc.

    I can live without the FaceTime webcam, but all the other features are just too darn important to me. Especially the USB-C ports. I have no interest in USB A, HDMI, DisplayPort, or any other type of port.

    As a graphic designer, color and clarity/sharpness are the most important, and a minimum of full 4k resolution is a must. These 1440 displays are a joke—I can see more of my documents on the 16" MBP display than most of these 27" displays and that’s just unacceptable.

    In my opinion, the “overpriced” LG 5K display is “value-priced” when I consider all the shortcomings I would be forced to deal with and extra purchases I would need to make to come close to the LG 5K. In the end, I would only save a few hundred dollars and still have a lesser quality display.

  28. Thank you @jcenters. I will go for one of these (or the UL version) if I can find one here in the UK, where they currently seem to be in short supply. I’m not fussy about colour, but the resolution, tiltable stand and built-in speakers all sound good.

    Can anyone suggest a good cable to connect my 2015 MacBook Pro using the DisplayPort option? I get confused about Thunderbolt ports.

  29. Although my work doesn’t depend on color (I’m color-blind too :laughing:) I’m usually in the same boat. If you need something for work, a couple hundred bucks is peanuts. How many hours lost till it’s cost you $1k?

  30. Thanks Simon, but my MacBook is too old for USB-C. I guess it’s Thunderbolt 2, so I think the physical connector is Mini DisplayPort. In which case Amazon seems to have plenty of choice.

  31. If you need something for work, a couple hundred bucks is peanuts. How many hours lost till it’s cost you $1k?

    That’s my exact feeling as well. It would be different if the cost of the display and any required dongles and doodads came to half the cost of the LG, but that’s not the case. And even then, if I had to sacrifice anything important to me, it STILL wouldn’t be worth the savings.

    It would be different if this were a “personal use” setup, but when I use equipment to make a living, “more” really is more.

  32. I have nothing useful to add in terms of technology, but I’m typing this in front of my brand-new LG 27UL850-W and just wanted to thank @jcenters again for the recommendation. I appreciate that 5k would be better, and I’ve no reason to suppose the other 4k monitors that other people have suggested here aren’t just as good, but the LG is perfect for my modest needs and budget (just under GBP 400 here in the UK). It’s a big step up from my previous 24-inch 1080p monitor.

  33. That’s great! I’m always a little nervous recommending products, even after all these years, so it’s nice to hear positive experiences based on those recommendations.

  34. Here’s a tip: be sure to use the cables that come in the box. My monitor was jittering and blanking out when connected through DisplayPort. @SwiftOnSecurity on Twitter mentioned that you should use the included cables instead of your own, because newer monitors are more exacting in their requirements. I swapped my cable for the included LG one, and it instantly cleared up the problem.

    It’s also possible that my old cable had gone bad. In any case, if you have trouble with this monitor, try using the included cables.

  35. the entire discussion was very helpful. This comment re LG 5K display cinched my decision. Thank you, and all.

  36. LG connectors in the monitor or TV are of poor quality and/or connected weakly connected to the circuit board which makes them susceptible to failure when repeatedly plugged in and out or if strain is continually placed on the cables, often resulting in a time consuming or expensive repair. I speak from experience with two products: the product mentioned above and a 65" LG TV. The solutions are once plugged into the monitor, do not unplug and replug the cable into the monitor but affix the cable to the back of the monitor with a cable clip, ensuring that there is a loop in the cable between the cable clip and the connector to minimize strain on the cable. If you need to unplug the cable. do it from the computer leaving the cable attached to the monitor. I used a 3M command clip to attach the cable to the monitor and instead of the adhesive material with the clip, I use nano tape, sometime referred to as alien tape as it is very strong yet removable. You could also use high strength double sided tape or epoxy glue but I would not recommend the instant adhesives such as the Crazy Glue types as they might melt the plastic case of the monitor and impossible and if they give way, regluing could be an issue.

  37. I have fallen in love with the LG UltraFine 5K Display, I will try to assemble my thoughts in a brief review of this at some point. But in sum, although I don’t do a lot of graphic/video intense work, I can already tell that the various features of this display are sufficiently significant to me to have warranted the expense (though I can hear the cognitive psychologist in myself saying “Watch out for Cognitive dissonance Beaudoin!” :blush:)

  38. I bought one of the LG UltraFine 5K displays the instant they were available. Once you go retina, going back is so, so painful. Seeing the difference between my laptop screen and the older Dell display I had was so irritating, I had to spend the extra money for the LG.

    I’ll never love the display. There are enough design and feature flaws that it’ll never be a great display overall. (The most irritating is it only connects to one computer at a time, while I have three on my desktop right this moment. Working from home… The most severe is the occasional ghosting, but that fades enough to not be a distraction.)

    But that screen. So sharp. Even with a cataract in my left eye, I can see the difference, clear as day. I can’t go back.

  39. Me too. I bought two LG UF 5K’s back in Mar 2017 – after the shielding issues the first batch had, had been fixed – which I still use as my displays today.

    AFAIR for the first 9 or 12months they were released, Apple knocked 25%-off pricing for all the new (at the time) USB-C connector accessories gear they sold, which took it from £1180 to £885, making them a fairly decent deal at the time.

    The fact they remain at the higher MSRP pricing now is partially ridiculous (can’t currently find on Apple UK, only here on LG: 27'' UltraFine™ 5K Monitor | 27MD5KL | LG UK ), given we’re pushing half a decade(!) on from their initial release. But, without going for Apple’s stupidly expensive 6K XDR, as it’s really the only “Retina” option currently on the market (all the other 5K’s have been discontinued, and are technically inferior anyway for little price differences), I guess LG think they can still command such a price for it.

    The only thing that’s different, is LG did a slight updated rev.B a couple of years ago to allow 5K connection over vanilla USB rather than the previous rev.A that was TB3 only (allowing things like USB-C iPad Pros to connect in mirror mode at 4K only). But really nothing to shout about.

    While the image sharpness is great, and colour accuracy very good, they’re still not as refined as they could be in things like smooth volume control, et al. And absolutely agree that being able to at least connect to TWO Macs at the same time and flick between them would be very useful! (obviously current connection speeds, at least when these were released, could not handle it.)

    As has been said countless times by seemingly everyone, if only Apple could release a new more affordable offering, especially now they’re doing M-series Macs, I’m sure the years of pent-up demand would shift major units for them.
    …Well, one can dream, as I’ll only believe Apple really care about this issue when and if they release them, which looks less and less likely as time goes on unfortunately! :slightly_frowning_face:

  40. I bought mine before the shielding issue had come to light, and had to send it back to LG for fixing. Which went fine.

    I really do have to wonder what Apple is doing about external displays internally. Are they giving all of their engineers XDR displays? What does that line item on the budget look like?

    I suppose they’re not hurting for cash, and finding something expensive-and-deluxe to give their engineers as a perk is not really a downside. But I do wish it hurt a little bit, so they’d be more motivated to have a great-but-reasonably-priced display for those of us not sitting on billions of unspent dollars…

    FWIW, let’s imagine that Apple does ship a great stand-alone display, basically the new iMac minus the computer part. I don’t imagine it’s going to support being used on multiple computers. Has any Apple display ever supported that? It’s why I stopped buying Apple displays, in favor of Dell. (Until the retina LG came alone.)

    (My last Apple display was one of the ill-fated CRT models with that crazy A/V interface that stuck out three or four inches. It was compatible with, IIRC, just two Macs, the Centris 660AV that I had, and the Quadra equivalent. After that one, I said “never again”…)

    My hope is that, just by sourcing the displays and building the electronics for the interface, they’ll “prime the pump” and we’ll see new hardware from other vendors that does include a couple of input interfaces, not just the single TB4 that I expect in an Apple version…

  41. I hope (likely in vein!) that Apple announce new larger MBPs and/or iMacs at a late 2021 event, and then do a One More Thing.

    Ta-da… You asked we answered – matching our new iMacs, meet the new 5.5K external 30" display! Offering crystal clear 218dpi you’ve come to expect from all our Macs, to give you the desktop work space you need to get the job done.

    Blah blah blah… it also features not one but two of the very latest full Thunderbolt 4 ports, allowing you to connect each display up to two Macs concurrently, for the unrivalled versatility Mac users have come to expect.

    …oh yeah, silly me; that’s slated for 2025! Bugger. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

  42. We really need a 27" as I have faculty needing replacements and they have 27" iMacs, and want M1 version from Apple. Heck one kicked and screamed over getting his iMacPro, only to get it, and 6 months later, discontinued from Apple.
    Oh, and delays people! I ordered a Dell 49" curved back in March, to arrive in Sept. Now I am seeing delay of March 2022!!! :rage:

  43. Well, there are supposed to be massive supply constraints due to Covid, after all.

    But in this case, Mar 2011 to Mar 2022 sounds more like a manufacturing/production issue, than simple delays in supply, we’re seeing elsewhere.

    Note: According to some reports from the Apple-rumour mill, Apple are supposed to be largely immune to these delays, thanks to securing chip manufacture et al. So hopefully this won’t be an issue for at least their stuff, but maybe not the peripherals from others needed to be plugged into them! :upside_down_face:

  44. Linus Tech Tips explains this pretty well:


    • Chipmaking factories were impacted by COVID, but only for a short time. They’re all up and running at full production.
    • The automotive industry shot themselves in the foot. They predicted reduced sales and cut back their orders for chips. The reduced sales period didn’t last nearly as long as predicted, but the chipmakers already sold their chipmaking capacity to other customers, so they are now stuck waiting for more chips.
    • For most of the rest of the industry the problem is that we’re buying more electronics than ever before. So the chipmakers are all running at capacity. So they’re only shipping exactly what they promised and no more, since there is no slack.
    • The companies that got hit worst (e.g. GPU manufacturers) are suffering because their demand is far greater than they predicted. Companies that are doing well (e.g. Intel and Apple) are suffering less because their demand is pretty much in line with their predictions.
    • Everybody is building new facilities to allow increased production, but this takes a long time. For example, Samsung and TSMC’s new fabs won’t come on line until 2023.
  45. Definitely not all manufacturers are equally affected. Even beyond Apple. Since this thread is about displays, I can add that Dell was having trouble supplying us at work with some screens, but nothing of this magnitude.

    I’m expecting a fancy 27" 4K U2720Q myself, ordered Aug 16 that’s now been delayed by two weeks. Nothing major, but clearly a departure from the “old normal” where we’d see items ship the moment our procurement dept forwards our request to the supplier, with drop off delivery usually within 48 hrs.

  46. If the primary use of the monitor will be for text, shouldn’t I just get a 1440p monitor rather than 4K? This avoids any text scaling issues that would occur with a 4K monitor. (This is to replace an 11-year old Apple Cinema Display, which is also 1440p).

  47. What text scaling issues are you thinking of?

    If you’re talking about macOS display scaling (Retina display), it shouldn’t have any issues. Apple has been supporting this since 2012 and I don’t remember anyone complaining about it. If your third-party display isn’t recognized as Retina/HiDPI, there ways (e.g. SwitchResX) to let you manually configure it as such.

    If you’re talking about the display’s built-in scaling (if you configure macOS to output a 1440p signal), then that may or may not look worse than an actual 1440p panel. But I wouldn’t use it in this manner. If the native 4K image is too small, I would use macOS scaling (manually configuring it, if necessary) to make the image larger.

  48. I’m also hoping for upgraded iMac and or Mac mini early next year…looking to upgrade my 2019 Intel iMac. I’m unsure at this point whether I want a mini and display or an iMac…since the display will likely outlive the Mini there’s some justification for that and the ports/speed/etc on both will likely be the same. I would like a 30 inch display for photo work…but something up in the $5K to $6K range is more than I can really justify for my needs for a monitor.

    Either way…since I’m retired whatever I get will last 6 to 8 years at least…my needs are not that great but a faster box for Lightroom is always a good thing.

  49. My job revolves around text, and I want the absolute sharpest display I can get my hands on, which is why I primarily write on a 5K iMac. macOS does text scaling very well, so you can always bump up the text size. Also, Apple optimizes for Retina displays so text looks lousy at lower resolutions.

  50. Thanks for the responses to my question about 1440p vs 4K 27" monitors primarily for text. To clarify what I am thinking, I have a Retina 15" MacBook Pro, which is 2880 X 1800, 220 pixels/in, scaled to “look like” 1440 X 900 (default setting). This was paired with a now-dead Apple Cinema display that is 2560 X 1440 at about 110 pixels/in. At normal viewing distance of about 2 feet text on both looks “great”; the retina display might look a little sharper, and this becomes more evident if leaning in closer. The larger monitor is the primary workspace where I can view two pages of text.
    If I bought a 27" 4K monitor, 3840 X 2160 and about 160 ppi, I would want to set it up to view the same amount of info as a 1440p monitor; at native resolution text would be too small. So, the text would be scaled (yes, using MacOS scaling, not by outputting a 1440p signal) and not by an integer factor of 2x as on the retina display. This article seems to confirm that using a 4K 27" monitor as a 1440p equivalent is perhaps not a great idea. But that’s what I was looking to confirm - that I might as well buy a 1440p monitor and save a little money (the difference is not really significant) rather than getting a 4K monitor and scaling it to 1440p.
    I think you’re saying no, get the 4K?
    (A 5K monitor is not an option at this time; a larger 30" or so 4K monitor is not a great option either as a 27" barely fits the space). Thanks

  51. That article seems a bit biased. For instance, the video clip where they show shimmering (which I can barely see even on their clip) is magnified quite a bit. You may not see it in actual practice on a high-DPI screen.

    It also claims that there are certain DPIs that will always look bad, whether you treat it as a Retina display or not.

    I say that this is a very personal decision. Your eyes are not the same as anybody else’s and what someone else likes will not necessarily be what you like, even if he’s got lots of charts and graphs to back it up.

    Since you have a laptop, see if there is a local store where the manager will let you plug it in to various displays in order to see for yourself. (Be sure to come prepared with cables and possibly also software to force HiDPI mode, so you can perform good tests.) Not all stores will let you do this, but some will, so call up and ask before you go.

    I personally think a 4K screen scaled to 1440p may look a bit better, but if that display costs significantly more than a display with a native 1440-line resolution, I don’t think I’d pay the difference. But it’s not always the case that higher resolution costs more. 1440p panels are only used in computer displays, while 4K panels are also used in TVs, so they often have the economies of scale necessary to drive the price down.

    Ultimately, I think you’ll be happy either way, so I’d decide based on factors like price, panel type (IPS vs something else), brightness, color accuracy and brand reputation.

  52. So can anyone recommend which model of 27" LG monitor with a USB C type socket to buy in the UK now? Thanks.

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