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Published Feb. 2, 2022

Whether you have the base 13-inch model or a top-end 16-inch MacBook Pro, sometimes you just need more screen. Adding an external monitor can create a more productive work environment. For some of us, the extra real estate for windows and applications that pop up over each workday feels like a necessity.

With a high-end laptop like the 2021 MacBook Pro, it’s important to choose a monitor that matches the capabilities and, in this case, specific requirements of your computer. It is capable of driving some really high resolutions (especially the higher-end models), so you’ll want a monitor that can take advantage of its power. As a result, the best monitors for MacBook Pro tend to be a fairly particular breed of high-end display.

How we selected the best monitors for MacBook Pro

As a freelance technology critic who works from home full-time and is responsible for buying all of my own gear, I put a lot of time into researching my purchases and determining the best setup for my needs. To pick the monitors for this list, I relied on my own experience as a writer who has covered technology and hardware extensively for sites like Reviewed, Popular Mechanics, and Engadget. I also turned to expert reviews from a variety of trusted publications and consumer reviews from online retailers, to get a good sense of the best options currently on the market.

What to consider before buying the best MacBook Pro monitor

You likely chose a MacBook Pro because it was the laptop that best fit your needs, and you’ll want to do the same with your monitor. For this list, we’re assuming the primary concerns for most MacBook Pro users will be general productivity and creative work, rather than, say, gaming. It’s not as if you can’t use these monitors for games, of course, but if that’s your top priority, we have you covered elsewhere. 

Also, certain features of the MacBook Pro create special needs that you’ll want to look for in your monitor, or at least give you a few extra ways to optimize your home office setup. Monitors that connect via USB-C for easy charging are a major plus, but you also don’t want to overlook the added importance of additional ports that can expand your connectivity options. We also put an added emphasis on technical features like color accuracy, which are especially important since you’ll be looking back and forth between your monitor and the MacBook Pro’s extraordinarily vivid display.

Connections

It’s easier than ever to use a laptop—and a MacBook Pro, specifically—with an external monitor. Apple’s recent laptops, including the current MacBook Pros, rely heavily on USB-C ports, which can charge a laptop and transmit data, including video, over a single cable. This means, in many cases, that connecting your laptop to a monitor also charges it. With the right USB hub, you can plug in a monitor and many peripherals all in one cable.

For a time, USB-C was the only way you could plug a monitor directly into an Apple laptop, but Apple’s most recent 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros also feature a built-in HDMI port, which gives you a simple way to connect your laptop to an external monitor without the need for dongles or adapters. HDMI will not charge your laptop but does open the door for a wider range of display options, as it is the primary connection used by TVs and modern PC monitors. For the purposes of this list, we’re leaning towards the convenience of using USB-C for both connecting a monitor and charging, as it reduces cable clutter with little downside for people.

What makes a good monitor?

Apart from USB-C, the specs to consider with a new monitor these days are largely the same ones that we’ve all had to consider for quite some time now. Size and resolution go hand-in-hand. A sprawling 32-inch (or larger) monitor may look impressive on your desk, but if the resolution isn’t high enough you may find the picture isn’t as clear as you expected because the pixel density is too low. It’s also important to keep in mind that resolution doesn’t just translate to sharpness—a higher resolution gives you more actual workspace to spread out windows and applications. 

A 2560 x 1440 (or 1440p) resolution on a 27-inch display is a good minimum to look for, in general. Keep in mind, however, 1440p falls well short of your MacBook Pro’s Retina display. A 4K (or higher) display will give you sharper text and crisper images. When it comes to movement on the screen, like video, you’ll want to pay attention to the monitor’s refresh rate, which dictates how many times a screen adjusts to reflect movement per second. A 60Hz refresh rate has long been the standard for non-gaming monitors, and will still be adequate for general web browsing and work. That said, a higher refresh rate can make on-screen movements look smoother and allow for more nuanced controls, especially in games and video editing.

Another important consideration is the actual type of display panel used in the monitor. Nowadays there are three main types used in monitors: IPS (in-plane switching), TN (twisted nematic), and VA (vertical alignment). In general, IPS monitors offer the best balance of features, while TN monitors can have an edge in response time and are usually more affordable. VA monitors are a bit less common but can offer better contrast and deeper black levels, albeit often at the expense of response time.

Consider using multiple monitors

While your inclination with a TV may be to simply buy the biggest one that can fit in your space, that isn’t always a good idea with a computer monitor. You may get more bang for your buck using two monitors. A dual monitor setup allows you to position your screens to best suit the task at hand—even use one or both vertically—and you’ll likely have a larger working area than a single monitor of a comparable cost would offer. That said, there are areas like gaming and movies where a large, single monitor is certainly preferable.

Apple’s 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros with M1 Pro and M1 Max processors both offer native support for multi-display setups. It is technically possible to use two monitors with the 13-inch MacBook Pro, but it requires a workaround

The best monitors for MacBook Pro: Reviews & Recommendations

Our recommendations for the best monitors for MacBook Pro cover a wide range of options, from budget-minded models to high-end, premium displays. The common thread is that they all allow for a simple grab-and-go work setup, offer USB-C charging, and at least a couple of spare USB ports for your peripherals. We also focused on features that complement the work that the MacBook Pro does best, including color accuracy for photo editing.

Best monitor for MacBook Pro overall: ASUS ProArt Display PA278CV

Why it made the cut: While it isn’t the biggest display and doesn’t run in 4K, the ASUS ProArt Display PA278CV offers tremendous value with the specs most people need for work. Plus, it’s affordable enough to make a dual-monitor setup reasonable.  

Specs

  • Size: 27-inch
  • Resolution: 2560 x 1440
  • Refresh rate: 75Hz
  • Ports: USB-C, DisplayPort (2), HDMI, USB 3.1 (4)
  • USB-C Power Delivery: 65W
  • Panel type: IPS

Pros

  • Plenty of connectivity
  • Good color accuracy
  • Stylish and functional design
  • Fairly affordable

Cons

  • Sub-4K resolution
  • 65W power charges larger MacBook Pros slowly

The ASUS ProArt Display PA278CV is not the biggest monitor, nor does it have the highest resolution, but it is an incredibly balanced display. The 27-inch, 1440p display brings some small trade-offs in sharpness, but the rest of the ProArt’s specs make it the best monitor for MacBook Pro for overall value. Those specs include ample connectivity with four USB 3.0 ports, plus HDMI and DisplayPort connections, and a very adjustable stand that’ll let you dial in your setup just right. As a bonus, the monitor’s sleek black and silver design also complements the MacBook Pro nicely, making it a sharp aesthetic choice if you don’t have thousands of bucks for an Apple Pro Display XDR.

Best 4K monitor: Dell UltraSharp U2720Q

Why it made the cut: Dell’s UltraSharp U2720Q offers a step up with 4K resolution and 90W of charging power via USB-C, which better suits the larger MacBook Pros.

Specs

  • Size: 27-inch
  • Resolution: 3840 × 2160
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Ports: USB-C, DisplayPort, HDMI, USB 3.0 (3)
  • USB-C Power Delivery: 90W
  • Panel type: IPS

Pros

  • 4K resolution
  • 90W power delivery
  • Fully-adjustable stand 

Cons

  • 60Hz refresh rate

Dell’s monitors have maintained one of the best reputations around for decades now and generally make for a solid choice across the board whether you’re looking for a budget or high-end display. The UltraSharp U2720Q is a particularly strong choice: It’s the best 4K monitor at a reasonable price, with relatively few compromises. While you will have to settle for a 60Hz refresh rate, which may hurt for gamers and content creators, its great color accuracy, large host of ports, and fully adjustable stand make the U2720Q a strong productivity pick.

Best 5K monitor: LG UltraFine 5K Display

Why it made the cut: While it’s been around the block, LG’s Apple-approved Ultrafine 5K display offers solid specs across the board, making it an ideal (albeit pricey) companion for any MacBook Pro.

Specs

  • Size: 27-inch
  • Resolution: 5120 x 2880 
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Ports: Thunderbolt 3, USB-C (3)
  • USB-C Power Delivery: 94W
  • Panel type: IPS

Pros

  • Incredibly sharp image
  • P3 wide color gamut
  • 500 cd/m² brightness

Cons

  • Expensive

The LG UltraFine 5K Display has been the best 5k monitor for high-end Mac users for some time. There’s a reason for that: It’s the only third-party monitor line endorsed by Apple and sold at the Apple Store.

That endorsement has extended the display’s lifespan, even as they become harder to find, but it’s easy to understand why Apple picked it. The 27-inch, 5120 x 2880 resolution display features incredible pixel density—218 pixels per inch—plus P3 wide color gamut, making it an exceptional resource for artists and content creators. It also offers a rare all-in-one A/V package, including a built-in 1080p webcam, microphone, and speakers, which are convenient whether or not you wind up using them.

Best 32-inch monitor: LG UltraFine 32UL950-W

Why it made the cut: If you want a big, big screen, LG’s UltraFine 32UL950-W offers an excellent set of specs as the best 32-inch monitor, with only a couple drawbacks.

Specs

  • Size: 31.5-inch
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Ports: Thunderbolt 3 (2), DisplayPort, HDMI, USB 3.0 (2)
  • USB-C Power Delivery: 60W
  • Panel type: IPS

Pros

  • 4K resolution
  • Thin bezels
  • Ample ports

Cons

  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 65W power delivery

A 32-inch monitor is basically a TV sitting on your desk, and thus may be too big for some folks with limited desk space. It’s a bit glamorous, though, and helpful for multi-taskers and creative professionals who just want a big canvas for their work. Technically measuring out to 31.5 inches, the LG UltraFine 32UL950-W packs 4K resolution and plenty of amenities that make it a great fit for a MacBook Pro. That includes a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports and two standard USB ports, plus HDMI and 3.5mm audio out. The monitor’s thin bezels also ensure the display doesn’t take up any more space than it has to. It does only provide 65W of power via the USB-C cable, however, which isn’t a problem for 13-inch MacBook Pro users but it will charge 14- and 16-inch models more slowly than with their standard charger.

Best ultrawide monitor: Samsung CJ791

Samsung

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Why it made the cut: The Samsung Cj791 comes with a few compromises to keep its price reasonable, but offers an immersive experience not possible with standard displays making it our pick for the best ultrawide monitor.

Specs

  • Size: 34-inch
  • Resolution: 3,440 x 1,440
  • Refresh rate: 100Hz
  • Ports: Thunderbolt 3 (2), DisplayPort, HDMI, USB 3.0 (2)
  • USB-C Power Delivery: 85W
  • Panel type: VA

Pros

  • Immersive, 34-inch curved display
  • 85W power delivery
  • 100MHz refresh rate

Cons

  • Poor contrast and viewing angles

Ultrawide Samsung’s curved CJ791 monitor is a particularly good option for MacBook Pro users, providing 85W of power over Thunderbolt 3, along with a 3,440 x 1,440 resolution, a fairly low 4 ms response time, fast 100MHz refresh rate (plus support for AMD FreeSync), and some built-in 7-watt stereo speakers. Reviews of the monitor have consistently noted that both contrast and viewing angles are a bit lackluster compared to some other non-ultrawide options, however, which are a few trade-offs to keep in mind.   

Best budget monitor: ViewSonic VP2756-2K

ViewSonic

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Why it made the cut: The best budget monitor by monitor standards, ViewSonic’s VP2756-2K offers comparable specs to our top pick in a no-nonsense package.

Specs

  • Size: 27-inch
  • Resolution: 2560 x 1440
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Ports: USB-C, Displayport, HDMI, USB 3.0 (2), USB Type-B
  • USB-C Power Delivery: 60W
  • Panel type: IPS

Pros

  • Affordable but still includes USB-C
  • Fully-adjustable stand
  • Good color accuracy
  • Built-in stereo speakers

Cons

  • Only 60W of power over USB-C
  • Somewhat bland appearance

You can always get a cheaper monitor if you’re willing to compromise on size and specs, but the ViewSonic VG2756-2K is a very reasonable price-conscious mid-tier monitor that delivers what we’d recommend maximizing everyday work and play with a MacBook Pro. The VG2756-2K is a 27-inch, 1440p monitor that you can connect to your laptop via USB-C. It also features a solid 5ms response time, 350 cd/m² brightness, built-in stereo speakers, a fully adjustable stand, and a three-year warranty. One small caveat: The USB-C connection only offers 60W of charging power, so the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros may charge slowly. Aside from that, it’s an enticing mid-range productivity monitor.

Best Apple monitor: Apple Pro Display XDR

Why it made the cut: Expensive but one of a kind, Apple’s Pro Display XDR is tailored to those who want the best of the best.

Specs

  • Size: 32-inch
  • Resolution: 6016 x 3384 
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Ports: Thunderbolt 3, USB-C (3)
  • USB-C Power Delivery: 96W
  • Panel type: IPS

Pros

  • 6K resolution
  • 1600 nits of brightness
  • Exceptional color accuracy

Cons 

  • Incredibly expensive
  • Stand costs an extra $1,000

Apple’s own Pro Display XDR is not for most people. It costs nearly $5,000 ($6,000 if you also want the stand). Unlike many products, the word “pro” in the name is literal: It is meant for artists and professionals who need the widest color gamut and the best pixel density you can get. If you can afford it, though, it is the absolute best image quality you can get in a monitor right now. The 6K resolution offers incredibly sharp images, and the monitor far outperforms any other on this list when it comes to brightness, contrast, or color accuracy. 

As expensive as it is, however, you’ll still have to factor in the cost of either a stand or VESA mount adapter. You can also inflate the price even further with an upgraded Nano-texture glass panel, which offers a more matte finish. It’s … a lot. And I’m not just talking about how much it costs.

There’s a little hope on the horizon if you’re interested in getting a display direct from Apple. Rumor has it the company may reveal a new, somewhat less expensive monitor in 2022. I personally wouldn’t factor the prospect of an unannounced future project into my monitor purchasing decision just yet, but it’s good to keep in mind.

FAQs

Q: What monitors does Apple recommend?

Apple doesn’t provide a ton of direct guidance on what monitor to buy. All things being equal, it would love to sell you its own display, the Pro Display XDR. Even it knows, however, that a $5,000+ monitor is a tough sell for most people. To fill in that rather significant gap, Apple singles out two LG displays that it says are ideal for use with any Mac: the 27-inch LG UltraFine 5K Display we included above, and a smaller 24-inch LG UltraFine 4K Display. Both are sold directly by Apple through its online store and some of its retail stores and are also available elsewhere.

That said, the LG Ultrafine monitors are also quite pricey and, recently, have become a tad hard to find. Realistically speaking, there are a ton of great monitors out there, though, so don’t let the lack of an Apple seal of approval stop you from buying an otherwise great monitor.

Q: Do all monitors work with MacBook Pro?

Any monitor will “work” with a MacBook Pro, but some will work more seamlessly than others. 

On a 13-inch MacBook Pro, a monitor will need to be connected to one of the two Thunderbolt ports, which can directly support monitors using the USB-C or DisplayPort standards (with the appropriate cable). The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros also feature an HDMI port, greatly expanding the number of displays that you can plug in without a hub. If you’re using an older monitor that requires a lesser-used port like VGA or DVI, you’ll need an adapter to connect them to your MacBook, and you won’t be able to take advantage of display technologies like HDR. (That said, if you have to use DVI or VGA, chances are that isn’t a big concern. Also … you probably need a new monitor.)

Q: Is a 27-inch monitor too big?

It wasn’t all that long ago that a 27-inch monitor was considered something of a luxury, but it is now far from the biggest monitor you can buy. As we mentioned at the top, size and resolution are intertwined, but a 27-inch monitor is a good size monitor for most people. It’s big enough to get serious work (or play) done, but not overwhelming. 

Whatever monitor you choose, you will want to take note of its measurements to make sure it will fit in your space. Some 27-inch monitors can take up less space than others thanks to smaller bezels and streamlined stands, and you can always reduce your monitor’s desk footprint by using a monitor arm or mount.

Final thoughts on the best monitors for MacBook Pro

Using a monitor makes a huge difference in your work, especially if you’re trying to make your home office feel like an office. You want one that makes your computer look great while making your space feel both comfortable and functional. With a bit of research, you can pick a fantastic monitor that will help you enjoy your computer to the fullest. Though there’s always a shiny new display around the corner—like that rumored Apple monitor—the best monitors for MacBook Pro have the specs you need, so they can be a fixture that follows you from computer to computer.

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