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The Best External Monitor for MacBook Pro

In order to stay productive, I wanted to research and find the best external monitor for MacBook Pro content creation usage. While I love the 16″ screen while on the go, I’m truly at my best when at my home office with a 32 to 38 inch monitor to edit photos and video on.

The best external monitor for macbook pro
Two external monitors plugged into a MacBook Pro

Want to skip all the reading and just buy the best? Here you go!

Whether you are a fellow content creator, in the music industry, or some other visual artist, you know having a big monitor or two is absolutely essential. And there are plenty of other uses that greatly benefit from a superb external monitor that aren’t even in my awareness.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with different monitor setups. I started with just one external monitor, a 23″ Dell Ultrasharp. As a fan of lots of programs open and excessive browser tabs, I quickly moved onto two 24″ Dell UltraSharps.

These suited me for a long time until I was offered the chance to try a 34″ Dell Curved UltraSharp.

External monitor for macbook pro dell ultrasharp curved
Dell UltraSharp U3415W 34-Inch Curved LED-Lit Monitor

Choosing an External Monitor

A big part of discovery for narrowing down a list of potential external monitors for the MacBook Pro included reading through multiple subreddits for photography, videography, and Apple.

I watched YouTube video reviews of many of the monitors mentioned by people using them professionally, and cross-referenced written articles by reputable outlets.

At the time of writing this, I was in the market for purchasing a new external monitor for my 2021 MacBook Pro 16″, which I used to help figure out the best options available.

All monitors listed will have exceptional color quality, color grading, and photo or video editing capabilities. If reading those specs are more important to you, links are provided to all spec sheets.

In order to best match an external monitor with the 2020 MacBook Pro, I wanted a monitor that could handle a 120 Hz refresh rate to better batch the quality of the laptop display.

There is something about monitor screen sizes you should know that not many companies will tell you. LCD panels are manufactured at specific sizes and ratios, then cut down for a great selection. The best deals and prices will come from sizes that are the most easily bulk produced. Having a little flexibility on your screen size when shopping can help you find better deals and also screen quality in general.

You’ll notice as you browse the different models each of the below manufacturers have available, they stick to specific sizes with not too much variance on these higher end display. The panel manufacturing process is why.

The best external monitor for macbook pro 3 in order to stay productive, i wanted to research and find the best external monitor for macbook pro content creation usage. While i love the 16" screen while on the go, i'm truly at my best when at my home office with a 32 to 38 inch monitor to edit photos and video on.
The Two Display Setup: One Macbook Pro and one external monitor.

So what size should you actually get? Well, whether you are choosing between something around 24″ or going to the 36″ or even over 40″, you’ll need to determine your work style. Do you want to use both your MacBook Pro and an external monitor or two, to split your workspace up, or do you want it all on one?

I’ve gone both routes, and I have migrated back to just one big display. From my own personal, ADHD driven experience, keeping it on one allows me to easily hide distractions, such as Slack, Discord, etc behind productivity windows. I found when I had multiple monitors, I essentially spent nearly $500 to have a chat feed. But that’s just me.

2021 MacBook Pro Display

The best external monitor for macbook pro 4 in order to stay productive, i wanted to research and find the best external monitor for macbook pro content creation usage. While i love the 16" screen while on the go, i'm truly at my best when at my home office with a 32 to 38 inch monitor to edit photos and video on.
2021 Macbook Pro 16″ Display
  • Screen Size: 32″
  • Panel: TFT IPS active-matric LED-backlit LCD
  • Resolution: 6k 6016 by 3384 pixels (20.4 million pixels) at 218 pixels per inch
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Brightness: 1000 nits XDR, 500 nits SDR
  • Refresh Rates: 47.95 Hz, 48.00 Hz, 50.00 Hz, 59.94 Hz, 60.00 Hz
  • Viewing Angle: 89º left, 89º right, 89º up, 89º down
  • Price: $4600 with standard glass or $5600 with Nano glass

Product Specs | Purchase

32″ Apple Pro Display XDR

Apple pro display xdr external monitor for macbook pro
Apple Pro Display XDR connected as an external monitor

Ports on this display include 3× powered USB-C ports for peripheral devices (USB 3.2 Gen 1 for Macs with a GPU supporting Display Stream Compression; otherwise USB 2.0) and 1× 96 W powered Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port supporting DisplayPort 1.4.

  • Screen Size: 32″
  • Panel: TFT IPS active-matrix LED-backlit LCD
  • Resolution: 6k 6016 by 3384 pixels (20.4 million pixels) at 218 pixels per inch
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Brightness: 1000 nits XDR, 500 nits SDR
  • Refresh Rates: 47.95 Hz, 48.00 Hz, 50.00 Hz, 59.94 Hz, 60.00 Hz
  • Viewing Angle: 89º left, 89º right, 89º up, 89º down
  • Power Delivery: 96W
  • Price: $4600 with standard glass or $5600 with Nano glass

Product Specs | Purchase

While the Pro Display XDR is beautiful, it is prohibitively expensive and only supports up to 60 Hz. It also lacks any sort of hub capabilities.

Asus ProArt PA32UCG

Asus proart external monitor for macbook pro

This is the best external monitor for MacBook Pro you can buy. It takes the best of every other monitor on this list, and makes it better. The amount of ports on the monitor is mindblowing, and it even supports a bunch of HDR standards, Dolby Vision, along with 10-bit color.

The downside? At over $4000, it is out of my price range. And that makes me really, really sad, cause I feel in love with this thing after watching countless reviews of this monitor and dozens of others.

If all you care about is the very best, no matter the price, this is the monitor you should choose.

A runner-up to this monitor would be the PA329C, which is $3k cheaper and will remain a competitive option compared to the rest of the list.

  • Screen Size: 32″ Curved
  • Panel: Mini LED IPS Non-Glare
  • Resolution: 4k 3840 by 2160 pixels at 138 pixels per inch
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Brightness: 1600 nits HDR, 1000 nits SDR
  • Refresh Rates: 120 Hz VRR
  • Viewing Angle: 178º Vertical, 178º Horizontal
  • Power Delivery: 60W
  • Price: $4600 MSRP

Product Specs | Purchase

Runner-up: ASUS ProArt PA329C

LG Ultrafine 34BK95U-W

Lg ultrafine 5k external monitor for macbook pro
Dual monitor setup with the LG UltraFine as external monitors

The LG Ultrafine lineup is full of excellent contenders, but if I had to choose just one from their selection, this model would be it. Capable of 5k and HDR content, the inputs/outputs include power delivery and plenty of ports: 2x HDMI, 1 USB Upstream, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Headphone Out, and 2x USB 3.

This monitor is very similar to the one Apple sells on its website, but that one is only 27 inches, and I wanted to stay above 32. The 27″ version does include power delivery, a big deciding factor for me. Unfortunately, their larger sizes don’t include this specific feature. Choosing between the larger size and foregoing power delivery would be a tough decision, but the 34″ wins out for me.

  • Screen Size: 34″ Curved
  • Panel: Nano IPS Anti-Glare 3H
  • Resolution: 5k 5120 by 2160 pixels at 163 pixels per inch
  • Aspect ratio: 21:9
  • Brightness: 600 nits HDR, 400 nits SDR
  • Refresh Rates: 75 Hz
  • Viewing Angle: 178º Vertical, 178º Horizontal
  • Power Delivery: 85W
  • Price: $1500 MSRP

Product Specs | Purchase

Runner-up: LG 27MD5KL-B 27 Inch UltraFine 5K

Viewsonic VP2785-4K

Viewsonic external monitor for macbook pro

The Viewsonic Professional line of monitors have all of the basic needs of a media professional while maintaining a sleek thin bezel. If I were to go the route of multiple monitors, this is what I’d buy.

  • Screen Size: 34″ Curved
  • Panel: Nano IPS Anti-Glare 3H
  • Resolution: 4k 3840 by 2160 pixels at 163 pixels per inch
  • Aspect ratio: 21:9
  • Brightness: 350 nits
  • Refresh Rates: 60 Hz
  • Viewing Angle: 178º Vertical, 178º Horizontal
  • Power Delivery: 60W
  • Price: $800 MSRP

Product Specs | Purchase

Dell UltraSharp U4320Q

Dell ultrasharp 4k external monitor for macbook pro
Dell UltraSharp alongside a MacBook Pro

At 43″, this is the biggest monitor on the list and at a surprisingly affordable price. The nits and ppi are going to be some of the lowest, but the power delivery options are enough to charge both your laptop and phone at the same time.

  • Screen Size: 43″
  • Panel: LED IPS
  • Resolution: 4k 3840 by 2160 pixels at 103 pixels per inch
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Brightness: 350 nits
  • Refresh Rates: 60 Hz
  • Viewing Angle: 178º Vertical, 178º Horizontal
  • Power Delivery: 90W and 15W
  • Price: $960 MSRP

Product Specs | Purchase

Dell UltraSharp UP3221Q

Boasting Thunderbolt 3, USB C 3.2, the ability to daisy chain two 4k monitors, this is one of the few Mini LED display panels available.

  • Screen Size: 34″
  • Panel: Mini LED IPS
  • Resolution: 4k 3840 by 2160 pixels at 140 pixels per inch
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Brightness: 1000 nits HDR, 350 nits SDR
  • Refresh Rates: 60 Hz
  • Viewing Angle: 178º Vertical, 178º Horizontal
  • Power Delivery: None
  • Price: $4000 MSRP

Product Specs | Purchase

Dell U3417W

Curved external monitor with the macbook pro in clamshell mode
Curved External Monitor with the MacBook Pro in clamshell mode

The Dell U3417W is the external monitor for my MacBook Pro 2019 I used until this year.

You might be wondering why a 4+ year old monitor is included in this review. Well, The color quality and brightness have been wonderful to work with. Despite the specs on this monitor being far inferior to everything else listed, it is still a really good tool. And thus, a reminder to myself to not get too lost in the absolute best or perfect specs.

Over time, in using this monitor, I realized I would greatly benefit from a monitor that had a built-in hub with power delivery, in an attempt to limit cords on my desk.

The hub with this monitor is very versatile, but at its age, lacking in a few things I’d like to see from a newer monitor. Things like USB-C and power delivery, as well as better aux input/output management.

The other thing I realized, once I was settled in and used to this monitor, is a curved monitor isn’t necessarily ideal for lots of photo editing and photoshop. Another justification to switch back to a flat panel display.

I did like having a curved monitor where I could position it in the corner of my desk and manage space that way.

  • Screen Size: 34″ Curved
  • Panel: IPS Active matrix – TFT LCD
  • Resolution: 1080i 3440 by 1440 pixels at 109 pixels per inch
  • Aspect ratio: 21:9
  • Brightness: 300 nits
  • Refresh Rates: 60.00 Hz
  • Viewing Angle: 178º Vertical, 178º Horizontal
  • Price: $879 MSRP, $500 or so in 2021

Product Specs | Purchase

HDR and VESA Certified DisplayHDR

When buying monitors that support HDR, you’re going to want to check which certification they hold, as this will help you judge quality.

For working with HDR color spaces in film or photo editing, you’re going to want to look for monitors with at least DisplayHDR 1000. DisplayHDR 400 won’t show you all the colors you need, and DisplayHDR 600 is barely passable from a professional editing standpoint.

Vesa certified displayhdr performance differences

The VESA Certified DisplayHDR defines the fully open standard specifying HDR quality, including luminance, color gamut, bit depth, and rise time. High Dynamic Range (HDR) displays deliver better contrast and color accuracy, as well as more vibrant colors, compared to Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) displays. As a result, HDR is gaining interest for a wide range of applications, including movie viewing, gaming, and creation of photo and video content.

The DisplayHDR and DisplayHDR True Black specifications assure that HDR content will appear vivid and life-like, with accurate color and contrast reproduction.  Consumers should look for VESA tested and certified DisplayHDR or DisplayHDR True Black products.  VESA’s multi-tiered performance ratings and logo system for DisplayHDR and DisplayHDR True Black represent visible, meaningful performance levels relevant to specific applications and usage scenarios.

HDR10 is a display standard from VESA, prescribing 10 bits per channel color palette and a wider color gamut, as compared to the older 8bit/channel. HDR10+ adds dynamic brightness/contrast.

Warranties and Protection Plans

When you’re spending upwards of $5000 for a monitor, you might wonder if protection plans are even worth it.

I personally choose to get them. Make sure whichever plan you buy honors burn in, especially if you end up with an OLED monitor. You’ll also want to make sure backlight bleed and dead pixels – even just 1 – are covered.

As far as I know, Best Buy is one such company that honors that defect. MicroCenter will take a warranty return and provide a gift card on the spot for what you paid. Getting an extended warranty through these companies will make your process easier than dealing directly with manufacturers most of the time.

In Summary

It is tough to figure out the best external monitor for MacBook Pro you need, along with information overload and fatigue in sorting through the selection. Here are some quick breakdowns to help you choose:

Monitors with the best Power Delivery

Monitors with Mini LEDs

Brightest Monitors

Further Reading for Your MacBook Pro

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