Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Great Monitor Search Continues

Mike Zornek:

The LG 49 inch UltraWide monitor is pretty cool, but not very Mac compatible (specifics defects below). Next up for me is the Apple Store approved, 23.7-inch LG UltraFine 4K Display, which will trade screen real estate for retina, better color and native controls.

These days, it seems like the only way to get a 4K or 5K Mac display with the proper resolution is to buy an iMac.


Update (2019-08-02): Mike Zornek:

The real benefit of this monitor however comes from its nearly seamless integration with Mac OS X. All of the expected brightness and volume controls work from the keyboard. There is no power button on the display and once you connect the Thunderbolt cord to the MacBook Pro the monitor wakes up and also starts charging the laptop. Even wake from sleep is fairly reliable.


I would have also appreciated a basic camera for conference calls. I have an external USB camera I can setup (with ANOTHER adaptor) but not having a camera/microphone for this common need seems like an oversight for such a high end monitor.

My final complaint, and this isn’t for the monitor directly, is that using it makes my MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2016) run hot. Check out this graph, the early days are when I was working from home with the monitor attached and then the later days are me on the road at a conference with no monitor. Connecting the monitor seems to double the temperature, just to push the pixels let alone when I’m really pushing the CPU with code compliers or video exports.

11 Comments RSS · Twitter

I'm very happy with my Dell P2715Q. 99% sRGB coverage and consistent 2160p60 over DP. Sadly it's been replaced by the slightly inferior U2715Q, but some vendors still have it for a slight premium.

Sören Nils Kuklau

@ Bradley: Unfortunately, at 163ppi, the P2715Q's resolution is in that bad twilight zone of being too low for Retina (2x — you want above ~200 ppi) and too high for 1x (you want below ~120 ppi). It's probably best driven at about 150% on Windows. For better or worse, macOS does not offer such non-integer scale factors.

@Sören Nils Kuklau which is exactly why I went with the P2415Q. I know that site says its in the red zone, but I think its close enough. I've been very happy with it.

As I've been looking at upgrading my current 2015 iMac 27" Retina, I too have been very disappointed at the options out there.

I drive the P2715Q at 150% on Windows and typically 2560x1440 scaled on macOS. Sometimes full res on macOS depending on what I am doing. Works fine for my needs (and only $399 new), but I understand why some prefer other specs.

I just started using the same setup as Bradley: A Dell P2715Q running in '1440p' mode (macOS renders at 5K HiDPI, then downscales to 4K to send over the DP cable). I got mine off-lease from Ebay for under $280.

Of course it's not as sharp as native 5K, but the important part is that text is much, much sharper than native 1440p (non-retina), and it's a massive improvement now that sub-pixel anti-aliasing is going away. If I'm doing graphics stuff that requires pixel-precision, I'll just switch to 1080p HiDPI.

The best part: It's matte! Retina UI on a matte monitor is so nice to my eyes. A shame that Apple's only matte monitor will start at $6,200 + tax.

Ghost Quartz

The Bjango article notes that Retina requires that “text is readable and button targets are easy to hit at a normal viewing distance,” but they don’t take into account that viewing distances have much more variance in desktop setups than with laptops (which are generally within comfortable reach of your hands).

I use dual 27" 2160p monitors at 4K HiDPI (“Looks like 1920 × 1080”). They’re usually between 28" to 32" from my face, which is a comfortable viewing distance for my eyes, and is much further away than my laptop screen ever is. Text is sharp and clear, and UI elements are comfortably sized (similar to the apparent size of UI elements on my MBP while using it as a laptop). I know there are people out there with tiny desks who sit close to their displays, and this setup would not work for them.

To conclude: the 200ppi cutoff does not apply to all people in all situations. Don’t write a monitor off for existing in the “bad zone” before trying it and taking the specifics of your setup into account.

(To be clear, I’d also be happy with a 5K setup, but the monitors are difficult to find and my poor Intel GPU already has enough trouble driving dual 4Ks. One day.)

I got the LG 4K to go next to my new iMac. It's nice, but it was a royal pain to try to get the white point even vaguely close to the iMac. I am really no color snob, I don't care about color spaces and what have you, but when one display has warm yellow white Safari windows and the other has bright white Safari windows, it is painful. I finally got them vaguely similar, enough to stop annoying me.

But I was sorely tempted to send it back, grab my old iMac and use it in target display mode, except I figured that would end up being more hassle than it was worth. If Apple had had an iMac display available for twice the price, I would have bought that.

Someone else mentinoed to me the HP z27q although you use two DP connectors rather than a single TB3 connector. Reportedly it uses the same panels Apple uses (or at least used).

Yeah, there was a Dell UP2715K that used the same panel as well. Both matte. They're pretty difficult to find for reasonable prices on the used market. And yeah, they require two DP cables which, while supported by Apple, I would expect to be a fragile setup. I don't think either monitor was produced for very long due to some quality control issues.

[…] Now the only non-Retina Mac is the base iMac—unless you cound the Mac Pro and Mac mini because of the available external displays. […]

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