Monday, December 21, 2020

LG 27UK850-W: An Acceptable 27-inch Display

Josh Centers:

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.

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.


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.


Upon close inspection, I noticed that text on it is ever so slightly fuzzy compared to the 27-inch iMac.


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.


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Got the same display on the same sale and I like it quite a bit. But Josh is right that it's got some compromises from a true 5K.

Huh. So what are the “looks like” options provided here?

This made me realize that macOS seems rather arbitrary about them. For example, on my MBP, which is natively 2880x1800, the center option is 1440x900. To the left of that are 1280x800 (88%) and 1024x640 (71%?!); to the right are 1680x1050 (117%) and 1920x1200 (133%). I guess the deciding factor here was “common resolutions”, whereas I would have intuitively expected “stops that make sense”. 0.8x, 0.9x, 1x, 1.1x, 1.2x, say.

For the LG, the native resolution is 4k. But that at Retina (1920x1080) doesn’t seem to be the center stop (why not?). I assume it’s the leftmost one? Or isn’t offered at all, perhaps because macOS knows the physical screen size and deems that way too large (but then shouldn’t 2560x1440 be the center option?)? All stops other than perhaps the leftmost one, in any case, appear to be oversampled.

While the actual feel of text rendering is obviously quite subjective and hard to put in words, I think I would’ve liked to see some macro photos of what text rendering does look like at (oversampled, virtual 2x) 2560x1440 vs. on “real” 2x 2560x1440 on the iMac.

At $450 (discounted to $380), it’s entering “can reasonably talk bosses into buying” territory, which the $700 UltraFine and $1300 UltraFine 5K are laughably outside of. I do understand why Apple doesn’t really want to participate in this market segment, but they might underestimate just how much they’re hurting the Mac platform by there basically being no good Retina display options at all. So if you’re a business and buying an M1 MacBook Air, what you end up doing is adding a USB hub (the benefit of Thunderbolt docks, too, is too slim), and then one or two external decidedly not Retina displays. Yet Apple is optimizing the experience towards all-Retina, throwing away old cold paths to make 1x text rendering workable. Not great.

In Germany, only the 27UL850-W seems to be available. Not clear to me how it differs (perhaps just in the included power supply?).

Hugh Massengill

My 5K iMac died six months ago, so I made do with the iPad pro. When the M1 chip came out I read a few of the reviews and decided rather than to wait until next year of a new iMac, I would go ahead and get a mini and a monitor.
I am more than a little pleased with my $1200 iMac, in effect, with the M1 mini and a 32 inch 4K Samsung monitor with thunderbolt 3.
Yes, the text is sometimes a little bit fuzzy compared to the 5K iMac, but after a few weeks I just don't notice that . What I ended up with is a $1200 iMac with a 32 inch monitor. The Samsung ties in well with the Mac.
The monitor was a little hard to find, it was listed as a professional monitor.
I don't work for apple or samsung, just want to weigh in on what is possible today. Soon I will attach the mini to the back of the monitor for even more tidiness.

I have a similar, probably inferior, BenQ BL 2711 B. Won't win any awards but I got it cheap on CraigsList and it runs off my MacBooks at 4k just fine. This is the way to go.

He says it's not possible to control the volume of the monitor from the Mac's keyboard, but I think that it would be possible on LG monitors with this tool: I haven't tried it myself though, but I've seen quite a few comments mentioning that it works fine.

27 inches is not the optimal size of a 4K monitor. 24 inches is however. I have 2 Dell 2415Q's which aren't as good as my iMac 5K's but the text is nice and clear.

If you want a 27 inch monitor gotta go 5K.

It kills me that Windows and ChromeOS look sharp on 27” 4K monitors, but MacOS looks ever so slightly blurry. Combine that with how Apple degraded rendering on “1x” monitors, and you’re looking at a pretty grim situation for Mac users that don’t want an iMac, LG’s flaky monitor, or an Apple $6,000 video production monitor.

Yeah, this is one of the big reasons I switched to Windows this year. No real complaints using a 27" 4K monitor, or even a standard DPI monitors, whereas macOS is pretty much unusable now on 1x displays. KDE on Linux does it better than the Mac now, too.

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