iMac screen vs. 3rd party 4K displays?

I’m considering purchasing a Mac for my office (where recent changes to a cloud-based system would allow me to use a mac instead of a windows box). My computing needs are relatively simple (mostly word processing/email/web research), so a Mac mini would be quite sufficient. But I spend quite a bit of time looking at my screen every day. The question is, then, whether a buying a Mac mini + 3rd party 4K monitor would be better than buying an all-in-one iMac.

Any thought or recommendations on best looking 4K monitors (mostly for text/reading) and how they compare to a 5K iMac screen?


Thanks. I’ve looked at those reviews. And while they do a fine job of comparing various 4K monitors to each other, they don’t give me a sense of how those monitors compare to an iMac’s 5K screen.

I’d be interested in hearing from folks who use both, or switch between them (e.g. home/office) on a regular basis.

5K is overkill for non-professional graphic/video work and is not suited for text.

The 4K to 5K differences mostly relate to screen size/pixels and ports. The technology is fairly mature and duplicable from brand to brand other things equal.

Have to strongly disagree. My 5K iMac is mostly a text punishing machine, and while not a pro I use every pixel when I regularly run Lightroom through its paces.

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At work where we mostly spend our day with text (numbers in spreadsheets, writing code in java, python, and C++) and some graphical charts, the standard display given to everyone is a 43" Dell 4K monitor. I like it a lot, even though Mac users aren’t able to utilize all its features. I’m now considering having one at home to hook up to a Mac mini now that its price has gone down ($699 on Amazon at the moment).

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I use a 5k iMac Pro next to an LG 27" 4K as an external. The difference is visible, and I would recommend an iMac over the Mini+4K. I do science, so text and graphics, etc. they look great on the iMac, and okay on the 4K. I occasionally watch a Billie Eilish video (for example), and they look incredible on the iMac.
I also really like that it is self-contained, and takes up no more space than a monitor.

Even if you “just” do text, monitor quality matters.


I run an iMac with a pair of 24" 4K external displays (yes, that’s a lot of pixels). The external displays are Dell P2415Qs. While the Dells are clear and crisp, the color on the iMac display is definitely better. With the scaling tuned to make stuff displayed on screen the same real-world size, the iMac also provides more screen real estate.

The iMac display is just beautiful, and if you think it would make a difference for you, I’d say go for it.


I work several hours a day only with text. I tried 5K but returned it and got a widescreen instead. The high resolution was killing my eyes and I had to zoom in constantly.

I see this as well although for me it depends on the application. If the application allows font size adjustment then the standard 27" 5K iMac display is a fine option for me. If the application uses fixed size fonts and they’re small I’m going to be pretty unhappy trying to use it. This isn’t enough to make me want to give up using a 5K display for other work, but it makes me very reluctant to use those applications.

Examples of apps I’ve tried that don’t work well for me because of their use of small fixed-sized fonts in parts or all of their UI: Calendar, Things, and DEVONthink Pro Office. There are lots more…

Rant: Up until about a decade ago I used Linux for most of my work. Way back then at least some of the desktop environments on Linux supported global font resizing. It still amazes me that this is, a decade later, so aggressively and proudly broken on macOS.

Changing the display scaling will do what you want. You can find the best balance of size vs. space.


I’m afraid you’re very much in the minority; indeed a minority of people do have issues but that is why I disagreed with the overarching claim that it “is not suited for text.” In every possible way my 5K monitor is superior to every monitor I’ve ever had for general purpose use. High resolution makes for a sharper image and reduces strain for the vast majority of users, and if you had issues seeing text a built-in solution was at hand. :man_shrugging:

With respect to improved resolutions on iOS Gary Heiting, an optometrist, told Mashable several years ago, “A key factor in something that’s called computer vision syndrome, or just eye strain from computer use, is screen resolution,” Heiting says. “The new iPad, with twice the resolution of the iPad 2, 264 ppi (pixels per inch) instead of 132, people are going to notice less pixelation, especially in a small typeface. It’s not just an enjoyment issue or an aesthetic issue, but it’s definitely a visual comfort issue, over time."

This does not really change with improvements to desktop screens.


Scaling did not work for me since it was system wide. Now I am very happy with my widescreen and its curve. But I think it was probably a me problem after all :slight_smile:


It’s really not what I want. The display is sharper at its native resolution. I also don’t want to lose the resolution for apps that do text scaling themselves or for apps that are primarily graphics oriented. It’s just annoying that this is so inconsistent on macOS.

Hm. Works well for me; whatever pixel doubling magic they use preserves the crisp text on my iMac Pro. I adjust it less since I’ve added a 27" 4K external. C’est la vie.


It looks every so slightly fuzzy to me. It’s better than any other scaling technology that I’ve seen but it’s not perfect and it certainly doesn’t work as well as an application that can scale for a higher resolution display.

On a related topic, scaling the resolution can impact retina aware applications. The above mentioned Lightroom is one where I’ve seen this in the past.

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For what it is worth. If budget only allowed a choice of one 5k monitor or two 4K monitors attached to my Mac I would go for the dual monitor solution every time.

Two 5k monitors would be better - for as long as my eyes allow native resolution to be used. Scaling loses too much real estate.

For graphic (photography) work I use a monitor with less resultion because 4K/5K displays with wide color spaces are still to expensive. Let’s see if this/next year I’ll switch to 4K/5K for photography… For prolonged work with text (or any other work), increased resulution means sharper text and less strain on the eyes. If colors weren’t an issue, my external monitor would already be a 4K…

Given the fact that I am working from home more and more, I have changed my desktop setup. I decided to sell my 2017 iMac 27 inch and to use a Mac Mini instead and to go for a big 32 inch 4K display also because of the fact that I do need to connect my work PC laptop due to its security infrastructure to the display.

Last week, I purchased the LG 32’’ 32UN880-B UltraFine. It is a fantastic display that works just great with both the Mac Mini and my work laptop.

I stumbled upon this display because it received an extremely positive review by, which is a very thorough and competent German display review website.

(German, but I think your iOS 14 or BigSur Safari might be able to translate it decently, it is definitely worth reading.)

So, the question of this topic was iMac screen vs. 3rd party 4K displays… Is the LG UltraFine 4K as good as the iMac? Well, I do not miss a thing. The pixel density on the iMac is higher, but it is absolutely fine on the LG display. The iMac’s glass surface creates an impression of a tad more vibrancy, but the glass comes with the typical glare. The LG does not suffer from glare and the colors still look great. And 32 inches… Boy… I will not be able to go back to anything smaller…

Hopefully, Apple will have a 32’’ option for an Apple Silicon iMac in the future. :slight_smile:

What really pushed me over the edge is the price of the LG display. As suggested in 2019 in this topic, the prices begin to drop into interesting price ranges.