Please help me decide on Monitor for 2018 MacBook Pro

I am in the process of searching for a Monitor for my 2018 13 inch MacBook Pro and would appreciate some buying advice.

For the last several years I have been struggling with a lg 43um7300pua TV as my monitor. This works just fine with my work PC, but the wireless mouse used with my MacBook is terribly laggy and won’t even move if I attach a jump drive. I can see that the problem is that I can’t enable 60Hz on my MacBook. It defaults to 1920 by 1080 at 30Hz. Over the past several years I have attempted to resolve this by various cables and adapters but have come to the point of deciding that this can’t be fixed and the TV is too big for a monitor anyways.

I have primarily been looking at 27 inch monitors and have come to realize that due to the way the MacBook is built there is no one size fits all solution; especially with my limited budget.

To my knowledge there is no hard fast guidelines for buying a monitor and there is a lot of conflicting information. I am thinking that someone who has a M1 or M2 Mac might get away with something more powerful and not have to worry about the consequences of imperfect scaling.

I don’t know if my thinking is flawed but I would like to get away from scaling in the 1st place, but I don’t know how the MacBook will read in a specific monitor type.

Ideally I would love to go with something that matches the native scale of my MacBook (2560 by 1600). Dell makes one model that matches this exact resolution. This model might be a little out of my price range. There are other monitors that fit the 16:10 aspect ratio. There are some very inexpensive 1920 by 1200 monitors. My thinking would be that this would match perfectly with a default MacBook display resolution as it would match the native ratio. In checking this out online it appears that the 1920 by 1200 display would not even be available to my MacBook under the up to date OS. All of this thinking surrounds the notion of avoiding any scaling by my 2018 13 inch MacBook. If it were possible to get a 1920 by 1200 ratio this is what I’d like to do.

If this would only result in my MacBook choosing a 1920 by 1080 ratio, perhaps there might be a better option.

I have read that there is a bad pixel range to avoid with monitors. That you want to either find a monitor around 110 or 210 pixels per inch. The 4K monitors would be within the bad range by default, but 2K monitors would be at the good range and not require any scaling. Then I’ve heard that scaling a 4K monitor is just fine as the Retina display would take over.

My question would be whether my pre M1/M2 monitor would take a performance hit by having to scale from 4K down to 1920 by 1080? I know that in my present situation that is exactly what is happening. Would it be beneficial to go with a 2K monitor and not having any scaling take place? I want to make sure I don’t have text too small, but if possible I’d like to remove any performance hit.

I believe the one thing that I can improve upon with whatever monitor that I purchase is by choosing a model with a quick DisplayPort.

Any thoughts on the best type monitor for my older MacBook?


Dell S2722QC 27-inch 4K USB-C Monitor. I have three of these monitors and immediate predecessors. One I run as a second monitor for a 2014 iMac. I have had no trouble with mine. It runs at many resolutions. It costs $400.00 currently on Amazon but they will occasionally go on sale for ~ $310. (Check for price history). When the day comes that you can move to an M1/M2 Mac it will still work fine.

I choose a resolution so things are the same size on my portable or iMac screen and the Dell. It is a 27" monitor and I do not just want to see some 16" (in my case) screen blown up to 27". What I am more interested is matching the pixels per inch on the two screen so that things match in size. Move a window from one screen to the other and it looks unchanged.

So I don’t care about the “ratios”.

I do not understand the “performance” hit. I have never encountered this.


Thank you for your endorsement for a monitor that works well with your 2014 iMac.

I do have this Dell Monitor on my Amazon Wish List.

I liked the option to display and power through the USB-C. The price actually went up since it being on my Wish List.

Likely on the 2014 iMac you have this displayed at 1920 by 1080 with a 60Hz refresh rate.

I guess my present 4K display would be a good example of a performance hit, but l have read of other instances where scaling was the issue. I became aware of this possibility through this YouTube.

I read another place that there are 2 different types of scaling performed by a MacBook monitor; one which has very little of an effect on performance, but the other would noticeably affect speed.

Another thing of which I want to take into account is the usage of best ports and cables as this can greatly affect data throughput. From what I read the maximum speed to be expected through a (non Thunderbolt) USB-C cable would be about 10Gb/second. Whereas data through a 1.4 DisplayPort could be 3 times faster. This would mean potentially giving up a lot of convenience (through a charged USB-C monitor port such as the Dell) for greater throughput.

I am using some graphics intensive Astrophotography software. I realize that my older Mac couldn’t be considered a speed burner, but I am hoping that it might be possible to see a slight improvement through making a change to a more efficient pairing of monitor with my MacBook.

It appears that I didn’t take everything into account. Stepping greater into buying confusion but learning that I will need to look through my monitor candidates once again. I just learned that even though a Monitor might not include a physical DisplayPort, that it still might include a USB-C connection that includes DisplayPort through the Alt mode. Wouldn’t you know that the Dell suggested includes this Alt mode. So, this puts the Dell S2722QC 27-inch 4K USB-C Monitor right back into my list of top candidates. Meaning that connecting to the Dell would require only one USB-C cable and not needing to plug my MacBook into a power source. That is very attractive. I copy and pasted the spec’s which confirm this.

USB Type-C upstream port (Alternate mode with DisplayPort 1.4, Power Delivery up to 65 W

First step – What is the maximum video output for your 2018 MBP? Is it only 2K (quad-HD), or is it at 4K for your machine?

Second step – At the maximum video limit to the output from your MBP, what physical size in the monitor will balance between having pixels that are not so big that your display appears pixelated while not having a monitor that is so small you seem to be working on a postage stamp (albeit at high resolution)? At 2K, I believe again from experience that a 24in monitor hits the sweet spot at being not too big to be pixelated yet not so small to feel confining. I cannot remember the sweet spot for 4K. This is likely the scaling that you mention with recommendations to be between 110 ppi to 210 ppi.

Third step – You have the maximum resolution + a range on the limiting physical size for the monitor. What input cable does the monitor require to drive it at the stated resolution? All HDMI input ports are not equivalent, nor are HDMI nor are DVI nor are DisplayPort. Some monitors only provide their best resolution + variability in settings using only one port even when they report having multiple input ports.

The answer to the first step is a hard boundary. You will not drive a 4K monitor at 4K when your computer only outputs 2K. You can drive a 2K monitor with a 4K output. The answer to the second step is an aesthetics choice. Do you want a 4K monitor at X inches diagonal because you want the highest physical resolution at 210 ppi (e.g. you are doing fine graphics work) and do not care about having a smaller sized monitor than you could get. Or do you want a 4K monitor at about 2X inches diagonal in size because you absolutely need 2x more screen real estate (e.g. you are doing multiple documents on your desktop all at the same time) and you do not care that you may potentially see pixelation on fine lines because the monitor is sized at 110 ppi. Finally, the answer to the third step will have you searching for the best quality cable and perhaps the best adapters to match your MBP output to the right input on the monitor.

FWIW, I am happy with my sets of 27in 4K LG monitors (I have three different versions each at three different physical locations) on my 16in 2019 Intel MBP. One monitor is driven from a USB-C that also provides power input from the monitor. One monitor is driven through a USB-C to HDMI dongle. One monitor is driven through a USB-C multi-port adaptor. I believe, with my most recent purchase, that I looked at the Dell and found it lacking for something by comparison to the LG. But this was at least a year ago.


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From what I see my MacBook 2018 13 inches can support 4K.

Video Support

Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at millions of colors and:

  • One display with 5120-by-2880 resolution at 60Hz at over a billion colors
  • Up to two displays with 4096-by-2304 resolution at 60Hz at millions of colors
  • Up to two displays with 3840-by-2160 resolution at 60Hz at over a billion colors

From what I see based off it appears that the best balance point would be a 2K monitor because it is near the 110 ppi sweet spot. I believe that this would take into account the correlation of text size to screen size. I personally would prefer something around 27 inches as I occasionally work at home doing CAD work, and a larger screen also would help me see finer details with my astrophotography hobby.

The attached link is to the bjango article. Scrolling down gets you to the monitor comparison chart.
Bjango Monitor Study

Right now taking into account speed vs monitor price I believe that the sweet spot would have to either be a USB-C/USB-C cable using the monitor’s alt mode for DisplayPort or a USB-C/DisplayPort cable going into the monitor’s DisplayPort. In either case I would prefer the 1.4 version.

If a 2K monitor at 27 inches displays text cleanly I believe that this would be my choice (if the MacBook will propagate the needed 1440p by 60Hz resolution). Otherwise the suggested Dell would likely work out very well.

Since you are having luck using a 4K monitor with a 2019 Intel MacBook likely there wouldn’t be a problem in choosing likewise. I am not fixed on Dell, but it appears a viable choice.

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Ah ha! What is given at that site is essentially recommendations to stay within the natural harmonics of what macOS can drive in ppi. This is not the same as my reference about staying within a reasonable ppi for your own viewing.

I was not aware of this information. It makes sense and adds a significant factor to the choice.

(sidebar … I have to wonder that this is an entirely different issue for Windows, since Windows is driving monitors at a different ppi than macOS. I bet that all of the “bad zone” monitors for macOS probably sit right in the sweat spot for Windows).

I think when I reviewed for a monitor at 2K for my older MBP, I found a distinct reference that suggested that a 24in monitor hit the sweat spot in visual clarity.

Suppose that you view a 24in monitor with 2K ppi. Imagine the pixels each have a width w and height h. Now translate to a 27in monitor at the same 2K ppi. The pixels must be wider and taller correspondingly. Imagine viewing what is to be a curved line. Your eye will begin to resolve the edges on the now larger “corner” pixels on a 27in monitor at 2K. On the 24in monitor at 2K, your eye will not resolve the edges, or will not do so as clearly.

In both cases, you are driving the monitors at their natural resonance. But it one case, you are bringing the image to a point where your eye can resolve aspects of the pixel shapes because the pixels are physically larger.

I believe I had some insight also just by viewing a crop of 2K 27in+ monitors at a local store (e.g. Best Buy).

In summary, I understand the limits that are being presented on the Bjango site. I see the moire patterns on my screen during some of my own image analysis (though I will not claim that it is not a result of the fact that the image itself is patterned and I am resizing it with some unnatural multiplying factor). That said, I personally have mostly praise for the “bad zone” 27in LG series 3840x2160 monitors that I am using. It may be worth your while to reconsider getting a 2K monitor at 27in until you take a look at how “fuzzy” they may appear to be to you when they are sitting next to a 4K at 27in even with the latter in the “bad zone” for macOS.

In any case, I see now why I should be looking for a 27in 5K LG or Studio Display for my next birthday. :slight_smile:


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Just a quick question.

My primary concern with getting a 2k monitor would be that text size would be too small when unscaled.

However Apple makes 2k monitors at 27 inches ; would that not prove that a 2k monitor was legible and effective?

Huh? Apple made 27-inch iMacs and current 27-inch Studio displays at 5K. It made its version of LG’s 24-inch Ultrafine at 4K.

Just read this thread, and perhaps I am derailing it, but something else is wrong if the mouse is laggy and it doesn’t even move if you attach a jump drive. If connected to a TV at 2K you find your mouse lags, can you check the resolution that macOS is trying to use with the TV and also check with a regular wired USB mouse?

My 2018 MBP (15 inch, i7) can drive a Samsung M7 32’’ display at 1920x1080 and at 2560x1440 connected via Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C connection). In the latter case, macOS displays a warning that it is scaling the resolution and may affect performance but I see no noticiable performance hit. I usually do 1920x1080 (no scaling warning) because my eyes get tired with the smaller fonts, but the 2018-era MBP can do that without breaking a sweat. (Also note that the 15’’ late-2018 MBP can have a better GPU, btw).

It is possible that I am mistaken and likely they aren’t making it now but I found the Apple 2k monitor models with a quick Google search.

If I am not correct you can forget what I said.

If I am correct I am hoping to verify that with a 27 inch 2k monitor that scaling is not necessary.

Off the top of my head I’d say the last 2K screens Apple sold were probably a 21-inch iMac and an old 13-inch MacBook Air, the one that stuck around for so long. :slightly_smiling_face:

I wonder if there isn’t some confusion about the term 2K when talking about Apple’s displays? The Studio Display’s default setting is 2560x1440, which is 2K, but of course it’s pixel-doubled in both dimensions.

To the OP: If you can afford it, a 27" 5K display scaled to 2560x1440 looks absolutely amazing and you won’t incurr much (if any) performance penalty. I’ve also found that a good 27"/28" 4K dispaly looks very good when scaled to that resolution.

I have a native 2K display at work and it looks terrible, but I don’t know if that’s becasue it’s just a cheap display or if that native resolution is just bad. The main problem is that it won’t support the Mac’s smoothing modes, so things look bad even at its native resolution. Again, I’m not sure if that’s something that’s inhernet to 2K displays when used with Macs or just that display.

Since Apple began offering what they call Retina displays, I have always set my Mac’s resolution to the pixel-doubled value (4 physical screen pixels to each “Apple pixel”) to best help my aging eyes. And I understand what Apple’s “Larger Text” and “More Space” resolution options offer and that the mismatch between these resolutions and the number of physical pixels might involve a performance hit.

When I mention a 2K screen, I’m referring to the number of physical pixels that a manufacturer claims for the horizontal width of their monitor, not any of the resolutions you might choose to set for your display in the Mac’s System Preferences.

I’ve done a little reading since getting home. You are one of many people who have found that the 2k (1440p) choice is not an optimal one. It would be just fine if you could read the text at 2560x1440 but it shows up too tiny. When you scale to 1920 by 1080 the text becomes blurred. (I was hoping that this might be different display wise with the pre M1/M2 MacBooks)

I wish I could afford a 5k monitor but it’s just not possible.

I have one last question to exhaust. Has anyone here had experience using a 1920 by 1200 monitor with their 16:10 display ratio MacBook? There are some of these monitor’s floating around and it would seem possible to get a direct native display with this display ratio.

It does seem a shame to have to by a 4k monitor only to scale it back to 1920 by 1080 but most people have had good luck with this.

Thank you everyone for your input! It is always good to compare notes before buying something that will just perpetuate the struggle of getting things right.

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Yes, that is what my understanding would be. I was looking at a 2560 by 1440 option.

About 11 years back Apple did make a 2k option which was their 27 inch Thunderbolt Monitor. It was confusing to me why apparently the same issue which plagues choosing a 2k monitor today didn’t seem to plague Mac users back those many years ago.

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Pantulis: This likely is a similar route that I will be taking. It is good that you don’t see any performance hit scaling down using a couple different display options with your 2018 MacBook Pro.

RLivingston: After reviewing all of the options I have placed an order for this Dell Monitor. The big sell was the DisplayPort 1.4 over USB-C. Looking forward to recovering some desktop space and not fighting a lagging mouse.

Most of us have been spoiled by displays that keep getting better, but it is what you see on the screen that matters.

I now have the Dell S2722QC monitor.

Besides some minor gripes I am quite happy with it.

The minor gripes are

  1. It would have been nice to have just 1 more standard USB port.
  2. My MacBook has a message that appears on the top bar that suggests my battery needs servicing. Perhaps due to how the 65watt charger goes to sleep when the monitor is off.
  3. The speakers are a little underpowered.
  4. My MacBook fans seem to race sometimes when the graphics load doesn’t seem that much.

None of these really bother me very much as there are ways around them.

Towards the good;

  1. Monitor size text size combination is great at 1080P. I like that I don’t have a huge screen anymore. This size seems perfect.
  2. My display now is at 60Hz instead of 30. This also means no delays with keyboard and mouse.

I plan on connecting my work PC laptop this weekend to see how well it picks up settings and how easily it is to switch over inputs and hopefully sharing my Logitech mouse/keyboard dongle.

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