Retina external monitor?

Hi folks,

I’m looking to buy an affordable external monitor for my MacBook Pro 2015. I tried plugging it in a screen that a friend had handy, and the letters appeared pixellated and not “retina”. I find that this tires me out now that I’m used to the quality of the MBP’s display. What kind of specs should I be looking for so that it’s equally crisp to the MBP?

The monitor I’m currently trying is a recent (but cheap) Asus monitor.

Here’s what my display options look like:

Screenshot 2020-08-31 at 12.53.35

Edit: the monitor I’m using is this one:

It’s the same as 1080p. I think maybe this monitor can’t support as high a resolution as the MBP (“2560 x 1600 at 227 pixels per inch” according to the link you shared earlier).

“Retina” is just a trademarked marketing term referring to resolutions in conjunction with distance, and has different meanings by Apple for Macs with definitions for ‘Retina HD’, ‘Retina 4k’, and ‘Retina 5k’. It was originally defined as being around 300 PPI for a phone held 10"-12" away, and involves pixels per inch (PPI) and pixels per degree (PPD) with the idea that for a screen to be Retina pixellation disappears. But the (proprietary) ‘standard’ depends on 20/20 vision or worse (which for most people happens when you turn 60 or so), and people with better vision will still see pixels.

So… just look for the best-reviewed high DPI/PPI monitors that fit your budget. If you want to see if a monitor you’re interested in is ‘Retina’ check out this simplified online calculator:

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I’ve had good success using Dell monitors with MacBooks over the years.

We found them affordable and I never had any user complaints. I’m currently using a 24in 4K Dell (on my Mac mini) that I purchased a year ago for less than $400.

I use an LG 27" 4k on my Mac mini and used it on MacBook when I had one, resolution is fantastic and build quality is good too. I had a Samsung 32" Space monitor which devloped a noise, so sent it back under warranty, they broke the screen and wouldn’t replace it - even had a video showing it working fine when it arrived. As a result I won’t go near Samsung stuff again…

The big benefit of the LG is the USB c connection, for a MacBook it charges it whilst displaying so its single cable. Since I sold the MacBook I still just use the USB c for Mac mini and it enables the drive ports on the back for USB if I ever want to use them.

@bowline is spot on though, the resolution naming is just a marketing thing from my experience, what matters is the PPI which will normally decrease over 27" just through the physical size which is natural.
I have the 27UK850 and paid around £400 in March for it. You can get the same model but cheaper without the USB c.

My only thing I would change is possibly having a widescreen, I have to use a PC for work and Picture by Picture on a 34 would be beneficial. Another deal breaker for me was having speakers built in, they are not great but do fine for listening to music whilst working etc.

edit: meant to add the finish on monitor screens are predominantly matte which will add to it looking slightly different to the MacBook as it has a glossy covering - I am sure there is a technical name for that.

I recently purchased an LG 4K 27” and am happy. It has usb c and charges the MacBook. Not as clear as the 5k, but much less expensive and a matte screen. Overall pretty happy.

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I use a pair of 28" 4K monitors running at a scaled resolution of 1440p (1440 vertical, can’t recall the horizontal, but it’s 16x9, so you can do the math if you like :wink: ) They look great; not quite as sharp as a perfectly multiple scaled resolution, but much better than a native 1440p monitor.

So it seems that the monitor I have handy has too low resolution and, if/when I buy a monitor, I should look for a higher one. I’m still a little confused by all the nomenclature. But I’m not imminently buying a monitor, so I won’t worry about it.

Thanks for the help and suggestions everyone! :slight_smile: