Single monitor recommendations

So, now that I ordered a new MacBook Air M1, I learned that they do not support dual external monitors, After greatly enjoying my 27” iMac for many years, and then my last MacBook Air with dual 24” monitors, I’m not sure what to do. What’s the closet equivalent to two 24” monitors — a 34” monitor? Anything bigger than that seems unwieldy. Or just go back to a 27” monitor?

For background, I’m a lawyer, so all I do is read/draft documents on Word and PDF, sometimes review Excel spreadsheets, and always have e-mail, Todoist, and Fantastical open, along with a Safari window open somewhere. I rarely/never deal with videos or photos.

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Is “Retina” level resolution on the external monitor a requirement?

I do development for teaching courses. I recently upgraded from a 24in 1080p (AOC) to a 27in 4K (LG) as the second monitor to my MBP (was 15in but now 16in). I find the 27in to be just perfect. Anything larger would overwhelm my physical desk space. I would also be a bit lost in the screen, preferring to focus on a “one location at a time” view when critical. In this regard, I don’t have enough call to have multiple apps opened all at the same time. When I do run two apps in split view, the 27in gives more than sufficient screen real estate.

Did you find that the transition from one 27in to two 24in monitors gave you some extra benefit that you know you would miss if you went back to just one 27in? Can your physical desk space support a monitor that starts at 32in or above in size? Would you find your head spinning (literally more like your head turning from one side to another) when you would have a screen that spans such a large space? How often where you using the two 24in monitors to view documents in side-by-side mode compared to using one for the document and the other for basic Finder-level activities (or for doing other “side-bar” activities)?

Also, FWIW, for monitors at 27in and above, I would not go any lower than 4k in resolution, especially when your job demands that you must read printed documents on the monitor.


Yes, I think so. When I switch from non-Retina to Retina screens on older machines, it is so much better.

My current use of the two 24” monitors is my reading and production work is on the left monitor directly in front of me. The second left 24” monitor has Outlook taking up the left half of the screen, Fantastical in the upper right quarter, and Todoist in the lower right quarter. I can’t imagine cramming all of that into a 27”, but as I type this, it occurs to me that the only reason that I have Fantastical and Todoist open is because I have the space. I could easily minimize them and call them up only when needed. Or, I could keep the MacBook open all day and use that screen for my email, tasks, and calendar.

Desk space - plenty.

I find that I noticeably swivel my head more with the two 24” monitors than I did with the single 27” iMac monitor. I would want 4K on larger monitors. While I love the 5K on the iMac, I cannot justify the cost of a 5K monitor. I doubt that I would notice the difference.

I find that a 27in sitting about 20in away is ideal. Anymore, I do not like swiveling my head back and forth between my second monitor and my MBP (sitting on the right side of the second monitor). So, I use the MBP screen for Finder-related stuff and/or for “side-bar” activities that are only tangentially related to the main focus of my work at the time.

And I make good use of Spaces and Moom to move windows to where I need minimal effort while working.

These may help …



In that case I think you want either 4K at 24” or 5K at 27”. I find that for 4K monitors bigger than 24” the Retina effect starts to break down for me. 27” 4K monitors just don’t look as good.

I have the DELL S2721QS and it is a great 27" 4k monitor, especially for the price. Text on the 4k display is crisp and I can place 3 windows next to each other.

Monitor selection can be very personal/subjective.

I would think about how much time is spent staring at the monitor. I would then consider getting the biggest (32+ if possible), non-gamer, non-curved, USB-C monitor from a reputable maker that my budget would allow.

If you’re using it for Word, PDFs, Excel, calendaring, and generally getting things done, I’m not sure 5K matters.

I have a Dell UltraSharp 43 4K USB-C Monitor that I don’t even run in max resolution because it makes everything so small. While I have read some critical reviews (too big, not 5K, colors aren’t perfect, not fast enough for gaming, etc.), I haven’t had a problem with it. I use it for basic business tasks.

If you run the monitor in scaled mode on Mac you actually take advantage of the full resolution. Effective resolution will be scaled while the text (for example) will still be crisp thanks to the 4k or 5k resolution.

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Yes, and I appreciate the OP describing his use case. Since photos are a huge criterium for me, I will postpone the monitor upgrade until the lack of color calibration/profiling with the M1s is fixed.

My office at work had two monitors. The one straight in front of me was in landscape mode, the other one was in portrait mode and was to the right of the main monitor. Using the two monitors required me to turn my head depending on which one I wanted to view.

When I set up my home office with my laptop, I placed a 24 inch monitor at a height such that when my laptop was open in front it still let me view the 24 in monitor behind the laptop screen. This allowed me to use both screens, one in front of the other. Just shifting my gaze up or down let me use both screens without turning my head.

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Personally I’m very happy with the LG 27UL… series. The 27UL500/…550 or 27UL600/…650 are all equally good and the only differentiation is the background lighting brightness and that the …50 models have a slightly adjustable stand in comparison to an entirely rigid one for the …00 models.

I use it with an adjustable monitor arm and a 2m USB-C to DisplayPort cable. It works flawlessly with my MacBook Pro. The colors are decently acurate as well, but it doesn’t support the P3 color space like modern MBP/iMac or other Apple displays do. For your use case that is most likely not an issue at all.

The screens are 4K natively (3840x2160) so you’d be running 1920x1080 in high-res/retina. You can easily switch to scaled mode and have the Mac render an even higher resolution and therefor not have crazy large font/icons. It works well.

With the third party monitor arm I can also rotate the screen by 90° and have a very tall screen to read or reference papers.

For the comparably low price you are getting a lot of display.

This is exactly how I am set up…both in my office (5K iMac landscape with a 27" 4K Dell monitor portrait) and at home (24" FHD monitor above my MacBook Air). Small world!