USB-C/Thunderbolt display options have really grown over the last couple of years. While Apple is making its own monitor again with the Pro Display XDR, it’s not the best fit for the majority of Mac users with a starting price of $5,000 (without a stand). Let’s take a look at some of the best USB-C/Thunderbolt displays available in the $400-$1,300 range.
Update 4/22/21: Samsung’s two new budget 4K displays that it unveiled last month are now available to order from $399. Meanwhile, LG’s upcoming UltraFine OLED Pro display will arrive this summer with four options in 27 and 32-inch screen sizes. Check out all the details below.
While the displays below all work great for a single-cable setup with your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, and PCs, keep in mind the iPad Pro and 2020 iPad Air can be used with any of these USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 displays too (even Apple’s Pro Display XDR 😅).
Notably, one trend we’re seeing more lately — that Apple adopted with the Pro Display XDR — is a 32-inch screen size. Fortunately, there are some solid 32-inch options from other companies in the $1,000 ballpark that offer a compelling experience. And we’ll also look at some 27-32-inch 4K USB-C displays in the $400-$600 range.
Best USB-C/Thunderbolt displays for Mac: 32-inch and larger
This is LG’s UltraFine 32-inch display that includes a solid feature set like two Thunderbolt 3 ports plus two USB-A ports, slim bezels, support for use in portrait orientation, and more.
In his full review, my colleague Jeff Benjamin found he liked the design better than LG’s other UltraFine models with many of the same features.
Specs:31.5-inch UHD 4K display (3840 x 2160) Refresh rate 60Hz Nano IPS with DCI-P3 98% VESA DisplayHDR™ 600 Dual Thunderbolt 3 ports (in x 1 (PD 60W) / out x 1) 4K Daisy Chain with Thunderbolt™ 3 2 x USB-A DisplayPort 1.4 HDMI 2.0 3.5mm headphone output MSRP: $1,300
Moving up a couple of inches, LG’s 34-inch widescreen Thunderbolt 3/USB-C display offers a 5120 x 2160 resolution (in-between 4K and 5K). Jeff reviewed this display and found it to be a compelling option for creative pros.
But if you’re a creative professional who knows what you’re getting yourself into, this display is a significant real estate upgrade from 4K. Just make sure you understand that this is really a 4.5K display, and it doesn’t offer any resolution advantages over a true 5K display like the one found in the 5K iMac or iMac Pro.
Specs:Nano IPS (In-Plane Switching) Panel Thunderbolt 3 Interface Power output: 85W 5120 x 2160 Resolution 21:9 Aspect Ratio 60Hz Refresh Rate Brightness: 450 (Typ), 360 (min) cd/m2 Support for VESA HDR 600 DCI-P3 98% 2 x HDMI 1 x DisplayPort 2 x USB 3.0 3.5mm headphone input Speakers: 5W x 2 Slim bezel design on all four sides Often available between $1,300-$1,400 (MSRP: $1,500)
Dell UltraSharp U4021QW – New for 2021
This is Dell’s latest 4K USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 display and it features a 40-inch curved screen. This is technically a 5K2K resolution but for those looking for a large screen size, it may be a good fit.
Specs:39.7-inch curved 4K (5K2K) display (5120 x 2160 @ 60Hz) 140 PPI 21:9 aspect ratio (mislabeled as 16:9 on Dell website) 90W pass-thru power DCI-P3 at 98% Suggested retail price: $2,099 – often available for less
LG UltraFine OLED Pro Monitors – coming summer 2021
Another interesting announcement at CES this year was the new LG UltraFine OLED Pro Monitor. This is a 32-inch USB-C display that’s 5-inches larger than the 27-inch UltraFine.
The move to OLED is interesting here. While there are some benefits like blacker blacks, and more, there may concerns about display burn-in. The UltraFine OLED Pro Monitor does appear to be about twice as thin as the current LG UltraFine displays.
With a larger display and the switch to OLED, we definitely expect this to come in over the $1,299 retail price of the LCD 27-inch 5K UltraFine.
Update 3/22/21: Earlier this month LG made a private presentation (via ComputerBase) showing off more details about the upcoming UltraFine OLED Pro Monitor. Instead of just one 32-inch model, it will actually be a lineup of four new displays.
There will be a 27-inch version of the 32EP950, the 27EP950. Meanwhile, the new 27BP95E and 32BP95E will include a light hood, and self-calibration with built-in colorimeters.
The new UltraFine OLED Pro lineup is slated to launch summer 2021 with premium price tags between € 3,000-4,000.
Specs:27 and 31.5-inch OLED screen options 3840 x 2160 4K resolution USB-C with 90W pass-thru power up to 500 nits brightness Dolby HDR 400 True Black 1 ms response time 10-bit color depth 2 x DisplayPort 3 x USB 1 x HDMI DCI P3 at 99% Adobe RGB 99% MSRP: $3,000+ Release date: Summer 2021
Apple-endorsed LG UltraFine displays
While the 27-inch UltraFine display (reviewed) is really the only option on the market to support USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 at a full 5K resolution, the $1,300 price may make this a tough sell for some, especially since it hasn’t changed since 2016.
Another trade-off here is chunkier bezels for a built-in webcam, although these displays do offer a solid I/O setup. Another aspect that sets these displays apart is P3 wide color gamut and 85W power delivery.
The current models are the 5K 27-inch and the 4K 24-inch UltraFine displays.
At almost half the price, the 24-inch 4K UltraFine is a compelling option for an Apple-endorsed display. The 24-inch version replaced the 21.5-inch 4K model last May and retails around $700. Check out our full review here.
Best USB-C/Thunderbolt displays on a budget
While there are some solid displays on the market that include USB-C with less than 4K resolutions, spending several hundred dollars on a new display with a lower picture quality than what you’re used to on your MacBook won’t be a good fit for many.
Here are some of the best USB-C displays that offer a 4K resolution at $500 or less.
Samsung 32- and 27-inch S8 – New for April
Unveiled in March, Samsung’s new affordable S8 4K displays are now available to purchase. They offer decent specs at an affordable price $399-$449. However, they’re missing USB-C connectivity here so the 32-inch Samsung Smart Monitor M7 or other options below are a better buy for MacBook users.
This is an interesting new option released in December 2020. You’re getting some great features at a budget price point. However, it sounds like while you’re getting 4K resolution, USB-C, AirPlay 2, and more, picture quality is not its strongest point.
You’re also not getting things like a 3.5mm audio jack, DisplayPort, and brightness is just 250 nits.1 x USB-C with 65W PD 2 x HDMI 3 x USB 2.0 16:9 aspect ratio 60Hz refresh rate 250 nits brightness 3840 x 2160 resolution sRGB 99% HDR10 Anti-glare finish Smart TV features including AirPlay 2 MSRP of $400 but often retails under $400
This 4K USB-C display is the successor to LG’s older 27UD88 model that we reviewed a few years back. The 27UK850 27-inch model features an LED-backlit IPS panel with HDR10 support, AMD Freesync, and single-cable USB-C connectivity.
The 27UK850 offers two USB 3.1 ports, but like the previous model, when running 4K at 60Hz, you’re limited to USB 2.0 speeds. It would have been nice to see 87W power delivery for full-speed 15-inch MacBook Pro charging, but that shouldn’t be an issue for most users.1 x USB-C v. 3.1 with 60W PD 2 x HDMI 1 x Display Port 2 x USB v. 3.1 gen1 3.5 mm audio port 16:9 aspect ratio 60Hz refresh rate 3840 x 2160 resolution sRGB 99% AMD Freesync Anti-glare finish Usually available around $500-$600
For a more in-depth look at this display, check out our review here.
The LG 27UK850 is available on Amazon.
This display offers almost all of the same features as LG’s UK850 with a little different aesthetic. The LED-backlit IPS panel doesn’t feature HDR10 support and AMD FreeSync, but otherwise, its specs stack up almost identically.1 x USB-C v. 3.1 with 60W PD 1 x HDMI 1 x DisplayPort 3.5 mm audio port 2 x USB v. 3.1 gen1 16:9 aspect ratio 60Hz refresh rate 3840 x 2160 resolution 100% sRGB Eye Care blue light filter Anti-glare finish Usually available around $500
ASUS Designo is available on Amazon.
Thinking of waiting a while longer to see what other manufacturers offer over the coming months? If you feel like you can’t compromise on a 4K resolution but are open to saving some cash by skipping the USB-C/Thunderbolt connectivity, Philips has a 27-inch 4K display for quite a bit less than the price of the other displays on this list. AOC also makes a comparable 27-inch 4K option.
Also, we’ve recently learned that Apple is reportedly working on a more affordable self-branded display more akin to its retired $999 Thunderbolt Display.Bloomberg: New iMac with Pro Display XDR design coming this year, cheaper external display also planned
Another option if you want to wait a bit longer on picking up a new external display, make use of the great macOS Sidecar feature that lets you use an iPad as a secondary display.macOS Catalina: How to turn your iPad into a second display with Sidecar
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