- Our choice for the #1 Best Overall Monitor for Macbook Pro is Apple Studio Display
- Macbooks are built to be portable. Sometimes an external monitor is required for jobs that need a bigger display.
- While just about any monitor will do, some aren’t designed to handle a Macbook.
- Certain considerations must be taken into account when purchasing an external monitor to ensure you get the most out of your MacBook.
MacBooks are powerful machines that usually come with top-of-the-line monitors built-in. However, sometimes you need to channel all that computing power into a bigger display. No matter what, there will be situations that even the largest MacBook Pro displays can’t accommodate. Whether you’re an artist, a gamer, or simply someone who bought a MacBook Pro for work, odds are at some point you will need an external monitor.
To that end, there are many considerations when choosing a monitor to pair with your MacBook. Things like screen size, resolution, color quality, and refresh rate will probably all factor into your decision. The problem, of course, is that choosing the best MacBook Pro monitor to fit your situation can be overwhelming, especially considering the variety of options available to you. After careful consideration, our ranking for the best MacBook Pro monitors in 2023 is:
- #1 Best Overall: Apple Studio Display
- Best for Gaming: Razer Raptor 27
- Best for Video Editing: Apple Pro Display XDR
- Best Budget Monitor: Acer XFA240
#1 Best Overall Monitor for Macbook Pro: Apple Studio Display
- Immersive 27-inch 5K Retina display with 600 nits of brightness, support for one billion colors, and P3 wide color
- 12MP Ultra Wide camera with Center Stage for more engaging video calls
- Studio-quality three-mic array for crystal-clear calls and voice recordings
- Six-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio for an unbelievable listening experience
- One Thunderbolt 3 port, three USB-C ports
It stands to reason that the Apple Studio Display would be the best monitor to pair with a MacBook Pro. It’s an Apple monitor, of course, but this means features exclusive for those who use it with a Mac OS device. Its exceptional sRGB mode for those who pair it with a Mac OS device ensures incredible accuracy even before calibration. That means the Studio Display is the perfect choice for content creators, freeing them of the headache of calibration.
There’s also a laundry list of impressive features. A built-in webcam, microphone, and speakers of surprising quality all add to the appeal of this monitor. A crystal clear 5k resolution provides a sharp text display, and the large size of the 27-inch screen makes it easy for you to get an overall look at all your work simultaneously.
The Studio Display comes equipped with a Thunderbolt 3 input which supports up to 96W of power. This benefits those of you who want to keep your MacBook charged during use. There are a variety of stand and screen finish options for a bit of customizability.
There’s the option of the fixed stand (the standard), the stand that’s adjustable by height, or you can purchase the display without a stand if you’re looking to wall-mount it. As for the screen finish, you have the choice between either glossy or matte. Either finish should provide good results in a well-lit room, especially when used with the outstanding high peak brightness.
|It has an ultra-bright, sharp 5K display.||There is no default height adjustment.|
|A six-speaker setup delivers great sound.||The stand is not ideal for a desktop setup.|
|The monitor has a built-in 12MP camera for quality video||It is expensive.|
Check out the Apple Studio Display on Amazon.
Best for Gaming: Razer Raptor 27
- 27” WQHD (2560 x 1440p) Non-Glare IPs-grade display
- Up to 178° wide viewing angles
- 1 ms with Ultra Low Motion Blur and 4 ms
- Fast 165Hz refresh rate for a smooth and crisp image
- 95% DCI-P3 Color Gamut and HDR400 support for a rich, vibrant spectrum of color
- Solid aluminum base with Razer Chroma RGB
- Built-in cable management (display cables included)
- Razer Synapse integration to control settings and connect to your battle station
If you’re looking to do a lot of gaming with your Macbook monitor, you can’t do much better than the Razer Raptor 27. The crystal clear HD resolution, as well as the amazingly accurate, bold colors you can get out of this 27-inch screen, is truly remarkable. The Raptor 27’s ultra-fast refresh rate allows you to run games at an excess of 120 frames per second. This means that you’ll never miss a single frame.
Although your MacBook Pro’s Liquid Retina XDR screen provides a slightly higher resolution than the Razor Raptor’s 2560 x 1440 resolution display, the latter will still provide enough detail to make games pop off the screen. It may not be top-of-the-line, but it provides excellent performance and accessibility for what is essentially a midpoint monitor.
That being said, the Raptor 27 is relatively expensive in comparison to other gaming monitors that have similar specs. It should also be noted that the Raptor’s higher price tag is partly due to its superior physical design. The ports are unconventionally easy to access, which makes cables easier to manage, saving you a headache.
|It has a crystal-clear display.||Any customization requires a USB-C.|
|It has a good design with intuitive menus.||It is expensive.|
Check out the Razer Raptor 27 on Amazon.
Best for Video Editing: Apple Pro Display XDR
- 32-inch LCD display with Retina 6K resolution (6016 x 3384 pixels)
- Extreme Dynamic Range (XDR)
- Brightness: 1000 nits sustained, 1600 nits peak
- One Thunderbolt 3 port, three USB-C ports
With a sizable 32-inch screen that produces astoundingly precise colors at indescribable levels of brightness, the Apple Pro Display XDR monitor is the end goal if you are a professional video editor. The Apple Pro Display is as easy to set up as it is pleasing to look at. Some may be surprised and even turned off by the fact that it’s not an OLED. However, rest assured this monitor provides astonishing contrasts. The blacks look like midnight and juxtapose beautifully with the crisp whites.
For those of you who don’t consider cost an obstacle, an extra $1,000 will get you a model with nano-textured glass. Beyond being a cool thing to tell people you have, this tech apparently reduces glare without having an effect on contrast. It seems a little odd that a baseline price tag of $4,999 won’t also get you a stand, but it won’t. To get a stand for this monitor, it will cost you an additional $999. There’s no doubt that Apple’s Pro Stand is top of the line, but all the hefty price tags will, unfortunately, put this monitor out of reach for a lot of consumers.
While out of the question for the average buyer, the cost reflects Apple’s targeted consumer. Equipment like this monitor is not necessarily intended for freelancers, but rather photo/video professionals who work for large organizations with deep pockets. If you’re in the market for the absolute best monitor for photo/video editing to pair with your MacBook Pro and money is no object, you can’t do much better than the Pro Display XDR.
|It has incredibly high resolution.||The price tag is incredibly high.|
|The monitor has video editor-friendly reference modes.||It is very specifically designed for high-end editors. It’s hard to justify the cost if you’re not a pro.|
Check out the Apple Pro Display XDR on Amazon.
Best Budget Monitor: Acer XFA240
- 23.8" Full HD (1920 x 1080) Widescreen VA Gaming Monitor | AMD FreeSync Premium Technology
- Refresh Rate: 165Hz | Response Time: 1ms (VRB) | Pixel Pitch: 0.275mm
- Zero-Frame Design | HDR 10
- VESA Mounting Compliant (100 x 100mm)
- Ergonomic Tilt: -5° to 15° | Height Adjustment Range: 4.7" | Swivel: 360° | Pivot: Yes
- Ports: 1 x Display Port 1.2 and 2 x HDMI 2.0 (HDMI Cable Included)
On the other hand, for those of you who are on a budget, the Acer XFA240 is a great choice for a quality HD monitor that doesn’t break the bank. It’s a 1080p monitor but it has surprisingly accurate colors and a bundle of added features that you wouldn’t expect from a monitor that will cost you less than $200.
One of the most useful of these bonus features is its ability to go into full vertical mode. That alone makes it worth the money, especially if you already have a primary monitor and are looking for a second screen. The XFA240 is versatile. It’s just as good for gaming as it is for work. It has a DVI input, making it a good choice for any older machines you may want to hook it up to, but more importantly an HDMI port for MacBook Pros.
Unsurprisingly, given its cost, the XFA240 is not without its faults. Firstly, the built-in speakers are basically unusable and the menus aren’t very intuitive. They can take some getting used to, and as is to be expected, the quality of its construction leaves us wanting. All that aside, this is still a remarkable monitor for the price. It displays games remarkably well and can also go toe-to-toe with monitors twice its price after a few simple adjustments to the settings.
|It has an affordable price point.||The menus aren’t intuitive.|
|It has outstanding color for the price.||The graphics are subpar when in Game Mode.|
Check out the Acer XFA240 on Amazon.
How to Pick the Best Monitors for MacBook Pro: Step by Step
When choosing Monitors for MacBook Pro, there are four main considerations for most buyers:
- Screen size
- Response time
- Shape and orientation
- Refresh rate
Let’s review each of these categories in more detail.
Generally speaking, larger monitors are more desirable because of their versatility. For most professional purposes, a larger monitor is more conducive to a split-screen workflow. For video editing or gaming, a larger monitor allows you to see more details in the image. Speaking of seeing detailed images, higher resolution is also an essential factor here. When it comes to both physical size and resolution (the number of pixels), the old adage “less is more” does not apply. Generally speaking, the largest screen size and highest resolution you can afford would typically be our recommendation. It is worth noting, however, that 4K monitors have a tendency to make text difficult to read unless the monitor is large. You may need to avoid 4Ks or upscale your text.
The response time gauges the amount of time it takes for your commands to reach the display. A low response time is critical if you are using the monitor for gaming and you want to ensure that you are playing under near-perfect conditions. Usually, response time is measured in milliseconds. This is a reflection of the amount of time it takes a pixel on the monitor to cycle from one color to another, then back to the original color.
Response time may not be a priority for you if you are not a serious gamer, so your mileage may vary when it comes to this category. If you do plan on using your MacBook for gaming, then a fast and accurate response time may be exactly what you need. If you’re not a gamer, response time is one of those features that may not factor heavily into your decision, but it’s never a drawback to have a monitor that performs well in every capacity.
Shape and Orientation
The average monitor will be a basic rectangular screen that sits on your desktop, and that works for most purposes. Sometimes though, a unique shape can be an advantage you didn’t know you needed. Curved and vertical monitors could be what you’re looking for if you have diverse needs. Gaming on a curved monitor can take your immersion to the next level. Also, if you’re working with a lot of lists or spreadsheets, you may want to consider a monitor that can accommodate a vertical setup. The shape can also impact the portability of the monitor you purchase. That can absolutely be a factor for some people. The portability of a MacBook could mean that you need a portable setup. The size and shape of the monitor you choose would be critical in this situation.
In the most basic terms, the refresh rate is a measurement of the number of times a monitor can produce a new image per second. The unit of measurement is Hertz, and much like response time, this may not be a priority for non-gamers. If you’re mainly going to be using your monitor for work or watching videos, a refresh rate of 60Hz or less will be more than adequate for your purposes.
If you want to buy a monitor with a display that is comparable to the one on your Macbook, you may need to look at higher refresh rates. Most of the new MacBook Pros come with Liquid Retina XDR displays. These superior monitors can produce refresh rates up to 120Hz, which isn’t too shabby for a laptop. You’ll need to match those specs if you’re looking for a monitor that can match the quality of your MacBook’s display.
This category isn’t just for gamers, though. For professional video editors that might be working in framerates over 120 frames per second, a monitor with a refresh rate that exceeds the frame rate you’re working in is a benchmark worthy of your consideration. While most everyday monitors top out at 120Hz, there are some gaming monitors out there that can get refresh rates as high as 360Hz. If you’re an editor who does a lot of work that’s higher than 24p, you may want to look at some of those gaming monitors.
What to Know Before Buying Monitors for Macbook Pro
If you need more screen real estate than your little MacBook provides, an external monitor can be a good investment. Monitors that have a USB-C port built-in are ideal, though adaptors can be purchased if you find a monitor that checks all your boxes otherwise. MacOS was designed to work best with 5k displays, there still isn’t a big market for them, which will seriously limit your 5K options. A 4k monitor may be the best option for the time being, particularly if you’re looking for a sharp text display. Color accuracy, contrast, and peak brightness are also considerations that we didn’t cover, but they could be the tipping point for those who are looking to get the best display out of their MacBook Pro.
Using Monitors for Macbook Pro: What It’s Like
Using a monitor with your MacBook Pro will provide greater visibility for gamers, graphic artists, video editors, and more. While there are several brands and models to choose from, the best external monitor will be specific to your needs. For example, if you play a lot of games, buying a premium model with a high refresh rate will provide you with a better experience than a monitor with a low refresh rate. Graphic artists and video editors should prioritize resolution. They will get the computing power of Mac, but also be able to see the images they are working on in greater detail. Different people have different requirements, but generally speaking, an additional, high-quality monitor will help you get the most out of your MacBook Pro.
|#1||Apple Studio Display||Overall|
|#2||Razer Raptor 27||Gaming|
|#3||Apple Pro Display XDR||Video Editing|
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Jack Skeens/Shutterstock.com.