Best USB-C and Thunderbolt displays for Mac [January]

Best USB-C and Thunderbolt displays for Mac [January]

January 13, 2022 0 By Michael Potuck

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Best USB-C and Thunderbolt displays for Mac [January]

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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 (and new models in the wings), it’s not the best fit for the majority of Mac users with a starting price of $5,000. Let’s look at some of the best USB-C/Thunderbolt displays available in the $400-$1,500 range.

Update 1/13/22: We’ve seen a few notable announcements/releases over the last few weeks. At CES, Samsung unveiled its new 4K M8 Smart Monitor with an iMac-like design and Dell revealed its upcoming 32-inch 4K UltraSharp monitor with a built-in 4K HDR webcam. And LG launched its 27-inch version of its UltraFine OLED Pro display just before Christmas at $2,999.

Also, excitement is building around what Apple is working on with its next-gen displays. After 9to5Mac first discovered that an in-development Apple display includes a dedicated A13 chip and Neural Engine back in July, a recent leak says that Apple is indeed working on a new 32-inch display with Apple Silicon – likely the successor to the Pro Display XDR – along with a 24 and 27-inch that likely won’t feature custom chips.

The latest leak claims the 27- and 32-inch models “seem to have miniLED displays and 120hz variable refresh rate” which would be welcome news for 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro owners.

All the displays below work great for a single-cable setup with your MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and even PCs. The iPad Pro and 2020 iPad Air can also be used with any of these USB-C/Thunderbolt displays but with limitations.

Related: Best portable USB-C displays for MacBooks: iPad, ASUS, AOC, more

Even though Apple’s 6K Pro Display XDR is a fantastic product (full review), the reality is that at $5,000+, it’s overkill for many MacBook owners’ needs, budgets, or both.

Notably, one trend we’re seeing — 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

LG 32UL950-W

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%
600 nits HDR peak brightness, 450 nits standard
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

The LG 32UL950-W can be found on Amazon as well as other retailers like B&H Photo.

LG 34BK95U-W

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
MSRP: $1,649, but often available for less

The LG 34WK95U-W is usually in stock at Amazon and B&H Photo.

BenQ PD3220U

This is a nice alternative to the LG options above. The 32-inch BenQ PD3220U features Thunderbolt 3, 4K resolution, 95% DCI-P3 color, 85W power delivery for MacBooks, a variety of professional modes, hotkey puck, solid metal stand, and lots of I/O.

Specs:

3840 x 2160 Resolution
16:9 Aspect Ratio
60Hz Refresh Rate
Brightness: 250 typical, 300 nits HDR peak
DCI-P3 98%
HDR10
1 x Thunderbolt 3 – 85W power delivery
1 x Thunderbolt 3 – 15W power delivery
2 x HDMI 2.0
1 x DisplayPort 1.4
3 x USB 3.1
1 x USB C
1 x USB B
Headphone jack
Slim bezels
MSRP: $1,199 but often available for less

You can usually find the BenQ PD3220U at Amazon and BH Photo.

Dell UltraSharp U4021QW

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

Dell also makes the UltraSharp in 32-inch and 27-inch versions.

LG UltraFine OLED Pro – New for December

After starting to sell the 32-inch model priced at $3,999 back in August, BH Photo listed the 27-inch model at $2,999 just before Christmas.

The new LG UltraFine OLED Pro Monitor is a 32-inch USB-C display with a 27-inch version coming later.

The move to OLED is interesting. While there are some benefits like blacker blacks, and more, there may be concerns about display burn-in.

BH Photo was the first retailer to sell the UltraFine OLED Pro with a $3,999 price tag starting on August 12.

Specs:

27 and 31.5-inch OLED screen options (27-inch coming this fall, 32-inch now available)
3840 x 2160 4K resolution
60Hz refresh rate
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%

For a closer look, check out the first full review:

First LG UltraFine OLED Pro review calls the display ‘astonishing’ as launch appears imminent [Video]

Apple-endorsed LG UltraFine displays

LG UltraFine 24- & 27-inch 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.

If you’re tempted by these displays, you can also keep an eye out on 9to5Toys, where we’ve seen certified refurbished models of the $1,300 5K display go for as low as $550.

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 $600 or less.

LG 32-inch 32UP550-W – New for June

This new budget release from LG is a more compelling option than its older 27-inch 4K 27UK850. The 32UP550-W features a 32-inch screen, 4K resolution, USB-C, 96W power delivery, and more.

Specs:

1 x USB-C with 96W power delivery
2 x HDMI
1 x DisplayPort
2 x USB 3.0
1 x headphone jack
16:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
Up to 350 nits brightness
3840 x 2160 resolution
DCI-P3 at 90%
HDR10
Anti-glare finish
MSRP at $450

This 32-inch affordable 4K USB-C display from LG is available to order on Amazon now with deliveries shipping out starting in July.

LG 27UK850

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.

Samsung 32- and 43-inch Smart Monitor M7

Samsung has announced at CES 2022 it will launch the successor to the M7 with the M8 Smart Monitor arriving this year.

In May 2021, Samsung launched a 43-inch version of the Smart Monitor M7 with the same overall specs as its smaller 32-inch brother that will come in at $600.

You’re getting some great features at a budget price point like 4K resolution, USB-C, AirPlay 2, and more. However, it sounds like picture quality is not its strongest point.

You’re also not getting things like a 3.5mm audio jack, DisplayPort, and brightness is just 300 nits.

1 x USB-C with 65W PD
2 x HDMI
3 x USB 2.0
16:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
300 nits brightness
3840 x 2160 resolution
sRGB 99%
HDR10
Anti-glare finish
Smart TV features including AirPlay 2
MSRP at $400 for 32-inch, $600 for 43-inch

You can learn more about the 32- and 43-inch Samsung M7 on the company’s website and find it for sale at Best Buy.

Holding Out?

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.

And with Apple reportedly working on several new displays, it may be worth waiting to see what could arrive in 2022.

Leaker backs up Apple’s new Pro Display XDR with custom silicon, more
Exclusive: Apple testing new external display with a dedicated A13 chip and Neural Engine
Bloomberg: New iMac with Pro Display XDR design coming this year, cheaper external display also planned

Sidecar

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: How to turn your iPad into a second display with Sidecar

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

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About the Author

Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.

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