We've long been fans of the MacBook Pro - the best MacBooks are great for photo and video editing, or indeed pretty much anything you want to throw at these high quality machines. One area in which they are particularly strong is screen quality, as Apple's Retina displays offer class-leading color accuracy and gloriously high resolutions.
Trouble is, even a 16-inch MacBook Pro could feel restrictive when you've got multiple editing pallets open, resulting in a small image or video preview pane. And multitasking two or more windows alongside each other could feel equally confining. The problem is only made worse with the new generation M1 MacBook Pro, as it tops out with a 13-inch display, which while great for portability, can soon become restrictive over long periods of use.
But not to worry - it's easy to connect a second, standalone monitor to instantly expand your viewing horizons. This can work in tandem with your MacBook's screen, extending the display to give you one large workspace.
The main thing to watch out for when partnering your MacBook Pro with a separate monitor is how it connects to your machine. Most monitors still use conventional video connections - HDMI, or DisplayPort - however Apple in its infinite wisdom now only outfits its MacBook Pro models with Thunderbolt/USB-C ports. Consequently, if you want to connect a monitor direct to your MacBook, it'll need to be a USB-C compatible screen. All but one of the monitor options in this guide are USB-C monitors, so are ready to plug and play. If you do choose a non USB-C monitor, you'll need a DisplayPort to USB-C adapter dongle in order to link monitor with MacBook.
With connectivity sorted, you just need to consider what you want from a second screen. Size is of course important, as there's no point adding a second monitor if it too is too small for the work you're doing. We reckon 27-inch screens offer a great balance between screen real estate while not being too physically unwieldy. There are also a lot of high quality displays in this screen size, so you've got plenty of options to choose from.
In this guide we're only recommending monitors that use IPS LCD display technology - the same as used by your MacBook's own screen - as this will be the best match for your MacBook's image quality and ensures consistent color and contrast across both screens. Then it's a case of the more you spend, the higher the color accuracy of the panel, and the better the coverage of color spaces like sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3 and Rec. 709 - important for serious image or video editing.
Best monitors for MacBook Pro in 2021
The Dell UltraSharp U2720Q packs a 4K UHD resolution, 10-bit color depth and some neat extras, all inside a smart case with an ‘InfinityEdge’ ultra-thin bezel, ensurign this screen will look great alongside your MacBook Pro. The excellent 1300:1 maximum contrast ratio, along with 99% sRGB, 99% Rec. 709 and 95% DCI-P3 color coverage also means this monitor's image quality is a match for your MacBook's Retina display. In addition to more conventional video connections like HDMI and DisplayPort, there are a pair of USB-C ports which can be used to directly connect the monitor to a modern MacBook Pro, and one of these ports can also supply up to 90W of power to your laptop.
This 27-inch 4K monitor is great if you're serious about matching the color accuracy of your MacBook's screen. It boasts superb color space coverage, with the wide-gamut 16-bit display delivering 99% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB/Rec.709, and 90% DCI-P3/Display P3 coverage. Hardware color calibration ensures a high color accuracy of Delta E ≤ 2 for Adobe RGB and sRGB content, and the monitor boasts Pantone and CalMAN validation, with support for standalone monitor calibrators. The SW271C also benefits from BenQ's third-generation color Uniformity Technology, which fine-tunes the color and brightness of sub-regions across the screen for a more consistent viewing experience. The monitor's USB-C connection means you can hook it up to a modern MacBook Pro with a single cable, and the SW271C can supply up to 60W Power Delivery to a MacBook - enough to power it through most scenarios.
The LG UltraFine 5K boasts an above-4K 5120 x 2880 resolution equating to 14.7 million pixels spread across a 27-inch screen. Consequently, photos are displayed in all their glory, with the ultra-fine 218 pixels-per-inch pixel density resulting in extreme detail levels. This monitor is targeted squarely at MacBook Pro users, with four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports on the back. One of these is also able to supply up to 94W of power to your MacBook Pro, so even if you're a power user, you should be able to ditch your MacBook's Power cord and rely solely on that USB-C connection for video and power. Just bear in mind that this monitor doesn't have any other video inputs, so adapters will be required if you intend to also connect an older PC or Mac.
Want a monitor for your MacBook Pro that'll work on the go as well as at home? Consider a portable monitor. These clever screens are a similar size to your MacBook's screen, and are super-slim and light so can be carried alongside your MacBook. And the best bit? Their single-cable USB-C connection can also power the screen from your MacBook's battery, so you can indulge in dual-screen computing with no AC outlet required! If you'd prefer to keep your MacBook juiced up for as long as possible, then go for the ZenScreen MB16AP variant which packs a built-in 7800mAh rechargeable battery giving up to 4 hours of screen time.
The 15.6-inch ZenScreen MB16ACE is one of the best portable monitors for your MacBook Pro. It has solid screen specs: Full HD 1920 x 1080 res, along with IPS color and contrast accuracy. Slim screen bezels keep the overall size small at 359.7 x 226.4, and just 8mm thick. Asus also includes a useful wraparound smart case cover that converts to a prop stand.
See also: Best portable monitors
Want to do justice to your MacBook Pro's color-accurate display? The SW270C is a great choice, as it has incredibly accurate colors. It covers an impressive 99 per cent of the AdobeRGB color gamut as well as 100 per cent of the sRGB color space and 97 per cent of the DCI-P3 video color space, and the monitor will even remind you when it's due to be calibrated. Its USB-C connection enables a single-cable connection to your MacBook with no dongles necessary, plus it can supply up to 60W Power Delivery to power your MacBook. The monitor also boasts two USB Type-A ports and an SD card reader - very useful for modern MacBook Pros which lack these ports. The only downside with the SW270C is its 2560 x 1440 screen res, which is well short of 4K and could look a little pixelated next to your MacBook's Retina display.
HP's Z-series monitors are designed for professional environments, but this 24-inch Z24N G2 is still a great choice for home use. You get uncompromising quality control, like factory color calibration, as well as HP's Zero Bright Dot Guarantee, where HP will replace the screen if even one pixel fails. The 1920 x 1200 screen resolution is just above Full HD and therefore not exactly headline-grabbing, but it's enough to give you decent image clarity on a screen this size, even if it won't rival the crispness of your MacBook's Retina display. More important is the panel's IPS technology which makes for 99% sRGB color space coverage, wide 178x178-degree viewing angles, and a real-world viewing experience that'll really display your photos at their best. You can connect this monitor straight to a modern MacBook Pro thanks to its USB-C connectivity, so no annoying adapter dongles required, though power over USB is limited to a paltry 15W, so you'll still need to keep using your MacBook's AC power cord.
Aimed at creative professionals, the Asus ProArt PA32UC is a brilliant 4K USB-C monitor which boasts HDR imaging capabilities and nearly every feature a creative could want for image or video editing. The Thunderbolt 3/USB-C connection means this monitor can be connected to your MacBook Pro with just a single cable, and with up to 60W of Power Delivery, that same wire can also power your MacBook - neat stuff. You also get 100% sRGB color space coverage, 99.5% Adobe RGB and 95% DCI-P3; plus pro-grade calibration features and a hardware calibration tool in the box. There's no getting away from the fact that it is expensive, but if you're serious about image quality and want to match or even exceed the quality of your MacBook's Retina display, this is the monitor to go for.
Fancy an extra-large ultrawide monitor for your MacBook Pro, and one that also wraps around you for a more immersive viewing experience? A curved monitor is the answer, and we reckon the LG 34WL75C represents superb value for money. For starters, it's an IPS display, so color and contrast accuracy should be more reliable than a cheaper curved monitor using VA LCD screen technology. Not only is this critical for accurate image editing, it's also the display technology used in a MacBook Pro's Retina display, so this monitor's image quality will look that part alongside your MacBook. You also get a decent 99% sRGB color space coverage, plus there's HDR10 certification for viewing high dynamic range content. The 3440 x 1440 aspect ratio is to be expected for this screen size, and matches equivalently-sized curved monitors at higher price points. All things considered, this LG panel is a bit of a bargain!
See also: Best ultrawide monitors
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