When will I see you again?

We all know that the MacBook’s display has become an ever more beautiful thing with each upgraded release, and often leaves it's Windows competition....erm.....in the shade. But what about Mac Pro users?

If your pockets are deep, you could always grab yourself the current Apple Pro Display (pictured above) at an eyewatering £4,599 (!) at the time of writing this - and any older Mac Pro owners (such as me) would also have to get a thunderbolt 3 adaptor. Maybe not, then.

For the rest of us mere mortals, do we have to live with an average display even though we're Apple users?

The short answer..

No! Apple displays may be absolutely gorgeous, but they're not the only game in town. There are plenty of non-Apple displays out there that are perfectly usable, and some that are very good indeed - albeit often without Apple's sleek design ethic. There again, you're looking at the screen, and not the housing. The main takeaway is that virtually all monitors are not OS specific, so will work well on the Apple platform.

The first thing to consider is what you're using it for. If high end graphics is your thing, then only high end will do. If you spend most of your time using it as an office, there are some great bargains to be had at the lower end, and the second-hand/refurbished market would be a great place to look. Also, for someone like me (and you?), who gazes into the digital ether for most of my working days, something that doesn't make me go blind is a no brainer - so buy as good as you can reasonably afford.

There are two main technical considerations when selecting a monitor;- connection type and display type.

Gotta get yourself connected.....

There are two different ways to connect your Mac Pro to a monitor: a Thunderbolt connection (pictured above left) and an HDMI connection (pictured above right). I always use a Thunderbolt connection as it carries more video bandwidth.

 

You're unlikely to be already using your HDMI port on your Mac Pro (unless you're already connected to a monitor!), but it's worth making sure that you have a spare Thunderbolt port on your machine. Or two if you wish to use two screens.

 

Also, pay attention to cable length, especially if (like me) you want your Mac Pro tucked away in a cupboard. You can always find decent used long cables on the second-hand market. Maybe I'm a skinflint. Or maybe I wish to spend my hard-earned money on the luxuries in life. Like bread. And shoes.

Display types

There are two display types - Single Stream (SST) displays and Multi-Stream Transport (MST) displays. And now for the technical bit....

MST displays

In order to achieve 4K resolution at 60Hz, many earlier 4K displays used MST. This is a technology that 'stitches' two halves of a display together into one large surface - also called a 'tile'. MST is capable of carrying a signal for two or more monitors on a single cable, so allows for daisy chaining multiple monitors.

SST displays

More recent 4K displays use Single-Stream SST, which eliminate the need for stitching. SST monitors use 'scalers' that support 4K resolution at 60 Hz over a single tile.

Ideally, if you are purchasing a 4K display, you should look for one that supports SST, since MST can cause issues with in-game menus, BIOS screens and scaling.

I'd say make sure that your screen is SST - especially if gaming is your thing, as MSTs can interfere with in-game menus.

The main options

Here are the common choices you'll be presented with when looking for a monitor.

4k 3840x2160

With a resolution level of 3840x2160 resolution, you can expect very crisp images and a more refined view - easier to stare at for long periods! The ability of these monitors to handle 8000 pixels also enables a greater colour variety on your monitors. More accurate, less tiring, and brightening up your working world. I really should be in advertising.

UHD 4K

With a response time of 1ms and the use of AMD FreeSync technology, these are great monitors to work on. You can also adjust the viewing angle considerably, making it easier on your eyes. Extra display and HDMI ports are often available on these monitors, so they allow greater connectivity to other devices.

4K USB Type C

These work really well with many Apple machines (including Mac pros), but be aware that if you have an older machine with Thunderbolt 2 connections, you'll have to buy an adaptor.

 

Type C monitors are designed with interconnectivity in mind, so easy and convenient to connect to a host of your other devices.

 

These monitors also feature of colour calibration - colours can auto-adjust depending on the connected computer.No more digging around in System Preference menus every time you plug your laptop in.

 

Additional 'black stabilizer' and 'FreeSync' features makes this a perfect choice for gamers.

 


Double vision

As with every buying choice, decide what your priorities are and how much is in your wallet (after bread and shoes). Pay attention to connectivity, and make sure that you have enough free ports. You might also want to budget for two screens - it really does make life so much easier!