How to pick the best monitor for your new Mac mini

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2018
Apple neither supplies a monitor with your new Mac mini, nor presently makes one itself that you can use with it. However, plenty of other firms do. AppleInsider looks at displays, and what you need to know to make the right choice for you.

2018 Mac mini with peripherals
2018 Mac mini with peripherals


You've got a new 2018 Mac mini and you've plugged in a keyboard, a mouse or trackpad, maybe even a printer too. All you need now is a monitor.

But first, a word -- this article is more about narrowing down a monitor choice for the general office user or home user. If precise color is what you need, that is another piece for another day.

First thoughts

Before you even consider what type of monitor you should buy, you need to examine whether you need one at all.

If you're planning to work at your Mac mini all the time, if it's to be your main machine, then you have to have a monitor. If you plan to use the Mac mini as a server and leave it on a shelf somewhere, then you don't. In either of those cases, the decision is easy.

Where it gets harder is when you think that you're going to be half and half. Maybe you expect to be using the Mac mini extensively on the two days a week you're in your office and the rest of the time it's just a server.

If that's the case, just buy yourself a monitor anyway. The inconvenience of borrowing one from another machine or somehow bringing one with you to the office is not worth it. Your time is more valuable than the cost of a display.

Remote controlling a Mac via an iPad
Remote controlling a Mac via an iPad


Except of course that you can use an iPad as your display on a Mac mini with software for a fair amount of casual use cases. Maybe you carry the iPad around with you most of the week and pop it on top of the Mac mini when you're in your office.

You could use that same iPad or any other device to remotely log in to the Mac mini and work that way from anywhere in the world. As great as that ability is, as much as we use it, it's best for short tasks. You wouldn't edit a Photoshop image over a remote connection.

Next, size

If you've decided you do need a monitor, you're going to need to think about the cost, the resolution and how it will physically connect to your Mac mini.

First, though, you need to choose a size and we're going to do that for you -- we like the general size and area of the 27-inch monitor for your Mac mini -- assuming you have the desk real estate. You can go smaller and get a 21.5-inch one, but today that feels cramped.

Curved monitors are deeply appealing but take up so much room
Curved monitors are deeply appealing but take up so much room


Or you could go far the other way and have a 34, 38- or 43-inch monitor which gently curves like it's going to tap you on the shoulder.

There's no denying that those are very appealing but before you even get to their sobering price, there is the fact that they're all around five times wider than your Mac mini. And Dell's U3818DW 38-inch model, for instance, is typically $969 so it costs more than your Mac mini.

The price isn't just about size, though. Samsung's new CJ79 costs $900 and is a 34-inch model but it comes with Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI, USB 3.0 and DisplayPort.

You could compromise and go for a 24-inch model such as the Dell UltraSharp U2415 which sells for around $210.

The Dell U2415 is a solid choice
The Dell U2415 is a solid choice


That has a smaller footprint and overall takes up less room than a wide, curved display but it is a compromise between screen real estate and space on your desk.

Like we said, the better compromise is 27-inches. You get that much more on the screen and the monitor doesn't take up that much more room. You do just need to forget that one of the very best 27-inch monitors comes with an iMac wrapped around it.

There is also the 27-inch BenQ PD2710QC for around $550 or the Asus Designo MX27UC for around $525.

Make a resolution

Today you can get monitors that display in 5K resolution, 4K resolution and sundry lesser ones you probably shouldn't think about buying new. You may be able to get a cheap deal on a display that's less than 4K it would take some effort and the savings wouldn't be great. Certainly not great enough to make up for the hours you'll spend staring at it.

Apple developed this monitor with LG
Apple developed this monitor with LG


Similarly, you could get an deal on a 5K display. Officially, Apple only sells one type of monitor and it doesn't make any. At the Apple Store and select third-party retailers, you will find the LG UltraFine 5K display, which retails for $1,299.99. As with all monitors, prices vary hugely but you can also get that same display on Amazon for less.

As a bonus, both of the LG monitors have the same DPI as your MacBook Pro does. The rest, with a 4K panel in about 27 inches comes in at around 165ppi. This is still pretty sharp and clear, but if you have a Retina MacBook Pro open next to it, you can tell the difference.

There is nothing wrong with spending money to get what you need. In fact, buying something inadequate for your work is far more of a waste of money. Nonetheless, if you are not totally certain that you need a 5K monitor, you don't, and it probably isn't worth the investment at this time.

What works

The Mac mini takes monitors with various different connectors and resolutions. You can get adaptors to make the machine take more types of connector but out of the box, it's ready for Thunderbolt 3 and anything you can connect through USB-C, meaning DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, and HDMI with an inexpensive cable.

The ports on the back of a 2018 Mac mini
The connector ports on the back of a 2018 Mac mini


There are many jobs where you need the fastest connection specification, the greatest color gamut and the widest screen. There are also many jobs where you'd like that. Yet for the majority of us doing the majority of work we do, all that matters is whether the monitor will work when you connect it to a 2018 Mac mini.

If the monitor is sold as Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, HDMI, or DisplayPort, you're in luck.

You're not exactly out of luck if the monitor needs a VGA connection, though, as you'd just need to buy an adapter. A VGA connection means a VGA monitor, though, and your Mac mini is capable of so much better.

Think of the future

Your Mac mini can't be upgraded very much. You can only add RAM and then only a certain amount. Your monitor, on the other hand, can't be upgraded at all.

It's true that you could eventually sideline it. You could buy a second or even third monitor and have one of those be your main display with the others to the side. The Mac mini can support up to three displays at a time if two of them are USB-C and the third is HDMI.

Take your time choosing the right display, though, and the combination of that plus the Mac mini is going to be superb. You make your choice and then you have to live with looking at it for many hours a day.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    ...I too ended up settling on an AOC design at 40" 4K and thus 110 dpi, so it matches the cinema, thunderbolt and macbook pro scaling. Additionally it offers four inputs (Apple TV anyone?), PIP, has a slight elegant curve, low energy use, etc, etc... It was the largest of any I could comfortably use on a standard desk, with 43" being peripherally too large for me. I added a fully adjustable Ergotron base for a modest sum, and now find 27" displays seem 'cramped'...

    Another bonus is because it avoids what seems to me Apple's 'bag of hurt' of 5K I have found it works with every mac I've tried back to 2009, if at 30hz prior to 2012...

    And the price ? Well I would simply say it is priced 'for the rest of us'... I keep hoping Apple may follow suit with both 4K and 8K 'Pro' retina in such a size, and I still have fond memories of my 30" Cinema Display from the SJ era...

    https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/aoc-c4008vu8-uhd-monitor,5130-6.html

    edited December 2018
  • Reply 2 of 35
    nhtnht Posts: 4,494member
    I use the Sony KD43X720E as a monitor at work.  $498 from Amazon.  Rated #1 for 4K TVs used as monitor and it's really really nice.

    [email protected] with 4:4:4, low input lag, low motion blue, wide viewing angle and IPS.  Doesn't do wide color gamut.  Used with a MBP.

    I use a Samsung 40" 4K TV at home for the Mac Pro but the model number escapes me.  Bought at Costco for under $300.

    4K at 24" and you're going to have to have good eyes to use at the 4K resolution at normal distances.  It's sharp but tiny tiny tiny.



  • Reply 3 of 35
    Why the heck would anybody buy a 27" or 21.5" display for their Mac Mini?
    williamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 35
    backstab said:
    Why the heck would anybody buy a 27" or 21.5" display for their Mac Mini?
    I know why I would, but I'm curious about why you wouldn't? What size do you think is better suited to the mini?

    I was planning to use a pair of 32" displays, but after working in a studio that has a 32" beside a 27", I found the 27" more comfortable. The 32 required "looking around" to find stuff -- too big to take in everything in a single point of gaze. Plus it ties up a lot of space and is always in the way when trying to hear the centre speaker.
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 5 of 35
    nhtnht Posts: 4,494member
    backstab said:
    Why the heck would anybody buy a 27" or 21.5" display for their Mac Mini?
    I know why I would, but I'm curious about why you wouldn't? What size do you think is better suited to the mini?

    I was planning to use a pair of 32" displays, but after working in a studio that has a 32" beside a 27", I found the 27" more comfortable. The 32 required "looking around" to find stuff -- too big to take in everything in a single point of gaze. Plus it ties up a lot of space and is always in the way when trying to hear the centre speaker.
    At 43" and native resolution the text is a reasonable size at desktop distances (ie about arms length).  At 21.5" I'm not sure I can read text without making it larger and that kinda defeats the purpose of 4K no?  27" strikes me as small as well.
  • Reply 6 of 35
    maltzmaltz Posts: 144member
    As common as dual-monitors are these days, I was amazed that I couldn't find a USB-C to HDMI or Display Port adapter on Apple's website, other than the rather ungainly AV Multiport adapter.  I ended up going with a third-party, which isn't a big deal, but it seems like a common enough need that it should be in the Apple store.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 7 of 35
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,799member
    backstab said:
    Why the heck would anybody buy a 27" or 21.5" display for their Mac Mini?
    Because a 27 inch monitor would allow the mini to be an iMac substitute.  You know, the machine for which Tim Cook is far too busy doing other things to sign the approval form to release the next update.
    The 21.5 one would be if you are mostly using the mini as a server. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 35
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,674member
    I bought my first Mac Mini last week as a permanent addition to my office.  I was tired of hauling my laptop in everyday and plugging it into my thunderbolt monitor.

    Fantastic little machine.  Since I already had an Apple Thunderbolt 2 monitor, I bought a second Apple TB2 Monitor (used) for $300 which the prior owner kept in pristine condition.  Now, I'm as happy as can be running dual monitors on my new Mini.

    Interesting thing that happened when I plugged in the 2nd monitor.  I first daisy-chained both monitors, resulting in my primary monitor (the one plugged into the TB3 port on the Mini) having a subtle flickering on the screen.  I ended up plugging each monitor into its own port on the back of the mini and the flickering disappeared.  Interesting.

    Lastly... the machine is a beast for sure, but graphics performance is substandard to say the least.  Dragging windows around - especially from one monitor to the next - stutters a bit.  I can only imagine what it would be like if it were 5K displays.  

    My 5K iMac at home also has a 2nd TB2 monitor with none of the graphics issues my Mini has.  It's an office PC so it's not like I'm doing much on it, but it's too bad Apple didn't have an option for a discreet GPU for the Mini.  Intel's integrated graphics is really pathetic.  Shame on them.
    edited December 2018
  • Reply 9 of 35
    sflocal said:
    I bought my first Mac Mini last week as a permanent addition to my office.  I was tired of hauling my laptop in everyday and plugging it into my thunderbolt monitor.

    Fantastic little machine.  Since I already had an Apple Thunderbolt 2 monitor, I bought a second Apple TB2 Monitor (used) for $300 which the prior owner kept in pristine condition.  Now, I'm as happy as can be running dual monitors on my new Mini.

    Interesting thing that happened when I plugged in the 2nd monitor.  I first daisy-chained both monitors, resulting in my primary monitor (the one plugged into the TB3 port on the Mini) having a subtle flickering on the screen.  I ended up plugging each monitor into its own port on the back of the mini and the flickering disappeared.  Interesting.

    Lastly... the machine in a beast for sure, but graphics performance is substandard to say the least.  Dragging windows around - especially from one monitor to the next - has stutters a bit.  I can only imaging what it would be like if it were 5K displays.  

    My 5K iMac at home also has a 2nd TB2 monitor with none of the graphics issues my Mini has.  It's an office PC so it's not like I'm doing much on it, but it's too bad Apple didn't have an option for a discreet GPU for the Mini.  Intel's integrated graphics is really pathetic.  Shame on them.
    Without an explanation from the powers that be (technical not business eg. heat?) I've seen the graphics issue raised in numerous reviews. Like the acknowledged misjudgements of the pro tower, LG monitors, killing off of 'peoples choice' time capsules, the T2gate cost of 'onboard' storage, and the often questioned touchbar, so many of the design decisions raise questions these days from Apple.  Let's hope we get a BTO GPU option (vega?) for the mini asap, along with an iMac update like last December...
  • Reply 10 of 35
    I just recently purchased a Dell U2415 from Amazon for my late 2014 Mac Mini and it is a good monitor for the price and the features that it offers.  However, it is not a 4K monitor.  It is a 16:10 monitor with a resolution of 1920 X 1200.  This article specifically says that it is a 4K monitor and that is 100% incorrect.




    Below are links and screenshots from Dell's website, Amazon's website, and B&H's website.


    https://www.dell.com/en-us/work/shop/cty/dell-24-ultrasharp-monitor-u2415/spd/dell-u2415



    https://www.amazon.com/Dell-U2415-24-Inch-1920-Monitor/dp/B00NZTKOQI



    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1090259-REG/dell_u2415_24_ultrasharp_led_monitor.html



    Below is a screenshot from "System Information" in macOS.


    edited December 2018 raybo
  • Reply 11 of 35
    rayboraybo Posts: 32member
    I just hooked up my new 2017 Air to my new 4K 24” Dell P2415Q. The Dell is priced at around $300-$330. That (or the 27” P2715Q if you have room) is a great 4K choice. 
  • Reply 12 of 35
    jdwjdw Posts: 774member
    Great article but one key point was strangely overlooked: bezel thickness.  

    If you look at the Benq linked in the article, you'll see a beautiful display with bezels about as thin as my EIZO Flexscan 27".  However, as is the case with my EIZO, that lovely BENQ is 1440p.  It's not bad but not Retina either.  The thing I cannot understand is why all the high resolution 4K and higher monitors are so ugly.  No, I'm not talking about the curved monitors but rather the more manageable 27" size.  Even the LG 5K display has ugly bezels in my opinion, and when you look at a display, you will notice how your display looks overall, not just the pixel image.  To me, size and price matter, but so do the bezels and overall beauty of the display when its not even turned on.
  • Reply 13 of 35
    dw1dw1 Posts: 1member
    I looked at all the fancy monitors and ended up just going with a 27” tv from Best Buy for $79 dollars it has speakers and a hdmi port and will be great for what I use it for.  Email, work presentations,  looking at pictures, you tube, and movies. Why spend hundred or thousands of dollars?  This will be just fine for me.  It might not work for you but I don’t really care about 4K or 5k, yeah it’s nice but I’m fine with 720 or really really nice 1080.  
    thtGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 14 of 35
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 422member
    32” H-P UHD monitor with both DisplayPort and HDMI.
  • Reply 15 of 35
    nht said:
    backstab said:
    Why the heck would anybody buy a 27" or 21.5" display for their Mac Mini?
    I know why I would, but I'm curious about why you wouldn't? What size do you think is better suited to the mini?

    I was planning to use a pair of 32" displays, but after working in a studio that has a 32" beside a 27", I found the 27" more comfortable. The 32 required "looking around" to find stuff -- too big to take in everything in a single point of gaze. Plus it ties up a lot of space and is always in the way when trying to hear the centre speaker.
    At 43" and native resolution the text is a reasonable size at desktop distances (ie about arms length).  At 21.5" I'm not sure I can read text without making it larger and that kinda defeats the purpose of 4K no?  27" strikes me as small as well.
    Heck, with my crappy eyes the text is too small even on the 32"! :)

    I definitely see the merits of a larger screen, especially at higher resolutions. Discovering that I preferred the 27" came as a surprise. I really thought I'd like the bigger screen.
  • Reply 16 of 35

    sflocal said:
    [...] it's too bad Apple didn't have an option for a discreet GPU for the Mini.
    They do. It looks like this:


    https://www.apple.com/shop/product/HM8Y2VC/A/blackmagic-egpu

    StrangeDays
  • Reply 17 of 35
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,358member
    I just want a good or great 32-34" 4K/60Hz monitor. Any recommendations?
  • Reply 18 of 35
    tbornottbornot Posts: 107member
    I’m going to make do with a normal Walmart cheapo until the first monitors with built-in eGPU boards come out...
  • Reply 19 of 35
    entropys said:
    backstab said:
    Why the heck would anybody buy a 27" or 21.5" display for their Mac Mini?
    Because a 27 inch monitor would allow the mini to be an iMac substitute.  You know, the machine for which Tim Cook is far too busy doing other things to sign the approval form to release the next update.
    Incremental CPU bumps are irrelevant. The iMacs have received so much love since my 2011 model it’s crazy. The pro or 5k just blow it out of the water. 

    And yet, even my old 2011 model, which was maxed out, still serves as my primary desktop. I’m an enterprise software engineer. This is what people mean when they talk about TCO and why Macs are cheaper than commodity PCs. 
    edited December 2018 baconstangtbornotpscooter63
  • Reply 20 of 35
    thttht Posts: 3,241member
    I would definitely prefer a 40” 4K monitor with built-in camera, speakers, and port extender (USB, Ethernet, memory card, audio). I do not want to go back to the days of having 8 to 9 wires all over the place. Heck, if there was a way to have multi-TB storage in the monitor, I’d go for that too. It doesn’t have to be a 3.5” HDD, but a couple of slower 22x80 MLC SSDs would be fine with me, which would maintain its thinness. (Yeah yeah, at this point mind as well use a NAS).

    The LG 34 inch 5120x2160 monitor is very interesting to me. It doesn’t have a camera though. The rear is ugly too. Might be nice for work, or I’ll have to hold out for Apple’s next gen monitor, assuming it will be in the 30 to 40 inch range. A 40” 2.35:1 monitor at something like 5600x2400 would be very interesting for me.

    Oh, the keyboard should also have a port extender in it, like an SD card slot, USB port. Apple’s older wired keyboards have USB ports. Wish  they kept that and added a memory card slot to it. Just go full on USBC with the keyboard to provide the bandwidth.
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