4th January 2017

LG UltraFine

Since October 2016 Apple customers have been heavily focused on the new MacBook Pros. But, during the product launch, Apple did announce 2 other products, the LG 4K and 5K UltraFine Displays.

Apparently signifying the end to any notion that Apple would launch their own displays, the LG’s are finally starting to roll out. Here, we look at some of the key features of the new displays and what the early reviews are saying.

Apple and LG have given us 2 choices – the 21.5” 4K and the 27” 5K display screen. Both are targeted at professional users who will be using Final Cut Pro and the Creative Cloud. At the time of writing, both models are starting to drip feed into the system but expect a wait of 2-3 weeks for the 5K display and a not insignificant 8-10 weeks for the 4K.

The 4K display features a 21.5-inch IPS panel, P3 wide colour, and 500 cd/m² of brightness. You get over 9.4 million pixels, 4.5 times more than a 1080p HD display. The 5K variant features a 27-inch IPS panel, P3 wide colour and 500 cd/m² of brightness. With over 14.7 million pixels it has 77 per cent more than a typical 4K UHD display.

We have to admit to being fans of LG displays. If a customer ever requests a 3rd party display it is our manufacturer of choice and there is plenty to love in these new displays. But, there is one issue. The displays don’t look like an Apple product. Many of our customers relish the fact that their design office looks like an Apple Store. The old Thunderbolt Display looked and felt like an Apple product and therefore from an aesthetic point of view it allowed it to fit in.

Of course, times move on and indeed the Thunderbolt Display had run its course, surpassed by cheaper and higher quality displays. So focusing on the positives, the LG displays are in a pretty unique position in that they have been designed by Apple and LG for the new MacBook Pro. This is as bespoke as any 3rd party monitor could be.

This means that there are no DisplayPort or HDMI ports on the back of the new displays. Instead you get 4 USB-C ports, of which one is used specifically for connecting your new MacBook Pro. The real advantage here is that when your new MacBook Pro is connected to the LG display the display will be charging your Mac.

In addition, the other USB-C ports can transmit data so you can connect your USB-C peripherals and access that data through the single cable connecting the screen and Mac. It is worth nothing that the 4K display is only capable of supporting USB 2.0 speeds on its downstream USB ports. So you might want to only consider connecting low-bandwidth accessories.

The upside of all of this is that you only need two cables. The power cable to the display and the USB-C cable from the Mac to the display. This will make for an uncluttered desk space.

The 5K UltraFine Display comes with an in built webcam, microphone and speakers. This means that you will not need any accessories to make FaceTime calls or listen to your favourite tunes whilst working. The 4K version simply comes with in-built speakers.

You might also welcome the fact that you can adjust the brightness of the display by using the brightness buttons on your Mac’s keyboard. What’s more, there isn’t a power button to power the display on or off. When you connect a Thunderbolt 3 cable, the display comes on, and when you disconnect the cable, the display turns off. All of these functions require you to be running macOS Sierra but they do highlight the level of integration between the Mac and the display.

Neither display will allow for you to adjust the orientation of the display from landscape to portrait but both come with a decent amount of height adjustment and tilt angle.

The good news is that Apple had discounted these displays until the end of December but has recently announced that the discounted pricing will now continue until the end of March 2017, something that is reflected in our lease prices.

These two monitors do fill the gap that was left by the old Thunderbolt Display. With the special discounted price they are attractive options. Some customers may still wish that Apple had produced something in-house but there is no denying that the level of integration with the new MacBook Pro is very good. If money were no object, we would go for the 27” 5K display to get the great downstream USB speeds, and the webcam and microphone.