In 2023, the Thunderbolt monitor market has offered a greater variety than ever before. While Apple has re-entered the arena with displays ranging from $1,600 to a whopping $5,000 and beyond, these may not suit everyone’s budget or needs. Fortunately, there are some excellent and more affordable options available from manufacturers like LG and BenQ.
In this article, we will highlight the best Thunderbolt monitors for Mac.
Thunderbolt monitors typically occupy the upper end of the price spectrum when it comes to highly-rated displays. Consequently, you can expect them to deliver exceptional image quality followed by impressive color accuracy and swift response times. The best Thunderbolt displays often come with 4K resolution, enhancing your visual experience.
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Another feature you should look for in a Thunderbolt monitor is daisy-chaining functionality. This convenient capability enables you to establish a multi-monitor configuration by linking monitors together with just a single connection to your computer. This not only simplifies the setup process but also results in more organized cable management.
Best Thunderbolt Monitors for Mac
The BenQ PD3220U is a 32-inch Thunderbolt monitor that boasts a 4K resolution, 95% DCI-P3 color coverage, and 85W power delivery for MacBooks. It comes with various professional modes, a hotkey puck for quick adjustments, a solid metal stand, and numerous I/O ports.
Additionally, it supports portrait orientation. With its competitive features and a lower price tag, it presents a strong alternative to Apple’s Studio Display.
For those open to alternatives without Thunderbolt connectivity, the Samsung Smart Monitor M8 is a compelling choice. It offers a 4K resolution, USB-C support with up to 65W charging, and a spacious 32-inch screen. The monitor is designed with an iMac-like aesthetic and is available in different color options. Additionally, it doubles as a smart TV with Apple TV+ and AirPlay 2 support.
LG’s 32UL950-W is a 31.5-inch Thunderbolt monitor that offers two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-A ports, slim bezels, and portrait orientation support. It features a 4K resolution, DCI-P3 98% color coverage, and a peak brightness of 600 nits. While it provides a slightly higher brightness, it offers 60W power delivery for MacBooks, which is less than the BenQ model.
Apple’s Studio Display is a 27-inch Thunderbolt monitor with a 5K resolution. It features a 96W power delivery Thunderbolt 3 port, as well as USB-C ports. It has a premium build quality. Notably, it lacks downstream Thunderbolt ports but offers three USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports.
The Apple Pro Display XDR is a high-end option with a larger 32-inch screen, a 6K resolution, a durable metal build, and various reference modes. It is suitable for those who require top-tier performance and features.
LG offers UltraFine displays in both 24-inch and 27-inch variants. The 24-inch model is a 4K display with upstream and downstream Thunderbolt ports, allowing for daisy chaining and high-speed data transfer. The 27-inch model, while also supporting USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, doesn’t feature downstream Thunderbolt ports, only USB-C.
These displays provide Apple-endorsed options at varying sizes and price points.
Thunderbolt Monitors vs. USB-C Monitors: A Comparison
Both Thunderbolt (3 and 4) and USB-C monitors use the same physical connector, offering single-cable connectivity and charging functionality for Mac devices. Notably, Thunderbolt 4 is essentially a rebranding of Thunderbolt 3, maintaining the same 40 Gbps bandwidth. As a result, all the companies mentioned in the following list, including Apple with its Studio Display and Pro Display XDR, rely on Thunderbolt 3 for their monitors.
Now, let’s explore the differences between Thunderbolt monitors and USB-C displays. The primary dissimilarity, from an end-user perspective, lies in the capability of Thunderbolt to daisy-chain up to six devices, boasting impressive performance at speeds of up to 40 Gbps. This speed outpaces USB-C 3.1 and 3.2, and monitors with USB4 support are yet to become widespread. If this high-speed daisy-chaining is not a critical requirement, opting for a USB-C display instead of a Thunderbolt monitor can result in significant cost savings.
USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 offers speeds of up to 10 Gbps, while USB 3.2 supports the same speed of 10 Gbps.
However, it’s important to note that Thunderbolt monitors often come with additional upgrades, such as enhanced panel resolution, larger screen sizes, expanded I/O options, and more. These enhancements are made possible by Thunderbolt’s higher bandwidth but contribute to the relatively higher price tag associated with Thunderbolt monitors.