5K or 4K: Which HD display is best for your Mac? Featured

5K or 4K: Which HD display is best for your Mac?

Should you get a 5K or 4K display for your Mac? How many pixels, ports, do you really need?


The MacBook Pro 2016 can drive not just 4K displays off its Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C ports, but 5K displays too. That's an easy choice or is it? 5 is more than 4 right! But there are a number of factors you should consider before choosing the right high-density (HD) display for your Mac. That includes the number of displays you need, the geometry of your viewing space, the variety of options, and the extras like ports that are available to you.

Sometimes more is better but not always. So, when it comes to 5K vs. 4K on your Mac, which one is right for you? Let us explain.

Pixels

5K means about 5000 pixels wide. 4K means about 4000 pixels wide. 5K is obviously bigger than 4K, but how much bigger? 5K is 5120 x 2880, which works out to 14,745,600 pixels total. 4K is 4096 x 2304, which works out to 9,437,184.

Whilst 5K only sounds 25% bigger than 4K based on the name, it's actually over 50% bigger in terms of raw pixel count. So, while 5K only sounds 25% bigger than 4K based on the name, it's actually over 50% bigger in terms of raw pixels. If you work on 4K video, for example, that's enough to show your video at full resolution and also show all your tools and palettes at once.

Here's what the difference looks like:

Size

With more pixels comes more panel size. Which means, 5K displays are typically bigger than 4K displays. Apple seems to have standardized around 21.5-inches for 4K and 27-inches for 5K, that way the pixels remain at a small enough physical size that, when used from a normal working distance, qualify as "Retina". That's Apple's name for when the dots-per-inch (dpi) is high enough that you can no longer see the individual pixels and it looks more like a photo.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 can drive two 4K displays or one 5K display. The 15-inch MacBook Pro 2016 can drive four 4K displays or two 5K displays.

Multiple displays gives you more flexibility in terms of how you set up your viewing area. You can put them side by side, stack them, angle them, and separate different tasks and apps onto different screens.

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  • If you have limited space, go with 4K.

  • If the sky is the limit, go with 5K.

Single vs. multiple

The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 can drive two 4K displays or one 5K display. The 15-inch MacBook Pro 2016 can drive four 4K displays or two 5K displays. That's a lot of pixels.

Multiple displays gives you more flexibility in terms of how you set up your viewing area. You can put them side by side, stack them, angle them, and separate different tasks and apps onto different screens.

A single display gives you unity in terms of one place to look and work and focus on. You put it where you want it and you don't have to worry about turning your chair or your neck to see different things, or taking up even more space on your desk.

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Here's how those displays look at scale:

Ports

Ports
Because of the hefty amount of bandwidth needed for 5K — and the chicanery needed to make it work over DisplayPort 1,2-bound Thunderbolt 3 ports — the LG UltraFine 5K display only leaves you with 3x USB-C ports on the back, and they're restricted to 5 Gbps. Literally every other bit is streaming steady 5K. The same, is true of the LG UltraFine 4K display. In other words, they're freaking great panels, but poor hubs.

Also, because all the ports are USB-C, if you want to connect USB-A, Ethernet, or anything else, you'll need a dongle.

Other 4K displays do offer more in the way of ports.

Conclusion

If you want the maximum amount of pixels all in one panel, want a focused working environment, like the idea of a single cable connection, and don't care about having extra ports on the display, go with the 5K display.

If you need more varied ports, which alot of people still use, then go with one of the other 4K.

See our range of Monitors to find out more

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