Here’s why Samsung and Dell’s new monitors are so exciting for Mac users

Here’s why Samsung and Dell’s new monitors are so exciting for Mac users

A strange thing happened at CES this year: display makers other than Apple announced true 5K and 6K monitors designed for creative work and productivity. These new monitors, which will appeal to Mac users for reasons other than “it’s white and no RGB lights,” are offering real competition to Apple’s Studio Display and even an alternative to the extremely expensive pro-level Pro Display XDR.

It’s hard to overstate how rare this really is. Although there have been many monitors marketed to MacBook owners over the years, with features such as USB-C connectivity, high-power charging, and better-than-average designs, they’ve typically all had traditional 4K panels and sub-pixel densities. the same level. compared to the higher resolution screens that Apple puts on its devices. A compromise was always required with one of those other monitors if you connected a MacBook to it.

Many people wonder why you can’t just use a large 4K monitor with a Mac, of which there are many, many options available. You certainly can, and many people do, but if you’re a designer or artist or just someone who’s particular about how text and images render on a screen, you want a higher resolution screen. Because of the way display scaling works in macOS, resolution and pixel brightness are more important qualities than the fast refresh rates and response times typically seen in monitors marketed to PC gamers.

The way screen scaling works in macOS requires more pixels than the typical 4K monitor provides

Developer Marc Edwards at Bjango has gone deep into how screen scaling works and the tradeoffs you make when using a lower resolution screen with a Mac, and I encourage you to read his post to learn about it. The extremely condensed version is that you want a screen with approximately 220 ppi or more for the best fidelity. That means 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) resolutions max out at 24 inches – 27-inch screens require 5K (5120 x 2880 pixels), while you’re looking at 6K (6016 x 3384 pixels) for anything over 30 inches.

The history of Apple-oriented display options has been fraught for the past decade or so. When Apple came out with its “retina” MacBook Pro in 2012 (and then followed up with the 5K iMac two years later), monitors of the time couldn’t match the roughly 220 ppi pixel density or sharpness of available screens on a laptop. The average 1080p or 1440p monitor that worked great for the past decade suddenly became blurry and pixelated compared to the MacBook display.

Apple, after getting out of the monitor game a few years ago, engaged LG in 2016 to produce a line of monitors that matched the pixel density of its MacBook Pros: a 22-inch 4K display, a 24-inch 4K model, and more interestingly, a standalone 27-inch 5K monitor that effectively used the same screen as the iMac 5K. These LG UltraFine monitors integrated well with Apple laptops at the time, including supporting a single USB-C cable connection, brightness and volume controls from the MacBook keyboard, and offering built-in cameras, microphones, and speakers. The display panels, especially on the 5K model, looked excellent, with sharp images and excellent color reproduction. But they were plagued with problems, including poor build quality, poor reliability and high prices.

There were very few other options for large, high-resolution displays – Dell made one for a short period of time, but that was it – until Apple finally returned to the monitor market itself in 2019 with the 32-inch 6K display Pro XDR. This new, larger monitor retained the pixel density and sharpness of laptops and iMacs, but added new local dimming display technology that allowed it to reach up to 1,600 nits of brightness. It also started at a staggering $5,000 and didn’t even come with a stand — that would set you back another $1,000.

The Pro Display XDR has 6K resolution and a price tag of $5,000. Beautiful, but unattainable. Photo by Avery White for The Verge

In 2021, Apple finally answered calls for a more accessible monitor with the Studio Display, a 27-inch 5K monitor that effectively got the same technology and display panel (albeit with a slightly higher brightness) as the LG 5K UltraFine and 27-inch iMac, wrapped it in a sleeker aluminum frame and improved its built-in microphones and speakers (but, alas, stuffed it with a worse webcam). The $1,600 Studio Display is more affordable than the Pro Display XDR, but it’s far from cheap, and it feels a bit small in this world of much larger options. But if you wanted pixel-perfect resolution from your Mac, it’s basically the only realistic option. (LG’s 5K UltraFine remains available, but hasn’t changed significantly since its launch and is still priced over $1,000.)

That was, of course, until this week, when Samsung and Dell both announced new monitors clearly aimed at appealing to Mac users. These new displays aren’t just high-tech 4K panels with USB-C ports and white plastic — they have the actual high-resolution pixel density that works better with macOS and matches the sharpness of Apple’s displays. They also offer the “whole package” of built-in webcam, microphone and speakers that Apple sells with the Studio Display, providing an entire desktop setup through one cable.

Samsung’s new ViewFinity S9 is a 27-inch 5K monitor that goes toe-to-toe with Apple’s Studio Display. It has the same 5120 x 2880 resolution, matches the brightness and color space fidelity, and uses Thunderbolt 4 for connectivity. It also includes built-in microphones and speakers, and comes with what we hope will be a better-performing webcam. The S9’s aesthetic is also very similar to the Studio Display, with a sleek design and minimalist stance. No player RGB here – you can adapt this to a stylish design studio or include it in a desktop porn Instagram setup without being ridiculed.

Samsung’s ViewFinity S9 matches Apple’s Studio Display specs for specs and even matches its design. It also has more ports and features than Apple’s option. Image: Samsung

Samsung follows Apple alone with more connectivity options, including HDMI and DisplayPort, making it much more practical to use with two computers or a game console. It even comes with a remote control and has Samsung’s smart TV software built in, so you can use it to watch streaming services when the work day is over (or in the middle of the day – I’m not your boss).

Perhaps most interesting is the new Dell UltraSharp 32, the first monitor I’m aware of that matches the Pro Display XDR’s 32-inch size and 6K resolution. It doesn’t have the same HDR-capable local dimming display technology as the XDR, instead using an LG-sourced IPS Black panel, but comes with built-in speakers, microphones and a solid 4K webcam, all of which are missing. from Apple. top level option. The UltraSharp 32 can best be described as a larger version of the Studio Screen, as it offers all the necessary desktop peripherals most people need, but with a larger – just as sharp – panel. The Dell also reaches 600 nits of brightness (the same as Samsung’s Studio Display and S9) and comes with a range of ports, including two Thunderbolt 4 (with up to 140W delivery), HDMI 2.1, ethernet and four USB-A ports. It’s basically a full Thunderbolt dock built into the back of the display.

Dell’s UltraSharp 32 has the same size and resolution as the Pro Display XDR, but without the local dimming technology and possibly too high a price tag. Image: Dell

One major area that Dell differs from Apple’s or even Samsung’s display is in design. Instead of the sleek, minimalist designs of others, the UltraSharp 32 looks as nice as any other Dell monitor, and has a comically large “forehead” bezel on top to house its large webcam. I have a feeling a lot of people will forgive this if the webcam performs better than the Screen Studio’s, though, which it shouldn’t have too much trouble beating.

As is typical with CES announcements early in the year, neither Samsung nor Dell have provided pricing information for these new displays. But it is very likely that they will undercut Apple’s prices, especially for Dell. Even if it comes in at over $2,000, that’s still three thousand dollars less than you could buy a 32-inch 6K display for before. I’d be surprised if Samsung’s S9 isn’t itself at least $500 less than the Studio Display.

We also don’t yet know how well these screens perform in practice – we had good impressions of the S9 when we briefly saw it in a demo space this week, but that’s a long way from real-world use. We don’t know exactly how well the microphones and speakers perform (which are really good on the studio screen) or how much better Samsung and Dell’s 4K cameras are.

Pricing is still TBD, but it’s a safe bet that Samsung and Dell will undercut Apple here

There remain open questions about how well they integrate with Apple peripherals as well. You’ll likely give up Apple-specific features like True Tone with these monitors, and if you pair them with a 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro, you won’t get the smoothness or ProMotion brightness that comes with Mini LED. screens on these laptops. (To be fair, you don’t get those things with the Studio Display either.) Finally, we don’t know how committed Samsung and Dell are to this market—after all, Dell made a 5K display for a time ago discontinuing it a short period later.

Still, it’s exciting that we’re finally starting to see actual options for high-resolution displays that are designed to get the most out of macOS after so many years of mid-range or overpriced options (or both). Apple is also rumored to be working on three new monitors, including options that use the same Mini LED technology found in MacBook Pro displays.

If you’re in the market for a new monitor for your MacBook or Mac Studio, it’s going to be a good year.

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