Best display connection for Mac Studio

Having read everything I could find on the web, as well as these articles here:

I still don’t have a clear idea what the best way to connect my new Mac Studio w/ my BenQ SW240. HDMI is one possibility, but the proper cable is unclear. The current “Ultra High Speed Cable” is overkill, I believe, and possibly better used elsewhere? A “Premium High Speed” or Category 2 might be adequate? Even identifying the cables is difficult. Also have the option of Display Port via Thunderbolt 3 adapter (on hand). A future second monitor is not likely. Is one better than the other? Or will both work as well, and I’m overthinking…? Thanks.

I do think you’re overthinking it. It appears you already have what you need,

From the specs, the Benq monitor only requires HDMI 1.4 or Displayport 1.2. So any HDMI cable certified for HDMI 1.4 or above will work. Any USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 or 4 to Displayport cable should work as Displayport 1.2 was the usual standard until Displayport 1.4 superseded it (same connectors). For the USB hub in the monitor, the USB cable supplied with the monitor should plug into one of the legacy USB ports in the MacStudio.

Thanks, Alan.

“It appears you already have what you need.”

That is what I thought. What I was trying to get at was there a qualitative difference between HDMI and DisplayPort? Likewise, the markings on HDMI cables are ill-defined, and inscrutable. The BenQ came w/ an HDMI, I believe, but that went into the surplus cable drawer months ago. So will one HDMI cable work “better” than another, or is it a “just works, or doesn’t” case?

And now, as it turns out, DisplayPort just doesn’t. Weird. Apple ThunderBolt 3 adapter with DisplayPort cable that came w/ BenQ (that worked w/ Mac Pro sans adapter). There is a DisplayPort 1.1 vs. 1.2 option on the BenQ, but makes no difference. Reports “No cable.”

Adapters can be tricky. IMHO if you want to connect a modern Mac to a DP display, you should just get something like this.

Of course there’s even cheaper options for lower res monitors or lower refresh rates.

Thanks, Simon. I’ll have a look at it. But at this point, I’ve spent too much time on this, and tending to agree w/ aforkosh that I’m over-thinking it. HDMI works, and I would never use that port for anything else otherwise. (and DisplayPort doesn’t work, WTF?)

If you get a good picture, then I think you’re fine and I wouldn’t bother overthinking it.

This is all digital data. If the signal comes across clean enough for the monitor to correctly distinguish the ones and zeros, then that’s all you need. If not, then you may see a messed up image (sparkling pixels or other artifacts) or a blank screen. In which case, the cable simply “doesn’t work” for your computer and display.

There are technically four different kinds of HDMI cables. The higher grades support more bandwidth than the lower grades, but what you actually need depends greatly on how much bandwidth your specific usage (e.g. resolution, color depth, etc.) requires, not the HDMI version numbers that your products may document:

  • Standard, aka “category 1”, should support at least 74.25 MHz. This corresponds to 4.95 Gbit/s of data and should support all HDMI features up to version 1.2. This includes 1080p resolution at 60 Hz and 1440p at 30 Hz refresh.
  • High speed, aka “category 2”, should support at least 340 MHz. This corresponds to 10.2 Gbit/s of data and should support all HDMI fetures up to version 1.4. This includes 1440p at 75 Hz and 4K at 30 Hz.
  • Premium high speed is also “category 2”, but it should support at least 18 Gbit/s of data and should support all HDMI 2.0 features. This includes 4K at 60 Hz and 5K at 30 Hz.
  • Ultra high speed, aka “category 3” or “48G” should support at least 48 Gbit/s of data and should support all HDMI 2.1 features. This includes 4K at 120 Hz, 5K at 60 Hz and 8K at 30 Hz.

But it is also important to note that:

  • The standards are the minimum. You might be able to get a solid 4K 60Hz image using non-premium high speed cable or even a standard cable. But there will be no guarantee.
  • None of the above is guaranteed unless the cable is certified. There are lots of uncertified cables which may or may not meet the standards with which they claim to comply.
  • Cables that come with displays for free are often not certified. You would like to think that they can handle whatever the bundled display supports, but there’s no guarantee.
  • Length matters. Bulk cable that passes certification tests at some category for a 3m cable may fail those same tests for a 6m cable. Which is why bulk cable is never certified - only finished cables with connectors. It also means that if you try to extend a cable, the result might not work.

In short:

  • If you’re buying a cable, take a bit of time to determine the amount of bandwidth you will require and make sure you buy a cable certified to handle that much data.
    • The Wikipedia table for frequency limits is a good starting place.
    • Or if this all sounds like too much, then just buy a certified Ultra High Speed (“48G”) cable. It will work with anything you throw at it, but it might cost a little more than you technically need to spend, if your usage is within the capabilities of a lower-grade cable.
  • If you’re already got a cable (e.g. bundled with your display), give it a try. If you’ve got a solid high quality image, then you’re good to go. If there are problems, then don’t assume there’s anything wrong with your computer or display (in the absence of any other symptoms, of course) - just go get a better cable.

You might find this video of interest:


Sure thing. If HDMI works for you, you’re just fine.

If you have a hub setup it’s nice to be able to take everything over TB because then you end up just having one cable to attach to it all, but if you’re not doing the hub thing you might as well use the built-in HDMI port to connect to your display.

Thanks, David. That was really the question I was trying to get at.

It’s currently on an “Ultra High Speed” I had left-over from the “Home Theater” upgrade, but the display quality was indistinguishable from a “High Speed HDMI” cable (that I think came w/ the BenQ). I may swap it back out and save the “Ultra” for the “Home Theater.”

Simon, I had forgotten the USB hub in the BenQ, wasn’t part of the purchase decision, and the ports are awkward to get at. Between the Mac Studio, Echo 15, and hub in my keyboard, I’ve got six USB-A (3.0) ports. I’m good there.

Thanks, all!

Not just you. I’m weary of display USB hubs in general. Just had too much trouble with cheap built-in junk to justify taking the risk myself.

Display port is the “purest” in terms of a digital video signal passed to a display.

HDMI has some copyright and color space adjustments built into the standard.

99% or more of us will never notice the difference.

For various marketing reasons the HDMI standard discourages accurate labeling of cables. (IMNERHO). I wrap a piece or tape on the end and write on it if it is 4K. Which allows me to keep the cable picking out of the drawer full of such to reasonable levels of sanity.

Plot twist (not directly related to the MS though).

If you’re on an original M1 Mac and you’re interested in getting best write performance on your external SSDs, make sure to connect your display over TB rather than HDMI.

Hmm, will that effect monitor or printer calibrations w/ xRite/Calibrite?

I started doing that when I realized what a mess it is. Some I couldn’t decipher, so I think that means “not good enough.”

Apple just started shipping their long-announced 3-m TB4 cable. $159. :laughing:

Of course the 3-m cable needs to be active to supply full TB4 over that length. But there’s still no excuse for their $129 1.8-m cable when others charge ≤$60 for quality 2-m TB4 cables with the same specs.

Well, the braided cables are nice… ;~}

Well, that is an interesting kink. Not clear if it would apply to a MS or not. Could be a good reason to find a working TB/DisplayPort cable though. Might poke at it this afternoon.

Well, Howard Oakley was not able to replicate it on his M1 Pro 16" (I linked to it above). There is little reason to believe it would be different on the Max or Ultra MS (he hasn’t tested it yet explicitly on his M1 Max MS though).

At this point it looks like it’s really just the vanilla M1. But it’s definitely more than just the M1 Mac mini (the only M1 with built-in HDMI). OWC showed it on M1 MBA and M1 MB"P". (sorry, couldn’t help myself) It didn’t even require a monitor be attached at all (link above). They had slow write speed on an M1 MBA and as soon as they attached their TB monitor they saw a 60% increase in performance. :astonished:

1 Like

Which I believe means you’re using Display Port via a USB-C/TB connector.

Isn’t this fun?

No idea. Sorry

HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) is supported over DisplayPort connections as well. Without support, one can’t watch DRM’d video, like purchases or rentals from iTunes, on their external display.

I didn’t know until I looked up the Wikipedia article that there’s also “DisplayPort Content Protection” (DPCP) in the standard but my hunch is its rarely used and HDCP is instead used for everything.

1 Like

No it won’t. Though you’ll want to re-run it.