LG 27UK850-W: An Acceptable 27-inch Display for the Mac

Originally published at: LG 27UK850-W: An Acceptable 27-inch Display for the Mac - TidBITS

Discerning Mac users will be hard-pressed to find a satisfactory monitor, but the LG 27UK850-W is close enough and not too expensive.

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Thanks for that very nice review, @jcenters.

I’m in the market for a 4K monitor myself as my trusty old 27" Dell U2717D is just 2560x1440. I’m sure the LG UltraFine 4K is nice, but I don’t feel like stepping down to 24" for a whopping $700. OTOH the UltraFine 5K is just too expensive IMHO for those extra pixels. So in that sense this LG seems to offer an interesting alternative. I’m not sure I like the stand and I have to admit I really don’t like having to put up with another power brick under my desk for something as large as a screen.

Would you care to offer any comment on how you think the LG 27UK850-W compares to say a Dell P2721Q? IMHO Dell is an awful company, but their quality screens have in my experience always delivered. Never had any issues.

$304 but no USB-C
https://www.amazon.com/Dell-S2721QS-Ultra-Thin-DisplayPort-Certified/dp/B08DQWG3JG

$430
https://www.amazon.com/Dell-P2721Q-Ultra-Thin-DisplayPort-Certified/dp/B08JNKKPD4

$555
https://www.amazon.com/Dell-U2720QM-UltraSharp-Ultra-Thin-DisplayPort/dp/B08F5J8S6Y

A word of caution: I had a LG 27UK850, through my job, and spent several months trying to make it work right. This included sending it into LG for service, and my laptop into Apple for service. None of this ultimately helped.

The issue was the monitor being really slow to wake up when connected to my 2018 MacBook Pro. It was so slow to wake up that it apparently cycled through several low resolutions in the wake-up-and-connect process, which regularly resulted in all my windows being resized – including to impossible sizes. I got fairly good at locating 1x1px windows and restoring them.

I wound up returning it to my job, and getting a different monitor. I’m using a Dell now. First time I turned it on I worried sleep on my laptop was broken, because I’d forgotten that a second or so to wake was normal

I’ve seen other positive comments about this model, so I’m certainly willing to believe it might have been some specific issue with my particular monitor, maybe specifically in combination with my precise laptop model and OS version or something. :man_shrugging:t2:

The Wirecutter recently updated their 27" 4K Monitor reviews. Their top picks for general purpose monitors were the Dell U2720Q and HP Z27. However, the article listed the LG BL85U at the top of the ‘Other Good 4K Monitors’. It appears, from the BH Photo Site that the difference is that that UK850 has a Game mode while the BL85U does not. Anyway, the reason for the lower rating on the LG Monitor were the lower charge capacity of the USB-C port, only having 2 USB-A ports, and the look and feel of the frame and base. Note that the picture in the article is clearly NOT either LG Monitor.

Good link, @aforkosh, thank you.

The U2720Q and U2720QM are the exact same panels as far as I can tell. The Q comes with DP cable (work use?), the QM with HDMI (home use?). Otherwise it’s just an extra $127 on Amazon. Though fortunately, Wirecutter links to a less pricey Dell offer.

$725

$620
https://www.dell.com/en-us/work/shop/ultrasharp-27-4k-usb-c-monitor-u2720q/apd/210-avjv/monitors-monitor-accessories

$598 (was $555 yesterday)

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Another option is to check out Monoprice.com. Still expensive, but a real good monitor.

Probably not relevant to your problem but an SMC reset can resolve some Mac hardware issues:


My Retina Macbook needs a reset once in a while.

I’ve always had great experiences with Dell UltraSharp displays, but I can’t recommend buying any of their products anymore after seeing how Dell flat-out scammed a Linus Tech Tips secret shopper by bundling and charging them for antivirus software and extended warranties that were explicitly refused multiple times.

You won’t encounter this problem if you don’t phone Dell’s sales department and instead buy from Amazon or a retail store (or probably even Dell’s own web site), but I don’t want to support any company that condones these practices.

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Some more info:
The UK850 is a 2018 model. The UL850 is latest.
Using with a Mid 2019 MacbookPro 13" is supported to charge, as its only 60W on the LG USB-C/Tbolt port. A 16" MBP requires a rated 96Watt charger and isn’t supported for charging and display. You need to use the provided USB-C cable from LG to work as Apple’s charger cable is not the same. The BL85U has a 3yr warranty (B is for business) and the 27UL850 model has only 1yr warranty (consumer model–otherwise BOTH are identical in specs).
I have the 27BL85U-W (W is Wide) at home on my Windows PC and it is a game changer. I do not use the Freesync feature, but since 1/2019, certain nvidia GPUs now work with Freesync. Who knew! I may need to investigate this further. I have played a few games on it, and since it replaced a Dell 27" Ultrasharp that had CCFL lamps, I’d say big improvement on power use and image. I also have two of these at work, as a dual display for a Dell Optiplex, along with the 2nd feeding from my 13" MacbookPro (Mid-2019) that charges and displays well enough. Its a few menu steps to switch to the input for the MBP, as there is a little “toggle” under the middle of the display front. Also, I had to force my 13" MBP Later 2019 to see the resolution of the LG and it was really disappointing-it was not an automatic sensing-resolution change.
The speakers work well enough for applications, and I use them to test sources and in a pinch, zoom audio out. However, I personally use external amplified speakers, since iTunes and video editing benefit. I always recommend a DAC or amplified external speakers as display companies focus on the display, not the audio quality. Another issue is that in a multi-platform environment, I only have one set of decent speakers at home. So I may either come up with a switchable amp source or move the Monsoon speakers to the PC and use Bluetooth headset, Airplay or Home pod for audio playback of the mac (not the cleanest method but satisfactory and the benefit of remote control from my phone and Siri).
I know we are mostly Mac Users here, but since I’ve come to accept and profess my Windows work is more reliable, stable, cheaper and faster than my Mac workflow, I admit that I prefer the higher resolution on Windows is better than the MacOS X Finder and font display. Matter of fact, I now hate the look of the anti-aliased type on Mac compared to the same font on Windows (using Opentype). (talking outloud- does the Mac finder look dated and rather…toy like?)
I work with Adobe and Microsoft products on both platforms, and keep finding myself using the Windows side more than ever. Blasphemy? Maybe but I look as this as I type and everything has a fuzz to it. Where on LG using Windows, I can fine typefaces without eye strain - it is sharp, as it should be. If anyone at Apple is listening, a serious revamp of the Finder is long overdue.
I was going to purchase another LG for home, to have dual display setup identical to work, and retire the Ultrasharp for repairs/setups/side hustle as my only Mac Mini display (it can’t do 4K res unless I get tbolt to PCI card interface).
Update: And I just backordered a 27BL85U-W from BHPhoto for $429+tax (total $458 w/free shipping)
(note edits for typos)

Apple’s charging cable is fine, but it’s intended for charging. It doesn’t support data beyond USB 2 so you don’t want to use it for anything but charging. You especially don’t want to use it with a dock or a hub setup (like on this monitor) where you have downstream data ports that could have their bandwidth hobbled by using an insuffient pipe on the uplink side.

Instead, use a USB-C cable rated for 3.1 Gen 2 (ideally, Gen 1 will do if you’re not attaching high b/w storage). Doesn’t have to be expensive, even at 100W power rating.

2m / 6.6’ for $14.39 (discounted)
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0874HH4ZZ

1.8m / 6’ for $16
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Y86RTSH

Both are fine cables. A bit thick perhaps, but they’re high quality, braided to resist damage, and smooth so no sticking or knots.

This one here is the Wirecutter pick. It’s only 1m and it costs $20. They liked it because it’s USB-IF certified.

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Well, actually there’s even a 27UN850-W now. No idea if there’s any real difference compared to the UL850 or the UK850. In terms of price, Amazon clearly makes the UL850 seem most attractive right now.

UN850 $450
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08CVTTNN4

UL850 $397
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MKT1W65

UK850 $450
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078GVTD9N

Edit: I see the L has 3.0 uplink (Gen 1), whereas the K still had 3.1 (Gen 2) uplink. It’s a moot point though because the downlink are both 3.0 so it’s not like the user could exploit the better uplink. I guess at some point LG realized this waste and opted for the cost saving Gen 1 uplink. The N has Gen 1 too of course. Also, the K supports DP1.2 but it’s DP1.4 on the L and N.

Sadly, you won’t find support for P3 wide color or Apple’s True Tone technology, but the screen is matte, unlike the iMac’s glossy screen, and it features an anti-glare coating.

If you’ll be even thinking about sending anything out for professional printing, I recommend not even thinking about an anti glare matte screen. It will mess up colors.

When I got my MacBook Pro about a million years ago, my husband talked me into buying one with an anti glare matte screen, and they were getting good reviews in the press. Two other people I knew were unhappy with the color, and the very nice sales guy at the Apple store tried to talk me out of it because of the color issues. I should have listened. It does dull colors, and it’s probably the reason why Apple discontinued the feature in subsequent MacBook Pros.

I’ve been following this discussion thinking about how to replace my 5 year old 21" iMac in the not too distant future.

I may be confused, but it appears to me that none of these 3rd party monitors comes close to the resolution of the iMac’s displays.

I’ve been thinking as well about the complaint about iMacs that to upgrade the CPU, say to whatever Mx iMacs come with next year, you have to ‘throw away’ (or repurpose) a perfectly good monitor.

So, my question to knowledgable folks discussing these 3rd party monitors is, is it possible to create a Mac Mini + 3rd party monitor setup that has as good a screen, and is as economical as a comparably spec’ed iMac?

That’s because these are 4K monitors. The 27" iMac comes with a 5K screen.

There are very few 5K monitors and they aren’t cheap. If you go back and check @jcenters’s article, you’ll find a link to the LG 5K display on the Apple Store. It’s $1300. Amazon has them refurbished for $1000.

This 5K screen would work just fine with a Mac mini.

I have an LG display to which I have attached a sound bar. I can control the volume of the sound bar using SoundSource from Rogue Ameoba

Recent iPhones use the wide gamut color space. A wide gamut monitor will cost about $1000. If you have any interest in using the monitor for digital imaging, I think its worth it. I use one of the NEC wide gamut regular def monitors along with the iMac 5K. A matte screen and lower resolution can actually make editing a bit easier. In a dual screen set up, the color calibration is useful to get the two monitors close - but the iMac will always look different due to the glossy screen. I bought mine in 2014 and the price is about $100 less now and the tech is the same.

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Thanks Simon.

Apple’s charging cable is fine, but it’s intended for charging. It doesn’t support data beyond USB 2 so you don’t want to use it for anything but charging. You especially don’t want to use it with a dock or a hub setup (like on this monitor) where you have downstream data ports that could have their bandwidth hobbled by using an insuffient pipe on the uplink side.

Instead, use a USB-C cable rated for 3.1 Gen 2 (ideally, Gen 1 will do if you’re not attaching high b/w storage). Doesn’t have to be expensive, even at 100W power rating.

I mentioned this as the issue: I had assumed the Apple cable would do both video and charging; it does not (nor states it-its just a charging cable) as I just willfully connected the Apple cable to the display and nothing. When I used the LG cable, it charged and displayed fine. Just a cavaet to a lesson I learned.
And thanks for the tip on the newest N model. I just needed the L version to have matching displays and that it was $20 less, and has 3yr warranty vs the consumer 850series with 1yr. A comparison of these two models (UL vs UN) shows no differences other than pricing and some terms (enter and compare models on LG’s site).
Tip: Another good site for display comparisons/specs.

But have you seen the nano-texture option iMac 5K screens?

I can’t speak on the Dell P2721Q as I haven’t seen one. Dell monitors have a good reputation, but as I mentioned in my review, I had a shadow develop in my old Dell.

I’m crossing my fingers and hoping I don’t have reliability issues with this LG display, but it’s such a crapshoot. I’ve had a lot of bad luck with LCD TVs because they’re so flimsy and fragile.