Monitor advice...1 27" 4K vs 2 24" non-4k?

over 5 years ago from

Hi everyone. I'm looking for some advice on a monitor option. I used to spend big bucks on high-end colour corrected monitors for print - but the reality is, almost all of my work now is digital.

I'm connecting to an late 2013 MBPro.

I see two scenarios for my setup. I can go with one 27" 4K monitor or two 24" ultrasharp (but not 4K) monitors.

I really like the thought of the dual monitors where I can have two apps maximized instead of having to constantly shuffle windows around on one giant screen - but I hear so much buzz about 4K. I stopped by Apple yesterday to plug my laptop into one of their 4K monitors for reference and I was like, okay, yeah that's pretty good - but I wasn't all giddy and OMG about it.

If interested, these are the options I'm looking at:

One of these:


Or two of these:


Thanks to anyone for any thoughts they have to help me make my decision.


  • iterati designiterati design, over 5 years ago

    2013 MBPro doesn't support 4K @ 60Hz

    3 points
  • Renee PRenee P, over 5 years ago

    Personally I would go for the dual monitors for the reason you've stated above. I have a 5K at work and non-retina at home and whilst the retina is nice, I could live without it - having more horizontal screen space is more important for me.

    (I assume you don't use the laptop as a third monitor when you plug in to dual screens)

    2 points
  • Eduardo Tello, over 5 years ago

    I had the same doubt a few months back. I went with the Dell 27"1440p, because my current mac don't support 4K @ 60Hz, just as yours.

    At work I use the 5K iMac, great screen too, but I love my Dell non-retina. Both are the same "resolution" (1440p).

    For me, 1080p is too small for everything, two of them don't help me to work, I prefer my Sketch with more and more usable space than scrolling 24/7 for everything.

    1 point
  • Spencer JSpencer J, over 5 years ago

    27" is a terrible size for 4k displays. At native resolution everything is too small, and at 2x it's cartoonishly large.

    I'd recommend a 34" or 38" ultrawide display

    Source: Have used 27" 4k and 5k displays, as well as standard-res 24" displays.

    1 point
  • Jonathan SimcoeJonathan Simcoe, over 5 years ago

    Honestly I've seen my productivity fall when trying to split my attention between two screens. Having a 4k/retina screen is incredible. I have the LG 5K at work. I would go with one screen.

    1 point
  • Alex Curtis, over 5 years ago

    Interesting to see all the different perspectives on here. Personally I would always go dual monitors (even if they are smaller and lower resolution) over a single monitor that is objectively a better monitor.

    For me I can be far more productive with two monitors than one monitor that is high resolution. It is great having your main app open on one screen and supporting apps or documentation, browsers, etc on the other. Allowing you to glance back and forth instead of having to move your cursor and and highlight different windows. The time savings is immense going dual monitors when doing advanced jobs that require you to manage a few things. If you ever get into working with code (i know this is a designer forum, but there are designers who code as well, like me) then the dual monitor setup is the only way to go. Having your browser in one window and your code in the other is just unspeakably easier to use than a single setup. I can work with one monitor (which i do when i go to the coffee shop and use the single monitor from my retina MBP) but I get fatigued from switching back and forth 10 times a minute and eventually go home to work at my desk setup with duals.

    Another thing i would recommend is that most 24 and 27 monitors now are all 1080p and the price different between a 1080p 24" monitor and a 1080p 27" monitor from the same manufacturer and product line is usually only a small increase in price (usually less than $50 per monitor). I would go up to 2 x 27" monitors for a small additional investment and you will love the setup to death.

    4K monitors are a bit overrated in everyday work in my opinion. I have one and its great for gaming, but its not noticeable in my everyday work. When I use the 1080p monitors versus the 4K there isnt much difference in how I work or the pleasure I receive from it. I use an ultrawide 4k monitor for gaming and its awesome. But when I am typing that email to my client or checking my paypal account, it doesn't add a whole lot of value for me.

    0 points
    • , over 5 years ago

      I couldn't agree more Alex. Although I'm right behind you with the 27" vs 24" - I just don't have the desk space to accommodate that much screen. Plus I really like the 16:10 ratio when working so in the end, I opted for two Dell U2415's

      They should be here by next week, I'll follow up with how it works out just in case anyone else finds themselves asking a similar question.

      0 points
      • Ana Popovic, over 4 years ago

        Hi Jeff, I'm thinking about getting two Dell U2415's too, can you tell me if you're satisfied with them or if you whished you got a bigger screen after all? Thanks!

        0 points
        • , over 4 years ago

          Hi Ana. I have been happy with them, yes.

          The monitors were larger than I imagined in terms of the footprint on my desk. One thing I struggled with at the beginning was, how to place them side by side. Ideally, three would be better so you have one monitor perpendicular to you and the other two on slight angles. In the end I did something like that but with only the two.

          One thing I really like was that I was able to use some Velcro tape and attach a bunch of external drives to the back of one on the monitors (3 in total). This cleared up a lot of desk space clutter.

          I did notice a very minor build quality issue where the two monitors appeared to be from different production runs, so they didn't line up 100% perfect horizontally - but it is only off by a few millimetres.

          Overall though, I'm very happy with my decision and I would probably do it again.

          0 points
  • , over 5 years ago

    Hey thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. Some good advice all around.

    It seems that everything is headed in the 4/5K direction and that probably makes the most sense being forwarding thinking. That said, given my current hardware situation, my gut is telling me go with the two screens for more desktop that is easier to manage between applications - as per Renee's suggestions below.

    Also, I'm currently working on a 16:10 monitor and although not a massive difference, I do miss that little extra vertical space when I'm working on a 16:9.

    Thanks again!

    0 points
  • John PJohn P, over 5 years ago

    If you ever do motion work absolutely get 2, otherwise I'd probably go for one.

    0 points
  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, over 5 years ago

    I posted a thread in DN not so long ago about monitors: good advice there https://www.designernews.co/stories/80221-best-external-monitor-for-macbook-pro-2017

    0 points
  • Maciej JurczakMaciej Jurczak, over 5 years ago

    I have this 27" Dell at work and it's great, but only as Retina, in native resolution everything is small, super duper small.

    0 points