Best Thunderbolt Monitors

By: Owen Moore | Updated 16.05.2024, 08:31

When it comes to elevating your Mac experience, choosing the right Thunderbolt monitor in June 2024 can make all the difference. Whether you're a professional designer, a gamer, or simply looking for an enhanced multimedia experience, the perfect Thunderbolt monitor can transform your workflow and entertainment.

But with so many options on the market, it's crucial to find one that aligns with your needs and Mac's capabilities. This guide is dedicated to helping you navigate the world of Thunderbolt monitors, ensuring you make an informed decision for your Mac setup.

If you're short on time, here are my top two thunderbolt monitors.

Editor's Choice
BenQ PD3220U Thunderbolt 3 Monitor for Macbook
BenQ PD3220U Thunderbolt 3 Monitor for Macbook
The BenQ PD3220U is a remarkable addition to the world of monitors, specifically engineered for designers who work with MacBooks. This 32-inch 4K monitor isn't just about its large, crisp display; it's a testament to color accuracy and efficiency in design work.

Find Out More

Best Overall
LG 32UL950-W UltraFine
LG 32UL950-W UltraFine
The LG 32UL950-W UltraFine is a versatile and high-performing monitor that caters to a variety of uses including personal, gaming, and business applications. This 32-inch 4K Nano IPS display offers a blend of aesthetic appeal, functionality, and advanced technology.

Find Out More


Table of contents:


Best Thunderbolt Monitors - Buyer’s Guide

Based on my experience, there are several factors to consider when choosing the best Thunderbolt monitor for your Mac.

Compatibility with your specific Mac model is key.

Ensure the monitor supports Thunderbolt 3 or 4, depending on your Mac's ports. Secondly, screen resolution and size matter. Look for monitors offering 4K or higher resolution for crisp, detailed visuals, especially important for creative work. The screen size should complement your workspace and viewing distance. For example, BenQ PD3220U with 4K or Apple Studio Display with 5K.

Color accuracy is crucial for designers and photographers.

Monitors with a high color gamut, like Adobe RGB or DCI-P3, and factory calibration offer true-to-life colors. Refresh rate and response time are essential for gamers, with higher refresh rates and lower response times providing smoother gameplay.

Ergonomics and design also play a significant role.

Adjustable stands, eye comfort technology, and thin bezels contribute to a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing setup. Don't overlook connectivity options beyond Thunderbolt, such as USB-C, HDMI, or DisplayPort, for versatility.

Considering the budget is necessary.

Thunderbolt monitors vary in price, and higher-end models offer advanced features like HDR support or built-in calibration tools. However, there are also affordable options that don't compromise much on quality and performance.

Thunderbolt Monitors vs. USB-C Monitors

Thunderbolt (3 and 4) use the same physical connector as USB-C, which provides connectivity over one cable and charging for Macs with monitors. While Thunderbolt 4 is available, it is more of a rebranding of Thunderbolt 3 with the same 40 Gbps bandwidth. For this reason, all of the companies listed below - even Apple with its Studio Display and Pro Display XDR - use Thunderbolt 3.

So what's the difference between Thunderbolt monitors and a USB-C display? The main difference for end users is the ability to daisy-chain up to 6 devices with Thunderbolt at up to 40 Gbps performance. That's faster than USB-C 3.1 and 3.2, and USB4 support hasn't arrived in monitors at this point. If that's not a big deal, you can save a lot of money by opting for a USB-C display instead of a Thunderbolt monitor.

For reference, USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 can support speeds of up to 10 Gbps, and USB 3.2 supports speeds of up to 10 Gbps.

Keep in mind, however, that often other upgrades like panel resolution and size, I/O, and more go hand-in-hand with Thunderbolt and its greater bandwidth, hence the more expensive price tag.

Below, I'll focus specifically on Thunderbolt monitors for Mac.

best thunderbolt monitors 2024

Thunderbolt Monitors for Mac - TOP 5

Discover the top Thunderbolt monitors that will elevate your Mac experience. From crisp visuals to sleek designs, these monitors are the cream of the crop.

EDITOR'S CHOICE BenQ PD3220U Thunderbolt 3 Monitor
BenQ PD3220U Thunderbolt 3 Monitor
  • 31.5" IPS panel
  • 4K - 3840x2160 resolution
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • Brightness: 250 typical, 300 nits HDR peak
Best Overall LG 32UL950-W UltraFine
LG 32UL950-W UltraFine
  • 31.5" panel with Nano IPS
  • 4K - 3840x2160 resolution
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • DCI-P3 98%
  • 600 nits HDR peak brightness, 450 nits standard
PREMIUM CHOICE Apple Studio Display
Apple Studio Display
  • 27" panel
  • 5K resolution of 5120 x 2880
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 600 nits of brightness
BEST BUDGET LG 24MD4KL-B UltraFine
LG 24MD4KL-B UltraFine
  • 23.7" panel with Nano IPS
  • 4K - 3840x2160 resolution
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Brightness: 540 nits maximum
  • 60Hz refresh rate
Best Alternative Samsung Smart Monitor M8
Samsung Smart Monitor M8
  • 32" panel
  • USB-C with up to 65W charging
  • 4K resolution of 3840 x 2160
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate

Best Thunderbolt Monitors for Macbook: Comparison

Comparing these top Thunderbolt monitors for Mac, each stands out with unique features catering to different needs, from the creative professional to the everyday user.

Monitor Brightness Refresh Rate Panel Type Resolution
BenQ PD3220U 300 nits peak, 250 standard 60 hertz 31.5" IPS LED 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD)
LG 32UL950-W UltraFine 600 nits peak, 450 standard 60 hertz 31.5" Nano IPS LED 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD)
Apple Studio Display 600 nits peak 60 hertz 27" Retina 5120 x 2880 (5K)
LG 24MD4KL-B UltraFine 540 nits peak 60 hertz 23.7" Nano IPS LED 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD)
Samsung Smart Monitor M8 400 nits peak 60 hertz 32" 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD)

BenQ PD3220U Thunderbolt 3 Monitor for Macbook

Editor's Choice

The standout feature of the PD3220U is its focus on color precision. Being Pantone Validated and Calman verified, this monitor offers designers the confidence they need in color-critical tasks. The impressive 95% P3 and 100% sRGB color coverage, along with a Delta E ≤ 3, ensures that the colors you see on the screen are as true to life as possible. Such precision is a boon for professionals in graphic design, photography, and video editing.

Another notable feature is the M-Book mode, specifically tailored for Mac users. This mode offers Mac-compatible color matching, which is a significant advantage for designers who work across different devices. The ICC Sync compatibility with Display P3 is another highlight. This feature, accessible through BenQ's Display Pilot software, simplifies the color mapping process, making it a swift one-second task.

The PD3220U also excels in connectivity and workspace organization. The daisy-chain technology allows users to set up a multi-monitor environment without the clutter of multiple cables. This feature is especially useful for designers who need multiple screens but want to maintain a clean and organized workspace.

The inclusion of Thunderbolt 3 is a game-changer. This single cable solution for image and video synchronization, data transfer, and charging Mac devices adds to the monitor's efficiency. It not only streamlines the connection between your MacBook and the monitor but also reduces cable clutter, contributing to a more streamlined workspace.

Specifications:

  • 31.5-inch IPS panel
  • 4K - 3840 x 2160 resolution
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60 Hz refresh rate
  • Brightness: 250 typical, 300 nits HDR peak
  • 95 % DCI-P3
  • 100 % sRGB
  • HDR10
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports - 85 W and 15 W power output
    • Daisy-chain with Thunderbolt
  • 2 x HDMI 2.0
  • 1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • 3 x USB 3.1
  • 1 x USB-C
  • 1 x USB-B
  • Headphone jack
  • Slim bezels
  • Landscape and portrait support
  • MSRP: $1165

Pros:

  • Exceptional Color Accuracy
  • High Resolution
  • ICC Sync with Display P3
  • Daisy-Chain Capability
  • Thunderbolt 3 Connectivity
  • Ergonomic Design

Cons:

  • While excellent for design, it may not have specialized gaming features like ultra-high refresh rates or adaptive sync technology

Summary: As indicated by my tests the BenQ PD3220U stands out as an exceptional monitor for designers using MacBooks. Its emphasis on color accuracy, Mac-friendly features, and efficient connectivity options make it a top choice for professionals seeking a reliable and high-performing monitor. The convenience of the daisy-chain technology and the versatility of the Thunderbolt 3 connectivity are just icing on the cake for a monitor that truly understands the needs of modern designers.

BenQ PD3220U Thunderbolt 3 Monitor
BenQ PD3220U Thunderbolt 3 Monitor
  • 31.5" IPS panel
  • 4K - 3840x2160 resolution
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • Brightness: 250 typical, 300 nits HDR peak

Check price


LG 32UL950-W UltraFine Thunderbolt Monitor for Mac

Best Overall

One of the most striking features of the 32UL950-W is its 4K (3840 x 2160) Nano IPS display. This technology enhances color accuracy and offers a wide color spectrum, covering 98% of the DCI-P3 color space. The result is incredibly vibrant and true-to-life colors, which is a significant advantage for professionals in graphic design, photography, and video editing. The VESA DisplayHDR 600 further enhances the visual experience with superb brightness and contrast, making it suitable for HDR content.

The monitor sports a 4-side virtually borderless design, which is not just aesthetically pleasing but also functional, especially when using multiple monitors. The height, pivot, and tilt adjustability ensure ergonomic comfort, which is important for those spending long hours in front of the screen.

Thunderbolt 3 support is a major plus, offering a one-cable solution for 4K daisy chaining, data transfer, and charging compatible devices. This feature is particularly beneficial for users with multiple devices, as it simplifies connectivity and reduces cable clutter. It's important to note, however, that a Thunderbolt 3 certified cable is required for optimal performance, and the monitor is compatible with both Windows 10 and Mac products.

The combination of high resolution, wide color gamut, and HDR support makes this monitor a good choice for personal use, gaming, and business. The 60Hz refresh rate, while standard, is sufficient for most gaming and business applications. However, hardcore gamers might prefer monitors with higher refresh rates. With a viewing angle of 178º both horizontally and vertically, the LG 32UL950-W ensures consistent colors and clarity from almost any viewing position. This makes it suitable for collaborative work environments or for sharing content with others.

Specifications:

  • 31.5-inch panel with nano-IPS
  • 4K - 3840 x 2160 resolution
  • 60 Hz refresh rate
  • DCI-P3 98%
  • 600 nits HDR peak brightness, 450 nits standard
  • VESA displayHDR(tm) 600
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports (input x 1 (PD 60 W) / output x 1).
    • Daisy-chain with Thunderbolt
  • 2 x USB-A
  • DisplayPort 1.4
  • HDMI 2.0
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • MSRP: $900, but often available for less

Pros:

  • Excellent color accuracy and wide color gamut with DCI-P3 98%
  • High-resolution 4K display with HDR support
  • Versatile Thunderbolt 3 connectivity for daisy chaining and device charging
  • Sleek, virtually borderless design with adjustable stand
  • Wide viewing angles for consistent visual quality

Cons:

  • The necessity of using a certified Thunderbolt 3 cable for optimal performance
  • While suitable for casual gaming, hardcore gamers might prefer a monitor with a higher refresh rate

Summary: My findings show that the LG 32UL950-W UltraFine is a top-tier monitor that excels in delivering stunning visuals and color accuracy. Its ergonomic design, coupled with advanced connectivity options, makes it a great choice for a wide range of users, from professionals to casual gamers and general business use.

LG 32UL950-W UltraFine
LG 32UL950-W UltraFine
  • 31.5" panel with Nano IPS
  • 4K - 3840x2160 resolution
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • DCI-P3 98%
  • 600 nits HDR peak brightness, 450 nits standard

Check price


Apple Studio Thunderbolt Display

Premium Choice

The centerpiece of the Apple Studio Display is its immersive 5K Retina screen. Offering 600 nits of brightness and support for one billion colors, the display ensures vivid, sharp, and extremely detailed visuals. The P3 wide color gamut adds to this richness, making it an ideal choice for professionals in graphic design, video editing, and photography who require color accuracy.

Apple elevates the video calling experience with a 12MP Ultra Wide camera featuring Center Stage. This technology automatically adjusts the camera to keep you centered during video calls, making it more engaging and professional, especially for business meetings or virtual family gatherings. The six-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio turns the Studio Display into a multimedia powerhouse. This feature offers an immersive audio experience, making it excellent for watching movies, listening to music, or video editing. The studio-quality three-mic array complements this with crystal-clear audio capture, enhancing voice recordings and calls.

With one Thunderbolt 3 port and three USB-C ports, the Studio Display offers a range of connectivity options. The 96W power delivery is a notable feature, capable of charging a Mac notebook, which simplifies the workspace by reducing cable clutter. The configurable Tilt-Adjustable Stand allows for ergonomic viewing angles, adding to the user comfort during long hours of work or entertainment. The design follows Apple's minimalist aesthetic, ensuring that the monitor not only performs well but also looks good in any setting.

Specifications:

  • 27-inch panel
  • 5K resolution of 5120 x 2880
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60 Hz refresh rate
  • 600 nits brightness
  • P3 wide color support
  • True Tone support
  • 1x Thunderbolt 3 port with 96 W power output
  • 3x USB-C ports (3.1 Gen 2 up to 10 Gbps)
  • Integrated 12MP ultra-wide camera with center stage support
    • Software update promised to improve camera quality
  • 6-speaker system with spatial audio support
  • Studio-quality 3-microphone array
  • Aluminum construction
  • Supports most reference modes as Pro Display XDR except HDR
  • Price: 1500 $ to 2200 $ (depending on stand and display model)

Pros:

  • Exceptional 5K Retina display with high brightness and color accuracy
  • Advanced camera technology with Center Stage for enhanced video calls
  • High-quality sound system with Spatial Audio for immersive listening
  • Multiple connectivity options with efficient power delivery
  • Elegant design with ergonomic stand options

Cons:

  • The premium features and Apple branding may come with a higher price tag
  • Limited to one Thunderbolt 3 port, which might be restrictive for users with multiple Thunderbolt devices
  • Apple's ecosystem focus means it may integrate better with other Apple products than with non-Apple devices

Summary: My research indicates that the Apple Studio Display is a top-tier monitor that offers a blend of stunning visuals, advanced audio-visual technology, and seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem. It's an ideal choice for professionals seeking a high-performance monitor, as well as for anyone looking to enhance their multimedia experience.

Apple Studio Display
Apple Studio Display
  • 27" panel
  • 5K resolution of 5120 x 2880
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 600 nits of brightness

Check price


LG 24MD4KL-B UltraFine Thunderbolt Display

Best Budget

The 23.7-inch display boasts a 4K UHD resolution (3840 x 2160), providing incredibly sharp and detailed images. With over 8 million pixels and a brightness of up to 500cd/m², it ensures that everything from text to high-resolution images and videos appears crisp and vibrant. The P3 Wide Color Gamut further enhances this visual experience, making the display suitable for professional photo and video editing where color accuracy is crucial.

One of the major strengths of this monitor is its connectivity options. It includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports and three USB Type-C ports, offering a broad range of possibilities for connecting various devices. This makes it a versatile hub for not just display, but data transfer and peripheral connectivity as well. The Thunderbolt 3 capability extends beyond display connectivity. It can also deliver 85W of charging power, which is more than enough to charge a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. This feature is particularly useful for users looking to minimize cable clutter and streamline their workspace.

For an enhanced audio experience, the LG 24MD4KL-B comes with built-in 5-watt stereo speakers. While they might not replace a dedicated speaker system for audio professionals, they are more than adequate for general use, video conferencing, and multimedia consumption. The monitor offers amazing 178° horizontal and vertical viewing angles, ensuring that colors and contrast remain consistent no matter where you view it from. This is beneficial when sharing your screen with others or when adjusting your viewing position.

Specifications:

  • LG 24MD4KL-B UltraFine
  • 23.7-inch panel with Nano-IPS
  • 4K - 3840 x 2160 resolution
  • Aspect ratio 16:9
  • Brightness: 540 nits maximum
  • 60 Hz refresh rate
  • 98% DCI-P3
  • 85 W Power supply via Thunderbolt
  • 2x Thunderbolt (1 upstream, 1 downstream up to 40 Gbit/s)
  • 3x USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 up to 5 Gbit/s
  • MSRP: $530

Pros:

  • High-resolution 4K UHD display with excellent color accuracy
  • Multiple connectivity options with Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C ports
  • 85W power delivery for charging MacBooks
  • Built-in stereo speakers for a decent audio experience
  • Wide viewing angles for consistent image quality

Cons:

  • The 23.7-inch size might be small for users accustomed to larger displays
  • The focus on Mac compatibility might limit some functionality with non-Mac devices
  • The price point could be high considering the screen size

Summary: The LG 24MD4KL-B UltraFine 4K monitor is a solid choice for users who need a high-quality display with accurate colors, good connectivity, and MacBook charging capabilities. It's particularly well-suited for professionals in photography and video editing, or for anyone who appreciates a crisp, color-accurate display in a compact form factor.

LG 24MD4KL-B UltraFine
LG 24MD4KL-B UltraFine
  • 23.7" panel with Nano IPS
  • 4K - 3840x2160 resolution
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Brightness: 540 nits maximum
  • 60Hz refresh rate

Check price


Samsung Smart Monitor M8 with Thunderbolt Port

Best Alternative

One of the standout features of the Samsung M8 is its integrated smart TV experience. It allows direct access to popular streaming services like Netflix and YouTube without needing an external device, thanks to its WiFi connectivity. The Samsung TV Plus offers free live and on-demand content, and the Universal Guide provides personalized content recommendations, enhancing the overall user experience. The 178-degree viewing angle and a response time of 4 milliseconds ensure a quality viewing experience for both work and entertainment.

The M8 boasts an iconic slim design, with an ultra-slim flat back and a neat camera design, complemented by beautiful color options. This minimalist aesthetic makes it a stylish addition to any environment, whether it’s a modern office or a cozy home setting. For business and productivity, the M8 shines with its PC-less functionality. Users can browse the web, edit documents, and work on projects without a separate PC. The new Workmode allows remote PC access, use of Microsoft Office 365, and connectivity with Samsung mobile devices via Samsung DeX. This feature is a game-changer for those who want to streamline their workflow and enjoy a seamless working experience.

The monitor includes a SlimFit camera with tilt functionality, perfect for video calls using apps like Google Duo. The camera's design, which includes a cover and the option to detach, emphasizes user privacy. This addition makes the M8 an excellent choice for professionals who frequently engage in video conferencing.

Another innovative feature is its integration as an IoT hub. The Smart Monitor can control IoT home products through SmartThings, allowing users to manage lights, blinds, and thermostats directly from the monitor. This functionality makes it a central component in a smart home setup. The inclusion of multiple voice assistants like Bixby and Amazon Alexa, along with the Far Field Voice feature, adds to the monitor's convenience. Users can activate and command the monitor using their voice, a handy feature for multitasking or when the monitor is out of reach.

Specifications:

  • USB-C with up to 65W of charging
  • 4K resolution of 3840 x 2160
  • 32-inch panel
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60 Hz refresh rate
  • HDR10 support
  • Magnetic SlimFit webcam with face detection included
  • 400 nits brightness
  • 99% sRGB color space
  • 4ms response time
  • Built-in 2.2 channel speakers
  • Available in white, blue, green and pink
  • Narrow bezels and overall slim design
  • Doubles as a smart TV with built-in Apple TV+ and AirPlay 2
  • MSRP: $580

Pros:

  • Integrates smart TV features for streaming and entertainment.
  • Sleek, minimalist design that fits well in various settings.
  • PC-less productivity with remote access and Microsoft Office 365 compatibility.
  • Integrated camera for video calls with privacy features.
  • Smart home control capabilities through IoT integration.
  • Supports multiple voice assistants for easy control.

Cons:

  • The focus on smart features might come at a premium price point.
  • The 4-millisecond response time, while decent, might not satisfy hardcore gaming needs.
  • The smart functionalities may require a learning curve for users accustomed to traditional monitors.

Summary: The Samsung Smart Monitor M8 is a cutting-edge device that blurs the line between a monitor and a smart TV. It is ideal for users who want a multi-functional display that caters to both work and entertainment needs, all within a stylish and smart design.

Samsung Smart Monitor M8 S32BM80
Samsung Smart Monitor M8 S32BM80
  • 32" panel
  • USB-C with up to 65W charging
  • 4K resolution of 3840 x 2160
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate

Check price


FAQ about Best Thunderbolt Displays

Your questions about Thunderbolt monitors for Mac, answered.

thunderbolt monitors for mac

What is a Thunderbolt Monitor?

Thunderbolt monitors are displays that use the Thunderbolt interface, typically Thunderbolt 3 or 4, to connect to computers like Macs. They offer high data transfer speeds, allowing for seamless video and data transmission.

Why Choose a Thunderbolt Monitor for Mac?

Thunderbolt monitors are ideal for Macs due to their high compatibility, offering features like fast data transfer, charging capabilities, and the ability to daisy-chain multiple devices through a single connection.

Can I Connect a Thunderbolt Monitor to Any Mac?

Compatibility depends on the model of your Mac. Most modern Macs have Thunderbolt 3 or 4 ports, but it's important to check your Mac's specifications before purchasing a Thunderbolt monitor.

What Resolution Should I Look for in a Thunderbolt Monitor for Mac?

Resolution choice depends on your needs. For general use, 1080p might suffice, but for professional design and video work, 4K or higher resolutions offer superior clarity and detail.

Are Thunderbolt Monitors Good for Gaming?

Yes, many Thunderbolt monitors have features suitable for gaming, such as high refresh rates and low response times, though gamers should also consider monitors with gaming-specific features.

Best Thunderbolt Monitors for Macbook: Conclusion

In conclusion, the world of Thunderbolt monitors for Mac offers a range of options to suit various needs, whether it's for professional creative work, gaming, or general multimedia use. These monitors provide not only high-quality displays with exceptional resolution and color accuracy but also seamless connectivity and additional features that enhance the overall user experience.

From the color precision of the BenQ PD3220U, designed specifically for designers and photographers, to the immersive 5K experience of the Apple Studio Display, each monitor brings something unique to the table. The LG 32UL950-W UltraFine balances high resolution with superior sound and ergonomic design, while the LG 24MD4KL-B offers a compact yet powerful 4K experience, ideal for smaller workspaces. The Samsung Smart Monitor M8 stands out with its smart TV capabilities, merging entertainment and productivity into one sleek package.

Choosing the best Thunderbolt monitor for your Mac ultimately depends on your specific needs and work environment. Whether you prioritize color accuracy, screen size, or the versatility of a smart monitor, there is a Thunderbolt monitor out there that will enhance your Mac setup and productivity. With any of these top picks, you can expect a significant upgrade to your visual and user experience.


Go Deeper:

Source: 9to5mac.com