LG UltraFine 5K display (a brief review)

With Apple firmly announcing that they are out of the stand-alone monitor business, it was only natural that users would seek-out a worthy alternative. Fortunately, consumers were not left completely abandoned, with Apple announcing somewhat of a successor to their (now discontinued) Apple cinema displays. Enter the LG UltraFine.

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These displays were initially announced by Apple in October 2016, the same time as the much awaited MacBooks with Touchbar. The display comes in two versions; a 21.5” 4K model, or a 27” 5K. I was initially sceptical, but then decided to purchase the 21.5”. I received delivery for this in November, and although a very nice display, was unsatisfied with a few issues. Without delving too deep into this, the display had some sleep-wake compatibility issues with the 2016 MacBook Pro, as well as suffering from slow data transfer speeds. Note, the 21.5” display uses USB 2.0 ports with a maximum speed of 480 mbps, compared to the USB 3.1 speeds of the 5K display which has speeds of up to 5 Gbps. There is also no built-in camera with the 4K display. Both displays still feature a retina-grade ppi (218 for the 5K model), so pixel resolution is identical.

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Okay, so I finally returned the 4K display in early January (due to Apple’s extended holiday period return window). This remorse period worked out well, and I managed to take delivery of a gorgeous 5K display on the 9th of January. In a word, the display is stunning and met all of my expectations. The biggest advantage of LGs new display is single-port connectivity. The idea is simple. You connect all of your peripherals (up to 3) to the back of the display (over USB-C), and then use a single thunderbolt 3 USB-C cable between the monitor and your MacBook. This one cable connectivity is arguably the biggest selling point of this monitor.

I have connected my Bowers and Wilkins MM-1 speakers, Yeti microphone and a 1TB hard drive to act as my time machine back-up drive. As the monitor is USB-C only, each of these accessories required the use of a USB to USB-C dongle. A minor inconvenience and added expense to factor in.

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There have been a lot of negative comments about the aesthetics. Personally, I was also a little hesitant due to the lack of a bezel-less design, however, in person the monitor looks amazing. Build-quality is top-notch and the almost retro look with modern technology packed in makes for a very unique design. The base/stand is made from solid metal, which adds to the weight and premium feel. However, as with any product, opinions will vary over their expectations from a monitor. For me personally, here is a brief summary of the pros and cons.

PROS
-Incredible 5K resolution
-Good build-quality
-P3 colour gamut
-Single cable connectivity
-Charges MacBook Pro

CONS
-No HDMI ports
-Expensive price (£884 at the time of writing)

I am probably nit-picking with the cons. An HDMI option would have been nice, however, I probably would not have used it. Furthermore, the price of the monitor is actually quite reasonable for a 5K display of this quality. Although I have been using retina displays on MacBooks since 2012, this is my first experience with such a large retina display. My previous external monitor before this was a 22” ACER 1080p display, which was fine. However, the difference in pixel quality since using the LG UltraFine is unparalleled. As with any Apple branded/related product, you are paying a premium for the design, build and ease of use.

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