Photo by Julio Ojeda-Zapata
Does Apple just conceal the release of a new Mac screen?
I'm not talking about the much-rumored 6K screen that the company is supposed to design and build for use with the upcoming new version of Mac Pro. We can hear of such a product at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, which starts June 3, 201
No, I'm referring to a Third-Party Monitor, the apparently new 23.7-inch LG UltraFine Display, which before I went to an Apple Store last week, I knew nothing about. And it seems that few others have heard of it.
I had another LG screen in mind when I came to the Apple Store in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. I wanted to speak up the well-known 21.5-inch LG UltraFine 4K screen, which I had heard, ended. I was fortunate: the physical store still had the product in stock, although it is no longer available at Apple's online store.
This 21.5-inch screen, along with the 27-inch LG UltraFine 5K display, still on Apple's online store but listed as "sold out" – had been an official Apple deal ever since the company joined its Thunderbolt Display in 2016 (see "Apple Discontinues Thunderbolt Display with no compensation in sight", June 27, 2016) and abandoned monitor business. Apple and LG worked together to bring the two screens on the market, but the industry's interest in 5K displays seems to have disappeared almost completely (see "What happened to the 5K Display," November 16, 2018).
That Apple Authentication was why I searched out the $ 699.95 21.5-inch LG UltraFine 4K screen, which I was going to pair with a newly purchased Mac mini (see "It's Living! Apple Announces Focused Mac Mini" , October 30, 2018).
To my surprise, an employee told me that I should consider exceeding the 21.5-inch model. Why? "Because we have a larger LG display at the same price." Released to me on the floor were boxes for the two screens, including the 23.7-inch version that apparently comes from nowhere.
Here is the weird thing: I could hardly find anything about the 23.7-inch LG UltraFine Display online. It is not listed on Apple's online store or LG's website. A Google search by model number, 24MD4KL, becomes small, just a page showing an FCC ID and another showing Energy Star certification.
The display should not be confused with other LG displays that are well documented online. But this new Apple Store model is different because it is explicitly intended and marketed to Mac users – it is right on the box. What it doesn't say on the box is "4K" more on it in an instant.
To ensure that my experience at the Uptown store was not an anomaly, I visited another of the Twin Cities' five Apple Stores, this one at Rosedale Center Mall. When I asked about available Mac monitors, I was told the 21.5-inch LG UltraFine 4K Display was no longer in stock. When I asked about the 23.7-inch LG UltraFine Display, an employee checked his iPhone terminal and found the SKU; This came as a shock to him since he told me he hadn't been aware of the product.
So what should we do about this situation? It seems safe to assume that Apple has debuted a new, officially approved LG display, while hitting the 21.5-inch version and possibly also the 27-incher. In "What happened to 5K monitors?", Adam Engst suggested that the 27-inch LG UltraFine 5K monitor might be on its way out, and it seems he was right. Unfortunately, at the 3360-i-1890, the new 23.7-inch display does not have the required resolution to lie in front of these monitors on the network, nor does it qualify as a 4K display.
Strange, neither Apple nor LG have said anything about this screen that I can find – no mention on the company's website, no press release, no helper particles and no callback from Apple PR after I emailed and asked for a comment. Even Apple's own retailers seem to be largely in the dark.
Get Product Details
Despite this confusing lack of information, I took a shot of faith and bought the 23.7-inch LG UltraFine Display. I explained that I could return it in Apple's 14-day present if something was wrong. Still, the mystery, its information brochure refers to full, downloadable manuals that do not exist.
Don't treat the following as a formal review since I've only had the screen for a short time, but here's a few things you should know if you're considering it.
- Styling: The 23.7-inch LG UltraFine Display sports the same minimalist black style as the other two Apple-sanctioned LG displays. The black framed panel is built on a tubular arm that fits on a flat metal base. The arm telescopes provide height adjustability. The panel faces forward and backward, but it does not turn left or right, nor does it rotate from landscape to portrait orientation.
- Panel: Its LED panel gives an original resolution of 3360 at 1890 pixels, which means it is not 4K. It would also not qualify as Retina according to the Sven Neuhaus PPI calculator, it's only 163 pixels per inch, well below 218 or 219 ppi of Apple's Retina iMacs. To my eye, the panel looks brighter than the other LG displays, which seem a little faint to me. Without a specification sheet, I cannot offer an accurate nit-to-nit comparison.
- VESA: As with the other LG screens, the 23.7-inch UltraFine Display stand can be removed and replaced with a supplied VESA mounting panel.
- ] Ports: On the back, the display provides two Thunderbolt 3 ports (using the USB-C connector) and three common USB-C ports. LG includes a Thunderbolt 3 cable for connection to most recent Mac models, along with a USB-C cable for those who use it with the only MacBook or with the 2018 iPad Pro models.
In short, the screen is well designed for those living in the Apple ecosystem, although it is disappointing that it does not provide a higher resolution for the price. It can also be inconvenient for those who need greater port variation. For example, I switch from the Acer 27-inch H277HU USB-C display (see "Acer H277HU USB-C Display is an affordable MacBook Companion," April 11, 2016), which only offers a standard USB-C port, but Provides versatility and backward compatibility with HDMI, DisplayPort and USB-A ports.
When I write this, I weigh if I'm going to stick to the 23.7-inch LG UltraFine Display. It is larger and apparently brighter than the comparable 21.5-inch LG UltraFine 4K display. It also has multiple ports – both provide a trio of standard USB-C ports, but the 21.5-inch model has only one Thunderbolt 3 port for the 23.7-inch slot. I'm not sure if the sub-4K resolution is a switch for me since it's still a big improvement over the Acer screen resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels. But the fact is that as big 4K screens are available for a little less money, but usually without Thunderbolt 3, which tends to poke up the price. I have to make a decision soon since LG's 21.5-inch model seems to disappear from Apple's bricks and mortar outlets, as the warehouse is exhausted.
What's going on?
If you're shopping for a Mac screen and have a look at (or even buy) the new 23.7-inch LG UltraFine Display, share your impressions with us. We're also interested in everything Apple employees tell you about this stealth product. We love a good mystery and we will get to the bottom of it!