tips : which affordable display is best for working from home with a MacBook Pro ?

Question :

I need to work from home and I am looking for an affordable display to hook up to my MacBook Pro, to make my work a little easier.

Do you have any recommendations ?

 

Answer :

When buying an external display and having only a few hundred euros of budget*, look at these specs mainly, and decide which order of priority they have in your specific case :

*= this is for people who do not have a budget of €500 or more

  1. HDMI or DisplayPort :
    • what ports does your MacBook (Air/Pro) have ?
      • if it has USB-C (or Thunderbolt 3) only, get a display with HDMI-input and get a USB-C-to-HDMI-cable that can handle 4K@60Hz
      • if it has a miniDisplayPort (or Thunderbolt 1 or 2) and regular sized USB-ports, get a display with DisplayPort(v1.2)-input and a get a miniDisplayPort-to-DisplayPort-cable
  2. number of pixels (is preferrred over screen size) :
    • in any home office or home schooling situation, you will not be more than 60cm away from your screen (note : the front of the screen will be about 10cm in front of the wall, because of the display stand) : so there’s no need for a huge screen :
      • when you are about 40cm from your screen, go for a 21″ to 24″ display
      • when you are about 50cm from your screen, go for a 24″ to 27″ display
    • any display with 1920×1080 (1K/HD) pixels or more will do just fine
      • 1920×1080 looks great on 21″ or 24″ 16:9 screen
      • but 1920×1080 looks fuzzy on a 27″ 16:9 screen
      • 2560×1080 looks okay on a 27″ wide screen
      • but 2560×1440 looks great on a 24″ 16:9 screen
  3. IPS display :
    • for home office work or home schooling, get an IPS display – it has better color representation and is easier on the eyes when using it for extended periods (hours and hours of continuous working)
    • for gaming, you might consider getting some other type of display, like TN, that enables you to get higher refresh rates for a tighter budget, but you shouldn’t use those for anything other than gaming
  4. refresh rate :
    • for home office work, a refresh rate of 5ms @60Hz is perfect
    • for gaming, get as close to 1ms @144Hz as your budget can afford (3ms @100Hz or 2ms @75Hz is okay for budget gaming)
  5. adjustable height (and orientation) :
    • because of ergonomics, it is important that you adjust the height to make sure top of the display is at the same height as your eyes when sitting straight up
    • because light reflection on the screen will be extremely annoying, make sure the display has the option to slightly tilt
    • only if you are working on a lot of text documents you will benefit from the option to twist the display’s orientation from landscape (regular) to portrait mode
  6. integrated multi-port USB3-hub :
    • this is an essential ! make sure that there is a USB-multipier in the display and that it’s USB3.0 or USB3.1 based
      • since there aren’t many USB-ports on your MacBook (Air/Pro), you will need extra USB-ports (especially if you have a USB-C MacBook (Air/Pro), since you will need one USB-C port to connect the screen)
      • a USB-port on your screen will enable you to connect a USB3-to-GigabitEthernet-adapter which will outperform your WiFi connection, and your MacBook (Air/Pro) will instantaneously be connected to fast wired internet the moment you connect it to your display
    • 2 extra USB-ports on the Display is the bear minimum : you should prefer 4 or more USB-ports, so you can connect these if you need to :
      • a USB-mouse
      • a USB-keyboard
      • a USB-to-Ethernet adapter (preferably USB3-to-GigabitEthernet)
      • a USB-printer
      • a USB-scanner
      • a USB-flashcardreader (for photo camera memory cards)
      • a USB-to-TV adapter (e.g. an EyeTV stick, to watch picture-in-picture TV)
      • connect or charge your iPhone or iPad
      • an external harddrive or backup drive
    • for a keyboard or mouse (or even a wired joystick/joypad) you don’t really need a USB3.0 or USB3.1 connection, but for data transfer it will save you a lot of time
  7. price :
    • do not go for ‘lowest budget’ if you need to use the display for working from home or home schooling, find a display for €200 to €250 : even though you cheaper displays are available, do not buy any display that was under €200 when released : most of the time, you will be better of getting a slightly older (up to 3 years) display model that used to cost €300 or more
      • make sure you also take into account the extra headphone, sound system, ethernet-adapter, mouse, keyboard and alike when deciding on your budget for the display
  8. integrated webcam :
    • if you need to do video-conferencing, make sure you get a webcam with your display – an integrated webcam will turn out to be very convenient (an integrated webcam cannot compete with a high-quality webcam, but if you use an external webcam, make sure to get a display with a USB3-hub with enough ports in your display)
      • added bonus of most integrated webcams is that de webcam is either pop-up or slide-to-open, so you can easily prevent being ‘accidentally’ exposed to webcam viewers
      • make sure the integrated webcam is 1.2 megapixel (1.2MP) or more : the FaceTime HD webcam that is built into a MacBook is at least 1.2MP (in an iPhone X the selfie camera is even 7MP)
  9. integrated microphone :
    • if you have the need for a webcam on your display, make sure you also have a microphone – an integrated microphone will turn out to be very convenient (an integrated microphone cannot compete with a headphone with integrated microphone, a gaming headphone or a separate directional of voice microphone)
  10. integrated speakers :
    • most displays do not have integrated speakers, but having the option to watch home schooling lessons or YouTube-videos without a headphone are very convenient, even though audio quality of most integrated speakers is okay but not impressive (if you do not already have an audio systemconnected to your MacBook, these integrated speakers might even turn out to be essential)
  11. bezel thickness :
    • the bezel (the edge around the actual screen) is really important if you want to set multiple displays side-by-side, but most of the time it is only a matter of taste in design : about 15mm is okay, especially if the display will be placed in front of a distracting environment (like a window, fancy wallpaper or a hallway)

Note : make sure you also think about these :

  • you need to use an external keyboard and mouse (or trackpad) :
    • any mouse or keyboard that suits you will do, so if you have an old mouse and even keyboard around, use those
      • for work, USB, Bluetooth and RF (wireless connection from a dedicated USB-to-wireless-plug) will all do
      • for gaming, only USB is advisory as any wireless connection might get laggy during intensive use
    • if you need to buy a new keyboard, think about these :
      • get a ‘Designed for Mac’ keyboard with the Mac key-layout, so with a COMMAND/CMD-key (and not a WINDOWS-key : only if you can typ blindly without any restrictions, you can get a Windows-layout keyboard and remap the keys in macOS)
      • get a keyboard that suits your main language : usually that is a QWERTY-layout, but for French it is AZERTY-layout and for German it is QWERTZ-layout (this will also help when you need to use accents in texts)
      • if you need to typ a lot, get a keyboard mechanical keys and spacing between all keys
      • if you need to input a lot of numbers (if you’re in accounting or working with Excell sheets) get a full-size keyboard with an integrated numeric pad (on the right of the keyboard)
      • a keyboard with an integrated trackpad can be beneficial for some, but make sure you get one with a Mac key-layout
      • an ergonomic keyboard can be really beneficial, but there are very few ergonomic keyboards with a Mac key-layout
    • if you need to buy a new mouse, think about these :
      • a mouse with a right and left button and a scroll-option will do for most purposes
        • most people have no need for a fancy gaming mouse with more than these 3 functions
      • consider using a trackball or ergonomic mouse
      • a Bluetooth or RF-wireless mouse does have downsides :
        • it will need to be charged (Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 is problematic in this respect…)
        • it easily gets lost
        • when the battery is down, you will need to open your MacBook and use the built-in trackpad until the mouse is recharged
    • if you need to buy both a new mouse and a new keyboard, have a look at the mouse & keyboard combo offerings by renowned brands like Logitech,
  • make sure your MacBook (Air/Pro) has it’s power adapter plugged in when using an external display, else you cannot use your display with the MacBook’s lid closed and your MacBook will quickly run out of battery
  • if your MacBook has USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports, and your Display doesn’t have a built-in multi-port USB3-hub, consider getting a USB-C Docking-hub
  • if your MacBook has regular USB ports, and your Display doesn’t have a built-in multi-port USB3-hub, consider getting yourself an additional USB3-hub
  • if your mouse is on a very reflective surface (like a glass table) or a wobbly surface (like a rustic wooden table), your mouse will not work reliably, so it is advisory to use a mouse mat (or a plastic placemat or even a sturdy-covered magazine)
  • to minimize the clutter of cables, you can use a cable hose to keep your cables together (budget option : use tie-ribs, or even ‘the pieces of plastic covered metal wire’ that you get with nearly every cable or electronic device you buy, to tie your cables together)

 

Some suggestions (no single display is optimal on all requirements) :

for office & graphic work : BenQ BL2420PT display : 23.8″ / 16:9 / 2560×1440 (2K/QHD) / 5ms / 60Hz / IPS / HDMI v1.4 & DisplayPort v1.2 / adjustable height & orientation / 2x USB2.0 out / no webcam / 2x 1W stereo-speakers / audio minijack out / 15mm bezel

for videoconferencing & office work : Philips B-line 241B7QPJKEB / 23.8″ / 16:9 / 1920×1080 (1K/HD) / 5ms / 60Hz / IPS / HDMI v1.4 & DisplayPort v1.2 / adjustable height & orientation / 3x USB3.0 out / pop-up 2MP webcam / 2W stereo-speakers / audio minijack out / 2mm bezel

for gaming : BenQ Zowie XL2411P display : 24″ / 16:9 / 1920×1080 (1K/HD) / 1ms / 144Hz / TN / HDMI & DisplayPort v1.2 / adjustable height & orientation / no USB out / no webcam / no speakers / audio minijack out / 15mm bezel

miniDisplayPort cable : Rankie miniDP-to-DP-cable : miniDisplayPort in / DisplayPort out / up to 4K/UltraHD (3840×2160)

USB-C to HDMI cable : Uni USB-C HDMI cable : USB-C in / HDMI out / up to 4K/UltraHD @60Hz (3840×2160)

USB3.0-to-Ethernet-adapter : TP-Link UE300 Gigabit LAN adapter : USB3.0 / RJ45 LAN / Gigabit (10/100/1000Mbps) Ethernet

USB-C-to-GigabitEthernet-adapter : AmazonBasics USB-C Gigabit LAN adapter : USB-C / RJ45 LAN / Gigabit (10/100/1000Mbps) Ethernet

USB2.0-to-Ethernet-adapter : TP-Link UE200 LAN adapter : USB2.0 / RJ45 LAN / 10/100Mbps Ethernet

USB3-hub : Vogek 6 port USB3.0 hub : powered hub / 6x USB3.0 out

office keyboard : Logitech K380 keyboard : full-size keys / wireless RF & Bluetooth / no numeric pad / macOS printing on-key / no trackpad

high-end office & design keyboard : Logitech MX keyboard : full-size keys / wireless RF & Bluetooth / numeric pad / macOS printing on-key / no trackpad

keyboard with trackpad : Logitech K400 Livingroom keyboard : full-size keys / wireless RF & Bluetooth / no numeric pad / no macOS printing on-key / trackpad

ergonomic mouse mat : Comfort Gel Wrist Support Mouse Pad

cable hose : Neoprene Cable Tube

 

 

fixed : how to connect an external display (or iMac) to my new USB-C only MacBook Pro ?

Question :

I have to work from home right now, so I would like to connect my MacBook Pro to an external display, but I have a new MacBook Pro that only has USB-C ports…

How do I do that ?

 

Answer :

First, you need to know if your MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt 3  (TB3) or regular USB-C.  Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) and regular USB-C (USB 3.1 gen 2) connectors look exactly the same, but Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) runs at 40Gbps instead of 10Gbps for regular USB-C. Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) can handle a 5K-display or two 4K-displays at once, but regular USB-C can only handle one 4K-display.

The 12″ MacBooks from 2015/2016/2017 have regular USB-C (just like the iPad Program 2018/2020) that is NOT Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) capable

The MacBook Air from 2018/2020 and the MacBook Pro’s from 2017 and newer have Tunderbolt 3 (TB3)

Then, you will need a display-connector-cable that converts USB-C to something that your monitor can handle :

If your external screen is a 4K- or 5K-display with USB-C/Thunderbolt 3-input, use this cable (or something similar) :

Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 3 cable  [ buy from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon DE ]

If your external screen has an HDMI-input (e.g. if it’s a recent display or if it’s a TV), use this cable (or something similar) :

USB-C 4K@60Hz to HDMI cable  [ buy from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon DE ]

If your external screen has a DVI-input (e.g. if it’s a slightly older or more expensive display), use this cable (or something similar) :

USB-C to DVI cable  [ buy from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon DE ]

If your external screen has a DisplayPort-input (e.g. if it’s a slightly older or more professional display), use this cable (or something similar) :

USB-C to DisplayPort cable  [ buy from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon DE ]

If your external screen had a MiniDisplayPort-input (e.g. if it’s an old iMac with Target Display Mode* support), use this cable (or something similar) :

  • * = only few iMacs have Target Display Mode support :
    • iMac 27″ 2009 to iMac 27″ 2014 (MiniDisplayPort/Thunderbolt 1)
    • iMac 21,5″ 2011 to iMac 21,5″ 2014 (MiniDisplayPort/Thunderbolt 1)
    • note : iMac Retina 4K and iMac Retina 5K do not have support for Target Display Mode !
    • visit the Apple website for more info on Target Display Mode
    • newer iMacs can be used as an external screen using Wireless Screen Sharing when connected to the same WiFi network, but that could be laggy (where cabled Target Disk Mode will never have lag)

USB-C to MiniDisplayPort cable  [ buy from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon DE ]

If your external screen has a VGA-input (e.g. if it’s a really old computer monitor or a beamer), use this converter (or something similar) to connect to a regular VGA-cable :

USB-C to VGA adapter  [ buy from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon DE ]

 

When you have gotten hold of the right connection cable, do this :

  • shut down both your MacBook* and external display**
    • * = MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro that only has USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports
    • ** = external display, iMac or beamer
  • connect your MacBook* to your external display** using the proper cable mentioned above
  • switch on your external display**
  • switch on your MacBook*
  • make sure your MacBook* is connected to the wall power adapter
  • connect a mouse and keyboard to your MacBook** either using USB (with a USB-to-USB-C connector) or using Bluetooth
    • any basic USB-to-USB-C connector will do, here is a suggestion
    • if your MacBook* only has 2 USB-C ports, you either need to use a Bluetooth mouse & keyboard, or your need a USB-C port hub (port multiplier) like this :
  • if your external display** has various input options, make sure it is set to receive the input from your MacBook*
  • then, close your MacBook*’s lid, so your entire desktop screen will be visible on the external screen
  • usually, the macOS Display Preferences window will now be on-screen, if it is not, open the System Preferences (in the Apple-menu top left) and click on the Displays-icon to open it
  • in the Preferences window that is named like your external display, click on the Display-tab
  • then choose ‘Default for display’ (if you click on ‘Scaled’ once, you will see that macOS has automatically chosen the optimal resolution for your this external display** with your MacBook*, if that is not the maximum screen resolution listed, you might want to change this, but usually you just choose ‘Default for display’)
  • now you are good to go…

That’s it !

enjoy 😉

 

fixed : MacBook Pro sighs then hangs during startup without progress bar over and over again

Question :

I have a  2018 MacBook Pro 13″ with TouchBar and 4 Thunderbolt3 ports that seems to hang during startup : the MacBook ‘sighs’ (fan noise) during startup and shows only a black screen with a white Apple-logo, but no progress bar as usual… then it automatically restarts… and the same thing repeats itself…

Is there any way to solve this ?

 

Answer :

This might be caused by a hardware problem, so if it happens frequently, you should take your MacBook Pro to an AppleStore or authorized Apple Repair shop for repair.

But before you do so, try this, as it might fix your problem :

If you do see a progress bar during startup, look at this post :

fixed : MacBook Pro hangs during final stage of macOS startup

If you do not see a progress bar during startup, do this :

  • unplug everything else from the USB-C ports
  • now plug in the USB-C power-adapter
  • then, if you can, plug-in a USB-C-to-Ethernet-adapter and make an ethernet-connection to your network (and the Internet), if not leave it
  • then, press the ON/OFF-fingerscan-button (top-right in the Touch Bar) to restart your Mac
  • then, during restart, immediately press the [CMD]+[ALT]+[R] key-combo on your keyboard
  • keep this key-combo pressed for about 30 seconds, then release
  • now, leave your MacBook connected to power and internet overnight
  • in the morning, your MacBook will have reinstalled the latest version of macOS

…and you will be good to go 😉

If the problem persists overnight, you might want to try this also, before you decide to bring in your MacBook Pro for repair :

  • create a macOS installer on a USB-stick (or even a USB-C stick)
    • as your own MacBook Pro is not available for this, you need to do this on another Mac or ask someone to do this for you
    • instructions on doing this can be found here on Apple.com
  • then plug the USB-C stick (or USB-stick with a USB-to-USB-C-adapter) into your MacBook Pro
  • then restart your MacBook Pro, while pressing the [ALT]-key on your keyboard
  • release the [ALT]-key when the Startup Manager window opens
  • then select the USB-stick as your startup disk
  • then follow the onscreen instructions for (re)installing macOS

That’s it !

As mentioned before : if you keep running into this problem frequently, you might have a hardware problem and you should bring your MacBook Pro in for repair.

enjoy 😉

fixed : Ethernet cable connection on USB-C only MacBook Pro

Question :

I just bought a new MacBook Pro that has USB-C only (and WiFi & Bluetooth), nothing else… I would like to hook it up to an Ethernet-cable since I’ve heard that’s better than WiFi when playing games like Fortnite…

How do I do that ?

 

Answer :

To connect your MacBook to Ethernet using a UTP-cable, you need to have an adapter. You could use an USB-to-Ethernet-connector that you might have laying around and connect it to your MacBook using a cheap USB-to-USB-C-connector that you can get at a supermarket or discount-shop… but I would advise against that : all cheap USB-to-USB-C-connectors are USB2-only (because they are mainly for connecting USB-mouses and keyboards to modern computers)… and a lot of USB-to-Ethernet-connectors are 10/100-Ethernet compatible and USB2-only… but even if you have a USB3-to-Gigabit-Ethernet, the end result will be just USB2…

To get the best out of your MacBook, you should get a USB-C-to-Ethernet-connector that is Thunderbolt 3 compatible, like this one :

Thunderbolt 3 USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet connector (buy on Amazon US) (buy on Amazon UK) (buy on Amazon DE)

 

enjoy 😉

 

fixed : which cable to quickly migrate data to new Mac ?

Question :

I just got myself a new Mac. Ofcourse, I am using the Migration Assistant to transfer the data from my old Mac to my new Mac, but my new Mac is a MacBook Pro that only has USB-C ports… and my old Mac doesn’t have any USB-C ports…

What is the best way to transfer / migrate my data ? Should I use WiFi or a cable ?

 

Answer :

You could migrate your data over WiFi, but that is less stable than a cable-connection and therefore usually more time-consuming.

The fastest way would be to use a Thunderbolt3-cable that has a USB-C connector on one end and a traditional Thunderbolt connector on the other… but those are extremely expensive and therefore not worth to buy if you’re going to use it for migrating your old data only.

Your best option is to use a far cheaper USB3.1-to-USB-C-cable, like this one :

AmazonBasics USB3.1-to-USB-C-cable (buy from Amazon.com)

AmazonBasics USB3.1-to-USB-C-cable (buy from Amazon.co.uk)

AmazonBasics USB3.1-to-USB-C-cable (buy from Amazon.de)

Note 1 : such a cable is also included with most USB-C enabled external SSDs, so you might already have one lying around – just make sure that the one you use is USB3.1-compatilbe

Note 2 : if you are considering using a regular USB-to-USB-cable together with a USB-to-USB-C-adapter… don’t do so ! That will in most cases mean that you are making a USB2-connection which is far slower than a USB3.1-connection

Note 3 : if you are considering using an Ethernet-cable together with a USB-C-to-Ethernet-adapter… don’t do so ! An Ethernet-cable is not as straight forward to set up, and most likely it will contain a USB2-maxed component, so it will be far slower than a USB3.1-connection and be far more expensive

enjoy !