If you have a Mac computer and want a monitor to use with your computer, it's important to get a display that works with the Mac operating system. Our macOS Compatibility test looks to see what signals the monitor supports from macOS, and we check if any issues would make the monitor hard to use with the operating system.
We test for compatibility by plugging in a 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro either via USB-C or with a DisplayPort adapter. We look at the variable refresh rate (VRR) performance, HDR performance, and USB compatibility, and we check to see if there are any obvious issues.
If you want to find a monitor to use with a Mac Mini or MacBook, you can also see our recommendations for the best monitors for MacBook Pro and the best monitors for Mac Mini. If you're looking to buy an Apple laptop, check out our best Apple laptops.
The first thing we do is connect the 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro to the monitor. We plug it in via USB-C if possible, or we use a DisplayPort to USB-C adapter if it doesn't have a USB-C port. If it doesn't have a DisplayPort or USB-C port, we simply connect via HDMI. We also change any necessary settings on the monitor to make sure the connection works, like enabling any settings for the DisplayPort Alt Mode and VRR features to work.
Once the MacBook is connected properly, we go to the 'Displays' tab in About This Mac. From there, we click on Displays Preferences, and we open up the Display Settings for the external monitor. We take a screenshot of this page and publish it in our review. Here you see information like if the VRR and HDR support is available for both.
We used macOS Monterey 12 during testing with most of our monitors. You'll see a difference in the screenshots between older monitors and newer ones that used macOS Ventura 13 as part of testing. While the layout looks different, the same information is there, and we don't expect any difference in compatibility between Monterey and Ventura.
We also check to see the default resolution of the display when it's first connected to the MacBook. In the 'Graphics/Displays' tab of the System Report, we can see the external monitor's default resolution, which is labeled as 'UI Looks Like'. If this resolution is different from the native resolution of the display, which is presented as 'Resolution' right above it, that means that the monitor isn't displaying the image at its native resolution. When this happens, we need to go back into the Display Settings tab and change the Resolution from 'Default for Display' to 'Scaled' and select the proper resolution. Some monitors require this, but it isn't a big concern.
After setting the proper resolution, we check to see what the maximum refresh rate of the monitor is when connected to the MacBook. We select the highest refresh rate available from Refresh Rate in Display Settings, and then we check the 'Graphics/Displays' tab in System Report to make sure it's running at that refresh rate. We also verify that the native resolution doesn't change because we only consider the maximum refresh rate the monitor can achieve at its native resolution. We make a note if the maximum refresh rate is lower than expected.
Some older Mac computers, particularly Intel-based Macs, have a limited refresh rate because they don't support compression like Macs with the M1 chip. For example, a 1440p monitor with DisplayPort 1.4 bandwidth can only go up to 144Hz with older MacBooks, while it can hit 240Hz with an M1 Mac.
If the monitor supports VRR and HDR, we also look at how they perform and make any note of issues. We enable both and open the Shadow of the Tomb Raider demo on Steam. While the demo is playing at the monitor's native resolution, we look for any screen tearing, which would mean that the VRR support isn't working properly. We write in the text if there are any issues with the VRR support in the game and on the desktop.
We also check the monitor's HDR performance with macOS, although most of the time, this is limited by the monitor's HDR performance and not the MacBook. Like with the VRR support, we check the HDR performance in the game and on the desktop and note any particularities or issues with it.
The common issues that come up when looking at HDR and VRR are flickering on the desktop or washed-out colors in HDR. For those monitors, it's better to disable VRR and HDR altogether while on the desktop and browsing the web.
Lastly, we make sure the USB connections on the monitor are working as intended. If there's any problem with the USB-C connection, it's something we'll notice right away because we wouldn't be able to display an image from the MacBook. If the monitor has USB-A ports, we also check to make sure the USB upstream feature is working. This lets you plug in USB drives or peripherals to the monitor and have the Mac recognize them. We confirm this by connecting a keyboard and mouse to see if they work or by plugging in a USB drive to the monitor and dropping a file into the macOS desktop. This usually works without issue.
Power And Sleep Issues
Unfortunately, some monitors have issues when the MacBook goes to sleep or when you close the lid. These issues can change from monitor to monitor; with some, the windows don't go back to their original position when opening the laptop lid, and with others, you need to disconnect and reconnect the video cable every time you want to use it.
We look for these issues by performing different actions like disconnecting and reconnecting the laptop, putting it to sleep, closing the lid, turning the monitor off, etc. We'll mention in the text of the review if there are any major problems with the connection. Most of the time, using a USB-C cable results in the best connectivity, and you can even continue using the monitor with the laptop closed. If you're using a DisplayPort adapter, the most common problem is that the windows don't return to their original position when you reopen the lid, but most monitors behave like this.
Many problems could occur with a Mac connected to a monitor, and our verification list isn't exhaustive. There may be problems that we don't notice, but someone else might, and if it's a common problem, we'll look at the monitor again. Unlike other test boxes like PS5 and Xbox Series X Compatibility, we don't score this box because it's hard to assign a score to only a handful of compatibility issues that can occur. If you own a macOS device and want to know how the monitor performs with it, it's best to read the text.
This test is only for compatibility with macOS computers if you want to use a secondary screen. While we test using a MacBook Pro with the M1 chip, the results apply to newer chips like the M2. Unfortunately, while you can connect iPads and iPhones to a monitor via USB-C, our results aren't valid for iOS or iPadOS compatibility.
We also test for a monitor's USB-C Power Delivery in the USB section of the review. This tells you how much power the monitor can send over USB-C to charge your laptop. The exact power consumption of your MacBook depends on the model and configuration, but generally, the higher power delivery a monitor has, the better. This lets you charge the laptop's battery while you're using it.
Monitors with Thunderbolt support are optimal for MacBooks because they support Thunderbolt too. Thunderbolt provides higher bandwidth and more power than a typical USB-C connection using DisplayPort Alt Mode, but you can still use the MacBook with any USB-C monitor. Below you can see the power deliveries of a monitor that supports standard USB-C and one that supports Thunderbolt 4.
If you have a macOS device, it's best to get a monitor with USB-C input for the best performance. This lets you charge your device while using it and display an image at the same time. You can close the laptop's lid and continue working on the monitor. You don't get these same benefits via HDMI or if you use a DisplayPort adapter.
If you have a monitor that has compatibility issues with macOS, this is often outside your control, and there isn't much you can do to fix it. You can try disabling VRR and HDR to see if it changes anything, though.
Working from a small laptop screen can be bothersome if you're craving extra screen space, and getting an external monitor can help resolve that issue. While most monitors work with macOS computers, a few have some compatibility and display issues. It's a terrible feeling when buying a new monitor, only for it not to work with your laptop. The macOS Compatibility box aims to identify any potential connectivity issues that may happen with a monitor, and we also look to see if features like HDR or VRR are supported and working. While this box isn't scored like many of our other tests, we write in the text anything that may affect the user experience.