If you’re a MacBook Pro user, or heavily embedded in the Apple ecosystem, the LG UltraFine 5K (or its smaller 4K sibling) is apparently a no-brainer. If Apple still made its monitors, they would end up like this, without the plastic construction.
If you’re a PC user, this monitor isn’t for you personally. LG and Apple’s implementation of two DisplayPort streams over one Thunderbolt 3 cable requires Mac-specific hardware components. Users beyond Mac OS can only just reach 4K resolution at 60Hz.
LG UltraFine 5K
Great Monitor for EditingCrisp, clear, matte screen with excellent image quality, simply perfect for photographers with Apple computers.
Despite its age, introduced back 2016 with the Touch-Bar MacBook Pros, the venerable UltraFine 5K has a lot more than kept up with current monitors-albeit without HDR features.
Based around the stunning 5K (5120 X 2880) 60Hz panel on the 5K iMac, with just over 1 billion colours, the LG UltraFine 5K still looks great and is just about unmatched in resolution if you don’t choose the behemoth Dell 8K.
Design & Features
The black plastic bezel might not exactly be very ‘Apple-esque’, but this monitor definitely connects well with the Macbook or Mac Mini type of computers.
Clad in black plastic bezels, the aesthetics of the LG UltraFine are up for debate, and Personally, i feel that that is one area that LG skimped on. Though understated and clean, they’re very uninspiring, with the same thickness as iMac bezels – a long way off from the bleeding-edge design of newer competitors.
The metal stand is quite durable and provides confidence when picking right up the monitor. That said, the display wobbles from small vibrations such as for example typing when extended to maximum height.
Though not really much of a concern when editing photos, I’d advise lowering the height when writing emails and blogs. It’s not really a major gripe, but other monitors of the class wobble much less.
LG also contains a VESA mount in the box, so you might easily attach the display to a mounting arm, adding further overall flexibility down the line.
The built-in ambient light sensor upon this monitor lets it automatically adapt the brightness to fit your surroundings, as being a MacBook. That is something I switch off for photography editing, as I love to set my display to 350 cd/m² to make sure a regular exposure brightness.
The integrated 1080p webcam is a welcome improvement over my MacBook Pro 720p camera and produces ‘good-enough’ quality FaceTime and Skype calls when chatting to clients and friends.
The UltraFine 5K features In-Plane Switching (IPS) Technology with Thunderbolt 3 / USB Type-C Inputs, Built-In Webcam with Microphone, and Built-In USB Type-C Hub.
Microphone quality can be strong, equally on par with the iMac and MacBook Pro lines. With two built-in 5W speakers, audio tracks is just a little ‘tinny’, and slightly under-powered in comparison with iMac Speakers. They are able to get fairly loud, but don’t pack much in the form of bass or clarity.
An benefit of by using a 2016 or newer MacBook Pro with the LG UltraFine 5K monitor has been in a position to plug directly in via the included Thunderbolt 3 connector, for the entire 5K experience straight from the box.
Furthermore, 85W over the same cable will do to power a 15” MacBook Pro, a helpful one-cable solution. This eliminates cable clutter and in addition means you will keep your charger in your bag.
Ports on the trunk are limited by 3 USB-C ports at 5 gbps, slower when compared to a fully fledged Thunderbolt 3 port. These also don’t reach the 10 gbps of the USB-C standard, meaning external drives won’t be run at full bandwidth.
It’s unfortunate there’s no inclusion of an Sdcard reader or ethernet, as the Thunderbolt protocol fully supports both. If you’ve already got the dongles, you can plug them in to the USB-C ports to work for this, theoretically giving you usage of any port.
The 1st time you turn this display on, you will say ‘Wow’. Then you’ll push that person as close as possible to the screen to check on how close together those pixels are. At 218 pixels per inch, outlines are incredibly sharp and defined.
The 10-bit, 1.07 billion colour panel supports full dental coverage plans of the P3 gamut, together with 100 % of sRGB and 92 % of AdobeRGB while maintaining an extraordinary 1200:1 contrast ratio at the entire 500 cd/m² maximum brightness.
I advise calibrating yours with an X-Rite ColorMunki. Straight from the box the LG Ultrafine 5K colour calibration matches the P3 gamut of the existing MacBook Pro. That is great for videographers, however, not quite up to scratch for photographers that produce prints.
The glossy IPS panel with 178° viewing angles really makes colours punch, with inky blacks and bright whites complementing the crisp images and text on screen. It’s very difficult to return to using another monitor once you’ve used that one.
Reflections are well-controlled, and may easily be overcome by cranking up the brightness – 500 cd/m² is blindingly bright, easily usable in sunlight if you’re within an office with many windows.
With the average 14 ms response time at 60Hz, you won’t be playing any games on the UltraFine 5K, but it’s exquisite for us photographers. It’s also ideal for doing any video editing and grading work.
Scaling is defined natively at Apple’s ‘Retina’ setting of 200%, so really you’re focusing on a 1440p canvas at twice the pixel density. You can transform this in settings of course, but remember that text starts to get really small past some point.
LG also has an software via the Mac App Store called ‘LG Screen Manager’ which enables you to change scaling and resolution or update the firmware of the monitor. That is a helpful tool for configuring your monitor how you prefer it.
To arrive at over $1500 new (see latest price here), the LG UltraFine 5K is a sizeable investment for all those wanting a professional image editing monitor. It’s in the same price bracket as the the BenQ SW271, also a fantastic choice.
I found mine for $999 refurbished off Amazon, saving $749. In the event that you don’t mind having a lower life expectancy 90-day warranty, check here to see if there are any longer on offer, as that is a fantastic choice. Mine performs perfectly, without dead pixels, and is most likely equally as good as new.
If you don’t need such a huge screen, or don’t need the 5K resolution, the LG UltraFine 4K is a superb choice at around $500 refurbished. This display pairs effectively with small 13” MacBook Pro, too.
LG UltraFine 5K Review | Final Words
Personally i think this monitor is directed at some niche of Apple users who prefer simplicity and simplicity over the very best available colour accuracy or access a lot more than just USB-C / Thunderbolt 3.
The LG UltraFine makes a compelling argument for Apple users who wish to bridge the gap between your older Thunderbolt and Cinema Displays but remain holding out for Apple to redesign a more recent display later this season.
I’d recommend obtaining the refurbished model, as you save a good amount of ‘Apple tax’ buying it through this route.
For another iteration, I’d prefer to see HDR 10, some better speakers, and slightly higher Adobe RGB coverage. Overall, I’d recommend the LG UltraFine 5K, because of its beautiful display and unparalleled simplicity with Apple products.