Opinion: Apple should offer Retina external monitors at mainstream prices.

A common setup for consumer buyers of Mac laptops is to pair them with a large external monitor for home use. Thanks to High Sierra, a consumer could get beautifully crisp text by spending around $500 for a 27″ 4k (163 ppi) display. pixel*.In fact, that means getting razor-sharp text with MacOS now requires a Retina monitor. user.

The problem is that Apple doesn’t offer a single consumer-priced external Retina display—that is, a price for the type of buyer who spends around $1,000 to $2,000 on a laptop ( which is probably the largest segment of Apple’s Mac market). So any consumer who buys a Mac laptop and wants to be able to use it with an external monitor and get the best macOS experience can’t, unless they upgrade to the prosumer price (the Studio Display at 1,600 $ and above).

In summary, since Apple has changed MacOS to effectively require Retina displays for optimal performance, they should be offering Retina externals for their largest market, which is consumer-class buyers.

It would also help them attract Windows switchers: a big advantage of Windows these days is that a 27″ that looks great with text is at your fingertips a lot easier than it is with MacOS – $500 for a 27″ 4k does it with Windows, while with MacOS you need a 27″ 5k at $1600. Those who want to switch would of course be fine with paying more for Apple products, but not more than 3 times more to achieve nearly the same effective text sharpness. [Windows still has subpixel text rendering, and also has vectorized scaling, which allows UI size to be adjusted to non-integer ratios without losing sharpness like MacOS does.]

So what should these screens cost? Honestly, I’m not really sure. But as a first effort:

The base price for the 2020 27″ iMac was $1800, so if half was for the screen and half was for the computer, I’d say $900 for the 27″. Then, proportional to the area, we have:

24″ = $700 (this is also half the $1,300 starting price of the 24-inch iMac, rounded up to the nearest $100)
27″ = $900
32″ = $1,300

And make the stock rack height adjustable.

I’ve included the 32″ for high-end consumers who need a larger screen and can’t afford and don’t need a $5,000+ Pro Display XDR. And Display analyst Ross Young observed that the market is moving towards larger (above 27″) displays.

* Beginning with Mojave, Apple eliminated sub-pixel text rendering from macOS. Sub-pixel rendering greatly increases the effective pixel density in the horizontal direction by using vertical R/G/B sub-pixels to render text more finely. With sub-pixel rendering, macOS could look really crisp with a $500 27″ 4k monitor (163 ppi). By eliminating this with Mojave, Apple effectively changed MacOS to require a Retina monitor for optimal viewing. There are probably two reasons why Apple eliminated it: (1) It requires knowledge of the pixel substructure of the display; and (2) With the way macOS scales, it creates artifacts with anything other than integer scaling.That said, it seemed to work pretty much without issue through High Sierra.

Shirlene J. Manley