My LG UltraFine 5K Display Review

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Well, I’ve annoyed my Twitter followers a lot those past few weeks so I’d better write a review!

I like having a one computer setup. For years, I had a Retina MacBook Pro attached a Thunderbolt Display and that worked quite well. Then in 2014, Apple announced the iMac 5K – I just had to get that beautiful, gorgeous Retina display! My plan was to have a two computer setup for a couple of years until Apple releases a Retina Thunderbolt Display or whatever it would be called it at that point.

Unfortunately, that day never happened. Instead, Phil Schiller briefly mentioned during the October 2016 Keynote event that Apple worked with LG on a new UltraFine 5K display and was now the official external monitor for the MacBook Pro. That Apple wasn’t releasing a new external display was expected at that point but my hopes were still high as Apple was seemingly involved in the design of the display.

That 4K Display That Never Worked Well

Being the impatient person that I am, I ordered an UltraFine 4K display to test out while the 5K version would become be available. After cleaning out all the styrofoam that got everywhere when unboxing the display, I plugged in my MacBook Pro the UltraFine 4K – nothing. The damn thing wouldn’t turn on. After multiple reboots, cable plugging/unplugging, it finally complied.

After a few days of use, my MacBook Pro wouldn’t recognize the display when plugged into the left side Thunderbolt ports. A SMC and NVRAM reset didn’t help. Only one of the right Thunderbolt ports would let me use the display.

I then proceed to return the display within the 14-day period in order to get a refund from Apple.

That 5K display that was DOA

The first 5K display I received had the same issues as the 4K except that it worked for about a minute and then just died. Since I had similar issues with the previous display, I went to the Apple Store to exchange the laptop for a new one, thinking that something was wrong with it. Unfortunately it didn’t solve the issue and had to, once again, send the display back to Apple and order a new one.

The second display has worked well since I’ve received it so maybe there are some quality control problems over at LG or software issues at Apple. Who knows! ¯_(ツ)_/¯

The Good

As expected, the display is gorgeous. This is great since once you start looking at it, you forget about its bland design. Where’s the aluminum? Where’s the glass?

Having only one cable to plug in is great.

The Bad

The thing wobbles like a Bobblehead. I don’t have the most stable desk but that was never an issue with my iMac.

Sound quality is not great. The volume level is also broken. You cannot go over two notches without being way too loud. Hopefully a software update will solve that issue.

I sometimes need to unplug USB accessories (iPad, etc.) when I plug in my MacBook Pro because they stop working or charging.

This seems to have been fixed in macOS 10.12.3 but I still need to open my MacBook Pro’s display before unplugging it because the display won’t turn on otherwise. This also could be solved by a software update.

The overall construction quality not what you would expect from a product endorsed by Apple. This display is more expensive than a Thunderbolt Display and yet it feels much cheaper. That Apple is fine with that is beyond me.

It smells weird while it’s turned on, although it seems like the smell is slowly going away as weeks go by.

Conclusion

I’m keeping the display but I think Apple made a mistake by leaving the display market. Like John Gruber and Ben Thompson discussed on The Talk Show #179, Apple probably never made much money from their displays but they did it because the user experience was important. I’d love to learn the rationale behind that decision.

Apple handed a part of its business to LG on a silver platter and instead of seizing the opportunity to impress Apple users, LG did the minimum required and left most disappointed.