I want to buy a Macbook Pro retina and also an external display for when I'm at home. I could of course buy Apple's thunderbolt display, but I'm looking for alternatives. Will every screen be good or do I need to look out for specific specifications because of the retina display? I guess when you are used to a high-res retina screen, the resolution of the external display should also be very high to match the Macbook retina screen?

2 Answers 2


The external monitor is completely independent of the retina screen. Any monitor would work (via HDMI or Thunderbolt to DVI/VGA adapters).

OS X more or less seamlessly transitions between the two monitors (retina vs. non-retina).

You will not be able to find an external display that matches the "retina" quality. Not even Apple makes a non-laptop display that is retina. Even if you bought a 4k display, it would still be 1x pixels as opposed to retina's 2x.

It won't be as nice as your retina display, but buy a high quality external monitor and you'll be happy with the quality. You generally sit a bit further back from an external display (verses a laptop) so it isn't as bad using a retina/non-retina combo as you'd imagine.

  • I believe this answer is out of date. I haven't tried this myself but support.apple.com/en-us/HT206587 and also the answers here imply to me that you should see the same scaling options for an external 4K or 5K display as for a built-in Retina one - can anybody with direct experience comment on this?
    – nekomatic
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 11:27

You can set the resolution of the external display independent from that of the retina display.

I personally use a Full-HD display with a VGA->Thunderbold adapter at work and at home a Full-HD display with a DVI->Thunderbold adapter.

I prefer the DVI variant, but this is also because of the generally better display at home.

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