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I recall that Macbooks produced in 2009-2011 supported a maximum external resolution (through Thunderbolt or DVI) of 2560x1600.

An aspect ratio of 16:10 is much more useful for those who use their Macbooks mostly for work, rather than entertainment. The aspect ratio of 16:9 is more suitable for entertainment.

Yet Macbooks produced starting in 2012, and before supporting 4K external resolution, appear to provide only 2560x1440 (which is 16:9).

It's really a pity, because this may be one factor why it's impossible to find 2560x1600 monitors in the 24" and 27" variety. To get 16:10 one must move all the way to the cumbersome 30", and then the DPI is hardly impressive.

But before buying any monitor for a "legacy" Macbook, it's nice to know for sure.

How do I determine the maximum external resolution supported on a given Macbook? Is this available in System Information...? I see the type of graphics card there, but not the resolution. Under Thunderbolt I see the speed (10GB/s x2), but not the resolution.

  • Be aware that on some MacBook models the maximum resolution published by Apple may be lower than actual maximums supported by the hardware. Both the hardware component manufacturers’ spec sheets and users’ anecdotes suggest you may achieve higher resolutions when plugging in certain monitors. – Basil Bourque May 18 '16 at 18:49
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While I don't normally like to post 'link only' answers, this needs to be an exception. The answer to your question will largely be 'it depends on the MacBook'.

To help you figure it out, I recommend going to EveryMac.com's MacBook Pro section. This site will list the technical specs of every MacBook, including the maximum external resolution.

For example, here's a partial tech spec for a 2010 13" MBP:

enter image description here

  • After a few spot checks, it seems Apple moved the Max Resolution directly from 2560x1600 to 3840x2160, without passing by 2560x1440. This makes it even more puzzling that even the best 24" and 27" monitors are offered at 2560x1440. The link you point to is helpful. Hopefully it's authoritative, although a method built into OSX for finding the answer would still be nicer. – Calaf May 18 '16 at 19:01
  • I agree it would be nicer to have get the data from Apple directly but I'm not aware of method to do it (apart from clicking on the Apple logo on each model). For several years I've been using EveryMac.com as my resource on everything related to Apple hardware. – fsb May 18 '16 at 19:29
  • If the information is available by clicking on "About This Mac" under the Apple logo, that would be very nice. But under "Displays" I can only see the resolution of the built-in display. Are you saying that you know of a way to read the maximum supported resolution on an external display? – Calaf May 18 '16 at 19:32
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    @Calaf You can get some info from the command line: system_profiler SPDisplaysDataType It will tell you what your current resolution is. Unfortunately, any info that it presents is not helpful because in the end it comes down to the display that it's connected to - and those are all different which is why you can't get that info. You need to refer to the actual specs of the model Mac you are using. – Allan May 18 '16 at 20:01
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You can also get this from the Graphics/Displays selection in the System Report from clicking on the Apple logo!

  • If from the Apple logo you press Option + System Information, you will see under Hardware an entry for Graphics/Displays. However, this shows the current resolution of internal and external displays. The point of the question is to determine whether one's MacBook will support a given display before buying the display! – Calaf Jul 1 '18 at 14:36
  • And that is why the EveryMac.com's approach is the best! – pws442 Jul 2 '18 at 19:27

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