The Best Thunderbolt Monitors for Mac and What Sets Them Apart from USB-C Displays

In 2023, there will be more variety of Thunderbolt monitors than ever. While Apple currently offers two options, its $1,600 to $5,000 displays won't suit everyone. Luckily, there are some excellent and more affordable options from LG, BenQ and Samsung. Below we look at the best Thunderbolt monitors for Mac, as well as the benefits of a Thunderbolt monitor over a USB-C monitor.

Thunderbolt monitors and USB-C monitors

Thunderbolt (3 and 4) use the same physical connector as USB-C, which enables single-cable connectivity and charging of Mac computers with monitors. Although Thunderbolt 4 is available, it is more of a rebranding of Thunderbolt 3 with the same 40 Gbps throughput. That's why you see all the companies below – even Apple with its Studio Display and Pro Display XDR – using Thunderbolt 3.

So, what's the difference between Thunderbolt and USB-C monitors? The main difference for the end user is the ability to daisy-chain up to 6 devices using Thunderbolt at speeds of up to 40 Gbps (connecting one peripheral directly to another).

This is faster than USB-C 3.1 and 3.2, and USB4 support is not currently implemented in monitors. Thunderbolt may also mean you can ditch the hub or dock. If these features aren't a big deal, you can save a fair amount of money by choosing a USB-C display instead of a Thunderbolt monitor.

For reference, USB-C 3.1 gen 2 can support speeds of up to 10 Gbps, and USB 3.2 – up to 20 Gbps.

However, keep in mind that in many cases other upgrades such as higher resolution and panel size, I/O and more go hand in hand with Thunderbolt and its greater bandwidth, hence the more expensive price. If you want to check out USB-C monitors, check out our review:

  • Best USB-C and Thunderbolt Displays for Mac

But we'll focus specifically below on Thunderbolt Monitors for Mac.

Best Thunderbolt Monitors for Mac

Samsung ViewFinity S9

Samsung ViewFinity S9 is the latest Thunderbolt 4 display on the market. It features a 27-inch 5K panel, metal body, 99% DCI-P3, Thunderbolt 4 connectivity and more and is designed directly for the Apple Studio Display.


  • Slim metal design (aluminum stand, silver plastic back)
  • 27″ IPS 5K panel – 5120 x 2880
  • 99% DCI-P3
  • 600 nits brightness
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 5ms response time
  • 1000:1 contrast ratio
  • Matte display finish
  • Built-in color calibration engine
  • Average color accuracy Delta E ≦ 21
  • USB-C and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity
    • 1x Thunderbolt 4 ports, 3 USB-C ports, 1 mini DisplayPort.
    • 90 W power supply
  • Built-in SlimFit 4K webcam.
  • Built-in. speakers with Adaptive Sound+.
  • Samsung Smart Hub for use as a TV (remote control included).
  • Height, tilt and swivel adjustments.
  • Size 100 x 100 mm with VESA mount capability.
  • Price: $1,599 (can often be purchased for less).

ViewFinity S9 5K Monitor is available now at, Amazon, etc.

Full comparison ViewFinity S9 vs Apple Studio Display can be found in our guide:

  • Apple Studio Display vs Samsung ViewFinity S9: 5K Monitors Comparison

BenQ PD3220U

32″ BenQ PD3220U features Thunderbolt, 4K resolution, 95% DCI-P3 color gamut, 85W power for MacBook, multiple pro modes, hotkey puck, durable metal stand, Plenty of inputs/outputs and support for portrait orientation.

It's a strong competitor to the Apple Studio Display, but with a larger panel and several hundred dollars cheaper.


  • 31.5″ IPS panel
  • 4K resolution – 3840 x 2160
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate
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  • Brightness: 250 typical, HDR peak brightness 300 nits.
  • 95% DCI-P3.
  • 100% sRGB.
  • HDR10
  • Dual 85W Thunderbolt 3 ports and 15W power delivery
    • Daisai connection with Thunderbolt
  • 2 HDMI 2.0 ports
  • 1 DisplayPort 1.4
  • 3 USB 3.1 ports
  • 1 USB C port
  • 1 USB B port
  • Connector for headphones
  • Thin bezels
  • Supports landscape and portrait orientation.
  • Suggested retail price: $1,199 (can often be purchased for less).

You can usually find the BenQ PD3220U on Amazon and Adorama.

LG UltraFine 24 & 27-inch displays

The $1,300 27-inch UltraFine Display (review) was really the only option on the market that supported USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 at full 5K resolution until Apple Studio Display was released.

But what's interesting is that since the bandwidth is used for the higher resolution, the 27-inch model does not have Thunderbolt downstream ports for peripherals or daisy chain connections, but only USB-C.

The 24-inch model costs almost half as much. 4K UltraFine (full review) is an attractive Apple-approved display option for those who are happy with a smaller size. With a suggested retail price of $700, it offers Thunderbolt upstream and downstream ports like BenQ, so you can daisy-chain or get full 40Gbps speeds without the need for a separate dock.

24-inch LG UltraFine display

  • 23.7-inch nano IPS panel
  • 4K – 3840 x 2160 resolution
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Brightness: 540 nits maximum
  • 60 Hz refresh rate
  • 98% DCI-P3
  • 85 W Power delivery via Thunderbolt
  • 2 Thunderbolt ports (1 upstream, 1 downstream, up to 40 Gbps)
  • 3 USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 ports, up to 5 Gbps p.
  • MSRP $699.

The 24-inch LG UltraFine Display is available on Amazon and other sites (now discontinued by Apple).

Apple Studio Display

Apple's Studio Display marks a return to professional monitors after LG's UltraFine series launched in 2016 has become an official recommendation.

Starting at $1,599, the Studio Display Thunderbolt Monitor is designed for those who appreciate Apple's refined (and metallic) build quality but don't need the truly professional Pro Display XDR.

Although it has a number of advantages, the Studio Display does not have Thunderbolt downstream ports, but does have three USB 3.1 Gen 1 (10Gbps) ports (and one Thunderbolt 3 upstream port with 96W power).


  • 27-inch panel
  • 5K resolution 5120 x 2880
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 600 nits brightness
  • P3 wide color support
  • True Tone support
  • 1 Thunderbolt 3 port with 96 power delivery W
  • 3 USB-C ports (3.1 gen 2, up to 10 Gbps)
  • Built-in 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera with Center Stage support
    • Software update promises fix camera quality
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  • System with 6 speakers and support for Spatial Audio
  • 3 studio-quality microphones
  • Aluminum body.
  • Supports most reference modes such as Pro Display XDRexcept HDR
  • Price: $1,599 – $2,299 (depending on stand and screen finish).

Studio Display is available at Apple, Amazon, Adorama, Best Buy and other stores.

Apple Pro Display XDR

We won't go into details about Pro Display XDR. But the TL;DR is that if you value a larger 32-inch screen, 6K resolution, metal construction, variety of reference modes, and don't mind paying over $5,000, it might be worth considering this option over other Thunderbolt monitors.

Check out our in-depth comparison and more details on the Pro Display XDR and Studio Display:

  • Here's how Apple's new Studio Display compares to the Pro Display XDR and LG UltraFine.

Attractive budget option with 32-inch USB-C screen

If you're willing to give up Thunderbolt and some of the other high-end features offered by the above monitors, check out an interesting new display—Samsung's Smart Monitor M8.

Successor to the M7, the Smart Monitor M8 offers an attractive package for those who want 4K resolution, USB-C, and a large 32-inch screen for $700 (usually on sale). It even has an iMac-like design and is available in four colors.


  • USB-C with up to 65W charging.
  • 4K resolution 3840 x 2160
  • 32-inch panel
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • HDR10 support
  • Includes SlimFit magnetic webcam with face tracking
  • 400 nits brightness
  • 99% sRGB
  • 4ms response time
  • Built-in 2.2-channel speakers
  • Available in white, blue, green and pink.
  • Thin bezels and overall slim design.
  • Can function as a Smart TV with Apple TV+ and AirPlay 2 built-in.
  • Price: SRP $699 – $729 (usually cheaper).

Best comment from kitsunesoba

Liked by 2 people

Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing how good Dell's upcoming 32-inch 6K UltraSharp display is. While it doesn't feature FALD backlighting like the MBP or Pro Display XDR displays, its resolution is almost the same as the Pro Display XDR, meaning it works well with 2x UI scaling. it uses Thunderbolt 4 (not 3), has more inputs and better contrast than the Studio Display or any LG UltraFine/Samsung Smart Monitor model. Overall very promising, depending on the price.

View all comments

Smart Monitor M8 can be purchased directly from Samsung and Amazon.

Summarizing Best Thunderbolt Monitors for Mac

I hope you now understand the differences between USB-C and Thunderbolt monitors, as well as the best options on the market, especially if you don't want to spend thousands of dollars on Apple displays.

And if you've realized you'd be better off spending anywhere from $200-$800 on a monitor, check out our roundup of affordable USB-C displays:

  • The Best USB-C and Thunderbolt Displays for Mac

Thanks for reading our guide to the best Thunderbolt monitors for Mac!

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