One of the best purchases you can make for your desk at home is an external monitor.
While your MacBook can pack all of the power of an iMac, there is one area where it will always fall short: the screen size. You can buy your MacBook with the fastest processor and the most memory, but you still only have the choice of a 13 or 15 inch screen. While great for portability, when it comes time to sit at your desk and crank out a brief or outline, bigger is always better. A larger screen boosts your productivity by allowing you to see more content without having to bounce between different windows.
Bigger is better
If you have the space and budget, I recommend a 27 inch monitor. I personally own a Dell UltraSharp 27″ 4K display. This size is absolutely perfect for working on assignments: you can easily look at two different full size documents side by side, without having to squint or zoom in to read the text.
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If you don’t have the space for a monitor this size, this 24 inch screen still gives you plenty of room to work with, while taking up a little less desk real estate. Anything smaller isn’t worth considering.
If you’re looking at monitors 27 inches (or larger), the resolution of the screen is critically important.
Getting a 27 inch monitor with the same number of pixels as a 24 inch monitor essentially means that the image has been stretched to make it larger. All computer monitors are comprised of little dots called pixels – a resolution of 1920×1080 (often called HD) means that there are 1,920 pixels going across, and 1,080 pixels going down. A larger monitor with the same pixel count as a smaller monitor is just stretching those pixels to make them larger – things will look bigger, but worse.
When buying a 27 inch monitor, look for a resolution of at least 2560 x 1440, and ideally a resolution of 3840X2160 (essentially 4K). Anything less is a waste of money.
While not as critical, if you’re spending more than $200 on a monitor, you should make sure that the monitor comes with a stand lets you adjust the tilt, heigh, and rotation of the monitor.
Placing your monitor at roughly eye-level stops you from having to hunch over your computer screen, which is bad for your neck and back. A fully adjustable monitor lets you raise the monitor up to eye-level, improving your posture and making things more comfortable.
Alternatively, you can pick up an inexpensive monitor arm that clamps to your desk and allows you to position things the way you want. A side benefit is freeing up all the space a monitor stand normally takes up. Otherwise, put last year’s Torts book to good use and use it as a monitor stand.
What to Buy
I like (and own) the Dell UltraSharp U2718Q, but it is definitely a bit spendy. The budget version of this monitor, the S2718D, is available at Staples for less than half the price at the time of this writing.