LG UltraFine 5K works with older Macs, needs an adapter

JC Torres - Dec 20, 2016
LG UltraFine 5K works with older Macs, needs an adapter

Are you disappointed that Apple discontinued its Thunderbolt displays? Do you own a not so recent Mac or MacBook? If you answered yes to both, then your prayers may have been answered. LG and Apple collaborated to make the UltraFine 5K monitor a stand in for Apple’s deprecated display, with a bit more talent. Even better, the monitors are on a discount until March next year. Even better than better, they’re actually compatible with older Mac models. Provided you have an adapter, of course, and are willing to settle for lower resolutions.

The LG UltraFine’s 5K resolution (there’s also a 4K model, by the way) and Thunderbolt 3 connection makes it the perfect pair for the late 2016 MacBook Pros, which, so far, or Apple’s only devices sporting Thunderbolt 3 ports anyway. That said, Apple has thankfully not forgotten about the dozens if not hundreds of other users who don’t own that somewhat controversial new model.

The support page for the LG UltraFine 5K monitor lists which older models can actually work with the 2016 monitor. Happily, that list goes as far back as the late 2013 Mac Pro. That said, there are two major caveats. First is that you won’t enjoy the full 5K resolution, as those aren’t capable of that output anyway. The second is that you’ll need a Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter as well as a Thunderbolt 2 cable to make the connection, adding to the total cost of ownership of an UltraFine 5K monitor. They’re also recommended to be running macOS 10.12.2 or even 10.12.1 at most.

Resolution: 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz

• Mac Pro (Late 2013)
• MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014) and later
• MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2014) and later
• iMac (Retina, 27-inch, Late 2014) and later
• iMac (Retina, 21.5-inch, Late 2015)
• iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2015)
• MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2015)
• MacBook Air (11-inch, Early 2015)

Resolution: 3200×1800 @ 60 Hz

• Mac mini (Late 2014)

Apple makes an important footnote about the headless Mac Pro and Mac mini, recommending that the UltraFine 5K only be used as a secondary monitor, as the Thunderbolt connection won’t kick in until after logging into macOS.

Until March 31, 2017, the LG UltraFine 5K will cost $974 instead of the full $1,299.95. The Thunderbolt adapter goes for $29 instead of $49, while the Thunderbolt cable enjoys no discount at $39.


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