I was looking for a 27" 4K UHD monitor and I realised it would be nice to get rid of most of my cables and get everything through USB-C, including charging. I have a Macbook Pro and I'm stuck with USB-C anyway, so I better only have one cable to plug.
There isn't actually that many monitors with a USB-C port, and those that have one are significantly higher priced. After reading and watching some reviews, it was clear to me that the monitor in that category was the LG 27UL850. Or the version that preceded it but that's nearly identical, the 27UK850. It's been described a the best USB-C monitor or the best monitor for Macbooks.
I bought this monitor for €550, so it's clearly a high-end monitor. I wasn't disappointed with the panel itself, which is incredibly sharp. The contrast is very good for an IPS panel, but it's still IPS.
The USB-C feature worked as expected: plug the included USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 cable to the monitor and the Mac, and voilà, the display is powered through DisplayPort at [email protected], and the Macbook charges at up to 60W.
However, unless your setup is fully wireless, you might to plug some stuff in. I had a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse, but I had to plug my speakers to a USB DAC.
Indeed, I want sound, especially since my Macbook is resting closed on a stand now. I don't want to plug an extra cable to it, be it jack or USB, because it would kind of ruin the whole purpose of this setup. The speakers included with the monitor are terrible, as expected, but fortunately, there is an audio jack at the back of the monitor. While it works pretty well, there is a big issue: you can't control the volume from macOS, because it doesn't support the protocol that allows that. While there are some workarounds which I will go through in another post, it's not great and requires extra software running.
Since I have a USB DAC lying around I might as well use it to get a proper audio output. The monitor has two USB 3 ports at the back, perfect.
It works... Until the monitor goes to sleep.
After a few minutes my Mac turns off the display output, so any monitor goes to sleep at that point. The problem issue here is that once this LG 27UL850 monitor goes to sleep, it unplugs the USB hub. This is a major issue if you're using something like a drive connected to it.
In my case, I would not have minded that much since it's OK for my DAC to be unplugged. However, the real issue here is that the USB peripherals don't reconnect once you wake up the screen. The only fix that I found was turning off the display manually and turning it on again, or reconnect the Macbook.
It's a major deal breaker if you plan on using any kind of USB device.
I was wondering if I was the only one experiencing this and I wasn't:
I looked at all the possible settings on the monitor to see if there wasn't anything that could remotely trigger this.
After that, I contacted LG's support and they responded about a month later (I already had returned the monitor by then) telling me to disable the "deep sleep" option. This option turns off the monitor instead of going to sleep so that would have explained things. But it was off, since I already checked it. Thanks, LG.
Being stuck with two non-usable USB ports mean that I had to go through dirty workaround to get proper sound and that I had to plug stuff directly into my Macbook if I wanted to do anything.
This is not worth paying an extra 100 bucks on the USB-C feature, and seeing how I was struggling, even with a beautiful panel in front of me made me think: did I really spend that much on... this?
The LG 27UL850 might fit some use case where you rarely need any peripherals, like in an office, but for a home setup, I don't think it's worth spending money on.
Since I liked the panel, I decided to return it and go with a cheaper version. There are three versions in the 27UL/UK lineup, with the same panel:
- The 850 (550€) with USB-C (DP + charging + 2x USB hub), 5W speakers, adjustable stand
- The 650 (450€) without USB-C and speakers, but with the adjustable stand
- The 600 (420€) without USB-C and speakers and with a non-adjustable stand.
The USB-C feature does not suit me, the speakers are worthless and I use a different VESA mount. Looks like I can get the same image quality without features I don't need for 130€ less!
The 27UL600 is still expensive but much more worth the money.
Side note: I had to get a replacement for my 600 because I had some weird issues where a big area of the panel would have some fine green sub-pixel lines... It was visible enough that I noticed before starting to check for defects like dead pixels. My new one is perfectly fine. with very minimal backlight bleed.
I have not given up on USC-C though, so I bought a USB-C dock with has a ton of ports while charging my Mac and powering the monitor through a single USB-C Thunderbolt 3 cable. The dock itself is not cheap and it ended up costing a bit more, but the experience is far, far better. I'll talk about this little marble of technology in another post.