LG 27MD5KA – B Ultrafine 5K
"The LG Ultrafine 5K offers a uniquely intuitive user experience, but convenience comes at a cost."
Brilliant, sharp picture
Excellent contrast ratio
Uniquely intuitive user experience
Solid stand and durable frame
Doesn't work properly with Windows
Color accuracy in the middle of the street
No hardware buttons
Straight ugly design
It's finally here, the bold, beautiful 27-inch LG Ultrafine 5K. This pixel-rich monitor was developed as a collaboration between Apple and LG and was developed from the ground up to accompany the new MacBook Pro series.
With a remarkable resolution of 5,120 x 2,880 and a unique design, the LG Ultrafine 5K inspires with both awe and skepticism. Even with a 5K display, it's not without competition, and professional monitors are tough competitors. Can the LG Ultrafine 5K topple the world's first 5K monitor, the Dell UP2715K? Let’s find out for sure.
Love at first plug
For those who have a new MacBook on their desk, the connectivity of the LG Ultrafine 5K will seem excellent. Get ready for everyone else to buy some dongles. The LG Ultrafine 5K has four Thunderbolt 3 / USB Type-C ports on the back and nothing more than a plug for the power cord. It's a look at the sleek simplicity that USB Type C offers, and it's an absolute joy to use.
When you connect the LG Ultrafine 5K to a MacBook Pro, two things happen immediately. First, the monitor charges the MacBook and second, the monitor automatically sets up as a second display. This monitor shows the best Thunderbolt 3 deals. According to the LG Ultrafine 5K, using a different monitor seems to be a chore, especially for MacBook users.
In addition, the Ultrafine 5K benefits from some standard MacOS functions that contribute to an already luxurious experience.
With a resolution of 5K and 220 pixels per inch, even text appears inky, smooth and sharp like a pen stroke.
When the Ultrafine 5K is connected to a MacBook, MacOS automatically detects the monitor and configures it to act as a second display like most external monitors. When this huge 27-inch screen is filled with windows and apps, MacOS also remembers where they were when the laptop was unplugged and plugged in again.
To be fair, it is important to point out that these two functions are performed in MacOS and not on the monitor. Connect a standard monitor from LG, Samsung or Dell and the same thing happens. What is different here is the single cord experience. It's a small thing, but along with MacOS 'already intuitive secondary display performance, it feels smooth and easy. Windows returns to where it was and the monitor charges your laptop when a Mac is connected.
Using a device with Windows 10 is another story. Windows has trouble recognizing the monitor. By default, the wrong resolution is used, with black bars on both sides of the desktop. Another problem is going to the Settings menu to change the resolution. Windows does not recognize that this monitor supports 5 KB and is limited to 4 KB.
Honestly, the decision to design a monitor that only works on MacOS is an arbitrary limitation that affects the value of the monitor. If you decide to switch to Windows or need to use a Windows computer at work, the LG Ultrafine 5K is almost unusable.
A fly in the ointment
The LG Ultrafine 5K is surprisingly robust. It's hard for a 27-inch monitor, which is partly due to the massive metal stand and base, which offer remarkable stability in everyday use. Even shaking the desk hardly got this thing moving.
After setting up the monitor, we checked it again and wanted to make sure that the factory settings were restored. This is usually done by pressing a button on the back to access the hardware menus. From here we can usually check resolution, refresh rate, brightness and color options.
However, we did not get very far with this monitor because the Ultrafine 5K does not contain any buttons. No power switch, no menu button, no hardware brightness control, nothing. Apple and LG sacrificed another key feature in the name of simplicity. Hardware buttons connect the headphone jack and the USB Type-A ports in Apple's mass grave of prematurely abandoned hardware standards.
Aside from the striking lack of buttons, it's a little surprise that the LG Ultrafine 5K is an Apple collaboration. It's partly not stylish because the majority of its body is made of plastic instead of a higher quality material like aluminum. The bezels here are also unusually large, and the extra thick top – or forehead – makes the entire display look upside down. It doesn't look good for a monitor worth $ 1,300.
Full 4K displays are a feast for the eyes. Everything looks sumptuous, hyper-realistic and incredibly detailed. The LG Ultrafine 5K goes one step further and the results are amazing.
Returning to another monitor appears to be less of an experience.
To the naked eye, the display of the Ultrafine 5K is simply outstanding. The text appears color-intensive, smooth and pen-sharp. Photos and videos are detailed, vivid and lifelike. Not to mention that 5K content on this display is simply breathtaking. Even a simple landscape wallpaper becomes a convincing argument for the premium price tag of the Ultrafine 5K.
After a few tests it is easy to see why this display is so striking – because it is ready to use. At 1020 to 1, the contrast ratio of the Ultrafine 5K gives everything a unique feeling of depth and even surpasses the outstanding Samsung CFG791 that came with 910 to 1.
The Ultrafine 5K can also reproduce an admirable 92 percent of the AdobeRGB spectrum. That's not a perfect 100, but it puts the Ultrafine in the same league as its closest rivals. For example, the Dell UP2715K managed 96 percent. The BenQ PV3200PT and LG 27UD88-W 4K managed 72 percent and 77 percent, respectively.
For professional users, the four percent difference between the LG Ultrafine 5K and Dell UP2715K could be a deciding factor in deciding which monitor to buy, even though both are only slightly below 100.
In terms of color accuracy, the Ultrafine 5K has achieved a remarkable average color error of 2.75, which is not bad compared to a typical desktop monitor, but a bit high for a professional monitor.
Just look at how it does against the competition. The Ultrafine 5K value of 2.75 is better than that of the LG 27UD88-W 4K, but significantly worse than that of the professional BenQ PV3200PT monitor. The Dell UP2715K is a little better, but not much.
Overall, the LG Ultrafine 5K looks good with the naked eye. Compared to other professional monitors, however, it lags somewhat behind the brand. To put it clearly, it is in no way a bad advertisement. It simply fights in an arena where the best monitors can be found and it has no clear advantage over its competitors.
Not much room for improvement
So far we have talked about ready-to-use settings. Many professionals use calibration to improve a monitor. Can a few improvements fix the weaknesses of the LG Ultrafine 5K?
The bezels are unusually large at the top, so the entire display looks upside down.
Not as much. Some displays have hidden potential that can be uncovered during calibration, but unfortunately the Ultrafine 5K isn't really one of them.
After calibration, we saw a small increase in overall color accuracy – the Ultrafine 5K's average color error dropped from 2.75 to 1.96 – but that's about it.
It's an improvement, but negligible in everyday use, and not enough to outshine other high-quality monitors. For example, both the BenQ PV3200PT and the Dell UP2715K saw significant improvements after calibration. The BenQ PV3200PT rose from 1.14 to 0.98 and the Dell UP2715K from 2.15 to 1.41.
With the Ultrafine 5K you see pretty much what you get. Out-of-the-box performance is good, but not good enough to compete with other high-quality monitors, and calibration doesn't do much to move the needle.
Large monitor, mediocre sound
The LG Ultrafine 5K has speakers that do not spoil your ears with rich, velvety sound. They're pale compared to the speakers on the MacBook Pro 15. However, neither speaker can stand up to a good pair of external speakers or headphones. It's a very close complaint, but it's a little unfortunate that the speakers that come with it aren't at least as good as the ones in the laptop they're supposed to be paired with.
The LG Ultrafine 5K offers a standard one-year manufacturer's warranty with one important limitation – it is covered by LG and not by Apple. The Ultrafine 5K is intended for use with a Mac, but cannot be brought to an Apple Store for repair. Apple recommends users to contact LG instead.
Even if the repair in the Apple Store is not taken into account, the guarantee remains a disappointment. Most competitors give a warranty of three or even five years on monitors in this price range. We've had this complaint on previous LG monitors and hope the company will rethink its policies.
If LG took the 5K panel out of this display and put it in a slimmer, better-looking frame, the Ultrafine 5K would be almost flawless. This may seem picky, but this is a display that costs about as much as a new laptop, desktop, or half a MacBook Pro 15.
For a desktop monitor, a price of $ 1,300 requires examination with a microscope. It increases existing shortcomings that cheaper displays can easily handle and makes them appear larger than they are.
Is there a better alternative?
The 5K monitor from Dell is a little hard to find these days, but generally sells for a little more. It works with Windows and MacOS and outperforms the LG Ultrafine 5K in both color gamut and accuracy, even though it loses contrast. Ironically, it has a far more attractive aesthetic and goes well with a new Mac – although you'll need a video adapter.
If 5K isn't a must, there are several great 4K options on the market. We still recommend the Dell P2715Q, which costs less than half the price and offers excellent all-round performance. The BenQ PV3200PT is also a solid option if you want a larger 32-inch screen.
How long it will take?
The Ultrafine 5K will likely outlast any laptop or desktop you use with it. This 5K display will not be out of date in the near future. While LG prefers a longer warranty, monitors are generally reliable. They often last over a decade.
On the other hand, the monitor didn't work properly when we tried it on Windows. Buying this monitor means serious commitment to MacOS, which may even survive the lifecycle of a newly purchased MacBook Pro.
Should you buy it
No. The LG Ultrafine 5K has a beautiful panel and looks beautiful at a glance. However, there are many brilliant 4K monitors available, and Dell offers a great 5K alternative. Other monitors work with either Windows or MacOS and are often cheaper. Worse, Apple already announced plans to build “Pro” displays in 2018. Mac fans who want an Apple approved monitor should be patient and wait for their arrival.