Using 4K displays and Ultra HD TVs with Mac computers


This is a complicated topic. There are three things to know to get UltraHD (aka 4K) running with your Macs. The main thing is how to get to 60 hertz so it is a reasonable experience using it as a display. The other issue is if Apple supports their “Retina” technology so the fonts are tiny, tiny.

  • Hardware. You need DisplayPort with MST (multistream transport) to get 60 Hz. Only the MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013) and the Mac Pro (Late 2013) support 4k at 60 hertz. Apparently MST is only supported on MacBooks with the dedicated nVidia GPU because the integrated HD5000 in the MacBook Pro 13 doesn’t have the horsepower.
  • Connector. You need DisplayPort MST in hardware, so you can’t use the HDMI connector on your Mac as it is only 1.4a (the new standard is 2.0)
  • Display. Only a few displays support MST on DisplayPort and it is non standard how to turn MST on, but they are the Sharp PN-K321, ASUS PQ321Q, Dell UP2414Q and UP3214Q and Panasonic TC-L65WT600

If you just want to see movies are are OK with 4K at 30 Hertz (3840×2160) then the requirements are less stringent, so you will get the retina-like graphics, but not 60 hertz:

  • Hardware. MacBook Pro (Retina, late 2013) and you can use HDMI or DisplayPort to do this.
  • Connector. You can use HDMI since 30 hertz works with 1.4
  • Display. They list Sharp PN-K321, ASUS PQ321Q, Dell UP2414Q, Dell UP3214Q, Panasonic TC-L65WT600 but the list is longer. We know from our own experience that the Sony XBR-6X900A works properly.

So what should you look for in the next revision of Apple and display hardware:

  • Hardware. Hopefully the next turn of the crank will see HDMI 2.0 on MacBooks Pro and make sure to get the beefier chipset, most likely on the 15″ MacBook Pro
  • Connector. Since many TVs only have HDMI, you ideally can use either
  • Display. Make sure that if it is a TV it has HDMI 2.0 (the new Samsung 7500 flat panels do) or that is has Displayport 1.2 MST or has Thunderbolt 2 directly as input (some LG monitors do).

Here are the notes from Apple:

You can use 4K displays and Ultra HD TVs with your MacBook Pro (Retina, Late 2013) or Mac Pro (Late 2013) computer. You can use these displays at the following resolutions and refresh rates with the built-in HDMI port.
3840 x 2160 at 30 Hz refresh rate
4096 x 2160 at 24 Hz refresh rate (mirroring is not supported at this resolution)
With OS X Mavericks v10.9.3 or later, the following DisplayPort displays are supported at their default 30 Hz using single-stream transport (SST).
Sharp PN-K321
Dell UP2414Q
Dell UP3214Q
Panasonic TC-L65WT600
MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013) or Mac Pro (Late 2013) also support 60 Hz displays using multi-stream transport (MST). These displays need to be manually configured to use MST. Follow the steps below to use the display’s built-in controls to enable this feature.
Sharp PN-K321: Choose Menu > Setup > DisplayPort STREAM > MST > SET
ASUS PQ321Q: Choose OSD menu > Setup > DisplayPort Stream
Dell UP2414Q and UP3214Q: Choose Menu > Display Setting > DisplayPort 1.2 > Enable
Panasonic TC-L65WT600: Choose Menu > Display Port Settings > Stream Setting > Auto
via Using 4K displays and Ultra HD TVs with Mac computers.

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