Experiences with the HP Z27q 5k monitor on the Macbook Pro

It’s been a while since the HP Z27q was first released in the US … about 4 months or so.  I’ve been chomping at the bit to go Retina on the desktop for a long time, so the relatively reasonable price point of the HP Z27k was enough to make me take the leap.

I’m really quite enamored with 5k resolution monitors.  As it turns out, adding one of these to a computing setup is one of the few things that really moves the needle in this day and age.  Having owned one for a while at home and at work, I have to say that my opinion on this still holds.

With that, here’s some advice and stuff to watch out for.

  1. The HP Z27q has suspect quality control.  I have gone through 4 of these monitors and have still not found one that didn’t have a dead pixel or dirt smudges under the panel.  The dead pixels I can understand … the smudges mean some serious QC issues at the factory.  I am attentive to detail (as any software engineer probably should be) but I am not anal retentive about dead pixels, especially when there are 14 million of them in the panel.  So my final panels have a dead pixel in an errant spot on the screen.  I don’t really notice in daily use.  Hopefully the manufacturing situation has improved by now.  All this makes me think the reason the monitor is so much cheaper ($1299 instead of $1999)  is because they sourced B-grade panels.
  2. 5k support on Mac’s in general is touch and go.  There’s all kinds of strange things to worry about like the exact ports you plug into, how many you can use, etc.  Technically, only the Macbook Pro 2015, the iMac 5k, and the Mac Pro support 5k out right now.
  3. 5k support on the Macbook Pro 2014 (with dedicated GPU) works!  It’s not perfect by any means, and it is not technically supported, but the bottom line is it somehow works.  The magic incantations required of you are as follows.
    1. Follow the iClarified instructions to trick the Macbook into thinking you have a Dell UP2715K monitor.
    2. Make sure you have 4k ready mDP to DP cables on hand!
    3. Plug the secondary DisplayPort cable into the rearmost Thunderbolt port on the Macbook Pro. (in case you are wondering, the order and location of the ports most definitely matters)
    4. Plug the primary DisplayPort cable into the frontmost Thunderbolt port on the Macbook Pro.
    5. (Optional) Plug in the HDMI cable to get a second monitor going.  With the right cable and monitor, you can drive 2560×1600 off this port!
    6. (Optional) If you get into a bad state where the monitor is showing the left half of the desktop on both the left and right sides of the screen, here’s how to fix that.  Remove the secondary DisplayPort cable and wait until the screen resets to non-retina mode.  Then unplug the primary DisplayPort cable.  Then plug everything back in according to the above instructions.
    7. I do not recommend trying to plug in the DisplayPort cable and the HDMI cables all at once.  In my experience, this confuses the MacBook Pro.  Whenever you dock your laptop, get the 5k monitor up and running, and then plug in the HDMI afterwards.
  4. Performance is not butter smooth.  Ok, don’t get me wrong here … it’s still 60fps, and the cursor moves just like you would expect it to.  But the resizing and dragging of windows feels laggy.  It’s amazing that the hardware handles it at all, and in my opinion the massive improvement in image and text sharpness makes any UI lag totally worth the tradeoff.  But don’t expect miracles here.
  5. Getting your hands on a Spyder Color calibrator might be worth the hassle.  The monitor displays colors quite nicely on its own and is pre calibrated.  But it won’t hurt either.

In summary, 5k support on the Mac is still quite hacky.  Reminds me of PC days!  But is it worth it?  If you stare at a screen like I do … all day … then yes, it is totally worth it.  It’s quite possible this could be the last monitor I will ever need to own.  (OK that’s a bit optimistic, but you get the idea).

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2 Responses to Experiences with the HP Z27q 5k monitor on the Macbook Pro

  1. Pingback: The HP Z27q is now recognized by OS X | rkuo.com

  2. dchinnici says:

    Richard, Thanks a TON for discovering AND posting this info. I had been wrestling with this since getting the HP Z27q — unable (even with assistance from HP advanced Tech department) to get 5k. I had purchased my MacBook Pro Retina 2015 for this specific application, and was disappointed that I had perhaps wasted $700 extra on the HP in this attempt to go from 4k to 5k. My local store and rep Spencer, at Computer Advantage, Sarasota FL, were absolute geniuses, and found this article. And five minutes later, had me fully functional.

    Ah, the beauty of the Internet where those of you who have shared it, have benefited those of us who greatly needed it. Thanks again a ton, for posting up this information.

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