New MBA runs two Thunderbolt displays!

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by ProPedderKustom, Jun 11, 2012.

  1. macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2008
    An Apple Store rep told me that the new MBA will run 2 Thunderbolt Displays in clamshell mode. Can anyone confirm if this seems/is correct?
  2. macrumors 68000


    Feb 5, 2008
    The place where Apple designs stuff
  3. macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    MacBook Air - Graphics and Video Support
  4. thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2008
  5. macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    Exactly. I'm not "getting at" anything. I'm just quoting Apple.
  6. thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2008
    Ok - I am looking for an answer and don't see it there. Thanks though :apple:
  7. macrumors G4

    Oct 23, 2010
    The HD3000 was limited in how many displays it could power (2). I believe the HD4000 can power 3 displays. That may be why the 2012 MacBook Air can power 2 ATDs.
  8. macrumors member

    May 16, 2012
    As I understand it, the graphics chip can support multiple displays at the same time (more than two), however Apple have limited it to just two. Could be wrong, but possibly to make a greater difference between the Air and the Pro?
  9. macrumors newbie

    May 5, 2011
    Three Simultaneous Displays Was Part Of Intel's Marketing

    I posted a similar question in another thread. It makes no sense to me that the new MacBook Airs - with the Intel HD 4000 chipset - are limited to the same one external display and the internal one as last year's models. That limitation was HARDWARE based. The 3000 chipset could not handle more than two simultaneous displays. But the 4000 chipset can. In fact, it was demoed by Intel running on a laptop on this video I posted in the other thread: So I'd like to believe that what you say is true, but until we receive confirmation, we won't know for sure.

    To that end, I've emailed a couple of people at Macworld since they were one of the first to figure out the whole you-must-connect-something-between-a-thunderbolt-display-and-a-displayport-display-for-it-to-work. Will certainly report back if I hear anything.
  10. thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2008
    You rock
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2011
    Land of eternal Spring
    The 3000 chipset in the 13" MBP could support two external displays (powering down the laptop one) but the MBA using the same could not, this is assumed to be due to the difference in the thunderbolt chip used, if that's still the same thunderbolt chip it'll still only support one external display.
  12. macrumors regular

    Apr 4, 2011
    I can't even afford one thunderbolt display.. I probably won't experience 2 thunderbolt displays for a long time.
  13. macrumors newbie

    May 5, 2011


    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my posts in both threads. You appear to be spot on.

    The 2011 MBP 13 had the 3000 graphics, which could only handle two displays (internal + 1 external) BUT it had a thunderbolt chip - Light Ridge - that had two DisplayPort sinks. Thus, if you connected two external displays to it, it had to pick two of the three (2 external + 1 internal) because it couldn't display all three (again, 3000 graphics limitation). So it picked the two external displays and darkened the internal one. See point 8 here: To quote: "You can connect a second Apple Thunderbolt Display (27-inch) to a 13-inch MacBook Pro, but the built-in display on the MacBook Pro will go dark. This is expected behavior."

    Now, the 2011 MacBook Air had a different thunderbolt controller - Eagle Ridge - which had only one DisplayPort sink. So the 2011 MBA was limited in two respects: the 3000 graphics could only support two simultaneous displays and the TB controller could only support one external. Ergo, one internal, one external, period, done, end of story, thank you, good night, drive home safely.

    The 2012 MacBook Air, however, has the 4000 graphics, which clearly supports THREE simultaneous displays. So the GRAPHICS could handle, say, two TB displays AND the internal display. But, as you correctly point out, what about the TB controller?

    Well, Sandy Bridge ships with 2nd generation TB controllers - Cactus Ridge. But the only differences, as I understand it, between Cactus Ridge and Light / Eagle Ridge is that Cactus Ridge has some more things built into it that were formerly external chips, so they consume more power, but as a system, it consumes less power because those other chips are flat out gone. But what about display capability? Those stayed THE SAME:

    Note that Cactus Ridge 2C is the same as Eagle Ridge - only one DP sink.

    So, my conclusion: unless Apple put the 4C version of Cactus Ridge into the 2012 MacBook Airs, they are limited to only one external display and will NOT drive two, even in clamshell mode, even though the graphics chipset is more than capable of doing it.

    Boy, oh boy I hope I'm wrong, but until someone shows it working, or I hear differently from an authoritative source, I'm gonna go with "no".
  14. thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2008
    Thanks for this :)
  15. macrumors newbie

    Apr 2, 2008
    I know this isnt exactly on topic, but if the situation is as described above, do we have any options with USB 3?

    Pretty interested in this. I'm going to be purchasing a new MBA and was hoping to have a multiple monitor docking station setup in the home office.
  16. macrumors newbie

    May 5, 2011
    Not off topic at all. Thunderbolt is still the answer - it's just an expensive answer. Buy this Sonnet external Thunderbolt PCI expansion chassis: and put in a mid-range desktop graphics card and you'll be able to hook up at least 3 external monitors (one from the Air, two from the graphics card), plus you'll have more graphics processing capabilities that the Retina MBP. Of course, when you add the price of this to a nicely equipped Air, you'll PAY MORE than a Retina MBP too...
  17. macrumors 6502a


    Nov 11, 2008
    Even if it could do would probably be really slow. I hooked up my 13" Macbook Air to a 27" ACD...was NOT happy with system performance. YMMV
  18. macrumors newbie

    Apr 2, 2008
    I was thinking of something more like this for a USB 3.0 alternative for driving multiple monitors.

    I know there wont be any answers til folks get a chance to plug stuff up to the new Airs.
  19. thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2008
    That sucks! My 13" MBA is flawless when paired with the 27" Apple Thunderbolt display.
  20. macrumors newbie

    Jun 12, 2012
    iFixit Teardown suggests it will

    Ive been researching this as well...According to iFixit, the 2012 macbook air teardown came up with the DSL3510 L Thunderbolt port (4c)...

    So according to the charts here:,3205-3.html

    We do indeed have the dual display port ability 4c in the Air vs the older 3310 2C (2011 models).

    Pair that with the 4000 graphics card, and I think we have a dual monitor winner. Now, hold your breath Apple doesnt intentionally cripple it!
  21. macrumors newbie

    Apr 2, 2008
    now that is some good news. thanks for the update!
  22. macrumors newbie

    May 5, 2011
    WOW! I totally did not expect this! The 3510 is a MAJOR Thunderbolt upgrade, costs more money and consumes more power. Why on earth would Apple include it and then cripple it?

    I agree with you - based on my understanding, there is now no HARDWARE reason a tiny little 11" MBA (unless the 11incher has a different TB controller than the 13) couldn't run TWO TB displays...which, I, at least, find really fricking cool.

    Oh, and did anybody else notice:

    So who's going to be the first one to go to an Apple store and beg their indulgence to try it out?
  23. macrumors 6502

    Dec 21, 2008
    Weird. I have the top of the line 11" Air and it runs it's display and my 27" ACD just fine. Even with EyeTV playing live television on one of the screens.

  24. macrumors regular

    May 29, 2005
    Fairfax, VA
    So anyone try connecting a 2012 Air to two Apple thunderbolt displays? Do they both get 2560x1440 resolution just fine?
    If that's a bit too expensive, you can also try two HP zr2740w displayport monitors for $650 apiece.
  25. macrumors regular

    Apr 20, 2009
    I didn't realise they had released this :eek:

    Anybody tried it?

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