2 monitors with Macbook Air?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by deadherring, Jul 20, 2016.

  1. deadherring macrumors newbie

    May 13, 2016
    I am trying to find a setup that works with 2 monitors on a 13" macbook air (the air was purchased recently). I have tried using the USB-->hdmi dongle but found it worked terribly and crashed my mac a lot. I just want a setup that will work without issues.

    I have the Elgato Thunderbolt 2 dock: https://www.amazon.com/Elgato-Thund...429&sr=8-1&keywords=elgato+thunderbolt+2+dock

    and it has two thunderbolt ports and hdmi port but the mac only supports one stream at a time. To get a second external monitor they say I can daisy chain a second dock in via thunderbolt and a second monitor will therefore work.

    I am wondering if in place of the second dock I can use a Thunderbolt hard drive with two thunderbolt ports? (I found this hard drive: https://www.amazon.com/LaCie-Thunde...eywords=thunderbolt+hard+drive+with+two+ports)

    So the setup would be:

    Air-->Elgato dock (thunderbolt 1)
    Elgato dock (thunderbolt 2)-->Hard drive (thunderbolt 1)
    Elgato dock (hdmi)-->monitor 1
    Hard drive (thunderbolt 2)-->hdmi monitor 2 (via thunderbolt to hdmi cable)

    Does anyone know if this setup would work? I thought I read somewhere that thunderbolt daisy chaining allows for a second video signal?


  2. Brandon0448 macrumors 6502


    Aug 2, 2011
    Anchorage, Alaska
    The MBA only officially supports one external display. You can run the internal and one external screen together but not two external screens. Stick with one external display, get a MBP or better yet get a desktop.

    You cannot daisy chain multiple displays together. One display can be part of a chain with other devices but multiple displays can not be in the same chain.
  3. UnlikelyLass macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2016
    I have an el gato thunderbolt dock and a 13" 2015 MBA and a thunderbolt drive with two TB ports.

    I can easily run two 1080p monitors -- one off the dock via the dock's HDMI port and one off the hard drive using a mini-DisplayPort to HDMI cable -- and the built in monitor works just fine as well, for a third display.

    I'm not sure about using the internal monitor with it, but my husband's 2013 era 11" MBA also works with this setup with no trouble.
  4. deadherring thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 13, 2016
    @UnlikelyLass: Thanks a million, this is what I had hoped! I am going to order the drive. BTW, which hard drive do you use? I've seen the La Cie has two ports but wondering what else is out there.


  5. UnlikelyLass macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2016
    I have two distinct setups: one for work and one for home.

    At home, I have:
    • El Gato thunderbolt dock
    • Western Digital thunderbolt mybook (contains two drives)
    • A La Cie 3TB thunderbolt drive
    Off of that I have two 1080p monitors, one off the dock with HDMI, one off the LaCie drive with a mini-displayport -> hdmi cable.

    At work, I have:
    • El Gato thunderbolt dock
    • OWC thunderbolt/USB3.0 dual drive dock (I'm using it on the TB bus, obviously!)
    Off of that I have one 1080p monitor and one 1680x1050 monitor, again one is off the HDMI port on the dock and one is hooked to a mini-displayport cable (this one mDP -> DVI).

    Both setups work flawlessly. I believe there is a hard limit on two total displays off the thunderbolt2 port on current MBA models (because there are only two display port streams encoded in there), and there will also be a hard limit on the total number of pixels (ie, two 1080p monitors seem fine, I'm pretty sure two 4k won't be) amongst all active monitors.

    Anyway. Just wanted to underscore that this setup really, actually works. This is not theoretical -- I've used it with both my 2015 13" MBA and my husband's 2013 11" MBA. The key seems to be that you need two thunderbolt *devices*, each of which decodes one of the DisplayPort streams. So that can be two docks, two TB monitors, one TB monitor and one dock, one dock and one drive, one TB monitor and one drive, etc. The external PCIe enclosures should work just as well, as long as whatever TB devices you have have passthroughs, and one of them is either a dock with HDMI out or a TB monitor (which decodes it's own displayport stream).

    Good luck! =)
  6. deadherring thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 13, 2016
    Thanks, you rock! BTW, what's amazing is how little people understand that this setup is possible. I only found one obscure reference online to thunderbolt decoding a second video stream. The Apple Genius told me it is not possible to use a second monitor on a MBA and any forums that reference a second monitor only refer to a usb to hdmi dongle.

    Anyway, thanks again.

  7. UnlikelyLass macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2016
    It's baffling, isn't it? I wasn't sure it was going to work until I actually plugged it all together -- and I had done the same thing, finding an obscure reference to needing two TB devices, as opposed to two TB monitors or two docks, which is what everybody else seems to say, at best. I'm glad I found that hint, because I might not have tried it without finding that!
  8. S2-E macrumors newbie

    Jul 21, 2016
    At work, I have a 2011 13" MacBook Air using 2 Planar PX 2710MW monitors. I connect the monitors to the MBA using a Dell D3100 triple monitor dock that costs about $110 on Amazon (vs $200+ for the Elgato dock). The dock has 2 HDMI ports and a DP port as well as multiple USD ports (that I use for an Apple full size keyboard, Seagate 1TB portable hard drive and BT dongle for a LogiTech Peformance MX mouse). This was the only dock that I could find that would accommodate to HDMI monitors. Once I downloaded the DisplayLink drivers to my MBA, I plugged everything in and it worked great. The setup also works with my 2013 11" MBA. When I take my MBA out of the office or bring it back, I only have to deal with unplugging or plugging in one USB connector from the dock to the MBA.
  9. UnlikelyLass macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2016
    There are absolutely cheaper ways of having additional monitors than using Thunderbolt docks and drives. I've had mixed results with DisplayLink stuff -- they tend to work for me, but have weird UI glitches. I've much prefered being able to plug in one TB2 cable and get: 3 hard drives, a USB superdrive, two monitors, a keyboard, and a mouse.

    I was able to get my docks as refurb units, and the drives mostly on sale. YMMV.

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