2016 MBP and multi-display solutions

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by el-John-o, Nov 1, 2016.

  1. el-John-o macrumors 65816

    Nov 29, 2010
    This is a question for you learn-ed ladies and gents who know a lot more about the DisplayPort, USB-C and thunderbolt 3 specifications than I do.

    I pre-ordered the 2016 MacBook Pro 15", and am planning to upgrade my displays. I currently use an Apple Cinema Display (27"-1440p) and an old dusty 15" VGA display (1024x768! Woohoo!). I'm planning to slap a pair of 4k displays, not that 4k isn't as cool as 5k, and the prices are actually pretty reasonable. I'm looking for 27"-30"; but it seems like the best value is in 27" panels. Currently it works great. I don't use the 15" display on the Mac (but I do want to use both 4k displays), so I just swap the miniDP cable and USB cable between the two machines. A fancy combo miniDP/USB extension runs up from the Windows PC to the desk. Ugly but it works.

    I'd like to do this with as few cables as possible. The LG UltraFine 5k displays aren't a great option for two reasons. One; this setup will be shared with a Windows PC (my gaming PC) that does not have thunderbolt or USB-C. Two; see line 1 paragraph 2. "I pre-ordered the 2016 MacBook Pro 15" ". That means I can't afford the LG UltraFine 5k displays :D. The budget for this project is $1,500; though less is even better! With that $1,500 I need a pair of 4k displays 27" or larger, ideally a stand to mount them to (that's negotiable), and whatever hardware is necessary to make switching between my Windows PC and Mac as painlessly as possible and with as few cables as possible.

    As I understand it, 4k Displays can be daisychained through DisplayPort at 60hz. Is that correct? If so; how do I make this happen? There are enough hubs out there to make my head spin. But there's a twist! I also have a USB Keyboard and mouse. USB 1.1 speeds would be enough for my USB needs, of course. (External storage will be direct to the Mac). So if a hub won't work, that's yet another cable (and dongle!) I need.

    What I know is currently an option:
    • A basic USB 2.0 hub and USB-C to USB-A adapter (For keyboard and mouse) and an extension for the Windows PC. Swapping USB between the two swaps the mouse.
    • A pair of USB-C to DisplayPort / miniDP adapters, one for each display, along with the requisite extensions for the Windows PC.
    • A USB-C Wall Charger
    Unfortunately, that setup requires swapping three cables from the Desktop PC to the Mac every time, and requires 4 cables to be plugged into the MacBook Pro. That's far from elegant.

    The IDEAL solution would be a hub that would charge the MacBook Pro, support two 4k displays at 60hz connected to it, and have USB Type A ports (speed irrelevant). I can't seem to find such a thing. I've found one that does all but charging, but it says "Windows Only". That would still mean swapping three cables each time (between the hub and the Windows PC since the Windows PC doesn't support USB-C), but at LEAST it's only one cable (or possibly two if it doesn't charge) to the MacBook Pro.

    What say ye, wise MacRumors Forumers? Has someone discovered an exceptional, elegant solution that I'm not aware of?
  2. therealseebs macrumors 65816


    Apr 14, 2010
    The daisy-chain thing may push them to 30Hz, and several people who make products that can do daisy-chaining have had big warnings of "MST does not work with Macs!" where MST is some kind of multiple display streaming thing.

    I am not sure of the state of KVM switches for displayport and the like. With DVI-D, a KVM could be $800 a while back. (DVI is way cheaper, but won't do that resolution, and DVI-D probably can't do 4k either.)

    I have avoided 4k displays thus far because MacOS has no real font-scaling options (I can't just say "make all fonts 25% bigger", and if you are surprised that I am pointing to a usability/accessibility feature Windows has and Apple doesn't, well, I'm surprised too). So I have a 30" 2560x1600 display, and it's lovely, but text quickly gets to be unusably small in some parts of the UI, and there's nothing I can do unless I want to run it as a 1280x800 display with hidpi scaling, and that is WAY too little screen space. So.

    I guess that's the first thing I'd suggest: Actually hook a Mac up to a 4k display and see how comfortable you are with the visibility and legibility.

    Note that some monitors (not just the LG 4k/5k ones) may also function as partial hubs, providing USB ports or whatever. USB-C in theory allows the same cable to do both USB ports and one display at full speed. I'm not at all sure it could do two, so you might need a second cable for that.
  3. el-John-o thread starter macrumors 65816

    Nov 29, 2010
    What I'm curious about is whether Multi-Stream Technology (MST) is only a limitation of the MacBook. The only "mac" with USB-C was the 12" MacBook. That's what has me curious; I can't seem to find anything definitive on whether or not the new 2016 MBP's support MST. And given how different these models perform; trying it out with a 13" model may not indicate whether my 15" model will 'work'.

    I've ordered the displays and my current setup is going to involve connecting stuff to all 4 ports of the MBP to get it working the way I want. Not ideal but, I suppose it works. I think I'm just going to have to wait until spring until these docks start shipping.

    The dell displays have USB hubs but with it's own seperate USB stream. So my current setup (that I hope to upgrade in the future when something suitable is actually available) is:
    • 2x Dell 27" 4k displays
    • 2x miniDP to miniDP Cables (for the Windows PC)
    • 2x USB-C to DisplayPort (for the Mac)
    • 1x USB-C to USB-A adapter
    • 1x USB 3.0 Cable
    To switch from the windows PC to the Mac, what I'll need to do is first connect the displays using the USB-C to DisplayPort cables (the Dell displays have both miniDP and DisplayPort and can switch between them using the on-screen menu, hence using different ports). Then switch the 'input' on each display to the DisplayPort port.

    THEN disconnect the USB 3.0 cable from the Windows PC to a USB-C to USB-A adapter on the Mac. (My keyboard, mouse, wacom tablet dongle and other related input devices will be plugged into the displays for that reason. I want those active on whatever machine I'm actively using; so it's easier that way).

    Finally, plug in an Apple OEM USB-C charger.

    All 4 ports populated, and less than elegant, but it'll work for now. I'll purchase a hub that supports dual displays if that turns out to be a capability of the new Mac; if not, I'll get a USB-C hub with charging passthrough (reduces two cables; Charge+USB, to one) and continue to connect each display to an independent port.

    I should add; this is far more elegant than the last time I had a dual Mac/PC setup. I had a G3 PowerMacintosh alongside a Windows 98 equipped PC. Everything was proprietary back then (folks complaining now have no idea how far us longtime Mac users have come). No VGA, proprietary Apple display connection. No USB or PS/2, proprietary Apple keyboard/mouse connection. I had it on one desk; but that one desk had two 15" displays, one for the windows PC, one for the Mac. Two keyboards, two mice, two external models, two seperate ZIP100 Drives, etc. etc. NOTHING was intercompatible back then. At least this time everything works with both machines, I just have to figure out how to plug it all in and how to switch between the two with the fewest steps.

    For the record, then, and now, the PC is used for PC gaming and some other tasks that use software not available on the Macintosh; and the Mac is used for things like Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, etc.
  4. Baldrake macrumors 6502

    May 22, 2012
    Great White North
    Sorry to slightly hijack this thread, but didn't want to start yet another one...

    Does anyone have specific examples of 4k displays that work with Macs? For example, Dell has a DELL Ultra HD 4k Monitor P2715Q that's been getting good reviews, but I've no idea whether it works well with MacOS. Anyone have any suggestions? (I'm looking for 27"-28" 4k).

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3 November 1, 2016