Building a multi-monitor setup

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by ConnertheCat, Mar 31, 2015.

  1. ConnertheCat macrumors newbie

    Mar 31, 2015
    Hey all - I've been slowly working on putting together a pretty intense setup to replace all the random computers I have around the house now that I work from home (2010 iMac, 2011 Air, Junk work PC laptop).

    I'm currently working off of the Air with a Refurb Thundrbolt display I bought last Friday. I plan on replacing the Air (and iMac) with a 2015 13 inch rMBP and want to make sure I'm not going to run into any unexpected hiccups (I've already seen a few going through some documentation).

    1) The Thunderbolt displays specifically mentions that you can't chain a non-Thunderbolt display off the back…*major bummer. I was planning on buying a older 27" Cinema display (used, obviously) and using it as my second external -- mostly because I can use a mini display port switch and jump between a second monitor for the Mac as a well as a display for my Gaming PC. Unless someone has a better idea there, is it safe to assume that a Thunderbolt display AND a Apple Cinema display can be run off of the two Thunderbolt ports on the rMBPs? I don't see anything saying otherwise; but you never know…

    (For those wondering why I don't just use the 2010 iMac as an external - I may use it that way for a while, but you need to constantly hit CMD + shift + 2 to bounce…*and I damaged the display cable replacing the hard drive a year ago so the screen/audio flickers annoyingly every now and then.)

    1b) Minor point - anyone ever used a Thunderbolt with a Cinema display? They seem to be near identical, but I'd hate for their to be some random visual annoyance that made them not look the same…

    2) I'm going to be mounting the 2 displays to some arms using VESA mounts - these are the arms I'm currently looking at, not sure if anyone has something they've liked more?

    3) Has anyone used a Henge dock before? They look sexy as hell and I'd look to incorporate one into my setup - looking to see if anyone has tried one and if they liked it.

    Thanks for your time folks! :)
  2. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    1) You can't daisy chain a non-TB display directly off of a Thunderbolt display, but if you put another thunderbolt device (with dual thunderbolt ports) between them, it will work. Not a cheap proposition, but doable. On the rMBP, with the dual thunderbolt ports, however, you can connect the monitors as you suppose, with each monitor going to it's own port on the laptop.

    2) Just make sure that whatever mounts you get can handle the weight of the 27's. It would suck if they were too heavy.
  3. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    You should be able to chain Displayport displays if the displays support 1.2+ and come with two ports. But only the newer MBPs have Thunderbolt 2 with Displayport 1.2. The old TB 1 was with DP 1.1a which does not support chaining of independent panels.
  4. HDFan macrumors 65816

    Jun 30, 2007
    I drive the old 30" Cinema display from a Thunderbolt port on my nMP using Apple's Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter with no problems.
  5. s0nicpr0s macrumors regular


    Sep 1, 2010
    jdechko is exactly right with his first point. A Thunderbolt Display will not power a non Thunderbolt Display chained directly after it. By throwing a fourth device in between the monitors, you can power both screens off of a single port. The technical part is that the thunderbolt connection contains a video feed and a data stream. The TBD will use the video feed on itself and pass along the data. A second TBD would pull another video feed out of this data stream, but a Cinema Display can't do that. Using another device with two ports, that will pull the video feed out for the ACD and then everything will work just fine.

    Back to the third question in the original post, I've seen and slightly used a henge dock for an Air. Due to the port limits on an air, it only had one TB port on the back, a USB and I believe a 3.5mm jack. I have no idea whether one designed for the MBP would have both TB ports passed through.
  6. campyguy, Apr 13, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2015

    campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    OP, if you're still checking this thread, 10.10.3 changed things significantly on newer, capable Macs. I have a 15-inch late-2013 rMBP with the discrete video card (750M) and two TB2 ports.

    With 10.10.3 I can now power the two Dell 4k P2715Q displays at 60Hz over DisplayPort - and they look great. Really great! I don't have to use HDMI to drive the second one (at 30Hz) any longer. FYI, I can't drive the displays separately while daisy-chained as they show up mirrored - they have to be connected to a separate TB2 port. But, for just a few more bucks than one Apple TB Display I have two Dell 4k displays on my desk (well, suspended over my desk...).

    I also sprung for a Herman Miller Flo Dual for my two displays - they cost less than the Ergotron arms but I had to wait for them to be shipped to a local reseller - the Flo is so much easier to set up than anything that Ergotron sells, and the warranty is much longer.
  7. HenryCase macrumors newbie

    Jan 27, 2014
    I have a 15" RMBP, late 2013. I'm driving three externals, although none are thunderbolt (two through the two thunderbolt ports, one through the HDMI port, and the internal display.)

    The HDMI-connected screen is a 1920x1080 TV (for editing video)
    The thunderbolt-connected screens are 1920x1080 and a 1600x1200 (Wacom Cintiq).

    It works great, but seems to forget the preferences/configuration about half the time it restarts or powers on. They all work, but sometimes I have to reposition them, or tweak the resolution on one, or turn mirroring off.

    The other half it works as you'd expect. Just installed 10.10.3 so maybe that'll help.

    This doesn't really help, but more info is always better. Not many people run multi-monitors.

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