Connect MBA to Thunderbolt Display and TV

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by michisto, Aug 27, 2011.

  1. michisto macrumors newbie

    Aug 27, 2011
    Hello everyone

    I ordered my 13" MBA yesterday. I also have a 20" iMac and my plan was to buy a 27" iMac soon to replace my old machine. The iMac is mainly used for photoshop and watching movies. I have an 1080p TV attached to my iMac over mini-dvi-->hdmi which works perfectly, I can watch 1080p movies fullscreen with my old core 2 duo processor. In Addition, the iMac forwards DD5.1 and DTS signals to my 5.1 soundsystem over the digital audio-out. Everything works fine, but I really like to use a 27" display at home.

    Then yesterday, after having ordered my MBA, I had a sudden change of mind. Why don't I buy the new Thunderbolt Display to replace my iMac and the MBA becomes my only machine (besides the iPad, which I actually don't use often).

    Now I have some questions about pairing a MBA with a TB Display (I know that Apple hasn't started shipping the TB Displays yet, but maybe some experienced users still can help me, because I've never worked with external displays from Apple).

    First question: If I paired the MBA to the TB Display via Thunderbolt, can I close my MBA for working with the 27" display only? If yes, what will I actually see on the big screen? my dock from the MBA? Or just a wallpaper like on my 1080p TV? And what will I see if the MBA's display is running at the same time?

    Second question: I read that it's impossible to daisy chain two TB displays to a MBA. But is it possible to connect my 1080p TV to my TB display via a minidisplay-->hdmi cable, so that the MBA is controlling the TB display and the TV simultaneously?

    Third question: What actually would happen if I'd connect two TB displays to my MBA? Would it just be slow or is this possibility software-wise blocked, so that a MBA always only supports on display?

    This concept really fascinates me: I can use my MBA at university, at home I have still the same computer, but a nice display and for movies I have my 1080p connected. No need to sync my computers anymore, it would really be a dream. By the way, I don't worry about the "small" 256GB SSD in my MBA, I have 15TB external memory for photos and movies. So, 256GB should be enough for programms, data and music.

    Thanks for reading until here, I'd really appreciate it if you could help me in making up my mind :)
  2. brand macrumors 601


    Oct 3, 2006
    The 2011 MacBook Airs can only drive one external display. It does't matter if it is a computer monitor, TV, or projector since they are all considered displays. This is not because of software restrictions put in place but because of a smaller ThunderBolt chip used so save space on the logic board.
  3. Yumunum macrumors 65816


    Apr 24, 2011
    I had pretty much the exact questions as the OP. Darn, can't use two displays? :/ that sucks...

    Btw OP, having only one computer and not worrying about syncing two is REALLY great!
  4. michisto thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 27, 2011
    Thank you for your answer!

    So maybe I will need a streaming box for my TV. I have an ATV2, but for my purposes it is still kind of useless, even though it has potential.

    But despite your information, I'm still interested in getting a TB display, so I'd really appreciate it to get some answers on my first question in my post :rolleyes:

    Yeah, it's a dream, never ever thinking again about syncing computers, I could save so many hours.
  5. Ollivander macrumors newbie

    Jun 6, 2007
    If you run the display with your laptop closed you will see the dock on your 27" TB Display. If you have the MBA open you can use it as another display and you can place the dock on either the 27" TB Display or your MBA. You can change this setting in System Preferences -> Displays.

    I have the 11" 2011 MBA, waiting for the new TB Display to do the same thing :D. This replaced my 15" macbook pro and plan on using it as my main computer.

    Have fun with your MBA
  6. brand macrumors 601


    Oct 3, 2006
  7. jsolares macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2011
    Land of eternal Spring
    The restriction is because of the HD3000 GPU not the thunderbolt chipset, the only machine that actually takes advantage of the big thunderbolt chipset is the iMac 27" since it has two thunderbolt ports.
  8. dubAdub macrumors member


    Mar 31, 2011
    Bray, Ireland
    I'm planning on doing the same thing with my MBA and TB Display when it arrives.

    The closed clamshell to external display with bluetooth keyboard and trackpad works really well. As a taster of what is to come I tried it connected to my HDTV.

    Seeing the MBA drive the bigger screen felt like I was unleashing the true power of the MBA. It will be awesome connected to the even higher res TB.
  9. sloan47 macrumors member

    Aug 3, 2011
    Well if the Thunderbolt external GPU's ever get released you can (probably) run dual external displays from that.

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