Dual monitor questions - daisy chain, dock, USB, etc?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Great Satchmo, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. Great Satchmo macrumors newbie

    Jan 18, 2010
    Well, I (somewhat accidentally, but probably for the best) just bought 2 HP ZR2740w monitors. I currently have a 27" Cinema (non-thunderbolt) display. I love the Apple aesthetic and it's a great monitor, but given my uses I prefer a non-glossy display and I don't need the color fidelity.

    I have a current generation Macbook Air and want to run these two HP monitors as dual monitors and I need to figure out how to do this.

    So far as I know I can't daisy chain these monitors. The two options I know of at this point are: a dock (only one that seems to be out right now is the Belkin http://www.belkin.com/us/p/P-F4U055/ for $200) or a USB adapter.

    I'd prefer to go with the cheaper solution so long as it works, but I don't know how well the USB solution will work here. Are there any other splitters or ways to address this?

  2. Great Satchmo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 18, 2010
    Well, seems like the Plugable USB 3.0 to HDMI (~$60) is a decent option, but it's not clear whether it supports 2560x1440.

    However, there doesn't seem to be much discussion on the Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock, which some reviews on Amazon seem to say that it supports dual displayport output for dual monitors (no daisy chaining). This is around $180 with the cable on Amazon.

    Still doesn't seem clear what works and what doesn't. If the dock works perfectly, then it may be worth the extra $100 (considering how much I've spent on the monitors and computer), but I also don't want to burn money unnecessarily.

    I guess I just haven't seen commentary in the context of the new TB docks or with the USB and dual 27" monitors running 2560x1440.

    I love Mac, but these sorts of complications are the kind of thing that drives me out of the camp a bit. If the dock solves things, then this isn't too bad - but I'd prefer to not go through the trial-and-error process for something as simple as a dock (and which still is going to be a couple hundred dollars on top of everything else).
  3. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    Is this what you're talking about? http://www.belkin.com/us/p/P-F4U055/

    This came up before, but I don't understand how you would connect two monitors to it. Maybe I'm missing something, but it looks like there is only one thunderbolt/misdisplayport available. The other one is needed to connect the device to your MBA.
  4. phositadc macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012
    I just bought a mid-2013 11" MBA from the refurb store and have looked into how to setup dual monitors extensively. I'm no expert, but here's what I've concluded based on reading lots of threads and reviews:

    The MBA has a single Thunderbolt port and zero HDMI ports. It thus natively supports only a single external display. Adding a dock cannot magically create support for another native display. Thus, if you buy a dock that has multiple Thunderbolt ports, or a Thunderbolt + an HDMI output (such as the CalDigit), you can still only have one external display. If you try to connect two displays to the CalDigit (one via Thunderbolt and one via HDMI), only one of the displays will actually work--the other will supposedly be blank.

    There are two exceptions to this. First, daisy chaining. If you own monitors capable of being daisy chained over Thunderbolt, then you can have multiple displays via Thunderbolt. Second, a USB-to-HDMI adapter. Here, you would have one display connected via the Thunderbolt port, and a second display connected via USB.

    Again, I'm no expert, so don't take this as definitive, but having read everything I could find on the topic, those appear to be the ways to attach multiple displays to an MBA. I tried to start another thread asking how many people actually run multiple displays from an MBA and how satisfied they are with their setups, but nobody responded.

    Edit: One other method that may work is the Matrox DualHead2go. I did not look into this much because I didn't really like the sound of it. Apparently, it fools your computer into thinking that you have a single, super-wide display, rather than recognizing that it actually has 2 displays. Didn't sound ideal to me, so I didn't research it further.
  5. Great Satchmo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 18, 2010
    Thanks for the responses - after more research I've figured out that, aside from buying two thunderbolt displays (which is out of the question), there isn't a great solution.

    This is seriously making me consider making a move back to PC's (at least for non-mobile platforms), this is ridiculous.
  6. robvas macrumors 68030

    Mar 29, 2009
    Sounds like you should have gotten the 13" Retina.
  7. phositadc macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012
    Yeah, it's a pretty big detractor for me as well, especially since I've already got 2 x 23" 1080p monitors that I like. But the USB-to-HDMI solution seems like it might actually work pretty well, so I decided it is worth a shot. I'll post back with results in a couple days when I get everything setup (MBA is supposed to arrive today; USB-to-HDMI adapter tomorrow).

    And, as the poster above suggested, the 13" rMBP would solve your problem. It has 2 x thunderbolt ports and 1 x HDMI output. No shortage of external monitor options, there.

    The only reason I chose MBA over rMBP is because I wanted super portable, and the 11" MBA is exactly that. If I'm not happy with the dual monitor setup with the MBA, I will return it and get a 13" rMBP. Nearly as portable as the 13" MBA but more powerful and with superior external monitor options.
  8. phositadc macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012
    I posted the same message in my thread about dual displays but thought it would be useful in this thread, too:

    I set mine up with 2 external monitors this morning. One is connected via mDP to DVI cable, the other via USB-to-HDMI adapter + HDMI to DVI cable. Both external monitors are running 2048x1152. As you can see in the attached pic, this also works with the MBA display as a 3rd display.

    Overall, quality is satisfactory, but not great. The USB-to-HDMI adapter is not an ideal solution. Though not horrible, doing anything on it is a bit jittery. For example, the mouse cursor does not glide across the screen as smoothly as it does on the screen connected to the mDP port. Also, if I drag a photo or a window from the mDP screen to the USB screen, the photo or window will turn black for a second or two before showing up again. Almost as if the USB display takes a brief second to register the contents.

    I think these are just limitations of a USB display. As far as I can tell, it's not really taxing the CPU in any noticeable way, and I didn't notice any performance slow down.

    I think this setup would work for somebody doing primarily office-type tasks, but would probably be pretty bad for video and photo applications.

    I'm still on the fence as to whether it's good enough for me or if I would be better off with a solution that does not require a USB display adapter, such as the rMBP 13" which has two mDP and an HDMI output.

    Attached Files:

  9. Great Satchmo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 18, 2010
    Thanks for the input.

    Looks like the dual screens will be coming my way, for the better or worse.

    I think I'm going to have to just sell the Air (which I REALLY don't want to do) and buy a Pro Retina (which I'm not as enthused about).

  10. kearmith, Nov 6, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2014

    kearmith macrumors newbie

    Nov 5, 2014

    Hello there,

    Il'l bring that tread alive because this forum help me so much. I'm IT coordonator and Apple start raining into the research center 2 years ago.

    So: I just finished to install dual monitor on MBP trought USB 3. I know here it's about MBA, but the solution work fine for all Apple laptop.

    The solution for DUAL external monitor in over HD resolution is TARGUS USB 3 universal dock station model ACP70USZ (140$ us). Compatible with PC and APPLE.

    On the fisrt installation, it was not working weel with 2 ASUS 27" monitor .

    TARGUS release on october 14 the 2.3 version of display link software and all set up was working well as expected.

    I also deploy a an Ergotron Dual arm with that setup and it's look prety nice
  11. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    What complication? You bought a laptop with one video-out port. They are common. There are a million PC laptops with only one HDMI-out port. You can't connect multiple monitors to them either. Going back to PCs and Windows won't solve your "problem" of trying to plug two things into one port.
  12. kearmith macrumors newbie

    Nov 5, 2014

    the TARGUS doc fix that problem; it provide 2 HD port; one DVI and one HDMI

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