Help Deciding on Dongles for External Displays

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by smp351, Dec 9, 2016.

  1. smp351 macrumors newbie

    smp351

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2016
    #1
    Good Morning Everyone-

    I currently have a MacBook Air (Mid-2013, MacBookAir6,2) running 10.12.1. I'd like to hook up a 2nd external display to it. I currently have one external monitor working well using Amazon's Thunderbolt to HDMI adapter. I understand that in order to get a 2nd monitor hooked up, I'd need to use a USB to HDMI or DVI adapter as well. I've looked on Amazon for a bit and see mixed reviews on many devices. In the answered questions section, I've seen people saying a lot of these devices do not work with mac while the next answer for that very same product, someone states that it does. Before I purchase one I'd like to get the advice of any users on here that have a USB to HDMI or USB to DVI/VGA adapter that does work with their MacBook Air. Please let me know. Thank you very much everyone .
     
  2. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #2
    I also have a 2013 MBA and looked at various ways to connect two external screens awhile ago. Came to the conclusion it wasn't practical. A USB device is more than an "adapter" to convert different kinds of plugs. It uses software to send data over USB that is then actively decoded and converted to a display signal. I have not used one of these, but have read they can have a significant amount of latency (delay). I suppose it depends on what you are doing and what you expect. Maybe it's fine for looking at spreadsheets but probably not for video.

    There was some discussion here of the Matrox DualHead device awhile ago. http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/gxm/dh2go/digital_se/ It will let you connect two monitors to the minidisplayport output of the MBA and evidently there is very little latency. But what you get is actually an extended desktop twice the usual size (3840x1080 instead of 1920x1080) that is displayed on two separate 1920x1080 screens. This might be a good solution for some things because you can drag windows to the separate screens. But the Mac still treats them as a single virtual screen. So software that actually wants an individual dedicated monitor won't work properly this way. For example, you can't drag the menu bar to just one of the external screens (it will span them both).

    None of these solutions worked for my needs (video editing). I bought an OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock thinking that might be a solution, but couldn't get it to work properly on my MBA and returned it. A dock in and of itself won't give you two screens, you can only plug one external monitor into it. However,if you plug another thunderbolt device into the dock (like a disk drive) and then plug a second screen into that device, you should then be able to connect a second screen to it. This is according to reports I've read here and elsewhere. Was not able to try it myself since the dock itself would not provide a reliable video image with my 2013 MBA.

    After awhile I just gave up on the idea of two external screens, and now I have a Mac Mini dedicated for video editing. It has all the ports I need and is a much better solution, although more expensive than I had originally planned. ;)

    Again, it depends on what you need. One simple way to get an additional screen is airplay to an Apple TV, you can get used or refurb Apple TV3's very cheaply. Airplay will let you configure it just like a screen that is physically connected to your computer. I have a couple ATV3's that are hardwired on ethernet and this works pretty well but of course there is noticeable latency. One problem is that the Apple TV 3 only had 100baseT ethernet and not gigabit. This is also true of the new Apple TV 4, however it has 802.11ac wifi which should be much faster. Have not used one of these, but I assume it would have less latency with AirPlay.
     
  3. smp351 thread starter macrumors newbie

    smp351

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2016
    #3
    Thank you Boyd for the very in depth response. I would just be using it to view email, websites, spreadsheets and other work related items. I might try the Apple TV route. I might just have to wait till I get a Pro down the line which comes with 2 external thunderbolt connections which I assume can be easily used with 2 external displays.
     
  4. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #4
    The nice thing about the Apple TV is that it's wireless. Do you have a friend with an Apple TV? You could try Airplay on it and see what you think. For me, it seemed clear that Apple didn't really intend the MBA to be used with two external screens. The Pro is able to do this certainly.

    If you really only need this capability at home, a Mini might be another solution, the base model sells for less than $500 street price. I have two 2012 Mini's and one 2014 (current model). This gets OT for the MBA forum, but Apple really messed up the 2014 mini. The base model is actually slower than the 2012 model it replaced and has soldered RAM that cannot be upgraded. But if your needs are modest, it might be OK and you get two thunderbolt ports plus HDMI. The slow hard disk on the base model would be tough to adjust to after a MBA though.

    Am giving my 2012 base mini to my daughter's family for Christmas, and to improve performance am putting the system on a fast Samsung 512gb USB 3 disk. So if 4gb RAM isn't a problem, you could setup a Mini like this for around $650 which is a lot cheaper than buying a MBP. ;)
     
  5. cerberusss macrumors 6502a

    cerberusss

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #5
    I've got the same model. The maximum you can do, is one external display. And the maximum resolution of that is 2560x1440.
     
  6. UnlikelyLass macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2016
    #6
    I've got a MacBook Air 13" 2015 (7,2), so a different vintage from yours. I've successfully gotten multiple external displays the following ways:
    • elgato Thunderbolt dock (with HDMI out) + any second thunderbolt device with a passthrough tb port so I can daisy chain a mini-displayport to whatever cable. The TB port on mine encapsulates two DisplayPort streams, so you need two TB devices (the dock and another one) to get both decoded
    • Targus thunderbolt dock, which natively decodes both DisplayPort streams, and has two DisplayPort ports.
    • Matrox DualHead2go ME, which takes two external monitors and presents them to your Mac as a single, bigger monitor.
    With any of these three setups, I can also drive the internal monitor.

    I've successfully used both dock tricks (dock + second TB device OR a dock with two video outs) plus the matrox DualHead2go to get three external monitors.

    If your specific machine can only do one external monitor, as cerberusss suggests, then the Matrox solution sounds like it might be the best one. Matrox also makes a "Triple Head2go" device, but it is internally limited on the refresh rate and resolution of the three external monitors if you use all three at once (you can get the triple head and just use two of the ports if you want, though).

    My workplace has a NOC room with a bunch of DisplayLink USB docks with dual video out + ethernet + usb via a single USB3 port. These do work with my machine -- there are OS X drivers -- but the drivers don't seem to be very good. I get a lot of artifacts, with the menu bar in particular going blank or not getting updated.

    Hope this helps!
     
  7. Saturn1217 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2008
    #7
    I'm using this DisplayLink adapter that I bought off Amazon with my 2013 Macbook Air.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K85XURC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    I'm using it to connect to a 1080p Dell monitor while I use the native thunderbolt port to connect to an Asus 1080p monitor. I always use the internal monitor as a third display (because I am now addicted to screen real estate).

    I really like my set up. There is very slight lag on the Dell monitor connected with the USB to HDMI adapter but it would only be an issue if your were gaming. For text or web browsing it works fine. One of the things I like about this adapter is that DisplayLink seems very dedicated to keeping mac drivers up to date. If you visit their website: http://www.displaylink.com/downloads/osx, you will see that they are very dedicated to keeping drivers up to date.

    I've had 1-2 weird issues using an external hard drive with this set up, but I was never able to conclusively prove that the displaylink adapter was the culprit. Otherwise, it has been very reliable. No waking from sleep issues or high CPU usage (which I was worried about).
     
  8. cerberusss macrumors 6502a

    cerberusss

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #8
    I've been on the verge of buying a DisplayLink product multiple times, but then backed off. I always had the feeling that although the drivers are solid, they expose bugs in macOS which get low priority at Apple.

    You didn't encounter weird screen artifacts with the menubar and stuff?

    (Great post, by the way!)
     

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