Macbook 12 2017 - my Thunderbolt 27 monitor

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by firmansolutions, Sep 11, 2017.

  1. firmansolutions macrumors member


    May 31, 2010
    Wow. What a quagmire this is.

    I have a MacBook Air docking into my Thunderbolt 27" monitor with an Elgato Thunderbolt dock (supports USB 3 and miniDisplay port).

    Trouble free, with USB 3 HDDs and a USB 3 SSD plugged into the Elgato dock.

    Then I decided to buy a new MacBook 12 2017 i5.

    For the past 3 days I have been going back and forth over

    (a) keep the Apple Thunderbolt monitor (I'm ok with the resolution for now but the MacBook screen my upset that status quo) and replace the Elgato dock with a USB-C or thunderbolt 3 dock

    (b) sell the Apple Thunderbolt monitor and buy a 4K monitor with USB 3 and USB-C ports (or enough to hang a dongle off it)

    The sub £200 ($265 USD) docks (eg. OWC USB-3 10 port) reportedly aren’t right, the Elgato, Caldigit and OWC Thunderbolt 3 docks are £300+ ($395 USD) and I don’t really need the super fast transfer speeds as my use of the connected drives is for offloaded VMWare Fusion Windows builds and Carbon Copy Cloner backups.

    I just want to be able to easily dock and undock and keep my existing backup / 2nd tier storage going.

    The big question is how to choose the right 4k monitor / dongle combo. It seems a good opportunity to spend money on a reaonsable 4k monitor with a serviceable USB-C dongle rather than loads on a high end dongle to keep my Apple Thunderbolt display.

    I need 4 x USB 3 ports, 3 for my external drives and one for a USB stick for occasional data exchange. I don’t mind buying and extra MacBook charger for offsite use enabling me to leave the supplied charger with the desk / dock setup.

    Thanks in advance for any help.
  2. robvas macrumors 68030

    Mar 29, 2009
    Are you talking about the 12" MacBook?

    It doesn't have ThunderBolt. USB-C, not ThunderBolt. I would get a USB-C monitor with ports to use as a hub.
  3. EugW macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2017
    Be careful about the dongle. Most are limited to 4Kp30. You have to specifically look for 4Kp60 support. Also, make sure you get one with USB C power input.

    Also note that if you get an HDMI-endowed hub with 4Kp60 support and it has USB ports, they will be limited to USB 2. If they have USB 3, then the HDMI will be limited to 4Kp30. Or so they say.
  4. firmansolutions thread starter macrumors member


    May 31, 2010
    Thanks for this. I have read about the limiting to USB 2 speed regarding the LG27UD88 monitor. It seems like a good option except for that. The author attributed the speed drop to the MacBooks use of all four lanes of the USB-C connection.

    Do you know if this is why one of the £300 hubs are thing? That is, because the USBC enabled monitors proving a hub are a less powerful / functional implementation?

    Perhaps a top end hub and a 4K monitor without the usbc/ hub capability is a better option.
  5. EugW, Sep 12, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2017

    EugW macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2017
    I don't think a 300 pound hub would solve that problem.

    However, you still preferably have USB C power input (or some other sort of power input) to charge the MacBook.

    I don't know how many monitors will charge the computer through the plain USB-C connection though.


    My hub has USB 3 and 4Kp30 only. I prefer this though, since I need USB 3, and for HDMI I only need 1080p60 (which it supports). The MacBook is only my secondary machine, so the HDMI support is for giving work presentations only, and I don't need 4K for that (yet), and even if I did, 4Kp30 is usually OK.

    I have a dual iMac setup at home with a 2017 iMac and a 2010 iMac, with the latter being used as a 2560x1440 Mini-DisplayPort monitor.



    Now that I think back on it, I think the LG 4K USB-C monitor might be able to charge the MacBook directly, without need of a powered hub. That might be a good solution if true, but you'd have to check into that.
  6. firmansolutions thread starter macrumors member


    May 31, 2010
    Thanks EugW. I have ordered the LG 27UD88. It does power and charge the MacBook so seems a good all-round solution, with the limitation of the USB 2 speed. I will deal with that issue somehow. I will comment back here how it all goes.

    Thanks for the help. If your little (Star Wars?) dudes need a lift I have Thunderbird 2 on hot standby :D
  7. firmansolutions thread starter macrumors member


    May 31, 2010
    So here is an update for all those with a new MacBook 12" USB-C only port and an Apple Thunderbolt Display (ATD).

    IT ISN'T POSSIBLE to drive the Apple Thunderbolt Display with your new MacBook.

    Referring to the LG 27UD88 monitor, I returned the product as further research revealed the DPI on a 27" 4K monitor isn't "retina" and this was evident in use. Also the audio out jack was dodgy during usage so it had to go back anyway. I thought I should be able to make my ATD work with all I had read to date.

    I tried the OWC USB-C dock, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock, the Caldigit TS3 dock, a low end Aukey dock and all failed.

    I used an Apple Thunderbolt 3 - Thunderbolt 2 adapter to connect the 2 thunderbolt docks to the ATD, where necessary, or plugged the ATD directly into the dock miniDP if it had one. The OWC USB-C dock did nothing. The two TB docks prompted the following message

    "Cannot use Thunderbolt Accessory: Thunderbolt accessories are not supported on this Mac". Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 16.29.33.png

    To be fair, this limitation of the rMB12 is stated on the Apple website, but its not made that obvious in a cautionary sense (i.e in context with the nice ATD you may have invested in as a longtime Apple consumer).

    Also, with the easy mixing of terminology and mini display port shape, the "marketing" on the dock vendors websites can lead one into believing their £300 docks provide a solutions, as do some of the 2016 tech journal reviews.

    I couldn't even mount my external SSD and HDD drives via the USB 3 ports on the thunderbolt docks as the connection between the USB-C rMB12 port and these docks, is via Thunderbolt 3 ports on the docks. These docks alone trip the abovementioned Apple error message, whereas I had thought is was the ATD.

    So you can either find someone who fancies trading their Apple 24" Cinema Display with your ATD (as its display port, not Thunderbolt and USB-C can drive it via the display port protocol with a cheap adapter), or sell it and get a non Thunderbolt display.

    So I have opted for an LG 29UC88 29-Inch Curved Monitor (Black) - (2560 x 1080 UltraWide) and will utilise an OWC 10 port USB-C dock to make my desktop setup work. The cost of these two items is about £500 and 2nd hand Apple Thunderbolt Displays (27") fetch around that on eBay at the moment in the UK.

    Its a shame as I really like my ATD but I'm hoping the curved wide screen will be a treat.

    I love the rMB12, but its such a shame they couldn't squeeze the necessary Thunderbolt controller into the machine.
  8. EugW macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2017
    It is likely Thunderbolt will be in the MacBook by say 2019. I believe it will be included in the chipset that Intel will be providing around that time. At the same time, the USB-C port will support Gen 2 10 Gbps over USB. Currently it is only Gen 1 5 Mbps (which poses a problem running USB 3 and 4Kp60 at the same time).

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7 September 11, 2017