MacBook Pro or Air for Multi-Monitor Setup - USB3 Monitor Adapters Any Good?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by cheesygrin, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. cheesygrin macrumors member

    Sep 1, 2008
    Looking for a bit of advice folks. I'm after upgrading my ageing 13" MacBook with something I can use as an office machine. I'd also quite like a triple monitor setup, powered by the laptop. (Probably 3x 24")

    The way I see it I have two options:

    1. MacBook Pro 15" retina. comes with HDMI and two thunderbolt ports - could power three HDMI monitors on native graphics card. (More money than I was planning on spending...)

    2. MacBook Air 13" i7. Intel 5000 graphics only. Would have to use two USB 3 adapters (such as a "Cable Matters SuperSpeed USB 3.0/2.0 to HDMI Adapter") to power two monitors, with primary central display powered by single thunderbolt adapter.

    The difference in cost between these two machines is around £350 ($548) (specced-up Air v. standard Pro), but with the Air I would have to spend an extra £100 ($156) on adapters, so really the difference is more like £250 ($391).

    Is the difference in cost worth it for the (bigger/bulkier) Pro? Does anyone have any experience using USB 3 video adapters?

  2. sarthak macrumors 6502

    Nov 19, 2012
    I currently have the rMBP 15" and drive three external 24" Monitors (1920x1080) in Portrait Mode, (Specific Model E2411PU-BN). They are connected with two MDP -> DVI adapters and one HDMI -> DVI adapter. I moved from using a Mac Pro tower driving four in portrait mode to a rMBP driving three.

    They work just fine. The system only drives them from the GT 650M and you won't be able to switch to the iGPU. It will generate a bit more heat but nothing serious. Everything is a very smooth experience.

    There is a massive difference in performance between the HD5000 and GT 650M. Besides, USB 3.0 display adapters aren't as smooth of an experience as you'd get with a dGPU.
  3. cheesygrin thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 1, 2008
    Thanks for the reply mseth; basically, I understand that the Pro would be the machine of choice for powering the monitors and would give a smoother experience, but I am wondering if an Air with USB 3 adapters would do a good enough job for basic office tasks?

    The central monitor would be on the GPU, with the peripheral monitors on adapters. Anything intensive would be done on the central monitor. Wonder if this would save me some cash on buying the Pro?

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