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

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' 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. dazey macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2005
    I use a USB2 adapter with an older macbook. It does have lag issues and some things don't properly work on the second screen (things like screen capture and for some reason, sometimes scrolling in chrome). USB adapters work but they are a poor substitute for a real connection.
  3. kingtj macrumors 68020

    Oct 23, 2003
    Brunswick, MD
    re: USB 3 monitor adapters

    Actually, I'm curious how well the latest USB3 display adapters are working for people on the Mac.

    I have a couple of USB 2 BVU-165 DVI adapters made by Diamond Multimedia, which use the drivers made by

    Ever since they released v2.0 of that driver with certified Mountain Lion compatibility, I've had pretty good results with it as far as stability goes. It will run a second display off my Macbook Pro 17" notebook for days/weeks at a time without any real issues.

    Performance is laggy, but as good as I thought one could ever expect out of a USB 2.0 port, really. You won't want to try to play action games on it or anything, but it's great to give you more screen space to drag over toolbars for things like IM chat clients or to keep your email inbox screen open on it.

    Probably the single most annoying problem I have with them (and I think this will remain true for any USB 3 versions) is the inability to support Quartz Extreme video acceleration features. This means you're not even able to do a custom color calibration on one of these displays.

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