MBA running Parallels plus 2 external monitors?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by macau, Jun 7, 2011.

  1. macau macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2010
    Hi everyone. I’ve been struggling over a decision as to whether to buy either a maxed out macbook air (13” ultimate, 2.1 C2D, 4GB RAM, 256MB video), or a top-end MBP (15” anti-glare, i7 2.3, 8GB RAM, 1G Video).

    I’d prefer the MBA because of the form factor and portability, but I’m not sure if it has the power to do what I need it to do. I’m not so keen on the 13” MBP because of the extreme glossiness of the display.

    I’d mostly be using it for stock trading and programming (windows and OSX). I’d need to run 1 LCD display on the mini display port, and a 2nd LCD from a USB display adapter to display trading charts. Some of my trading and development software only runs on windows, so I need to run parallels (XP pro or Windows 7) as well.

    I’m basically not sure if the MBA has the power to do this. For this setup/use would a top-end MBP offer significant performance benefit?
  2. nutjob macrumors 6502a

    Feb 7, 2010
    The USB screen performance is tied to your processor speed, so it won't be super fast. Parallels is a strain, and you're limited to 4MB, which is a bit tight if you run several apps, with what you are doing is probably unavoidable.

    You are better of getting a smaller cheaper 11.6 Air and building a cheap Hackintosh loaded up with an i7, heaps of memory and an SSD. Have a look at Kakewalk.
  3. philxor macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2010
    This is exactly what I do. I have a 24" Samsung display off the Mini DisplayPort and a Diamond displaylink USB to VGA adapter connected to a 19" LCD.

    I run Parallels pretty much all the time along with a host of other programs and have no problems doing this on a 13.3" 2.1Ghz MBA. I do use an XP VM and not Windows 7, but with the XP VM loaded, Outlook/Word/Excel 2011 loaded, Chrome, Adium, and various other apps, I'm still sitting at 1.8G of memory free.

    The video performance is not great on the USB adapter but it's not terrible. I am able to watch streaming video on it without an issue, but I mainly use it to view more static content like spreadsheets.
  4. macau thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2010
    Thanks for the replies guys. Much appreciated!

    philxor, when running the USB display adapter, have you noticed any significant load on the MBA processor? I'll only be using that monitor for displaying stock charts that are generally pretty static, so I guess it should be OK.
  5. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium


    Jan 28, 2009
    Quebec, Canada
    Run both LCDs from the MiniDisplayPort, why the need for a USB adapter ?

    The MBA would be fine for what you want to do, it can drive 2 LCDs with no problems and it runs virtualization software easily.
  6. macau thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2010
    KnightWRX , I assume you mean using something like DualHead2Go.

    That's a possibility I guess. From what I've read this product actually stretches one workspace across 2 LCD monitors i.e. the dock and menu bar is spread across both displays. Whereas the USB solution provides a separate workspace for the 2nd LCD, although the USB adapter will be slower of course. Ideally I'd like the 2 external LCD display workspaces to be separate, that way I can run Parallels in full screen mode on one display, and use the other for OSX apps.

    Anyway, there seems to be a few options, and the MBA probably going to be fast enough.
  7. philxor macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2010
    For me I couldn't justify the cost of the Matrox DualHead and I also like having a second display I can maximize apps on, etc. I don't know if I would recommend running parallels full screen via the USB monitor. It does take an appreciable amount of CPU to be active on the screen connected to the USB adapter. For me with static content it works fine but that's about all I would recommend it for.

    I also have two different size monitors which support completely different native resolutions, how would the DualHead handle that?

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