Multiple Display Setup

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by DenBeke, Nov 18, 2013.

  1. DenBeke macrumors regular

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    #1
    Now I bought a new MacBook Pro, I've noticed that this machine runs faster for a lot of things (and for most things at least as fast as) my older Mac Pro.

    I'd maybe sell the Mac Pro and keep only the laptop and the screens.
    Some questions about this 'new' setup.

    - Can I easily connect two displays to my MacBook Pro 15" mid 2012 (non-retina), while keeping a thunderbolt port. (the MacBook actually has only one port)
    - Will I, every single time I switch from mobile setup to setup with the displays connected, reorganize all my windows on the screen?
     
  2. gavinstubbs09 macrumors 65816

    gavinstubbs09

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    #2
    If memory serves right, you can hook up a TB display to your MBP then another display into that and still be able to daisy chain 4 more devices after the display. However the MBP can only output to 2 screens at once so your MBP screen will go black. Second question, I can't help you :(
     
  3. DenBeke thread starter macrumors regular

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  4. durkkin macrumors regular

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    Sep 23, 2013
    #4
    You have options, but none of them are going to be ideal.

    1. Thunderbolt hub. Expensive, but it's going to do what you want.
    2. Sell a monitor and get a Thunderbolt Display. Also expensive, but it can act as a hub as well. One caveat is that you'll have to have another Thunderbolt device between the ATD and the DVI monitor. You can't go computer -> ATD -> MiniDP.
    3. Use USB to DVI adapters. Depending on the resolution of the monitors there's a good chance you'll have lag through USB 2.0, and you'll dominate all of your USB ports, but you'll at least have the Thunderbolt port left.

    If you don't have to have the Thunderbolt port left over the easiest thing is going to be using a MiniDP to DVI converter from the Thunderbolt port, but that will end the "chain" at 1 device. Then your second monitor can be connected through a USB converter.
     
  5. DenBeke thread starter macrumors regular

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    #5
    Thanks for the replies!
    I'll take a look at those Thunderbolt hubs...
     
  6. theluggage macrumors 68030

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    #6
    Good luck - there's no such thing (not in the "thunderbolt equivalent of a USB or Ethernet hub" sense)!

    You can connect 1 external display to the TB port with a suitable adapter. If you have a Mac with only 1 TB port and want a TB disk drive *and* an external display, you have to resign yourself to paying the premium to get a drive with a Thunderbolt 'daisychain' port - to which you can then attach your display.

    The rule with Thunderbolt is that although the computer can drive 2 displays via TB you can only have 1 display per Thunderbolt peripheral - either built in to the device or a miniDP device connected to the peripheral's TB out (that includes all the various miniDP-to-VGA/HDMI/DVI adapters). The Apple Thunderbolt Display is a thunderbolt peripheral with a display (D'oh!) so you can't also connect a minDP display to it - but you can connect a second Thunderbolt display or any other TB device with a thru port, to which you can then connect a MiniDP display.

    The recently shipping Caldigit dock is the closest to what you want - it has a HDMI port that will let you drive one HDMI or DVI display and a single Thunderbolt 'through' port that you can connect other Thunderbolt peripherals, including an Apple TB display, to - but it won't run a HDMI display and a miniDP display.

    So it will fix your 1 external display + thunderbolt peripheral problem, but won't get you 2 external displays without extra devices.

    So for 2 external displays, your TB options are:

    Code:
    A Mac --> Apple TB Display --> Apple TB display
    
    B Mac --> Apple TB Display ---> Any dual-port TB device ---> MiniDP display or adapter 
    
    C Mac --> Caldigit dock ----> HDMI/DVI display
                            |---> Apple TB display       
     
    D Mac --> Caldigit dock ----> HDMI/DVI display
                            |---> Any dual-port TB device ---> MiniDP display or adapter

    (D) is probably the cheapest (for a given value of cheap!) option - presumably the 'other TB device' could be a second CalDigit dock - but you'd want to confirm that.

    Alternatives - I've not used one, but Matrox do a device called 'DualHead2go' that (effectively) combines 2 displays into one big one, connected to a single display connection, giving you a big, wide desktop spanning 2 screens.

    Since you have a Mac Pro going spare, there's a bit of software called 'ScreenRecycler' that will let you use the MacPro display as a second/third display for your MBP via the network. You'll get some lag/tearing on the remote display but its probably comparable to the USB2 adapters the other poster mentioned.

    Or, for free, install Synergy on both machines - this lets you drive multiple Macs from one keyboard and mouse, fairly seamlessly (including some cutting & pasting between screens). Not quite the multi-screen setup you wanted, but you can use one machine for browsing/testing etc. while working on the other.

    Meanwhile - shove a big hard drive in your Mac Pro and use it for Time Machine backups over the network!
     
  7. durkkin macrumors regular

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    #7
  8. theluggage macrumors 68030

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    #8
    They're not hubs. They're docks. A hub is part of a star network topology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_network). See "usb hub", "ethernet hub", "firewire hub" etc. All thunderbolt devices to date use a daisy-chain topology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_topology#Daisy_chain) although I think one of the press releases said that hubs were possible, there aren't any yet.

    More importantly, none of them will solve the original posters problem of:

    Belkin: you can still only connect one monitor to it's single thunderbolt-out port, which ends the Thunderbolt chain.

    Matrox: has a display connector, but no thunderbolt-out, so again its the last TB device you can connect.

    Sonnet: is still vapourware, but has the same issue as the Belkin, although since the dock contains everything but the kitchen sink losing your thunderbolt-out is somewhat mitigated.

    Caldigit: at least lets you connect one display and a further thunderbolt device, but still won't fix the OPs 2-monitor problem without adding a second TB device.
     
  9. DenBeke thread starter macrumors regular

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    #9
    But could I buy a CallDigit dock and use the HDMI port for one display and the Thunderbolt port for another display?

    Right now I don't have a Thunderbolt device, but this could be possible in the future... (maybe then there are better Thunderbolt hubs/dockings on the market)

    If you attach two 24" inch monitors to those thunderbolt docks, how much bandwidth will be left?
     
  10. boomdog macrumors regular

    boomdog

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    #10
    Is it really this difficult to attach two monitors to MacBook Pro? I was considering getting two to use with mine. Is the OP's complication caused by trying to make his MacBook backward compatible with his screens? Is there an easier solution for someone buying new screens?

    Please note, I'm looking in to dual screens as an alternative to an expensive apple/dell 27" screen. Thinking about 2 x 22"-24" screens.
     
  11. theluggage macrumors 68030

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    #11
    Only if the second display is an Apple Thunderbolt Display. A regular HDMI/DVI/Displayport display won't work unless you daisy-chain another thunderbolt peripheral between the display and the dock.

    One display per Thunderbolt peripheral - it's the law.

    On the Classic MacBook Pro - yes.

    The retina MBPs have 2 thunderbolt ports + a HDMI port and can officially drive 2 external displays (and have been demo'd with 3 - but one of those might need to be a TB display).
     
  12. hallux macrumors 68020

    hallux

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    #12
    As for the question on window ordering. The Mac will remember what windows were where. In my case, the only issue I run into when returning from single display mode is the size of my Outlook window, I have to re-expand it to the full size of my external display.

    As an example.

    External desktop 1:
    • Chat application contact list
    • Chat application chat window
    • Messages

    External desktop 2:
    Outlook

    Internal display:
    Chrome

    The desktops on the external are organized as I had them. In fact, I have to unplug the monitor in order to sleep the computer when I go home at night.

    This is with my work-provided Early-2011 13".
     
  13. DenBeke thread starter macrumors regular

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    #13
    A stupid law...
    I can't imagine why the hardware wouldn't support this... :(

    So my setup would become:
    Code:
    Mac
           -> CallDigit dock -> display
                             -> CallDigit dock -> display
     
  14. boomdog macrumors regular

    boomdog

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    #14
    One of the reasons die hard PC fans dislike Macs and OS X. Sometimes it seems as though Apple forces you to stay Apple with EVERYTHING!

    Used to drive me crazy when the first iphones came out and you couldn't bluetooth images/songs to your friends from an iphone when every other phone of the time had the feature. Then when they added bluetooth, it only worked between iphones - ridiculous. That put me off Apple for years, even though bluetoothing files died with the advent of apps like whatsapp. Other silly things like being able to easily add music to you phone/pod and then take it off later.
     
  15. theluggage macrumors 68030

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    #15
     
  16. durkkin macrumors regular

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    #16
    As theluggage explained before it's due to the different protocol Thunderbolt uses. I attached a picture that shows how Thunderbolt works in a basic sense. You need multiple controllers to split video streams from the PCIe streams, and since a controller only splits it once, you can only have one display device per controller.

    You can also use something like this, that I suggested before: http://www.startech.com/AV/USB-Video-Adapters/USB-to-DVI-Multi-Monitor-Adapter~USB2DVIE3

    I would think yes, but I would assume that as soon as you attach a DisplayPort 1.2 device you can from then on out you can only have more DP devices since the PCIe stream stops. But you could probably also attach a dock (;)) and split the PCIe from DP allowing you to daisy chain displays and still have a breakout box for data connections.
     

    Attached Files:

  17. DenBeke thread starter macrumors regular

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    #17
    Right, that seems reasonable.
    But why has no one yet made a thunderbolt to dual display device, which actually consists of two controllers?

    Maybe I should do that.
    Will these things work on a Mac without any drivers?
     
  18. DenBeke thread starter macrumors regular

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    #18
    Maybe the most simple solution will be a DualHead2GO.
    So I attach my two monitors the the dual dvi device, which can be attached to my MacBook Pro into one port.


    Which gives me another question. Matrox ships it with software that can split one combined display into to 'virtual displays' that will be recognized by OS X.
    Are there any other apps available for doing the same? I don't want to be dependent on just one tool...
     
  19. durkkin macrumors regular

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    #19
    Since Intel owns the Thunderbolt protocol they are the only ones allowed to make chips and controllers. I'm by no means an expert on how Thunderbolt works, but I believe in order to allow 2 displays per Thunderbolt device you would not only need to change the controllers, but the cables as well.

    They should. When you plug in a monitor it will identify itself to the computer as another available display and automatically start outputting video.

    Wow that's actually really smart. I don't know of anything else that does that, unfortunately. It's possible that it's out there though.
     
  20. SBA macrumors member

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    #20
    How do you have this all hooked up exactly?

    To the OP, I've been using the Matrox dualhead2go for a few months without any big issues. It was a bit of a pain to get set up and I can't seem to find any way to get their software to tweak the display arrangement to my liking, but overall I am pleased with the setup.

    This is on a 2012 13" MacBook Air with 2x Dell 23" monitors.
     
  21. DenBeke thread starter macrumors regular

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    #21
    What do you guys think of this setup...
    Buyes a caldigit dock, hook a dvi display on it, then buy the cheapest thunderbolt device possible, and add the other display at the end of the chain?

    The Caldigit dock surely will be easy for attaching my peripherals to it and a cheap hard drive can always be of use...
     
  22. anshu macrumors newbie

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    Mar 30, 2011
    #22
    Thats my route, I was looking for a docking station for awhile anyways.

    The issue is that there isnt much cheap with a thunderbolt passthrough. I ended up getting lucky and finding a 3tb external for 200, but the same drive with usb 3 is right around 1/2 that cost...
     
  23. hallux macrumors 68020

    hallux

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    #23
    Using the mini-DP to VGA adapter. What I mean by "External desktop 1" and 2 is that I have multiple "spaces" on the external monitor.
     
  24. DenBeke thread starter macrumors regular

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    #24
    Would it be possible to place an old PCI graphics card with two DVI outputs in a Thunderbolt chassis?

    Or is that just wishful thinking?
     
  25. theluggage macrumors 68030

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    #25
    Cost? They'd have to put two Intel controller chips in the box, and figure out a cheap way of connecting them together without a Thunderbolt cable (which is an active cable with a chip at both ends).

    Demand? Do enough people actually want 2 external monitors on a MacBook Air or MBP Classic? Retina MBPs can take two displays anyway.

    Its taken long enough for anybody (Caldigit) to come up with a credible dock with both HDMI and a Thunderbolt passthrough.


    Wouldn't bet on it for that one without confirmation - but Startech seem to do 101 different USB video adapters (I guess they're re-branding stuff) and some of them are listed as suitable for Mac:
    http://uk.startech.com/AV/USB-Video...cs-Card-for-PC-and-MAC--1920x1200~USB2DVIPRO2
     

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