rMB and dual external displays

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by philstone, Feb 16, 2017.

  1. philstone macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    Location:
    Jersey, Channel Isles
    #1
    Is it possible to get dual external displays working on the rMB?

    I'm not concerned about 4k etc, its purely for work so will be spreadsheets, word documents etc..

    Currently using a MBA 11" with a DisplayLink USB adapter which works fine, however the laptop needs replacing and really don't want to replace it with another MBA.

    Obviously a MBP makes more sense with the multiple USB-C ports, however portability is important.

    Thanks
     
  2. bill-p macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2011
    #2
    Yeah, it's doable, but you'll be limited in the maximum resolution you can reach.

    Last time I tried, I could get 1920 x 1080 @ 60Hz on 2 displays, but not any more than that. Maybe someone else had better luck?

    Also your setup will be a bit more convoluted as you'll have to find a dock that can both charge your rMB as well as output to 2 monitors. Last I tried, I could only find an adapter to split to HDMI + Mini DP, which allowed for the dual monitor setup, but not for charging, so it wasn't ideal as a solution.

    I'd imagine you can use one of those USB -> external display adapters floating on the market, too. In which case, maybe just Apple's own USB-C AV adapter will suffice as it can charge the computer while giving USB 3.0 and HDMI output.
     
  3. andy9l macrumors 68000

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    Aug 31, 2009
    Location:
    England, UK
    #3
    As you've already worked out, a MBP is better suited for your needs. The rMB was not intended to be used in this way.

    I don't think the 2016 13" MBP is hugely different to the rMB in terms of portability, if we're honest with ourselves. By technical dimensions, it's different, but the real-world "human" difference between the two is fairly minimal.
     
  4. bill-p macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2011
    #4
    2 lbs versus 3 lbs is a massive difference, physically. Can you honestly say you do not notice that difference? I know I do.

    If you're not bothered by the weight, then you'd likely go for the 15" MBP anyway. I have both a 15" rMBP and the 12" MacBook, and I prefer using the 12" MacBook by far... physically. Except for the keyboard and screen real estate, but both of those can be remedied with an external display and keyboard, which I think the 12" MacBook does a very good job of supporting.

    2 years ago, the MacBook didn't make any sense as it was severely limited by lack of peripherals supporting its one USB-C port. Even now, I am still hunting for a dock, but at least other peripherals have caught up to the point where the versatility of USB-C is not so questionable anymore.

    Having said that, I do agree that Apple does not intend for this device for "pro" use cases, but that doesn't mean owners shouldn't try. We used to be able to get much more work done on computers running with less than half the memory, less storage, and much slower graphics just a few years ago, on that note.
     
  5. andy9l macrumors 68000

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    #5
    Less than a small bottle of water? Can't say I'd really notice that in a bag, no. I agree if it were a handheld device then it would be quite a difference - but it's not.

    Half the memory, less storage and slower graphics from the past is besides the point. The OP needs a portable device that nicely supports dual monitors today. The best Mac solution for that is a 13" MacBook Pro.

    The 12" MacBook is not, nor ever will be, intended to be used at a desk with multiple external displays connected. All marketing around the MacBook has been promoting on-the-go usage. That's what it's good at, that's what it was built for. "On-the-go" can mean a lot of things, but it doesn't mean dual external monitor setups.
     
  6. Dunbar macrumors 6502

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    Jun 25, 2010
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #6
    I don't think dual 1080p displays is any harder for the rMP to drive than a single 4K monitor. My 2015 rMB seems to drive a 4k monitor just fine over USB-C.
     
  7. andy9l macrumors 68000

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    Aug 31, 2009
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    England, UK
    #7
    Mine does not. Low FPS in most animations, any sort of pressure (iMovie, Xcode, etc.) absolutely destroys the CPU.
     
  8. Dunbar macrumors 6502

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    Jun 25, 2010
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    Los Angeles, CA
    #8
    Mine plays 4k videos fine at 4k resolution on an external monitor. CPU intensive applications are going to tax the rMB's processor even with no external monitor hooked up.
     
  9. andy9l macrumors 68000

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    Aug 31, 2009
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    #9
    Yes 4K video plays fine. We are not talking about using the monitor for playing video - we are talking about using it as an external monitor for workflow.

    The 4K monitor is tough on the CPU. Any applications on top of that become really tough. It was never built to be used in this way. It does work, but it's not a pleasant experience.
     
  10. bill-p macrumors 65816

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    Jul 23, 2011
    #10
    Perhaps you're running into the same issue as the folks in this other thread?
    https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/2016-15-mbp-ui-lag.2016332/

    I have no issue with UI lag or decreased performance while I'm using a 4K display with my 2016 rMB. Everything runs smoothly. And just to elaborate, I'm not just watching 4K video or browsing websites. I'm running Ubuntu and Windows 7 in virtual machines, sometimes at the same time, but at least one will always be running, while having around 6-7 browser tabs open, with Xcode as well as some other command-line tools/services running. And occasionally I have to fire up Photoshop on top of all of those.

    The only time when I actually see things struggle is oddly with Safari while clicking on a video to make it fullscreen. The animation is very choppy then.

    But otherwise, general UI performance, as well as performance degradation for apps in general is not very significant.

    My only qualm with running a 4K display is that I'm limited to USB 2.0 speed on all ports, so transferring huge amount of data takes a long while unless I drop resolution down to 1080p temporarily.

    Also, Intel does state in their specifications that their Core M processors can take 3 displays (that includes the internal), so there's no doubt that the machine is at least capable of doing so.
     
  11. ahostmadsen macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2009
    #11
    I think that is perhaps too harsh a statement. I would agree it's not a great experience. It is in no way like the things become like stuck in molasses. But some things become stuttery like the shrinking of windows in Mission Control. When scrolling fast through a PDF, it takes a fraction of a second to load the full resolution, and same for pictures in Photos. Not great, but definitely acceptable.
     
  12. andy9l macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2009
    Location:
    England, UK
    #12
    As I said, and you've further detailed - it's not a pleasant experience.

    I can only comment on my experience of a 1.1GHz 2015 rMB. I'm looking at this objectively - you'll notice newer buyers of any product will naturally be defensive of their purchase.

    For example, having a consistently smooth UI experience whilst running multiple virtual machines, Xcode and Photoshop on top of regular apps as described above is simply not believable. I work with app developers at work on a daily basis with RRP £3,500+ 15" TB MBPs (we get massive discounts), their UI isn't always smooth on the built-in screen whilst running less than that.

    Perhaps the 2016 rMB offers wildly improved 4K performance, but given the very minor performance increments in all other tasks, I find that very hard to believe. The CPU, by design, is for short bursts of power, ultimately relying on clock throttling to keep temperatures down under sustained load. Running a 4K monitor is not easy on these weak CPUs.

    Fact is, the MacBook was never intended for this kind of usage - whether your external monitor is 4K or not.

    As I've said many times before, my rMB is my favourite Apple product...but it is not the right product for the OP, or indeed anyone in a similar position.
     
  13. philstone thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    Location:
    Jersey, Channel Isles
    #13
    Thanks all. Looks like it'll be a MBP.

    Just an aside thought - has anyone tried running more than one monitor off a USB-C hub (if they exist yet..)
     
  14. bill-p macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2011
    #14
    I'm not a new buyer.

    I had a 1.1GHz 2015 rMB before upgrading.

    Yes, I definitely would not run a 4K display with that machine, but now I have a 1.3GHz m7 2016 rMB. The performance difference between the 2 is very very significant.

    If you want to look at things objectively, here are some charts and numbers:
    https://forums.macrumors.com/thread...mpared-to-recent-airs-and-pros-chart.1969613/

    There really is nothing to defend here. I'm just sharing my experience and some objective measures to back it up.

    Is the m7 for short bursts only? Not really. I think that probably was true with earlier versions of MacOS. But starting from Sierra, they have indeed made processing performance better, and more separated from UI performance. Please do keep in mind my m7 has much faster graphics than the m5 and m3 model, which in turn are already faster than the 2015 model. The GPU probably matters more for driving an external display than you may think.

    Either way, the OP has made a decision so all of this is moot. I'd just like to remind you, though, that if you look at things from an objective standpoint, we used to be able to get by just fine with slower machines running on 2-4GB RAM not too long ago. And we used to drive 2 monitors with those machines as well. I'm not a "new Mac owner". I've been around long enough to remember back when I tried to drive an external display from my 12" PowerBook with only 512MB of RAM.
     
  15. a2daj, Feb 20, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017

    a2daj macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    #15
    I haven't used a USB-C hub, but that's because I've been using a Plugable 5900 USB-A 3.0 dock I had from a previous set up with an Apple USB-C/VGA/USB-A adapter. I've been able to run 3 external displays off of it. One off of the Apple adapter and 2 off of the Plugable. I used this setup with a 2015 rMB (m5) and a 2016 rMB (m7). The only drawback is that Apple tends to break things with Mac OS updates that directly affect the DisplayLink drivers (USB display drivers) that most USB based docks use. However, DL usually finds workarounds and/or Apple sometimes fixes bugs.

    This wasn't for video work but other professional work like software development. It's perfectly usable. But the DisplayLink displays have occasional visual artifacts since it's completely software driven, but it's fine for dealing with source code.

    I just hooked up my iPad Pro 13" via a USB 3.0 port on the Plugable and used Duet Display to add a 4th External monitor. So 5 displays total. Nice. It shows up as a 35.5 inch display. Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 2.55.15 PM.png Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 2.55.33 PM.png Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 2.54.25 PM.png
     

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