Triple Portrait Monitor on an Early 2008 MacBook?

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by BobSmith1982, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. BobSmith1982 macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2011
    Hello, after lurking for years, I have finally created an account.

    I have an early 2008 2.4 GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook with 2GB of RAM and the Intel GMA X3100 graphics card running OSX 10.6.6.

    I want to hook up three 23" widescreen monitors in portrait mode and have them be seen by the computer as three separate monitors as opposed to one large monitor. Also, I plan to have my laptop closed and put away and will be using a wireless mouse/keyboard. I will use this primarily for BIG excel spreadsheet and reading lots of PDFs. Hence the portrait to see everything more easily.

    Potential Issues:
    I plan on using three USB to DVI adapters going through an AC powered USB multiport. I am fairly certain this will work, but at times may be slightly sluggish so the other and cheaper :D option below.

    Becuase those adapters are expensive, I was thinking about trying a 1 to 4 HDMI splitter via the mini-DVI port. Becuase this is a splitter, I am not sure if the MacBook will see the each monitor separately or simply mirror the same thing over all three monitors. I think it will mirror - please let me know if that assumption is wrong.

    Currently I have 2GB of ram and frequently it gets very low - 100MB. Thoughts on upping the RAM to 4 or 8GB?

    As for rotating the screen image and dealing with resolution issues, I am planning on using SwitchResX4. I have read that when rotating the image on the screen, there can be problems with the crispness of the text. Anybody have experience with this?

    I have been thinking about this for a little bit, but it is very possible I have missed something. Can you think of anything pertaining to the potential issues outlined above?
  2. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    I recommend not trying this. One USB monitor has poor enough performance, but if you tried three with a hub it would be unusable. Even one mini DVI and two USB would not work very well. I suggest either one large monitor or a different computer.
  3. iThinkergoiMac macrumors 68030

    Jan 20, 2010
    This is going to be exceedingly difficult if not impossible. An HDMI splitter is just that, a splitter. You'd get the same signal on all 3 monitors. USB is crazy slow for video and I have no idea if it would even work. I doubt it would as I believe that a USB to DVI adaptor requires the full bandwidth of the USB port, which means you'd need 3 on-board USB ports (that aren't on a hub internally either) which your MacBook just doesn't have.

    Your MacBook isn't designed for this, and it'll be very hard to get it to work. I think it will be impossible to get it to work in a way that would be acceptable.
  4. BobSmith1982, Aug 1, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011

    BobSmith1982 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2011
    I will have to check the various shops return policy's. It might be worth trying even I have to ship everything back.

    That is what I was afraid of. My inspiration for this was this and the Comment #78 on that page:
    "Hey guys
    I just finished installing my 3 monitors with monoprice adapters (47$ each) on my Macbook 2.2 black and it worked like a charm… even videos are ok for now.. see the installation :
    3 Acer 23inches : 1 on the mini-dvi macbook adapter and 2 on 2 usb to dvi monoprice adapter"
  5. BobSmith1982, Aug 1, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011

    BobSmith1982 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2011
    Is there some reason why these guys (Link 1, Link 2) can do it but I wouldn't be able to do it?
  6. unixperience macrumors regular

    Jul 21, 2010
    who are "these guys?" I think you may have forgotten a link.

    I suppose it depends on what you want to do with the monitors. I have a usb-dvi (its a diamond bvu-md3) video adapter and it is a bit choppy for sure. This thing uses almost no ram, maybe 20-100mB and its closer to 30 than anything else, no matter what you do on the monitor.

    The adapter uses a ton of cpu, the more changes on the screen (video, even moving the mouse around) the more cpu it uses. if the screen is stationary, and doesn't change maybe 3% cpu (with the 2.4GHz) watching something like netflix or doing anything that changes pictures alot goes up to 50-80% cpu (both chips, not just one) so getting two to do anything intensive would be pushing it for your comp, and it would get incredibly hot.

    If you want three monitors (not including the default) id recommend play intensive things on the video output, them two more one plugged in directly to each usb port. But depending on what you are doing your processor won't render it.

    It's cpu, not ram that matters
  7. winston1236 macrumors 68000

    Dec 13, 2010
  8. unixperience macrumors regular

    Jul 21, 2010
    sorry i now see the link. but either way. you can try one usb-dvi see how you like it, how it runs on your comp, how hot it gets, how choppy the picture is, howhigh cpu usage is, and then if you want get a second one you can try it. I also note the other person had a macbook pro that model (my sis has one) has a dedicated gpu with its own dedicated gddr3 memory, so running at least two of those monitors didn't use processor power, it used the gpu. then the two side ones were powered with the cpu. (again more powerful than a macbook)

    you can try good luck. but unless objects are staying fairly stationary, i wouldn't recommend it
  9. BobSmith1982 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2011
    Thank you very much for your replies. The main reason for creating this is to have Excel on the left and middle monitors and PDFs/internet on the right monitor. I am in school and do a lot of financial modeling and it is much better to see everything when working. In short, the vast majority of my work is stationary - no video/photo editing. I do have Plex and will occasionally be watching movies, but that will go out the mini-DVI port (assuming everything else works) to my 32" TV and nothing else will be running.

    As for the heat, I am going to get a under-the-laptop fan thing. That should help keep it cool.

    Any other potential problem areas anyone can think of?
  10. unixperience macrumors regular

    Jul 21, 2010
    o well then you should be fine(i just wanted to make sure you weren't going to try and play games on it or something haha). When there is no movement cpu usage is extremely low. the usb dvi converters are nifty the diamond adapter i got is actually really smart. It only updates the image when there is movement, or something changes (theres a little led status light that only blinks when things move on the screen)

    The ram won't specifically help you run all the monitors, BUT it will surely help you with multiple applications. every application will eat a bit of ram, and bigger files will use more ram(a 300mb spreadsheet uses far more ram than a 20mb spreadsheet for instance). but you MAY not need more. everyone says its so cheap why not get as much as you can..... and sure thats partially true, but if its not broken don't fix it! The easiest way to tell if you need more ram is use your computer under normal usage, then open activity monitor. on the bottom, click the system memory tab. if you have any page-outs, you ran out of memory at some point. do this over the course of a few days or weeks even. maybe it occasionally goes over what you have. maybe it always does. and by A LOT. knowing this will help you decide if you need ram, and if so, how much (get more than the biggest page out number you've ever had and you'll be fine)

    hope that helped
  11. BobSmith1982 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2011
    Thank you. In a few weeks I will hopefully have the hardware to try it out. When it comes I let you guys know how it turns out.
  12. BobSmith1982 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2011

    I received the hardware I ordered to complete my setup. Having three monitors in portrait mode is fantastic. The center monitor is connected via the mini-DVI port and the two outside ones are connected via USB adapters through a USB hub.

    The monitors connected via USB adapters are slightly slower, but work really well for what I need and are good enough to use for watching movie trailers. Also, using BetterSnapTool is a great help in keeping the real estate organized. Very useful tool.

    I'm thankful I upgraded my RAM from 2gb to 4 gb - I definitely needed more to pull all of this off so it works smoothly.

    All in all, this is a hell of an awesome upgrade for my setup. I'm really diggin it.
  13. unixperience macrumors regular

    Jul 21, 2010
    great, glad to hear it all worked out well, I'd love to see a pic or two if you could :) i was actually considering a similar setup... I likely won't do it... but I'm sure it is great.

    How does bettersnap tool compare to the resizing options in bettertouchtool? (made by same guy) if you haven't got BTT, I would highly recommend it, it makes your magic trackpad truly magical! you can make trackpad gestures for everything! resizing windows running scripts, or anything. it's great.

    also jsut curious what adapters did you go with in the end?
  14. BobSmith1982 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2011
    I use a wireless mouse so I don't use BetterTouchTool. If it is as good as BTT then it's gotta be awesome.

    I went with two of these USB adapters and the other screen connected via mini-DVI to HDMI.

    I don't think I mentioned the stands either - they are very good and very cheap ($15) and I got three of them. They just clamp to my desk and there is a ntu to tighten the clamp in its place to keep it tight. The metal is heavy and the joints feels solid. Without a doubt worth $15 a piece.

    Also, there are no problems with the crispness of the text. Everything looks great. Using this setup is s much better for working with my massive spreadsheets, a word processor and reading lots of financial filings all at the same time. It is so much better than trying to do it all on my 13" laptop screen.

    A few pictures:
  15. unixperience macrumors regular

    Jul 21, 2010
    nice, i like how the monitors perfectly take up your desk, it's great. Looks good, those are nice monitors, LED? they look thin... ish lol

    where did you get those stands? for that cost that would be nice, do they pivot easily? i like to turn monitors, portrait to landscape depending on what I am doing
  16. BobSmith1982 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2011
    The monitors are $160 acers and are pretty thin (15mm I think), but the base of the monitor is thicker (maybe 30mm) so when they are in a portrait position, one side is heavy because of the thicker part. My monitors are basically on top of the desk, but I put some cardboard under the heavy part to reduce stress in the stand. Not uber sexy, but it's small and gets the job done.

    The stands are from monoprice and they swivel. There are two pieces of tubing, one inside of the other that has a bolt and nut tightening thing so those two pipes can swivel 360 degrees. The screens also tilt up and down 12 degrees(Look at the pics from Monoprice to see what I mean). So my screens are slanted downwards towards the floor. If you want to change the monitor position from portrait to horizontal, you have to unscrew the screen from the stand, turn it and screw it all back together. Not really worth doing frequently imho.

    Also, thanks for all your help.
  17. wrinkster22 macrumors 68030


    Jun 11, 2011
    i like it but IMO get the apple keyboard and mouse...
  18. BobSmith1982 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2011
    I would very much like to get them but they are prohibitively expensive. To get them it'd cost $140, but the my current mouse/keyboard was ~$30 and does the same thing, but doesn't look as sexy.

    Feeling generous? Send me an apple wireless mouse and keyboard. Here are the links for your convenience. Mouse Keyboard

    PS - my right tweeter is out too.
  19. unixperience, Sep 18, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2011

    unixperience macrumors regular

    Jul 21, 2010
    so here are some weird things i noticed with my usb monitor:

    1)when my other real monitors turn off (display sleep timer in system preferences) my usb one stays on
    2) the screen colors won't invert on the usb (internal and external monitor in mini display port invert fine)
    3)colors are a bit off, but that isn't a huge deal i figured that would be
    4) I can't get any screen shots off of the usb monitors

    this COULD just be the brand I am using (Diamond), does yours have similar issues?

    EDIT: I'm guessing its my adapter, as I also just discovered I can't even rotate the display. FOr anyone else who wants to know, I had these problems with the Diamond BVU-MD3 is has a usb hub as well as the usb-dvi adapter. I would guess the drivers (and issues) are the same with all Diamond devices, but I can't say for sure. THis is only under mac 0s x, I haven't tested under windows yet

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