use Macbook air with larger monitor?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by ame8199, Nov 7, 2014.

  1. ame8199 macrumors 6502

    Apr 30, 2011
    Ok I have no idea what its called, but I believe its possible. Ive seen pictures of it set up this way.

    Is there a way to attach a external monitor to a macbook air and then you can do what you would do on the Air but on a bigger screen?

    Thinking about getting a 11inch air as my next computer, mainly to take it to work, but if i ever needed to larger screen at home, I could hook it up to a bigger monitor and do work that way.

    Hope Im making sense :)
  2. RMo macrumors 65816


    Aug 7, 2007
    Iowa, USA
    This makes total sense and is possible with pretty much any laptop, including the MacBook Air. You'll need a Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter* (or to VGA, HDMI or whatever you're using as the input on your monitor, but DVI is probably the most common). MiniDisplay Port has the same connector as Thunderbolt, so on recent Macs that's what you'll find instead, but any Mini DisplayPort adapter is compatible with a Thunderbolt port as well.

    (*In the odd event you have the very first Air, they used a Mini DVI connector rather than Mini DisplayPort, but I assume yours is more recent.)

    You can get such an adapter from a variety of sources: here's a cheap one on Amazon, the overpriced Apple one, and a cheap Monoprice one (Monoprice is widely known for being cheap but usually good quality, and this adapter has good reviews there--even with shipping, it's often cheaper than Amazon). With these adapters, you will still need a separate DVI cable. You can skip that if you get a Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI cable and adapter all in one, like this cable from Monoprice (you can probably find others elsewhere as well, and Monoprice has different lengths if you so desire).

    Once you have the right cables, it's as simple as connecting the monitor to your computer (via the Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt port). You can use both at the same time if you keep the MacBook open, or you can use only the external monitor if you close the MacBook (sometimes informally called "clamshell mode")--it won't go to sleep like it normally does when you close it if you have another display connected.

    Hope this helps! If you have any other questions, I'm sure someone can help with those, too.
  3. ame8199 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 30, 2011
    well thats exciting. I always wondering how people got a dual screen as well.

    Clamshell is what I was thinking. I don't have an Air yet, but it'll be a fairly new one if not brand new one. I have my macbook pro 13 inch and that works for now. Looking at an air to be more portable.

    Thank you for your response!
  4. waw74 macrumors 68040

    May 27, 2008
    If you need a wired ethernet connection, the airs only have 1 thunderbolt connection, so you can have either the network or the monitor connected.

    2 other options, although not cheap.

    the apple thunderbolt display

    or a dock (like this one from elgato) (be sure to check as some don't have video out)

    both options would also let you keep a USB hard drive on your desk plugged into the dock/monitor, and then connect everything with one cable
  5. RMo macrumors 65816


    Aug 7, 2007
    Iowa, USA
    You're going to have a hard time with that on the Air, as it has only one video out port (the Thunderbolt/Mini-Displayport port). Some Macs have multiple video out ports (e.g., the Mac mini and MacBook Pro, which have both Thunderbolt/Mini-DisplayPort and HDMI). If you're desperate, you can make it work with a USB "graphics card," but you'll need a driver (usually OK but could break any year if the vendor decides to stop supporting it as Apple updates their OS more frequently now), it will make your computer work a bit harder to power it (so it may be slower for other tasks), and it will never perform as good as even integrated graphics would (no gaming or videos, but more static content like Web browsing or office apps are OK). Many are also limited in the resolutions they can support.

    But the way most people do it is with multiple video-out ports, either built in if it's a laptop (or I guess Apple's desktops) or with multiple graphics cards (the most common scenario on a PC if the integrated graphics are not being used).

    I find my iPad more portable and convenient than my MacBook, but I guess I don't have an Air--maybe it is that much better. :) Good luck with the new purchase!

    Those aren't the only two options if you need Ethernet and video at the same time on a MacBook Air (or any computer with only one Thunderbolt port that is also used for video). They're just the only two Apple publicizes well. :)

    You can also use a USB to Ethernet adapter. USB 2 is slower than GigE, but for most home networks (especially if it's only being used for Internet access) this shouldn't matter, and there are also USB 3 adapters where this difference (more than) disappears, at least in theory. Just make sure you get one that is compatible with the Mac, as you may need a driver to make it work. And if you're running out of USB ports, USB hubs are much more common and less expensive than Thunderbolt docks (or hubs, which I don't even think exist...yet?).
  6. MRrainer macrumors 65816

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland

    Screens up to 2560x1600 in resolution are supported, using DisplayPort.

    The warning about being only able to use the Thunderbolt-Port for the display or for anything else still applies.

    If all you ever connect to is WiFi, BlueTooth and the occasional USB device, you're golden.
  7. ame8199 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 30, 2011
    O i wasn't actually looking to do two screen...I was just curious on how it worked.

    I have a wifi connection in my house. I honestly don't plan on getting technical with it at all. It was just an option if I didn't want to stare at the 11 inch screen for a long time.

    Im working on a 13 inch screen now and Im doing fine with that.

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