Macbook Air Multiple Monitor Support

The Macbook Air is indeed an “insanely great” device. I have slammed this thing around, physically and virtually, from the bicycle messenger bag situation described in my buying decision post, all the way to running multiple virtual machines and multiple monitors! This machine, of course if you’re using lean, clean, powerful, and intelligent built software, is top of the game for light weight machines.

The “how did you get multiple monitors?” question has come up several times since I bought the Air. So I’ve put together this blog entry on multiple monitor support, with instructions, and what can expect to run once the monitors are hooked up.

The first things you’ll need to get up and running are the appropriate gear. I purchased a Newer Technology USB to VDI, HDMI, and VGA  Adapter.

New Technology Monitor Adapter (Click for Larger Image)

New Technology Monitor Adapter (Click for Larger Image)

This adapter comes with an adapter to connect to the adapter for HDMI and VGA in addition to the already built in DVI connection on the device. Once you receive the adapter unpack it and get it installed. The driver will probably need retrieved from the company’s site, I wouldn’t use the included CD as the driver is a little dated. The latest OS-X driver supports Lion & all the other versions.

Adapters (Click for larger image)

Adapters (Click for larger image)

The other thing you’ll need is an appropriate Apple Adapter for the actual Thunderbolt Port as shown in the forefront of the image above. With all these parts you’re set for some wicked dual monitor or even three way monitor support.

Multiple Monitors Hooked Up (Click for larger image)

Multiple Monitors Hooked Up (Click for larger image)

The monitors fully activated.

Macbook Air + 26" Left Monitor + 26" Right Monitor (Click for larger image)

Macbook Air + 26″ Left Monitor + 26″ Right Monitor (Click for larger image)

I wanted to point out a few more things before wrapping this up. A follow up question to how I have these setup is usually “isn’t their lag or slowness?” Well, here’s a short review of what I was running while writing up this review.

Webstorm, Node.js App Running, w/ OS-X Bar (Click for full size image)

Webstorm, Node.js App Running, w/ OS-X Bar (Click for full size image)

Screen #1:  Macbook Air 1440×900 Resolution

  • Webstorm 3.0
  • Node.js (application running)
  • OS-X Bar, etc.
Screen #2 (Click for full size image)

Screen #2 (Click for full size image)

Screen #2: 26″ at 1920×1200 Resolution

  • Viewing in Chrome: http://compositecode.com
  • File Copying & Management of Drives connected via USB Hub with Finder
  • Ubuntu Linux Load Booting up in VMware Fusion
  • CloudFoundry Instance running (Linux) in VMware Fusion
Screen #3 (Click for full size image)

Screen #3 (Click for full size image) 

Screen #3: 26″ at 1920×1200 Resolution

  • Pandora providing some Children of Bodom to code to.
  • VMware Fusion machine library.
  • Chrome executing the Node.js example code.
  • iCal displaying upcoming delivery dates and meetings via Google Calender Feed.

Summary

The Macbook Air isn’t going to run Modern Combat 3 in two windows or anything crazy like that. It will however provide a powerful and capable system to code, develop, run virtual machines, web services, and other things that you would need to work with as a software developer. It may only have 4GB of RAM, but between the clean architecture, execution, and design of OS-X to use that i5 (or i7), the 4 GB of RAM, and extremely fast 256 GB SSD, this machine can handle its own.

STATUS UPDATE:  June 28th, 2013

I now use two Mac Book Air Laptops. I have the original which I wrote this article using and a newer 10″ MBA with 8 GB RAM and related improvements. In addition to these laptops however I now use an iMac 27″ that is connected to my other 27″ Cinema Display. This is dramatically more performant and easier to use than trying to run two monitors on either of the MBAs that I have. In that light, I no longer use the connector nor know if it works with the latest Apple products. I’ve since given it to a friend who does however use it, and the friend tends to stay up to date with the latest Apple OS releases. Thus one could assume that the device works with the latest OS-X but you’d have to do your own research.

Thanks for reading my blog, cheers!

-Adron

14 thoughts on “Macbook Air Multiple Monitor Support

  1. Really great stuff. I recently picked up and i7 Macbook Air and you’ve got the first and probably best implementation of a multi-monitor solution. I’m pretty sure I’ll be picking up those supplies in a couple days.

    • Thanks. It has absolutely worked out great too. I’ll admit I only use it every once in a while though. As I picked up a Cinema Display and having 2560×1440 actually ended up being nicer than the 2x 1920×1200 monitors. Another cool thing, if I can ever get around to blogging it, is using an iPad for a secondary monitor on the Air. It comes it super handy.

      Cheers and thanks for reading! :)

    • I am running Mountian Lion now, but cannot verify if it works or not. I’ve since moved on to an iMac + Cinema Display, using my Air only for mobile computing. However, I imagine that with the latest drivers it would still work, the core elements haven’t changed that much.

  2. i have a macbook air 2012 connected to a dell 24″ via thunderball
    now can i add
    a second older monitor 2005 ultrasharp Dell, that has no thunder ball port?
    do i need a devise

    • Sounds like you’ll need a device of some sort to get the 2nd one up and running. The new MBA however will run two monitors if they have thunderbolt I’ve heard.

  3. Great post, I just got myself an adapter and am running 3 screens with no sweat at all!

    One question though, it seems that the USB-based screen is noticeably laggy…is there anyway to speed that up?

  4. I am computer illiterate! I just left the Apple store. I took home a Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter. I have 2 Samsung Monitors. If I order the Newer Technology adapter you have, do I have everything I need?

  5. will this work with OSX mountain lion? my MBA was purchased in July 2012, and I upgraded to mountain lion when it came out. do you know if the newer tech usb dvi adapter would work with the upgraded software?

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