How do I connect multiple displays to my MacBook M1/M2?

How to connect multiple displays to MacBook M1 so that each displays a different image? See what DisplayLink is and what adapter to buy.


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How do I connect the display to my MacBook M1/M2?

You’ve probably bought a new Mac and are wondering how to connect a few monitors to your MacBook M1 or M2, because you’ve heard that there are some problems with it. Every new Mac with an M1/M2 processor has USB-C ports in Thunderbolt / USB 4.0 standard, which allows you to connect an external monitor with a USB-C – DisplayPort cable at a resolution of up to 6K 60Hz.

USB-C to DisplayPort 8K cable
USB-C -> DisplayPort cable

MacBook Pro and Mac mini have an additional HDMI port that offers a maximum resolution of 4K 60Hz.

HDMI cable
Baseus HDMI 4K

Unfortunately, we also have some limitations, such as the fact that the MacBook Air M1 / M2 supports only 1 external display and in the Mac mini 2 displays (One via USB-C port and the other via HDMI connector). Although there are several USB-C ports, without special adapters we will not connect, for example, more displays to the MacBook Air M1 / M2.

MacBook I 2 External Displays

To do such a setup, where we have 2 independent 4K 60Hz screens and give the opportunity to connect a charger, we can use the I-TEC USB 3.0 adapter – 2x Display Port 4K Ultra HD (U3DUAL4KDP) . In this case, the adapter uses 1 one USB-C port, and the other we use for the charger (unless we have a MacBook Air M2 with MagSafe 3. In it we can connect a third monitor directly to the laptop).

Dual-display adapter for MacBook Air M1/m2
I-TEC USB 3.0 – 2x Display Port 4K Ultra HD (U3DUAL4KDP

MacBook Air M2 with MagSafe 3 connector

By landing the MacBook Air M2 through the MagSafe 3 connector, we can connect two DisplayLink adapters.

MacBook Air M2 MagSafe 3
MacBook Air with MagSafe 3 connector and two Thunderbolt 4 / USB 4 ports.

How many displays can I connect to an Apple computer?

If you’re not sure how many external displays you can connect to your Apple computer, it’s a simple way. To check this you need to go to the Apple menu  > This Mac and double-click on the serial number, then CMD + C to copy it.

Then we go to the Technical Data page with the specifications of Apple equipment and paste through CMD + V our serial number. We can also find our computer on our own. If you find it, in the Video Support or Graphics section you will find the exact number and type of displays that a given mac supports.

How many displays will a Mac with an M1/M2 processor support?

  • MacBook Air and iMac with M1/M2 chip – 1 6K 60Hz display connected to the Thurberbolt port
  • Mac mini M1 – 1 6k display to 60Hz connected to the Thunderbolt port and 1 4K 60Hz display to the HDMI port.
  • MacBook Pro 14/16 M1 Pro – 2 x 60Hz display connected to a Thunderbolt (6k) or HDMI (4k) port.
  • MacBook Pro 14/16 M1 Max – 3 60Hz display connected to the Thunderbolt port (6k) and 1 connected to the HDMI port (4k), for a total of 4 displays.
  • Mac Studio with M1 Pro chip supports up to 5 displays connected via Thunderbolt or HDMI

IMPORTANT – if you want to connect all screens through the docking station

Suggesting a specification that gives the number of displays that we can connect, we must take into account that we can connect 1 display to 1 port. If you connect a docking station with 2-3 HDMI/DisplayPort ports, it may turn out that all screens will display the same image (so-called mirroding).

This is because computers with MacOS and M1/M2 processors do not support MST – Multi-Stream Transport to divide one video signal into several separate ones. For this purpose, devices that operate on the principles of an external graphics card are required.

MST - Multi-Stream Transportation

What is Multi-Stream Transport (MST)

Multi-Stream Transport is a feature of DisplayPort 1.2 or later that allows you to transmit several video signals through one DisplayPort port (DisplayPort, this is one of the standards that is included in the Thunderbolt connector / [USB 4](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB4) Unfortunately, not every DP 1.2 port and later supports MST, so it’s worth paying attention to in the graphics card specifications

MST gives you two options:

  • work in HUB mode, where one DP cable can divide the signal into several more, also others such as HDMI
  • work in daisy-chain mode, which allows you to connect several screens in series, where one monitor transmits a video signal to the next and each displays something different.

How do I connect multiple displays to my MacBook M1 Pro and M1 Max via the docking station?

The new MacBook Pro with M1 Pro and M1 Max processors has no problem connecting several screens. However, when we start looking for a docking station that has 2-3 video outputs, in the description we often find a note or graphics that in the case of Mac OS and M1 / M2 processors the image on all displays will be the same, because MST (Multi-Stream Transport).

Fortunately, there is a way to take advantage of multiple screens regardless of how much our Mac supports.

Interestingly, if we have an older MacBook and we do Boot Camp with Windows on it, MST will work in extended mode. Puki co, for MacOS the salvation are solutions such as DisplayLink, which acts like an external graphics card.

DisplayLink – external graphics card for MacBook M1/M2

Macs with M1 / M2 have a limitation on external displays and despite the fact that such a MacBook Air M1 has only two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, using special adapters or docking stations to connect up to 3 displays to it. They must be devices with a DisplayLink chip that acts as an external graphics card whose software we must install in the system. This gives you the ability to connect and manage several displays.

DisplayLink Dual Monitor Adapter

One of the simpler adapters that give the possibility of connecting 2 independent displays is U3Dual4kDP or U3Dual4kHDMI , which we will connect with a USB-A or USB-C cable (using the included adapter). Such an adapter acts as an external graphics card, which we install using special DisplayLink drivers and an application that integrates with the system. Monitors added in this way can be managed in the system settings, as if they were supported by default.

A full list of adapters and docking stations can be found on the website of Synaptics, the creator of DisplayLink – at this link .

6 external eye monitor for MacBook Air M1? It’s possible!

Interestingly, DisplayLink allows you to connect up to 6 displays to MacBook Air M1 or Mac mini. This can be done using several DisplayLink drives/adapters that act as external graphics cards.

Unlock Apple Watch using DisplayLink screens

The only problem with this type of displays is the lack of the function unlocked Apple computers using apple Watch. At the moment, only in the beta version of the DisplayLink Manager 1.5 driver, such an option was introduced as a test. It is worth checking what version of the controller the adapter works with, because they may differ between individual manufacturers or models.

The best docking station for MacBook Pro M1/M2 that supports multiple displays?

The first 2 docking stations available on the Polish market that caught my eye are i-tec products that support up to 3 external monitors for Apple computers, and for PC up to 4. Both support Power Delivery up to 85W, so they can easily handle the power supply of MacBook Air M1 / M2, or the basic version of MacBook Pro M1 Pro with 8 core CPU. You will get both stations at a price of about 1000 PLN.

i-tec USB 3.0 / USB-C / Thunderbolt 3, 3x 4K Docking Station + Power Delivery 85W

Manufacturer part number: CATRIPLE4KDOCKPD

CATRIPLE4KDOCKPD - i-tec USB 3.0 / USB-C / Thunderbolt 3, 3x 4K Docking Station + Power Delivery 85W
  • Video ports: *2x DisplayPort,1x HDMI
  • Max. number of external screens (Intel): 3
  • Max. number of external screens (M1): 3
  • USB-C data ports: 1
  • USB 3.0 ports: 5
  • RJ-45 LAN port: 1
  • Sound/Microphone: Yes
  • USB-C power supply power: 85W
  • Material: ABS

i-tec USB-C Quattro Display Docking Station Power Delivery 85W

Manufacturer part number: C31QUATTRODOCKPD

i-tec USB-C Quattro Display Docking Station Power Delivery 85W
  • Video Ports: *2x DisplayPort,2x HDMI
  • Max. number of external screens (Intel): 3
  • Max. number of external screens (M1): 3
  • USB-C data ports: 1
  • USB 3.0 ports: 5
  • RJ-45 LAN port: 1
  • Sound/Microphone: Yes
  • USB-C power supply power: 85W
  • Material: ABS

CalDigit TS3 Plus / TS4 docking stations support 2 screens only on M1 Pro, M1 Max and M1 Ultra processors

If you want to connect 2 external monitors and you have a MacBook Pro or Mac Studio, and you want a high-end product, then a great solution is the CalDigit TS4 docking station. If you don’t need to charge your laptop, or you have an 8-core MacBook Pro M1 Pro, you can check out the cheaper CalDigit TS3 .

CalDigit 3 Plus
CalDigit 3 Plus

Complete docking station for MacBook Pro M1

Going beyond the topic of the monitors themselves, the CalDigit TS4 station is really solidly equipped. We will find in it a 2.5GB Ethernet connector, SD / micro SD 4.0 UHS-II card reader, 3 Thunderbolt ports, 3 USB-C 10Gb/ s ports, 3 audio outputs, a total of 18 ports in it, so there are no compromises here. Also in terms of workmanship, you can feel the quality here thanks to the aluminum housing, which is prepared for a heavy load. In my opinion, this is the most complete Thunderbolt 4 docking station I’ve seen so far.

CalDigit 4 Thunderbolt 4 Dock - Ports

Only it may not suit people who want to connect 3 monitors or more, but also nothing stands in the way of connecting a DisplayLink adapter to one of the ports, or a little less aesthetically, you can plug directly into the complain Flour, which will handle the additional display.

There are plenty of USB-C 10 in 1 stations and the like, but often their specifications do not knock you to your knees. Especially after the adventures at the beginning of M1 processors, where cheap docking stations were able to brick our MacBook. (The issue has already been resolved by system updates.)

CalDigit TS4 Best MacBook Pro Docking Station for Creators

This station supports Power Delivery up to 98W for our laptop, and at the same time has its own power supply with a power of 230W. In addition to the laptop, we can have 2 more Thunderbolt 4 ports that charge with 15W of power, and a USB-C charging port with 20W. Not to mention 4 USB-A ports, 2 of which also charge with 7.5W.

CalDigit 4 Thunderbolt 4 Dock

Docking station supporting 2 4k 60Hz monitors

Docking stations supporting 1 or 2 4k monitors can be found a lot, but if we look at the specifications, most of them I offer in 4K only 30Hz, which is an unfunny joke for me. 30Hz I would survive in the projector, but even browsing the Internet or working in Excel we will notice that something is wrong and the image jerks.

CalDigit TS4 with support for DisplayPort 1.4 supports two 4k 60Hz displays (and even 5k 60Hz if it’s Apple Studio Display) connected to Macs with M1 Pro, M1 Max and M1 Ultra processors at the same time.

Cheap and good docking station

However, if you do not care about connecting several external monitors, 4k resolution at 60Hz and super connectivity, then you may be interested in Baseus or D-Link docking stations.

D-Link DUB-M810

DUB-M810 D-Link hub USB-C

I am currently working on a MacBook Pro 14 and a 27-inch NEC 27 MultiSync PA271Q monitor in QHD resolution, so puki I will not get a second 4k monitor to my setup (which I have plans) I use the D-Link DUB-M810 HUB, which costs about PLN 300.

At the moment it has everything you need:

  • Power Delivery up to 100W
  • Port Ethernet
  • HDMI connector
  • 3 USB-A ports

Thanks to this, I can hide it behind the monitor (it lies loose) and an Ethernet cable is permanently plugged into it to work with the NAS. I also have a Lighting cable connected to it, because sometimes I make a router from the phone (oh these internet limits), and the second USB port I plugged into the monitor, which has a more convenient HUB on the side of the case. I power the whole thing with a USB-C to USB-C cable, which is plugged into the original charger. From the HUB to Mąka I had to exit through the USB-C extension, because the built-in cable is only 15 cm. Puki what is enough.

Dell Universal Dock D6000

Dell Universal Dock D6000 Dock with DisplayLink

Another station for which we will pay about PLN 1200, but it is quite a popular model and for half this price or less, sometimes even with a VAT invoice (probably post-leasing) we will get a used piece in good condition. It has a USB-C port with up to 65 W of power, which allows you to charge the MacBook Air M1, because the station has its own power supply. For this it supports 2 4k 60Hz displays. According to the specifications it is dedicated to the Dell laptop, but in many places on the network we can read that it also works with MacBook M1 / M2.

It has connectors:

  • USB 3.0 – 4 pcs.
  • USB 3.1 Type C – 1 pc
  • HDMI – 1 pc.
  • RJ-45 (LAN) – 1 pc.
  • DisplayPort – 2 pcs.
  • Audio output – 1 pc.

What to look for when choosing a docking station for MacBook?

As you can see. When choosing a docking station, it is not worth suggesting only the number of ports, because even having several video outputs, but without DisplayLink, you will not connect several monitors at the same time. Well, unless you want everyone to display the same image, but we rarely buy an additional monitor for that. Another thing is to check the parameters of each of the connectors, because it may turn out that we will limit the capabilities of our equipment by a poor quality adapter.

HUB USB HDMI 4k30Hz - Urbanflavour.pl
USB Hubs

Let’s start with the HDMI/Display Port ports, because here are the most disappointments with cheap adapters. Although often on the packaging there is a big 4K inscription, it is also worth checking the refresh, because you can be very disappointed after connecting our super laptop to a super monitor, which will either not be supported or will work with a refresh rate of 30Hz, which nowadays is a mockery.

HDMI and DisplayPort standard

Maximum Display Port resolutions depending on version:

  • DisplayPort 1.2/1.2a: 4K 60Hz
  • DisplayPort 1.3: 5K/60Hz or 4K/120Hz
  • DisplayPort 1.4: 8K/60Hz

DisplayPort++ (DisplayPort Dual-mode) – DP++ connectors do not differ physically, but differ in the support of additional adapters. The Dual-mode version allows you to work with (cheaper) passive adapters for other video signals (HDMI, DVI). Otherwise, you need active adapters that will change the signal from DP to HDMI, or from DP to DVI.

Maximum HDMI resolution:

  • HDMI 1.4: 4K/30Hz
  • HDMI 2.0: 4K/60Hz
  • HDMI 2.1: 4K/120Hz, 8K/60Hz or 10K/30Hz

It is also worth paying attention to this when choosing DP and HDMI cables.

USB-C vs Thunderbolt 3/4

The issue of USB-C and Thunderbolt is a topic for a separate entry, but to put it simply, USB-C is the shape of the plug, and what specifications, transfers and capabilities it has depends on the transmission standard. There are so many USB transmission standards that it is difficult to count it, and without looking at the specification, we often do not get to whether it is USB 2.0 / 3.0 / 3.2 and whether you can connect a monitor there or not. Thunderbolt 3 and 4 use a USB-C connector, but it gives you more power and less confusion because it includes a PCI-E line, Ethernet, DisplayPort, USB and charging devices up to 100W using Power Delivery.

Thunderbolt 4 Specifications

If we choose a Thunderbolt 3 or 4th generation docking station, we can be sure that we get a transfer of 40Gbps (the minimum that TB4 can have is 32Gbps) and a minimum of 15W of power transmission. USB 4 is already available in 2 versions of 20 and 40Gbps, and a minimum power supply of 7.5W. And we still have a lot of USB-C 3.0/3.1/3.2 HUBs that can be 1st or 2nd generation, which in simple terms boils down to the fact that they have 5 or 10Gbps of transfer. USB-C HUBs in the USB 3.0/3.1 version will meet the most, because they are the cheapest and are enough to connect HDDs, mouse and keyboard.

Thunderbolt 4 vs USB-C Specification

Power Delivery

Power Delivery allows us to connect the charger of our MacBook to a docking station or adapter that has such a connector. As a result, our MacBook is connected with one USB-C cable to the docking station, which gives it a current of up to 100W.

If we want to connect our computer in this way, we must pay attention to the power given by the manufacturer of the accessory, because in the case of MacBook Pro M1 it is almost 100W. In the case of the MacBook Air M1, only 30W is enough for Power Delivery to make everything work smoothly and not damage our equipment. Of course, this is not necessary and you can connect the power supply and docking station separately, but then you have 2 cables plugged in instead of 1 one. A matter of aesthetics.

Monitors with Powery Delivery

An interesting solution are also monitors with Power Delivery, which allows you to send the image to such a screen, and it simultaneously powers our laptop. In this way, we can connect only one USB-C cable to the laptop for power supply and video transmission.

For some time I used such a solution testing a very cool HP U32 4K monitor, which at the same time has a very good image, is beautifully made and by the way has a USB HUB in it. I was using the D-Link HUB, which does not support 4k/60Hz and I had to connect this HP screen directly to the MacBook.

Monitor HP U32 4k HDR
On the right, the HP U32 4K Monitor with Power Delivery.

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