MacBook Air Dual Monitor Setup – Getting Started
The recently concluded Apple Event was full of many surprises. Still, there were no major news to appease M1 MacBook owners. Many of MacBook users hoped that Apple would provide support for more than one native display like previous MacBooks.
The M1 processor, which is the successor to the intel-based Macs, has been a game-changer for Apple in a lot of ways. Apple claims that the M1 processor offers over three times more CPU speed and over five times more GPU performance.
However, the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro’s inability to natively connect to more than one display directly is a huge drawback. It’s affecting businesses and individuals who want to increase their productivity using more than one display.
Not to worry though, there is a workaround to run two external monitors off an M1 MacBook Air or Pro.
However, there are some risks involved because you’ll need to install 3rd party software, and some of them might be incompatible due to future Mac OS updates.
What are the Technical Requirements for MacBook Air Dual Monitor Setup?
For the MacBook Air dual-monitor setup, you’ll need:
- A MacBook Air, of course.
- Two displays. The M1 MacBook Air supports 4K but for older MacBooks check the specs.
- The DisplayLink software.
- A DisplayLink- compatible USB adapter or docking station.
- Connectors for the monitors.
MacBook Air Dual Monitor Setup Process is as Follows:
For this setup, we will use DisplayLink software to add two monitors to your MacBook Air. This workaround is excellent because it doesn’t reduce the speed of your MacBook.
Your MacBook will treat any display connected via DisplayLink like any other external display connected via the ports so you can control everything through your laptop’s settings.
DisplayLink also works when your Mac is closed, so no need for concern there.
DisplayLink uses your laptop’s GPU and CPU as well as the installed driver to convert graphics into USB data packets.
The data is then sent via a USB cable as packets and converted back to video format and output to the monitors.
However, DisplayLink has a minor effect on CPU usage. Also, you can’t unlock your MacBook Air using your
Apple Watch when DisplayLink is enabled. So you’ll need to keep that in mind before you buy or install anything.
USB Adapter or Docking Station
Before you download and install DisplayLink, first shop for a DisplayLink-compatible USB adapter or docking station.
These devices are a bit pricey, but they are required for this setup. If you decide to buy the USB adapter or docking station, also consider getting a laptop riser.
Some docking stations have built-in DisplayLink functionality allowing you to connect two or more external monitors to your MacBook Air without extra dongles.
The Dual Monitors
For the first monitor, you can connect it to the dock station’s HDMI or DisplayPort, and it will be handled natively by your MacBook.
You can also connect the first monitor to your laptop using a USB-C to HDMI or USB-C to DisplayPort adapter.
The DisplayPort and HDMI port utilize Alternate (Alt) mode, which is basically a passage to your MacBook’s GPU directly. Just like you connect a USB-C to HDMI dongle to your PC, you don’t need software for this integration.
Your MacBook Air cannot handle the second display natively. As a result, you’ll need to connect it to one of your adapter’s or Dock’s USB-A ports.
Does This Setup Support Vertical Orientation?
Unfortunately, since this is not yet supported, you cannot rotate any of the external displays you’ve connected to your MacBook Air to a vertical position.
You can go through any of the online Apple forums, but you won’t find any workarounds that enable you to set up your external monitors in portrait orientation as of yet.
Troubleshooting Compatibility Issues After Mac OS Update
If you happen to run into compatibility issues for this setup after updating your MacBook’s OS, download the latest DisplayLink software and install it, and if that fails, reach out to DisplayLink directly to see if the issue can be resolved.
Using an adapter or docking station that’s compatible with DisplayLink’s software is a necessary evil if you’re going to have more than one display connected to your MacBook Air.
All in all, connecting dual monitors to the newer MacBooks is not natively supported, so you’ll need an adapter or docking station, as illustrated above.
However, this setup is very clean, and you can even control it using your MacBook’s settings, so go ahead and try it out.