MacBook Air Dual Monitor Setup

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MacBook Air Dual Monitor Setup – Getting Started

The recently concluded Apple Event was full of many surprises. Still, there was no major news to appease M1 MacBook owners. While the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro support only one external display natively, many users hoped for expanded native dual monitor support similar to some previous Intel-based MacBooks.

The M1 processor, the successor to the intel-based Macs, has been a game-changer for Apple in many ways.

Apple has reported that the M1 chip significantly enhances performance, with claims of up to 3.5 times faster CPU performance and up to 6 times faster GPU performance than previous-generation Intel-based MacBooks.

A notable limitation of the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro is their native support for only one external display, which may be a drawback for users requiring multiple monitors. 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.

Using third-party software like DisplayLink to connect additional monitors involves some considerations, such as potential compatibility issues with future macOS updates.

What are the Technical Requirements for MacBook Air Dual Monitor Setup?

MacBook Air Dual Monitor Setup

MacBook Air Dual Monitor Setup

For the MacBook Air dual-monitor setup, you’ll need:

  1. Two displays. The M1 MacBook Air supports external displays with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz, including Apple’s Pro Display XDR. At the same time, compatibility for older MacBook models varies and should be verified against their specifications.
  2. The DisplayLink software.
  3. A DisplayLink-compatible USB adapter or docking station.
  4. Connectors for the monitors.

The MacBook Air Dual Monitor Setup Process is as follows:

DisplayLink Software

We will use DisplayLink software to add two monitors to your MacBook Air for this setup. 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 that you can control everything through your laptop’s settings.

DisplayLink also works when your Mac is closed, so there is no need for concern there.

DisplayLink uses your laptop’s GPU, CPU, and the installed driver to convert graphics into USB data packets.

The data is then sent via a USB cable as packets, 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 remember before buying or installing anything.

USB Adapter or Docking Station

Before downloading and installing DisplayLink, shop for a DisplayLink-compatible USB adapter or docking station.

These devices are a bit pricey but are required for this setup. Consider getting a laptop riser if you buy a USB adapter or docking station.

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 connect the first monitor to your laptop using a USB-C to HDMI or DisplayPort adapter.

The DisplayPort and HDMI port utilize Alternate (Alt) mode, a direct passage to your MacBook’s GPU. You don’t need software for this integration, just like you connect a USB-C to an HDMI dongle to your PC.

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?

Display orientation, including vertical rotation, is possible with external monitors connected to a MacBook Air; however, functionality may depend on the display settings and hardware used, such as the docking station or adapter.

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.

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 compatible with DisplayLink’s software is a necessary evil if you have more than one display connected to your MacBook Air.

Final Thought

While direct native support for dual monitors is limited with newer M1 MacBooks, utilizing DisplayLink technology via compatible adapters or docking stations provides a feasible solution for connecting multiple external displays.

However, this setup is spotless, and you can even control it using your MacBook’s settings, so go ahead and try it out.

See Also

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