How to Use Multiple Monitors on Your Mac

A MacBook next to an iMac on a wooden desk.Krisda /

Want to be more productive on your Mac? Add another monitor and you'll spend less time switching between spaces, tabs, and windows. With Catalinayou can even use an iPad as a second monitor with the new "Sidecar" feature.

Choose a monitor

First of all, you have to choose the right monitor for the job. Your budget will play an important role here, so start by deciding what you want to spend and what features are most important to you.

Here are some things to consider before choosing a monitor:

Resolution: This is the number of pixels displayed on the screen at a time, measured on two axes (for example, 1920 x 1080). As a general rule, the higher the resolution, the better the quality of the image. Higher resolutions, such as 4K and 5K, require more powerful hardware.
Cut: Most displays are around 27 inches. The smaller 24-inch screens remain popular with players and people with minimal desk space. Larger, 32-inch and ultra-wide monitors are also available. Your decision ultimately depends on your budget and available space.
Density of pixels: Measured in pixels per inch (PPI), the pixel density describes the display density of the pixels on the screen. The higher the pixel density, the better the quality of the image, because you are less likely to see individual pixels.
Type of display and panel: this is the main factor of quality and performance. You can choose a LCD panel built on IPS, TN or VA technology or opt for advanced OLED panels if budget allows.
Refresh frequency: This refers to the number of times the display is refreshed per second. The refresh rate is measured in hertz (Hz). The basic monitors support the 60 Hz frequency, which is perfect for office work, web browsing or anything without fast moving images. Most monitors with a high refresh rate (144 Hz) are considered "game monitors" and would be excessive for those who are not.
Color accuracy: Which color profiles are supported by the monitor? If you use your monitor for creative purposes, such as editing photos and videos, or design, you need a model with a high degree of color accuracy. You should also consider buying a monitor calibration tool.
Other features: Do you want a curved monitor for a more immersive visual experience? How about the one you can use in portrait mode for coding or mobile development inclined at 90 degrees? Do you plan to mount the monitor on a VESA mount?

If you have the equipment and budget for a 4K monitor, the HP Z27 is strongly recommended sites like Wire cutter. You can get the reduced version, 1440p resolution the same screen for a few hundred dollars less.

Apple says LG Ultrafine 5K Screen Suitable for use with its latest range of laptops. This screen uses Thunderbolt 3 to drive the monitor and simultaneously provides 85 watts of charge to your laptop via USB-C. Acer XR342CK 34-inch Curved Screen marks the best ratings for an ultrafide if you have the necessary office space.

RELATED, RELATED, RELATED: How to use your iPad as an external Mac screen with Sidecar

Can your Mac handle it?

Technical specifications of a MacBook Pro on

It is important to make sure your Mac is powerful enough to handle external displays with the required resolution and refresh rate. A simple way to do this is to check the technical specifications of your model. To find your model, click on the Apple logo in the upper right corner of the screen and choose "About this Mac".

Find your exact model on Apple's website (for example, "MacBook Pro Retina mid-2012"), then click "Support" to display the technical specifications sheet. Under "Graphic and Video Support" (or similar), you should see something like: "Supports full native resolution on the built-in screen at the same time and up to 2560 pixels by 1600 pixels on a single screen. maximum of two external screens ".

Recent MacBook Pro models can support four external displays at 4K, or two at 5K. Some people have connected more than the recommended number of displays although this usually translates into a significant impact on performance.

Get the right adapters and dongles

CalDigit Dual HDMI Thunderbolt 3

Depending on the Mac you are using, you may already have everything you need to connect an additional monitor or two. If you have a fairly new MacBook, you may need to purchase a hub to access an HDMI or DisplayPort output.

There are three types of display connections that you are most likely to encounter:

HDMI: The same technology that connects Blu-ray players and consoles to your TV can carry video and audio. HDMI 1.4 can support a maximum resolution of 4K at 30 frames per second (fps), while HDMI 2.0 can support 4K resolution at 60 fps.
DisplayPort: This type of standard computer connection for screens can carry video and audio. Often favored by players for its broadband connection, DisplayPort allows higher refresh rates, and therefore more frames per second.
Thunderclap: This high-speed active connection developed by Intel and Apple allows features such as providing USB power to charge laptops. It also allows serial connection of multiple Thunderbolt devices in series.

You must match your USB-C hub to your connector type. CalDigit produces a mini-dock with double HDMI and a variety of other ports. You can also save money and catch a straight adapter, like the Thunderbolt 3 double DisplayPort adapter from OWC. If you choose the HDMI or DisplayPort route, remember do not waste money on expensive cables.

Thunderbolt 3 monitors are another great choice. They use a simple "active" Thunderbolt 3 cable, which usually charges your laptop at the same time. Apples official cables $ 40 and "officially" supported, but you can find cables that cost half of those online, like those of Zikko. Just be sure to have a certified 40 Gbps cable that supports a charge of up to 100 watts.

You may also encounter DVI and VGA monitors, even if they are old and obsolete. DVI Single-Link only handles slightly better than 1080p resolution and does not carry audio. VGA is an analog connection not recommended. If you want to connect a DVI or VGA monitor, you will also need a specific adapter.

Organize your displays

Now that you've put your monitors on your desk, plugged them in and turned on, it's time to consider the software. Here's how to create a consistent experience between displays. You want the cursor of your mouse to move naturally from one screen to the other and in the order in which they are arranged.

With your external screen (s) connected, launch System Preferences> Monitors. On your main screen (such as your MacBook or iMac), click the "Arrangement" tab. All detected displays are visible on the chart. Click and hold on a screen to display a red outline on the corresponding monitor. Uncheck "Mirror Views" if you see the same image on both.

Now, click and drag your monitors to arrange them in the same order in which they are sitting on your desktop. You can drag a monitor from any side of the screen, including up and down. Pay attention to the lag between the monitors because this affects the point where your cursor moves from one display to the other. Play with the arrangement until you are happy.

Resolution, color profile and rotation

With System Preferences> Open View, you see the settings for each view. It is here that you change settings such as resolution and refresh rate. Leave the resolution at "Default for this display" to use the monitor's native resolution (recommended) or click "Scaling" to display the complete list of available resolutions.

If you use your monitor in portrait mode for mobile development or text editing, you can set the current angle in the "Rotate" drop-down menu. Depending on how your monitor hovers, you choose between 90 and 270 degrees. If you turn your monitor upside down for any reason, you can choose 180 degrees.

Click on the "Color" tab to display the list of color profiles supported by your screen. Check the "Show profiles for this view only" box to see a list of officially supported profiles. Unless your monitor explicitly supports a third-party color profile (such as Adobe RGB), you may encounter inaccurate colors when you use other settings.

Several monitors and the dock

MacOS dock alignment and preferences

The position of the dock can cause problems when using multiple monitors. The dock is supposed to appear only on the "main" screen, but the way you organize your screens can have an impact. To change your main view, go to System Preferences> Views and then click the "Arrangement" tab.

One of the screens will have a white bar at the top of the screen. Click and drag this white bar to set another display as the primary monitor. If the dock is aligned at the bottom of your screen, you should now see it on your main monitor.

If you set the dock on the side of the screen where your external monitor connects to your MacBook or iMac, the docking station will appear on your external display, regardless of your activity . You can not "force" the dock to stay on the screen of your iMac or MacBook. You must either live with the dock at the bottom of the screen, change the layout of your display, or look at your external display to use the dock.

You can change the dock alignment under System Preferences> Dock.

Performance and multiple displays

Even if you do not exceed the maximum number of supported displays depending on the technical specifications of your computer, it is worth taking into account the impact of external displays on performance. Your Mac has very little processing power, especially for graphics.

The more screens you use, the greater the performance of your Mac. It's a lot easier on your Mac if you're using a 1080p external monitor (1920 x 1080 = 2073 600 pixels), rather than a 4K external monitor (3840 x 2160 = 8,294,400 pixels). You may notice performance degradation, such as a general slowdown, stuttering, or increased heat output.

In addition, if processor-intensive tasks, such as video editing, further strain your hardware, the performance penalty will be even more pronounced. If you use your Mac for these types of tasks, a The external GPU (eGPU) can provide the extra power you need drive external screens and do the work.

External monitors and MacBook

A MacBook Air with its closed

One of the best things you can do for your productivity is to add an external display to your MacBook (if it can handle it). Fortunately, you can choose to use only an external display, but you need a spare keyboard, as well as a mouse or a magic Trackpad.

Simply connect your external display to your MacBook, log in as usual, then close the lid of your laptop. The internal screen goes to sleep and the keyboard and trackpad of your MacBook are no longer accessible, but your external display does not move.

This allows you to take advantage of larger external displays while limiting the performance impact associated with driving multiple monitors. This is a great way to get a standard "desktop" experience with your normally portable MacBook. The only drawback is that your MacBook can produce more heat in the closed position because it prevents passive cooling through the keyboard.

Use your iPad as a screen with Sidecar

If you have an iPad that supports iPadOS 13, you can also use your tablet as an external display. You can even use your Apple pencil in macOS with compatible applications. This is one of many new features of macOS 10.15 Catalina which you can download for free from Application Store.

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