14 Replies Latest reply: Apr 17, 2014 4:04 PM by Dgauski
GeeZuZz Level 1 (0 points)

I'm considering buying both a laptop and a new desktop computer, and I'm thinking "why not both?"


I have 3 monitors on my desktop I want to use - I can possibly use the macbook as the third display, but is it possible to connect more than one display on a Macbook Pro?


Are there any docking stations available or do i have to unplug all USB's (keyboard/mouse/displays) manually?


Are there any other reasons using a macbook pro as a desktop computer is a bad idea?

MacBook Pro
  • hands4 Level 4 (2,220 points)



    With 8 GB of memory and a 512 GB SSD on a 2.7GHz quad-core processor and three displays the MacBook Pro should scream.  I'm envious.


    For an all-Apple solution see http://www.apple.com/displays/

    It shows two Thunderbolt displays daisy chained on one MacBook Pro.  Beautiful!


    I know nothing about the following non-Apple products personally but it seams to be in the direction of what you might need and they may be cheaper than using Thunderbolt displays.


    There is a Belkin Thunderbolt™ Express Dock that will connect multiple displays, disks, keyboards, mice, etc. ($300)



    For an even less sexy solution look at this multiple-monitor adapter.

    http://www.amazon.com/Plugable-UGA-3000-HDMI-Adapter-Windows/dp/B00A2E1MQA/ref=p d_cp_pc_1


    Since no one else has responded this post it may be worth a trip to an Apple store to ask them what your options are for a triple-display solution.

  • GeeZuZz Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks for your reply. I already have the displays (no thunderbolt/display port).


    That Belkin thing looks like what I need for the ethernet, usb mouse/keyboard etc, but are you sure it will handle multiple displays as well? I don't know much about thunderbolt, but it seems a little unlikely that one thunderbolt cable can handle 3 displays? Resolution on my displays are not extreme though, 2x 1050x1680 and one 1920x1200 in the middle.

  • hands4 Level 4 (2,220 points)

    I'll disclaim that you should visit an Apple store for more expert advice before purchasing.  Here is what I found.


    I tend to go into to much detail when doing this kind of research so here is the executive summary:


    - Three external Thunderbolt displays are supported on the MacBook Pro (MBP) 15" but not the 13".

    - There appears to be more than sufficient bandwidth to drive thee external displays.

              Either with all on one Belkin Thunderbolt™ Express Dock (BTED) (likely)

              or as a fall back with one or more on the other MBP ports (of which there are many).


    ========= ======= ========= =========


    Does the MBP itself has the capability to drive that many screens or do well at it? 

              I asked Ask Apple if the MPB would support three external Thunderbolt displays.  They said yes!


    Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 5.20.06 PM.png


    So that indicates it will support three external non-Thunderbolt displays and I expect there will be sufficient bandwidth.


    ========= ======= ========= =========



    10 Gbps out  + 10 Gbps in.





    A non-hub configuration would be using a combination of theThunderbolt port, the Mini Display port or the three USB 3.0 ports, but that does not meet your docking station needs.


    BTED:  http://www.belkin.com/us/p/P-F4U055

              • 1 Thunderbolt port to connect Thunderbolt devices (Daisy-chain up to 5 devices through one port)

              • 3 USB 3.0 ports (data transfer at 2.5Gbps max)


    Since you want a single-connection docking station, with the BTED you could connect one to the Thunderbolt port and two to a USB 3.0 port, leaving one USB ports for other uses.


    ========= ======= ========= =========


    Argument for sufficient BTED bandwidth:

    USB 2.0 to DVI converters are common.

    Thunderbolt output is 20 times faster than USB 2.0,

              so you should have lots of bandwidth to spare,

              if USB 2.0 is fast enough for your display needs.

    USB 3.0 to HDMI and/or DVI is also an option. 

              For output, each 2.5 Gbps BTED USB 3.0 port is 1/4 the speed of a Thunderbolt port.

              However, given USB 2.0 is 0.5 Gbps you will not need the full 2.5 Gbps for each of the displays.


    Lots of built in MBP ports:  http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/features/

    A fall back position is putting the three external monitors on a combination of the Mini Display, Thunderbolt, Firewire, and/or dual USB 3.0 ports.


    Have fun configuring this.   Ask Apple about three non-Thunderbolt external displays before proceeding.

  • GeeZuZz Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks a lot! That's really helpful of you. I think I'll go for this solution Just got to save some money first.

  • hands4 Level 4 (2,220 points)
  • peetythefly Level 1 (0 points)

    Just fyi, but I am currently using x2 external displays using a 2012 MBP.


       1. Mini-DisplayPort to HDMI

        2. USB 2.0 to HDMI (http://www.unitek-products.com/en/product_detail.php?id=200)


    It was way cheaper to get this than anything else, and it seems to work just fine. Every once in awhile it gets a little laggy. I'm not sure if this is the USB 2.0, or the graphics card. I plan on getting the USB 3.0 version: http://www.unitek-products.com/en/product_detail.php?id=241

  • Chrameza Level 1 (0 points)

    It is possible to have three external Monitors. Either by using an Active-Mini-Display-Port to HDMI Adapter or simply using an Apple TV and AirPlay-Monitor to stack up on screens (which works very nice and my way of doing it). There is alot of false information out there regarding this topic, however, it definatly works.

    [24" LG 1080p, Thunderbolt to HDMI]

    [24" LG1080p, Thunderbolt to HDMI]

    [MacBook Pro 13 late 2012 Retina]

    [720p Projector, Apple TV HDMI]

    Bildschirmfoto 2014-03-27 um 00.57.19.png

  • carlosMac Level 1 (0 points)



    I am an artist, I am looking for a way to display a single QT video on 3 LG TVs from a Macbook Pro (2013 2.6 Ghz Intel i7, 16 GB Ram). From your posting it seems possible, but I am confused by the Aple TV HDMI!


    I was thinking I could use

    [42" LG1080p, Thunderbolt to HDMI to TV]

    [42" LG1080p, Thunderbolt to HDMI to TV]

    [42" LG1080p, HDMI to TV]


    Do you know if this is possible?



  • Dgauski Level 1 (0 points)

    If you want to display the same image on every single monitor just go for a 3x HDMI splitter, which is about 50$, or get two 2x splitters for 20$ each or just one 2x splitter if your Mac supports 2 screens natively

    Hope that helps,

  • carlosMac Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks Dgauski, I didn't know about that, but I think it won't work since it is a SWITCHER, meaning I believe that not all of them work at the same time.

  • Dgauski Level 1 (0 points)

    sorry, the transition from amazon.de to amazon.us failed, there seam to be no 3x splitters available in the US, but you can just get 2  2x splitters

    these will definitely work, but i'm looking for cheaper ones right now, give me a sec
    slightly cheaper option

  • Dgauski Level 1 (0 points)

    make sure to get a splitter, not a switch, switches are often falsely advertised as splitters! read the reviews carfully.

    the ones i linked will display one image on two hdmi monitors, daisy-chain one into the other and you will have 3 hdmi displays with the same image!

    best of luck with your artwork!

  • carlosMac Level 1 (0 points)

    Hi, That is good to display exactly same image on 3 TVs. I guess my posting was confusing, I want to split same video on 3 screens, so it is only one video, but it is splitted on 3 screens. This is a perfect solution, but I am looking for a cheaper alternative.



  • Dgauski Level 1 (0 points)

    jup, matrox tripple head; afaik there is no cheaper option, but if you only need it once or twice just resell it afterwards, you won't loose more than 50$, just check ebays finished auctions to get an idea of the resell value