How Apple Silicon on a M1 Mac changes monitor support and what you can connect

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2020
The Macs with the new Apple Silicon M1 chip each have new port configurations and more processing power than ever, but monitor configurations have changed. Here's what monitors you can connect to the new Macs, and how they compare to the Intel Macs that they replaced.

Macs with the M1 processor can run the Pro Display XDR at full resolution
Macs with the M1 processor can run the Pro Display XDR at full resolution


Apple has included Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports in their new Macs running M1 processors. The new Macs released include the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the Mac mini.

These are the monitors and configurations Apple says works with the new machines.

Mac mini

The Mac mini with an M1 processor can run a single external display using the DisplayPort 1.4 rating in the Thunderbolt 3 spec. This means you can have a single 6K monitor like the Pro Display XDR or a single 4K monitor attached at any time through the USB-C ports.

The M1 Mac mini can run a second monitor via the HDMI 2.0 port which supports up to 4K connections.

The Intel Mac mini has support for up to two 4K displays via Thunderbolt 3 and one 4K display via HDMI, or one 5K display via Thunderbolt 3 and one 4K display via HDMI. The Intel Mac mini was unable to run 6K displays, as it lacked the necessary controller for running external displays at that resolution.

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air with an M1 processor can connect only a single external display at a time, in parallel with the internal display. It supports up to 6K at 60Hz so monitors like the Pro Display XDR will work fine.

The 2020 MacBook Air with Intel could connect up to two 4K displays, one 5K display, or one 6K display using the Thunderbolt 3 ports, beyond the internal display.

MacBook Pro

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 processor can connect only a single external display at a time in conjunction with the laptop's screen. It supports up to 6K at 60Hz just like the MacBook Air.

The Intel 13-inch MacBook Pro allowed two 4K displays, one 5K display, or one 6K display using the four Thunderbolt 3 ports, in conjunction with the built-in display.

Apple's M1 is the reason for the number of external display limitations, since macOS can run multiple external displays on Intel variants. So, essentially each Mac with Apple Silicon can only run one external monitor via a Thunderbolt 3 port, and the Mac mini is the exception due to having an additional HDMI port.
Lahmy88
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    neilmneilm Posts: 903member
    Very surprised the M1 MBP can only support a single external monitor. Probably half our current MBP users have a dual monitor setup, usually a pair of 4K, in addition to the built in display. This limitation takes the M1 off my list.

    Clearly it’s not an inherent limitation of the M1 GPU, since the M1 mini can drive dual monitors.
    svanstromLahmy88
  • Reply 2 of 51
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,264administrator
    neilm said:
    Very surprised the M1 MBP can only support a single external monitor. Probably half our current MBP users have a dual monitor setup, usually a pair of 4K, in addition to the built in display. This limitation takes the M1 off my list.

    Clearly it’s not an inherent limitation of the M1 GPU, since the M1 mini can drive dual monitors.
    So can the M1 in the MBP or MBA. The internal display just counts as one of the two.

    It is absolutely a limitation of the M1.
    edited November 2020 XedCloudTalkinrandy hilljdb8167aderutterwatto_cobraLahmy88
  • Reply 3 of 51
    Thanks for this article.  Personally I find these mare targeted pieces (in this case about monitor support) a very useful addition to the more general (much longer) articles.
    jdb8167watto_cobrabwake2020
  • Reply 4 of 51
    HapHap Posts: 9member
    To be clear. The ports are still USB3/TB3. They are not USB 4.

    USB 4 would mean USB data rates of 40Gbps regardless of TB support. That is not the case for these ports.

    According to Apple, the ports support this:
    • Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)
    • USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s)

    Yes, they have TB3, but USB4 does not require TB to operate at those speeds.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 51
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,264administrator
    Hap said:
    To be clear. The ports are still USB3/TB3. They are not USB 4.

    USB 4 would mean USB data rates of 40Gbps regardless of TB support. That is not the case for these ports.

    According to Apple, the ports support this:
    • Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)
    • USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s)

    Yes, they have TB3, but USB4 does not require TB to operate at those speeds.
    They are USB4. 

    While the TB3 thing is correct, Apple has told us that they support full USB4 speeds, and use a USB 4 controller, making them beyond a shadow of a doubt, USB4. Because a port supports a speed, does not mean it is limited to those speeds.

    For the time being, though, there isn't very much around in regards to peripherals that support USB4.
    edited November 2020 williamlondonchiaCloudTalkinrandy hilljdb8167tmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 51
    neilmneilm Posts: 903member
    neilm said:
    Very surprised the M1 MBP can only support a single external monitor. Probably half our current MBP users have a dual monitor setup, usually a pair of 4K, in addition to the built in display. This limitation takes the M1 off my list.

    Clearly it’s not an inherent limitation of the M1 GPU, since the M1 mini can drive dual monitors.
    So can the M1 in the MBP or MBA. The internal display just counts as one of the two.

    It is absolutely a limitation of the M1.
    Duh! Of course you’re right. 

    Then it’s a surprising limitation of the M1’s GPU. Guess we may have to wait for an M2 for that.
    williamlondontmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 51
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,264administrator
    neilm said:
    neilm said:
    Very surprised the M1 MBP can only support a single external monitor. Probably half our current MBP users have a dual monitor setup, usually a pair of 4K, in addition to the built in display. This limitation takes the M1 off my list.

    Clearly it’s not an inherent limitation of the M1 GPU, since the M1 mini can drive dual monitors.
    So can the M1 in the MBP or MBA. The internal display just counts as one of the two.

    It is absolutely a limitation of the M1.
    Duh! Of course you’re right. 

    Then it’s a surprising limitation of the M1’s GPU. Guess we may have to wait for an M2 for that.
    I think you've got it exactly right about the M2.
    williamlondontmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 51
    Does an iPad connected via Sidecar count as an external display? In other words, can I have my monitor connected AND my iPad via Sidecar?
    svanstromwatto_cobraLahmy88
  • Reply 9 of 51
    HapHap Posts: 9member
    Hap said:
    To be clear. The ports are still USB3/TB3. They are not USB 4.

    USB 4 would mean USB data rates of 40Gbps regardless of TB support. That is not the case for these ports.

    According to Apple, the ports support this:
    • Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)
    • USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s)

    Yes, they have TB3, but USB4 does not require TB to operate at those speeds.
    They are USB4. 

    While the TB3 thing is correct, Apple has told us that they support full USB4 speeds, and use a USB 4 controller, making them beyond a shadow of a doubt, USB4. Because a port supports a speed, does not mean it is limited to those speeds.

    For the time being, though, there isn't very much around in regards to peripherals that support USB4.
    You're right. I missed that Apple called them USB4 above. I think was is somewhat deceiving about them though is that they don't support a lot of USB4 speeds - only 10Gb/s and not the 20Gb/s or 40Gb/s. Note I'm talking about USB speeds and not TB speeds.

    Would be nice if they actually said it support DisplayPort 2.0 which is part of the USB4 spec as well.
    tmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 51
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,264administrator
    Hap said:
    Hap said:
    To be clear. The ports are still USB3/TB3. They are not USB 4.

    USB 4 would mean USB data rates of 40Gbps regardless of TB support. That is not the case for these ports.

    According to Apple, the ports support this:
    • Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)
    • USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s)

    Yes, they have TB3, but USB4 does not require TB to operate at those speeds.
    They are USB4. 

    While the TB3 thing is correct, Apple has told us that they support full USB4 speeds, and use a USB 4 controller, making them beyond a shadow of a doubt, USB4. Because a port supports a speed, does not mean it is limited to those speeds.

    For the time being, though, there isn't very much around in regards to peripherals that support USB4.
    You're right. I missed that Apple called them USB4 above. I think was is somewhat deceiving about them though is that they don't support a lot of USB4 speeds - only 10Gb/s and not the 20Gb/s or 40Gb/s. Note I'm talking about USB speeds and not TB speeds.

    Would be nice if they actually said it support DisplayPort 2.0 which is part of the USB4 spec as well.
    We're not happy about how Apple has labeled this either. We shouldn't have had to hammer on PR folks to find out.
    williamlondonwatto_cobraLahmy88
  • Reply 11 of 51
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,264administrator

    Does an iPad connected via Sidecar count as an external display? In other words, can I have my monitor connected AND my iPad via Sidecar?
    It counts against Intel Mac monitor max counts, so it probably counts here as well. We'll see when we get our hands on hardware, though.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 51
    Thanks for the article!

    Since everything is slightly less mobile these days I would get the new Mac mini in a heartbeat if it supported connecting two LG UltraFine 5K displays.

    Even with only 16GB of RAM.

    It’s unfortunate really
    williamlondonsvanstromwatto_cobraLahmy88
  • Reply 13 of 51
    If two or three 1920x1080 monitors are desired, I figured the Matrox QuadHead2Go might work. But then I looked up price, and unfortunately it's expensive (>$1K).

    Matrox spec says it will accept up to 8Kx8K on its DisplayPort input, so it should be possible to give it a single 6K signal, and let the Matrox "split" it across multiple monitors. (I've used the TripleHead2Go a few years ago, but don't have experience with the QuadHead2Go, so best to contact Matrox for details if you really have to have it). Too bad about that price.
    shibuyarandy hillwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 51
    If two or three 1920x1080 monitors are desired, I figured the Matrox QuadHead2Go might work. But then I looked up price, and unfortunately it's expensive (>$1K).

    Matrox spec says it will accept up to 8Kx8K on its DisplayPort input, so it should be possible to give it a single 6K signal, and let the Matrox "split" it across multiple monitors. (I've used the TripleHead2Go a few years ago, but don't have experience with the QuadHead2Go, so best to contact Matrox for details if you really have to have it). Too bad about that price.
    Interesting, wasn’t aware of that option. It is a bit of an overkill though...

    Combining a 5K and a 4K via HDMI would work natively but that would also be a compromise.

    Probably best to just wait a bit.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 51
    anomeanome Posts: 1,463member
    neilm said:
    Very surprised the M1 MBP can only support a single external monitor. Probably half our current MBP users have a dual monitor setup, usually a pair of 4K, in addition to the built in display. This limitation takes the M1 off my list.

    Clearly it’s not an inherent limitation of the M1 GPU, since the M1 mini can drive dual monitors.
    I expect, although I have no information either way, that when we finally see an Apple Silicon 16" MBP, it will have support for two external monitors. Whether that will be through having an additional GPU, or an improved SoC GPU remains to be seen (I think they're pushing for all Apple Silicon inside the box, but there might be a transition period). This is for the reason you specify - two external monitors is a common configuration, even for just boring administrative work.

    I also hope it will come with more than 2 TB ports. I'm all in on TB3 and USB-C connectors, but only two of them isn't enough. The mini does have two additional USB-A ports and HDMI, but it's still a bit annoying to only have the two TB ports.
    shibuya
  • Reply 16 of 51
    neilm said:
    neilm said:
    Very surprised the M1 MBP can only support a single external monitor. Probably half our current MBP users have a dual monitor setup, usually a pair of 4K, in addition to the built in display. This limitation takes the M1 off my list.

    Clearly it’s not an inherent limitation of the M1 GPU, since the M1 mini can drive dual monitors.
    So can the M1 in the MBP or MBA. The internal display just counts as one of the two.

    It is absolutely a limitation of the M1.
    Duh! Of course you’re right. 

    Then it’s a surprising limitation of the M1’s GPU. Guess we may have to wait for an M2 for that.
    I think you've got it exactly right about the M2.
    Or an M1X.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 51
    I can’t work out what planet Apple are on with that photo of the six thousand dollar display connected to a $700 machine. 

    The stand for that display costs more than the computer in the same photograph. 

    Is this seriously a combination Apple expects people to buy? Do they really think that customers in the market for a $6000 display are going to buy a $700 computer to go with it?
    williamlondonsvanstromwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 51
    neilm said:
    neilm said:
    Very surprised the M1 MBP can only support a single external monitor. Probably half our current MBP users have a dual monitor setup, usually a pair of 4K, in addition to the built in display. This limitation takes the M1 off my list.

    Clearly it’s not an inherent limitation of the M1 GPU, since the M1 mini can drive dual monitors.
    So can the M1 in the MBP or MBA. The internal display just counts as one of the two.

    It is absolutely a limitation of the M1.
    Duh! Of course you’re right. 

    Then it’s a surprising limitation of the M1’s GPU. Guess we may have to wait for an M2 for that.
    I think you've got it exactly right about the M2.
    Outside of speed, these are low end CPUs. They obviously don't have enough PCIe lanes to match the current higher end Intel Macs. Apple will want to replace the Intel Macs with at least equivalent IO so it is very likely when it comes to the 14" and 16" MacBook Pros next year, they will have 4 TB3/USB4 ports and enough bandwidth to meet the specs.
    williamlondonwatto_cobraLahmy88
  • Reply 19 of 51
    mr lizard said:
    I can’t work out what planet Apple are on with that photo of the six thousand dollar display connected to a $700 machine. 

    The stand for that display costs more than the computer in the same photograph. 

    Is this seriously a combination Apple expects people to buy? Do they really think that customers in the market for a $6000 display are going to buy a $700 computer to go with it?
    Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    They could photograph it with what other monitor in their line-up? The fact they're showing it can connect to the top of the line bothers you? If they showed it with a cheaper monitor then people would say, "yeah I bet it can't drive the expensive Apple monitor."

    FFS, the lengths some will go to in order to criticise always boggles but never surprises in this world of Negative Nellies.
    edited November 2020 Detnatorjdb8167watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 51
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,005member
    mr lizard said:
    I can’t work out what planet Apple are on with that photo of the six thousand dollar display connected to a $700 machine. 

    The stand for that display costs more than the computer in the same photograph. 

    Is this seriously a combination Apple expects people to buy? Do they really think that customers in the market for a $6000 display are going to buy a $700 computer to go with it?
    People on the forums are already whining that it only supports one.
    watto_cobra
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