M1 Mac mini can drive six displays with peripherals - but you shouldn't bother

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware
A YouTuber has improvised a solution to have up to six monitors on a single M1 Mac mini, but most users should probably stick to what the unit supports natively.

The six displays are all connected to an M1 Mac mini [Raslan Tulupov]
The six displays are all connected to an M1 Mac mini [Raslan Tulupov]


When Apple introduced the new M1-powered Mac mini, MacBook Air, and 13-inch MacBook Pro, it quietly changed the video output limitations, enabling the Mac Mini to drive two monitors, and the MacBooks to handle one external screen alongside the built-in display. Shortly after launch, a YouTube video indicates it's possible to go far beyond Apple's recommendations.

Published on Sunday, the video by Ruslan Tulupov shows the M1 Mac mini working with more than the two-screen limit. Following an initial video showing it was possible to drive three screens using one adapter, a second video uses a plethora of adapters to bring the total screen count to six on one Mac mini.





To accomplish the feat, Tulupov works around Apple's limitation that allows for the HDMI port to drive one screen and Thunderbolt 3 to drive a second. While a screen is connected to HDMI as usual, the video then uses a Thunderbolt 3 dock as a main base for all of the other video connections.

A Thunderbolt-to-HDMI adapter is used to connect one screen to the dock, while other displays are connected using a variety of DisplayLink adapters. Using the Big Sur-compatible DisplayLink drivers and software, the extra adapters were able to provide a video feed to each of the screens.

Creating such a setup is an expensive project, with each DisplayLink adapter costing between $75 and $100 each, before you factor in a suitable Thunderbolt dock, let alone the displays. You could end up paying out the equivalent of an entry-level M1 Mac mini on top of the Mac mini itself, and it appears that the retail value of Tulupov's setup is around $950, not including monitors, exceeding the cost of a second Mac mini.

Additionally, each display under DisplayLink consumes CPU and GPU resources to function, as opposed to just the GPU for the native displays. You are not going to be able to render six 4K-resolution screens and have it still running consistently speedy under load, at a consistent frame rate, or to play video well.

Further complicating a similar installation, DisplayLink drivers have been unusable at times in macOS over the last five years. For example, macOS 10.13.4's release broke DisplayLink and other similar systems until support was reintroduced to make the adapters functional again months later. Other breakages induced by macOS updates have been fixed by the driver manufacturer itself -- but they are not day and date fixes.
muthuk_vanalingam

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,696member
    I wonder how feasible this is to just add in a single 3rd display.  I typically use 3 displays. (My personal iMac 27" 5k has a 40" 4k and an old Apple Cinema 30" connected.  My work MBP has. 32" 4k and a 40" 4k plus the MBP built-in screen -- I se the two larger ones for day to day and the third for "notification" and "monitoring" apps or things that I reference directly only occasionally -- Slack, Apple music, etc. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 14
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,486administrator
    chadbag said:
    I wonder how feasible this is to just add in a single 3rd display.  I typically use 3 displays. (My personal iMac 27" 5k has a 40" 4k and an old Apple Cinema 30" connected.  My work MBP has. 32" 4k and a 40" 4k plus the MBP built-in screen -- I se the two larger ones for day to day and the third for "notification" and "monitoring" apps or things that I reference directly only occasionally -- Slack, Apple music, etc. 
    Will Sidecar work for what you want it to do?
    seanjRayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 14
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,508member
    I don’t think these M1 models are for you, Chadbag. just wait a bit.
    seanjwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 14
    Well I don’t think that was really the point, nobody’s going to run six displays in real life. But, does it allow you to add a second display to a MacBook Pro? Well then yes, it’s probably worth it. Frankly, I’m shocked that Apple released a device they called a “pro” device that does not natively support a second display. I can buy cheap ass PCs for a couple of hundred dollars that support a second display. It would be like saying it doesn’t support a Bluetooth keyboard or a different mouse other than the trackpad. Not really sure what they were thinking in that regard.
  • Reply 5 of 14
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,487member
    wwchris said:
    Well I don’t think that was really the point, nobody’s going to run six displays in real life. But, does it allow you to add a second display to a MacBook Pro? Well then yes, it’s probably worth it. Frankly, I’m shocked that Apple released a device they called a “pro” device that does not natively support a second display. I can buy cheap ass PCs for a couple of hundred dollars that support a second display. It would be like saying it doesn’t support a Bluetooth keyboard or a different mouse other than the trackpad. Not really sure what they were thinking in that regard.
    Where are you getting that the MBP doesn't support a second display?
    enabling the Mac Mini to drive two monitors, and the MacBooks to handle one external screen alongside the built-in display
    If you count the display it already has, then it does support a second one.  Just not a third one (and beyond).  So saying that not running a third display is akin to not supporting a BT mouse/keyboard is ridiculous.  I'd be willing to bet that a setup with more than one external monitor falls into the less than 1% category.  Even with pros.  Apple will eventually support it, but to expect them to support every single 1% (or less) use case with their very first product release is nuts.
    edited November 2020 Detnatoraderutterwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 14
    wwchris said:
    Well I don’t think that was really the point, nobody’s going to run six displays in real life. But, does it allow you to add a second display to a MacBook Pro? Well then yes, it’s probably worth it. Frankly, I’m shocked that Apple released a device they called a “pro” device that does not natively support a second display. I can buy cheap ass PCs for a couple of hundred dollars that support a second display. It would be like saying it doesn’t support a Bluetooth keyboard or a different mouse other than the trackpad. Not really sure what they were thinking in that regard.
    This video is more to show the power of M1, a entry level SOC CPU/GPU.
    randominternetpersonseanjroundaboutnowRayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 14
    viclauyyc said:
    wwchris said:
    Well I don’t think that was really the point, nobody’s going to run six displays in real life. But, does it allow you to add a second display to a MacBook Pro? Well then yes, it’s probably worth it. Frankly, I’m shocked that Apple released a device they called a “pro” device that does not natively support a second display. I can buy cheap ass PCs for a couple of hundred dollars that support a second display. It would be like saying it doesn’t support a Bluetooth keyboard or a different mouse other than the trackpad. Not really sure what they were thinking in that regard.
    This video is more to show the power of M1, a entry level SOC CPU/GPU.
    Exactly.  It's a cool proof of concept.  I'm surprised it works.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 14
    auxio said:

    If you count the display it already has, then it does support a second one.  Just not a third one (and beyond).  So saying that not running a third display is akin to not supporting a BT mouse/keyboard is ridiculous.  I'd be willing to bet that a setup with more than one external monitor falls into the less than 1% category.  Even with pros.  Apple will eventually support it, but to expect them to support every single 1% (or less) use case with their very first product release is nuts.

    Dual external display became a standard configuration for laptop users at my previous company (fortune 500 company with 200,000+ employees) for both Windows and Mac users.  This would be a serious downgrade.  However, it's unlikely the company would be deploying M1 based Macs to most people at this point.  By the time Mx based Macs are deployed, they'll probably support dual displays.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 14
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,487member
    a2daj said:
    auxio said:

    If you count the display it already has, then it does support a second one.  Just not a third one (and beyond).  So saying that not running a third display is akin to not supporting a BT mouse/keyboard is ridiculous.  I'd be willing to bet that a setup with more than one external monitor falls into the less than 1% category.  Even with pros.  Apple will eventually support it, but to expect them to support every single 1% (or less) use case with their very first product release is nuts.

    Dual external display became a standard configuration for laptop users at my previous company (fortune 500 company with 200,000+ employees) for both Windows and Mac users.  This would be a serious downgrade.  However, it's unlikely the company would be deploying M1 based Macs to most people at this point.  By the time Mx based Macs are deployed, they'll probably support dual displays.
    Dual (or triple) external displays was a standard at my company too, up until about 5 years ago when large LCD displays came down in price to the point where the cost savings of buying two smaller monitors wasn't much over buying one large monitor.  It really depends on the kind of work you do, but given that one can find decent widescreen 49" monitors for less than $1k these days, I just don't see many cases where more than one external monitor is necessary.
    edited November 2020 roundaboutnowjdb8167watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 14
    auxio said:
    a2daj said:
    auxio said:

    If you count the display it already has, then it does support a second one.  Just not a third one (and beyond).  So saying that not running a third display is akin to not supporting a BT mouse/keyboard is ridiculous.  I'd be willing to bet that a setup with more than one external monitor falls into the less than 1% category.  Even with pros.  Apple will eventually support it, but to expect them to support every single 1% (or less) use case with their very first product release is nuts.

    Dual external display became a standard configuration for laptop users at my previous company (fortune 500 company with 200,000+ employees) for both Windows and Mac users.  This would be a serious downgrade.  However, it's unlikely the company would be deploying M1 based Macs to most people at this point.  By the time Mx based Macs are deployed, they'll probably support dual displays.
    Dual (or triple) external displays was a standard at my company too, up until about 5 years ago when large LCD displays came down in price to the point where the cost savings of buying two smaller monitors wasn't much over buying one large monitor.  It really depends on the kind of work you do, but given that one can find decent widescreen 49" monitors for less than $1k these days, I just don't see many cases where more than one external monitor is necessary.
    I think one large (+27") 4K or 5K monitor is way better than dual 2K monitors. Part of the problem with dual screens is that you have a seam right in the middle. Three monitors solve this, but if they are still 1920x1080, they are a bit "chunky" looking by comparison...

    I used to use dual ~22" 1920x1080 monitors for years, then I got a 27" 5K iMac when they first came out. My initial thought was to keep one of the old monitors at the side, for email and notifications, etc. However, I found I got spoiled by the sharpness of the iMac compared to the side monitor so much so that it was hard to look at that older monitor any longer. I ended up giving the side monitor back to IT.

    Since the M1 Macs can drive a 6K monitor, any one of those ultra widescreen monitors seem like a much better solution than dual monitors. Still, I'm quite happy with the standard aspect ratio of my iMac. I think the height and center of focus is better for CAD and other technical documents.
    edited November 2020 auxiowatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 14
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,487member
    auxio said:
    a2daj said:
    auxio said:

    If you count the display it already has, then it does support a second one.  Just not a third one (and beyond).  So saying that not running a third display is akin to not supporting a BT mouse/keyboard is ridiculous.  I'd be willing to bet that a setup with more than one external monitor falls into the less than 1% category.  Even with pros.  Apple will eventually support it, but to expect them to support every single 1% (or less) use case with their very first product release is nuts.

    Dual external display became a standard configuration for laptop users at my previous company (fortune 500 company with 200,000+ employees) for both Windows and Mac users.  This would be a serious downgrade.  However, it's unlikely the company would be deploying M1 based Macs to most people at this point.  By the time Mx based Macs are deployed, they'll probably support dual displays.
    Dual (or triple) external displays was a standard at my company too, up until about 5 years ago when large LCD displays came down in price to the point where the cost savings of buying two smaller monitors wasn't much over buying one large monitor.  It really depends on the kind of work you do, but given that one can find decent widescreen 49" monitors for less than $1k these days, I just don't see many cases where more than one external monitor is necessary.
    I think one large (+27") 4K or 5K monitor is way better than dual 2K monitors. Part of the problem with dual screens is that you have a seam right in the middle. Three monitors solve this, but if they are still 1920x1080, they are a bit "chunky" looking by comparison...

    I used to use dual ~22" 1920x1080 monitors for years, then I got a 27" 5K iMac when they first came out. My initial thought was to keep one of the old monitors at the side, for email and notifications, etc. However, I found I got spoiled by the sharpness of the iMac compared to the side monitor so much so that it was hard to look at that older monitor any longer. I ended up giving the side monitor back to IT.

    Since the M1 Macs can drive a 6K monitor, any one of those ultra widescreen monitors seem like a much better solution than dual monitors. Still, I'm quite happy with the standard aspect ratio of my iMac. I think the height and center of focus is better for CAD and other technical documents.
    Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of the ultra widescreen monitors either.  A 27" external display works fine for me, especially with such high pixel density for sharpness.  But for those who need the screen real estate, I'd think that a single (seamless) monitor would make more sense than multiple displays.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 14
    If one wanted to create their own Mandalorian-style virtual background set for productions this could be a possible solution.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 14
    I've been using two or three external displays for ages, could not live without it. The problem with Apple and consequently Appleinsider is that they are bent on the single big screen use case.
    Which is really weird given that the Macintosh II was the very first and best in class at multi-display productivity. At the time I had an SE and boy I so much wanted one!
    Unfortunately since around 10 years ago both OS features and the HW have consistently limited the multi-display use cases. How I hate "displays as spaces"!!!
    Some use cases that just require more than one external display are:
    - Clamshell mode. Many, many people choose not to use their amazing Mac screen, keyboard and trackpad. One day I'll understand why.
    - Videoconference - this literally hit home in the last year. At the very minimum you need one screen to share, one screen for the videoconference controls and chat, one screen for other apps.
    - Specific activities, the most classic being trading where 4 to 6 screens is the norm
    - People who need to work simultaneously on 3+ apps at the same time like me
    Finally, DisplayLink. Not sure what is Appleinsider's beef with DisplayLink but they are brilliant. 97% of the time our screens are static (and more screens you have more often some will be static) and in that time, DisplayLink sends exactly zero data over USB. When something moves, just the changed information is sent. Alt mode and Thunderbolt instead the moment you connect a screen start wasting gigabits or tens of gigabits of pixel data constantly. The same pixels over and over again because it's just a cable basically. You have bought a series of advanced high-speed integrated circuits which basically emulate copper wires. As an engineer I find that beyond irrational.
    Of course if you are watching a full screen video on an external screen, alt mode is a more efficient option. For that 0.1% of the time on a Mac.
    Moreover if you have any other devices (like in most companies), as long as they have USB they can use the external screen. Well apart from iOS/iPadOS devices of course because there are no APIs yet for external screens... but Android, Windows, ChromeOS, Linux, Mac all work. And for $49 for one external screen adapter or $99 for a complete dual screen dock!
    As you can tell I'm a bit of a multi display fanboi and I was heartbroken too when MacOS broke most external screen software in High Sierra. This has now been fixed and I am confident Apple has heard us and it will stay that way. We need these developers to provide more flexibility for MacOS.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 14
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,486administrator
    learlo said:
    I've been using two or three external displays for ages, could not live without it. The problem with Apple and consequently Appleinsider is that they are bent on the single big screen use case.
    Which is really weird given that the Macintosh II was the very first and best in class at multi-display productivity. At the time I had an SE and boy I so much wanted one!
    Unfortunately since around 10 years ago both OS features and the HW have consistently limited the multi-display use cases. How I hate "displays as spaces"!!!
    Some use cases that just require more than one external display are:
    - Clamshell mode. Many, many people choose not to use their amazing Mac screen, keyboard and trackpad. One day I'll understand why.
    - Videoconference - this literally hit home in the last year. At the very minimum you need one screen to share, one screen for the videoconference controls and chat, one screen for other apps.
    - Specific activities, the most classic being trading where 4 to 6 screens is the norm
    - People who need to work simultaneously on 3+ apps at the same time like me
    Finally, DisplayLink. Not sure what is Appleinsider's beef with DisplayLink but they are brilliant. 97% of the time our screens are static (and more screens you have more often some will be static) and in that time, DisplayLink sends exactly zero data over USB. When something moves, just the changed information is sent. Alt mode and Thunderbolt instead the moment you connect a screen start wasting gigabits or tens of gigabits of pixel data constantly. The same pixels over and over again because it's just a cable basically. You have bought a series of advanced high-speed integrated circuits which basically emulate copper wires. As an engineer I find that beyond irrational.
    Of course if you are watching a full screen video on an external screen, alt mode is a more efficient option. For that 0.1% of the time on a Mac.
    Moreover if you have any other devices (like in most companies), as long as they have USB they can use the external screen. Well apart from iOS/iPadOS devices of course because there are no APIs yet for external screens... but Android, Windows, ChromeOS, Linux, Mac all work. And for $49 for one external screen adapter or $99 for a complete dual screen dock!
    As you can tell I'm a bit of a multi display fanboi and I was heartbroken too when MacOS broke most external screen software in High Sierra. This has now been fixed and I am confident Apple has heard us and it will stay that way. We need these developers to provide more flexibility for MacOS.
    The problem with DisplayLink, is that they have spent a significant amount of time broken under the last five operating systems. It wasn't just High Sierra. They didn't work at launch under Mojave, and, frankly. them working at launch on Big Sur was the exception rather than the rule. Point updates can and do break compatibility with the DisplayLink drivers for an assortment of reasons, so it's hard to recommend them.

    I know how the system works. It's just not wise to rely on something in your workflow that can break at a whim.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that there's the option. I too like multiple monitors. We've done a piece discussing our workflows showing this. I just need to know that they're going to work after update.
    edited November 2020 watto_cobra
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