M1 Macs can run up to six external displays using DisplayLink adapters



According to YouTuber Ruslan Tulupov, it is possible to use up to six external displays from the M1 Mac mini and five external displays from the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, using DisplayLink adapters. This far exceeds the limits specified by Apple for external displays with the M1 Macs.

new mac mini logicpro screen

Apple’s line of new M1 Macs cannot support as many external displays by default as their Intel-based predecessors. The previous Intel-based MacBook Air could use one external 6K or 5K display or up to two external 4K displays, and the previous Intel-based MacBook Pro could use one external 5K display or up to two external 4K displays. The 2018 Intel-based Mac mini can hold up to three 4K displays, or one 5K and one 4K display.

Apple says the M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro can use a single external display with a resolution of up to 6K at 60Hz. The M1 Mac mini can connect one display with a resolution of up to 6K at 60 Hz via Thunderbolt and one display with a resolution of up to 4K at 60 Hz connected via HDMI 2.0. This means that each new M1 Mac can use one less display than the model it replaced.

However, Tulupov has discovered that with a workaround, it is possible to use as many as six external displays from the M1 Mac mini and five external displays from the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. This is accomplished using DisplayLink adapters to drive the additional displays. When the M1 Mac’s ports are populated, DisplayPort adapters must be connected via an external dock to provide more ports.

Tulupov used a mix of external displays ranging from 4K to 1080p, because the Mac’s Thunderbolt ports don’t have the bandwidth to run six full-resolution 4K displays at the same time. Therefore, users should still be selective about their external display configuration when it comes to resolutions.

In testing, where full-resolution videos were flipped across the various screens and simultaneously rendered in Final Cut Pro, Tulupov found the performance “great” with very few frames lost. When closing and opening the MacBook Air, the screens behaved as expected, and the setup seems more than adequate for everyday use.

Tulupov noted that he hasn’t tested this setup with Sidecar for the iPad, but it may still be possible to run Sidecar alongside the external displays for even more screen real estate.

In a separate video, Tulupov explained how to connect additional external displays to an M1 Mac using a DisplayLink adapter. The process simply involves installing DisplayLink drivers, which are already Big Sur compliant, and connecting the adapter via USB-C.

The workaround can provide a lifeline to people who were disappointed about the limited external display capabilities of the M1 Mac.


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