Even the older generation of Intel Macs can support at least two external monitors via USB-C or Thunderbolt so the one external display limitation on first generation M1 and M2 Macs has caused a lot of frustration for some.
Since Apple Silicon Macs don’t work with eGPUs either, the options for adding more than one monitor to the original M1 and M2 Macs are limited.
Fear not however as here we explain the the current situation regarding using more than one monitor with the original M1 and M2 chip and how to use more than one display with one including with Big Sur and Monterey.
You May Also Like:
- Best Monitors For Mac Studio of 2022
- Best Monitors For MacBook Pro of 2022
- Best Monitors For Mac Mini of 2022
- How To Fix Monterey External Display Issues
- Can Apple M1 Macs Support 2 Monitors?
- Will Apple Release An Update To Fix The M1 Display Limitation?
- Will M2 Macs Support More Than One External Monitor?
- How To Connect Multiple Monitors To M1 & M2 Macs
- 1. HyperDrive 10 in 1 USB-C Hub
- 2. Hub/Docking Station With DisplayLink Support
- 3. Use a Dual HDMI Adapter
- M1/M2 Mac DisplayPort Drivers
Can Apple M1 Macs Support 2 Monitors?
Currently, the first generation 2020 M1 MacBook Air and 2020 M1 MacBook Pro only allow you to connect one external monitor.
However, the 2021 M1 MacBook Pro allows you to connect up to 2 external monitors via Thunderbolt or USB-C. If you add the M1 Pro or M1 Max chip when you purchase the 2021 M1 MacBook Pro it can support multiple monitors.
A 2021 MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chip can support up to 2 external displays of up to 6K and 60Hz. If you add the M1 Max chip to it, it can support up to 4 external monitors – three of up to 6K and one of up to 4K.
Meanwhile the 2020 M1 Mac Mini does support 2 external monitors – one via HDMI and one via USB-C. You could connect a third monitor to the Mac Mini via the other USB-C port but you’d need to use a DisplayLink compatible docking station (see below).
The stunning new Apple Mac Studio which can be bought with the new M1 Ultra chip offers the best external monitor connectivity of all and supports up to 5 external monitors: 4 via Thunderbolt/USB-C and one via HDMI 2.0.
One of these Thunderbolt ports is designed to be used with the impressive Apple Studio Display which was released at the same time as the Mac Studio although there are many cheaper alternatives available.
You can also check out our look at the best monitors for the MacBook Pro which includes both the latest M1 and M2 MacBook Pros.
Will Apple Release An Update To Fix The M1 Display Limitation?
It is very unlikely that Apple will release an update for macOS Big Sur or Monterey that removes the one external monitor limitation in the original M1 chip.
Now that Apple has already released updated versions of the M1 chip such as the M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Ultra which all support multiple external monitors and the M2 chip, there’s little motivation for Apple to address the limitation on the original M1 chip.
Will M2 Macs Support More Than One External Monitor?
Apple announced the new M2 chip along with a new M2 13 inch MacBook Pro and M2 MacBook Air at the WWDC in June 2022.
However, like the original M1 chip, the basic M2 chip will not support more than one external monitor.
In the specifications for the M2 MacBook Pro 13 inch Apple states it supports “one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz” and the same goes for the MacBook Air.
It’s possible that as with the first M1 chip, Apple will eventually release an M2 Pro, M2 Max and M2 Ultra chip that will support more than one external monitor on M2 Macs.
The M2 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air don’t start shipping until July 2022 so we can’t guarantee that the following workarounds will work with the M2 chip but there’s no reason to suggest they won’t.
How To Connect Multiple Monitors To M1 & M2 Macs
The good news is that there are still ways to connect multiple external monitors to an original M1 MacBook Air, M1 MacBook Pro, M1 Mac Mini and first generation M2 Macs using a Docking Station, Hub or dual HDMI adapter.
The following methods allow you to use multiple external displays with your Mac Mini and MacBook including in Clamshell Mode (meaning with the lid closed on your MacBook).
Here then are 3 ways to make a first generation M1 Mac or M2 Mac work with more than one external monitor.
1. HyperDrive 10 in 1 USB-C Hub
The fastest and easiest way to connect more than one monitor to the base M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro is to use the HyperDrive 10 in 1 USB-C Hub.
The big advantage of the HyperDrive Hub is that unlike other solutions, it’s plug-and-play so it works right out of the box with no additional drivers or even restart of your Mac needed.
Usually, you need a hub or docking station with DisplayLink support to add extra monitors to an original M1 or M2 Mac but the HyperDrive 10 in 1 does it out of the box without DisplayLink.
- DUAL DISPLAY CONNECTIVITY - Our compact USB adapter can connect up to two external monitors without compromising display quality. Use the dual HDMI ports of this USB C Hub and connect your device for a crystal clear 4K HDMI video display.
- MULTIPLE DEVICE COMPATIBILITY - HyperDrive 10-in-1 USB hub supports several operating systems - MacBook Air/Pro (M1/M2 & Intel-powered), Windows PC, and Chromebook devices. Our multi USB port for laptop is plug-and-play.
- 10 ESSENTIAL PORTS - A convenient USB adapter that lets your computer connect to ports like HDMI, USB-A, USB-C, and Ethernet. Transfer data with the MicroSD/SD card port, listen through the audio jack, and power up with the 100W power delivery charging port.
- PLUG-AND-PLAY - No download or installation is needed for this USB C hub multiport adapter. Simply connect the HyperDrive USB C hub to your device and you will immediately see the HyperDisplay app icon on your desktop. Double-click this app to get started.
- HYPER INNOVATION - HYPER creates award-winning, cutting-edge IT and mobile accessories that focus on Apple, portable power, data storage & connectivity. This crowdfunded company is recognized as the #1 docking station brand in the USA.
The HyperDrive uses it’s own InstantView software to work which runs in the background on your Mac and is installed as soon as you connect the HyperDrive Hub to your Mac.
However, there are a few drawbacks of running external monitors on an original M1 or M2 Mac with the HyperDrive Hub.
Although the HyperDrive Hub can run two external monitors at 4K, one of them will be at a 60Hz refresh rate and the other will only be at 30Hz.
This means that the quality of the image of the monitor running at 30Hz will not be quite as good as the one running at 60Hz.
For gamers or designers, this may be an issue but for all others uses it’s not a major drawback. If you need 60Hz refresh rate on both external monitors then your only option is to use a docking station with DisplayLink support.
2. Hub/Docking Station With DisplayLink Support
If you need 60Hz support on both external monitors then the only solution is to use a Hub or Docking Station with DisplayLink Support.
There are many docking stations out there but its essential that the docking station you use supports DisplayPort.
You can tell if a docking station has a DisplayLink chip in it if it has the DisplayLink logo on the side or at least on the packaging but the production specifications will state whether it is supported or not.
There are two ways of connecting a Hub or Docking Station to a Mac – via Thunderbolt cable or via USB-C like the HyperDrive Hub does.
The confusing thing is that the USB-C port and Thunderbolt port look exactly the same and you can plug a USB-C Docking Station into a Thunderbolt port and vice versa.
The difference is that Thunderbolt devices deliver data transfer speeds of up 40GB/s compared to 10GB/s with USB-C. Thunderbolt docks and hubs can also charge your MacBook while you use them whereas USB-C only devices don’t.
Normally we would always suggest going with a Thunderbolt connectable hub over a USB-C connectable hub because Thunderbolt ports and cables are much faster and generally more stable on Macs as most models since around 2017 have either Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Unfortunately however, there simply aren’t many reliable DisplayLink compatible Thunderbolt hubs or Docking Stations on the market right now.
There are some Thunderbolt Docking Stations that claim to support DisplayLink such as the QGeeM Thunderbolt 4 dock but many users report lots of problems trying to connect external monitors to first generation M1 and M2 Macs with it.
By far the best DisplayLink supported docking station we’ve found for first generation M1 & M2 Macs is the Plugable UD-ULTC4K Triple Display 4K Docking Station.
The Plugable 4K Docking Station enables your original M1 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air or M2 Mac to support up to 3 external displays on an first generation M1 Mac at 4K and 60Hz refresh rates.
- Powerful Ports - 13 ports and charging to keep your laptop running all day, this USB-C docking station with Power Delivery extends across three screens with room for all of your peripherals. All through a single 10Gbps USB-C cord back to the computer
- Triple 4K - Featuring 3x DisplayPort ports, and 3x HDMI ports — standardize on one or use a mix of both to extend your desktop across three 4K monitors @ 60Hz with USB4 / Thunderbolt 4 hosts via Alt Mode and this laptop docking station — no dongles required
- 100W Charging - Charge your laptop with up to 100W (96W certified) directly through the DisplayLink docking station, so you can leave your laptop charger in your travel bag. It even charges your devices
- Compatibility - USB-C dock is compatible with Windows 10 or later, and macOS 11+ systems with Thunderbolt 4, Thunderbolt 3, USB4, and USB-C
- Connection Options - Triple display docking station let’s you charge your phone or other devices with 1x USB-C (10Gbps, 20W PD), and keep expanding with 4x USB 3.0 (5Gbps), an SD card reader, Gigabit Ethernet, and audio in and out ports
The Plugable 4K Docking Station plugs into your M1/M2 Mac Thunderbolt port via a USB-C cable.
You can then connect one external monitor to the HDMI port in the docking station and then up to two more monitors to the DisplayPort ports on the Plugable docking station.
This also works in Clamshell mode when your M1 or M2 MacBook Pro or MacBook Air lid is closed (although Clamshell mode does not work on Intel Macs using DisplayLink).
Apart from this, the Plugable Docking Station also allows you to connect a wider range of devices to your M1 and M2 Macs including Thunderbolt devices, Ethernet, DisplayPort, SD cards, external drives and more.
Unfortunately unlike Thunderbolt Hubs, USB-C docking stations like the Plugable cannot charge your M1 MacBook while you are using them so you’ll need your Mac to be connected to the power supply at all times.
3. Use a Dual HDMI Adapter
The other way to make more than one external monitor work with an M1 or M2 Mac is by using a dual HDMI adapter.
A dual HDMI adapter plugs into your M1 Mac Thunderbolt port and turns it into 2 HDMI ports that you can plug external displays into.
They’re very simple to setup and use and the cheapest way to connect multiple displays to first generation Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Macs.
The best dual HDMI adapter for M1 and M2 Macs is the OWC USB-C/Thunderbolt to Dual HDMI 4K Display Adapter with DisplayLink.
- Solves the one external display limitation For Apple silicon M1 Macs
- Certified pass-through power delivery so you can fully power/charge your compatible M1 MacBook Pro or MacBook Air and run dual displays all through a single port (Total power delivery dependent on capability of attached USB-C power adapter.)
- The OWC USB-C to Dual HDMI Adapter is the easy solution for adding two HDMI displays up to 4K to any Mac or PC via one Thunderbolt or USB-C port Compatible with all Apple M1 Silicon Macs - iMac 24”;
- Complete: one easy, affordable solution vs costly hassle of multiple adapters and cables, Flexible: choose either Extended or Mirror display modes, Portable: about the size and weight of a compact smartphone
- 1 Year OWC Limited Warranty
The reason it’s the best dual HDMI adapter for original M1/M2 Macs is that it’s one of the few HDMI dual adapters that can connect two external monitors at the maximum 4K resolution and 60Hz refresh rates.
The problem you’ll find with most dual HDMI adapters is that they can run one at 4K 60Hz and the other one at 4K but only 30Hz.
There are various other dual HDMI adapters on the market that have this limitation but if you find the OWC dual HDMI adapter is unavailable (which it frequently is) the Sonnet DisplayLink adapter is officially compatible with the original M1 Macs.
- Connects Two 4K @ 60Hz Displays to M1 Macs Enables connection of two 4K (3840x 2160) @ 60Hz; or two 1440p or 1880p @144Hz HDMI displays to a single Thunderbolt or USB port on your computer.
- Connect to a Thunderbolt or USB Port Includes a USB-A female to USB-C male adapter.
- Expands Your Onscreen Work and Play Area: Open multiple applications on different displays, view your work on larger screens, browse the web, and watch videos.
- Supports Higher Refresh Rates: Also supports 1080P and other lower resolution displays at 60Hz. And Supports Audio.
- Perfect for M1 Mac Notebooks Best for use with M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro. Also Compatible with other Mac and Windows Computers. Supports M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra.
HyperLink also has a dual HDMI adapter that also works with M1 and M2 Macs.
- [Connect 2 Displays at 4K Video] Give your M1 MacBook, PC or Chromebook the ability to connect to 2 extended monitors with crystal clear 4K HDMI video.
- [Fast & Easy Setup] In just a few seconds, connect the adapter to your device via USB and you’ll immediately see the HyperDisplay APP icon on your desktop. Just double-click it, and you’re ready to go.
- [Quickly Charge Devices] Enjoy powering up your M1 MacBook in a flash with 100W of pass-through charging with our USB-C 100W PD charging port.
- [Durable & Functional Design] Our beautiful, milled aluminum housing perfectly accents the space grey design of an M1 MacBook while ensuring advanced heat dissipation to avoid overheating.
- [Compatible Devices] MacBook Air/Pro (M1 & Intel powered) Windows PC Chromebook
Note that like the HyperLink 10 in 1 Hub limitation, the Sonnet and Hyperlink dual HDMI adapters support one external monitor at 4K and 60Hz and the another monitor at 4K but only 30Hz.
M1/M2 Mac DisplayPort Drivers
The first solution to use more than one monitor on an M1 or M2 Mac (the HyperDrive 10 in 1 hub) works out of the box without DisplayLink.
However, if you choose to go with a option 2 (DisplayLink docking station/hub) or option 3 (Dual HDMI Adapter) you’ll also need to download the free DisplayLink drivers to drive the monitors that your M1 or M2 Mac is connected to.
You can do this by downloading and installing the DisplayLink Driver from Synaptics which works with macOS Catalina, Big Sur and Monterey.
Once you’ve installed DisplayLink and connected your monitors via the docking station, you can control any monitors connected to your M1 or M2 Mac from your macOS System Preferences just like any other monitor.
Note that connecting monitors via DisplayPort isn’t without its problems.
DisplayPort docking stations are more unstable than simply plugging an external monitor into your Mac’s Thunderbolt port and can be prone to connectivity issues.
New versions of macOS can also break the functionality of DisplayLink and the functionality of external monitors.
For example, it’s possible when macOS Ventura is released later this year DisplayLink won’t be updated to work with it right away.
Some Mac users are still experiencing problems with external monitors after updating to Monterey or connecting them to an M1 or M2 Mac and you can find some fixes to these external monitor issues on Mac here.