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multiple monitors m1 mac

How To Connect Multiple Monitors To M1, M2 & M3 Macs

The base models of Apple Silicon Macs only support one external monitor but here we show you how to connect multiple monitors to the entry level Apple Silicon Macs.

One of the most frustrating things about about the first generation of 2020 Apple Silicon M1 Macs, the first generation of 2022 M2 Macs and the first generation of 2023 M3 Macs is that you can only connect one external monitor to them natively.

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, M2 and M3 Macs has caused a lot of annoyance for unsuspecting users.

Macs that can only support one external display are the base level M1, M2 and M3 chip Macs which are:

  • M1 MacBook Pro 13 inch
  • M2 MacBook Pro 13 inch
  • M1 MacBook Air
  • M2 MacBook Air
  • M1 iMac
  • M3 MacBook Pro 14 inch

This external monitor restriction does not apply to any Mac with the M1/M2/M3 Pro chip, M1/M2/M3 Max chip or M2 Ultra chip.

Fear not however as here we explain the the current situation regarding using more than one monitor with the base level Apple Silicon chips and how to use more than one display with one including with Sonoma, Ventura, Monterey and Big Sur.

Can M1, M2 & M3 Macs Support Multiple Monitors?

The number of displays your Apple Silicon Mac supports will depend on the type of chip it has.

If you’re using a first generation Mac with the base level M1, M2 or M3 chip it can support the following monitors:

  • The M1/M2 MacBook Air, M1/M2 13-inch MacBook Pro, M1 iMac and M3 MacBook Pro 14 inch only support one external display using either a Thunderbolt/USB 4 port.

Note that using a USB or Thunderbolt hub will not increase the number of displays you can connect to these Macs but the workarounds featured in this article will.

  • The 2020 M1 Mac Mini and 2023 M2 Mac Mini support two external displays – one via the Thunderbolt port and one via the HDMI port. You could connect a third monitor to the 2020 M1 Mac Mini via the other USB-C port but you’d need to use a DisplayLink compatible docking station (more on this below).

If you have a Mac with M1 Pro chip:

  • You can connect up to two external displays to your Mac via Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) and HDMI ports of up to 6K and 60Hz.

If you have a Mac with an M2/M3 Pro chip:

  • You can connect up to two external displays to your Mac via Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) and HDMI ports of up to 6K and 60Hz or one external display up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt and one external display up to 4K resolution at 144Hz over HDMI. Alternatively, you can have one external display up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or one external display up to 4K resolution at 240Hz via HDMI.

If you have a Mac with M1 Max chip:

  • If you have a MacBook Pro you can connect up to four external displays to your Mac via Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) and HDMI ports: three of up to 6K and one of up to 4K.
  • If you have a Mac Studio, you can connect up to five external displays to your Mac via Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) and HDMI ports.

If you have a Mac with an M2/M3 Max chip:

  • If you have a MacBook Pro with M2/M3 Max chip you can connect up to four external displays: three external displays up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt and one external display up to 4K resolution at 144Hz via HDMI. Alternatively, you can connect up to three external displays up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt and one external display up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or one external display up to 4K resolution at 240Hz over HDMI.

If you have a Mac Studio with M2 Ultra chip:

  • You can connect up to five external displays to a Mac Studio with an M2 Ultra chip – 4 via the Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports and 1 via HDMI.

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 to the Apple Studio Display available.

For more on which monitors work best with which Macs, check out our guides to:

How To Check How Many Displays Your Mac Supports

If you’re still unsure how many displays your Apple Silicon Mac supports, you can easily check by following these instructions:

  • Click on the Apple logo in the top left of your screen and select About This Mac.
  • Double-click on the serial number then copy and paste it into the Apple Tech Specs search page to find out exactly which MacBook Pro and ports you have.
  • Scroll down to the Display Support section where you’ll see exactly how many displays your Mac can support. In this example, we’re looking at the 16 inch M1 MacBook Pro.

macbook pro m1 display support

Do M2 and M3 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 and they started shipping in July 2022.

It followed this up in January 2023 with the announcement of a 14/16 inch M2 MacBook Pros with M2 Pro/Max chip and M2  Mac Mini with M2 Pro chip.

It then announced the M3 chip in late 2023 with a new entry level 14 inch MacBook Pro, 16 inch MacBook Pro and 24 inch iMac.

However, like the original M1 chip, the basic M2 chip on the 13 inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air and the M3 chip in the 14 inch MacBook Pro 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.

m2 external monitor support apple

However, this limitation does not apply to the 16 inch M2/M3 MacBook Pro, M2/M3 Pro MacBook Pro and M2/M3 Max MacBook Pro.

Why Do Base Level M-chip Macs Only Support One Monitor?

The reason that the base model Apple Silicon Macs can only support one external monitor is due to a hardware limitation.

There are only two display buffers on the original M1, M2 and M3 chips – one for the internal display and one for an external display.

The enhanced M1/M2/M3 Pro, Max and Ultra chips have more buffers so can support more displays natively.

Will Apple Release An Update To Fix The M1, M2 & M3 Display Limitation?

It is very unlikely that Apple will release an update for macOS that removes the one external monitor limitation in the original M series chips.

Now that Apple has released M-pro, M-Max and M-Ultra chip versions which all support more than one external monitors, there’s little motivation for Apple to address the limitation on the original chips.

How To Connect Multiple Monitors To M1, M2 & M3 Macs

The good news is that there are still ways to connect multiple external monitors to a base model Apple Silicon 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).

1.Hub/Docking Station With InstantView Support (Easiest)

The fastest and easiest way to connect more than one monitor to the base level Apple Silicon Macs is to use a hub or docking station with InstantView support.

InstantView by SiliconMotion is installed automatically with hubs or docks that support it and doesn’t require installing external drivers like you do with DisplayLink.

The best docking station to connect dual monitors to Apple Silicon Macs is the HyperDrive 10 in 1 USB-C Hub.

Sale
HyperDrive M1 M2 MacBook Pro USB C Hub - 10-in-1 USB Hub Dual 4K HDMI, Ethernet, USB-A, USB C Adapter, 100W PD, MicroSD/SD, Audio Jack - Compatible with M2/M1 MacBook Pro/Air, Windows PC, Chromebook
  • 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 compatibility with Apple, portable power, data storage & connectivity.

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 a base level M-series Mac but the HyperDrive 10 in 1 does it out of the box without DisplayLink.

The HyperDrive uses InstantView software to work which runs in the background on your Mac and is installed as soon as you connect the HyperDrive Hub.

The HyperDrive 10 in 1 adds an additional 10 ports to your Mac including 2 HDMI ports to connect monitors to.

The other ports are a Gigabit Ethernet, MicroUSB card reader (UHS-I), 3.5mm audio jack, 2x 5Gbps USB-A, one 5Gbps USB-C and a USB-C PD which will also charge a MacBook.

However, there are a few drawbacks of running external monitors on an original M-series chip 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 via DP Alt-Mode and the other will only be at 30Hz through HDMI and InstantView.

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 a 60Hz refresh rate on both external monitors then your only option is to use a docking station with DisplayLink support (see below).

Pros:

  • Easy to setup and use, just plug and play
  • Doesn’t require DisplayLink drivers
  • Adds 10 extra ports to your Mac

Cons:

  • Can’t support both displays at 60Hz
  • Supports a maximum of 2 monitors

A cheaper alternative to the HyperDrive Hub is the Satechi USB-C Multiport Adapter.

Like the HyperDrive Hub, the Satechi USB-C Multiport Adapter uses InstantView instead of DisplayLink and is also very easy to install.

The Satechi USB-C Multiport Adapter includes 1 HDMI port and 1 VGA port but has the same limitation as the HyperDrive in that it can only support one 4K display at 60Hz and the other at 30Hz.

Satechi USB C Hub Multiport Adapter, USB C Docking Station 9 in 1, 4K HDMI, 100W USB C PD Charging, USB C Data, 2 USB-A, GbE, Micro/SD Card Readers, VGA, for MacBook, Windows - Space Grey
  • Complete Connectivity - This USB hub provides all nine essential ports for a contemporary workspace: USB C PD charging (up to 100W), HDMI and VGA for versatile display options, Gigabit Ethernet for fast internet, a USB C data port, two USB-A ports (up to 5Gbps), and Micro/SD Card Readers (UHS-I), all in a user-friendly, plug-and-play design. Note: Requires ~15W for operation.
  • Perfect for On-The-Go - Featuring a short, travel-friendly USB C cable that neatly tucks into the docking station for supreme portability, and a 3.2ft (1m) cable perfect for desk setups. The ideal for on-the-go use without compromising on connectivity.
  • Flexible Display Options - With a 4K HDMI port (up to 60Hz) and an added VGA port (up to 1080p 60Hz), switch seamlessly between displays at home or client presentations. The perfect laptop screen extender that can be used anywhere!
  • Optimized for Peripherals & Compatibility - This USB C adapter enhances workflow with two USB A data ports, a USB C data port, and Micro/SD card slots. Compatible with a wide range of USB C devices, including laptops, tablets, iPads, and iPhone 15, and more. Note: For iPhone 15, Ethernet operates at USB 2.0 speeds, limiting network and data transfer speeds.
  • What You Get - Each purchase includes peace of mind with dedicated customer service and a 1-year warranty, ensuring a seamless and supported user experience.

There is also a USB-C PD charging port (up to 100W), Gigabit Ethernet port, USB-C data port, two USB-A data ports (up to 5Gbps), and micro/SD card reader slots (UHS-I)

The Satechi is cheaper than the HyperDrive although the advantage of the HyperDrive is that it has two HDMI ports compared to only one in the Satechi.

Pros:

  • Easy to setup and use
  • Doesn’t require DisplayLink drivers
  • Slighter cheaper than the HyperDrive

Cons:

  • Can’t support both displays at 60Hz
  • Only one HDMI port
  • Only supports a maximum of two external displays

2. Hub/Docking Station With DisplayLink Support

If you need 60Hz support on both external monitors and need up to three external displays 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.

displaylink logo on docking station

There are two ways of connecting a Hub or Docking Station to a Mac – via Thunderbolt cable or via USB-C.

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 (for more on this check out Thunderbolt vs USB-C speeds).

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 M-chip Macs with it.

By far the best and most reliable DisplayLink supported docking station we’ve found for base model Apple Silicon Macs is the Plugable UD-ULTC4K Triple Display 4K Docking Station.

Plugable 4K Docking Station Triple Monitor with 100W Power Delivery, USB-C Dock for Thunderbolt and USB-C Windows and Mac M1 M2 M3 (3X HDMI, DisplayPort, 1x USB-C, USB 3.0, SD Card)
  • Powerful Ports - 13 ports and power delivery 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 Power Delivery - Power your laptop with up to 100W (96W certified) directly through the DisplayLink docking station, so you can leave your laptop power adapter in your travel bag.
  • Compatibility - USB-C dock is compatible with Windows 10 or later, ChromeOS 100.x or later, and macOS 11+ systems with Thunderbolt 4, Thunderbolt 3, USB4, and USB-C. Requires installation of DisplayLink Drivers. HDCP not supported
  • Connection Options - Triple display docking station let's you connect 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 enables your original Apple Silicon Mac to support up to 3 external displays on an first generation M1 or M2 Mac at 4K and 60Hz refresh rates.

The Plugable 4K Docking Station plugs into your Apple Silicon Mac’s 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  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 Mac 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 MacBook while you are using them so you’ll need your Mac to be connected to the power supply at all times.

Another option is the Ugreen USB-C Triple Display Docking Station which can support up to three external monitors on an M1 Mac if you use the DisplayLink software with it.

The Ugreen USB-C Triple Display Docking Station has 2 HDMI ports and a DisplayPort which can support up to three 4K displays at 60Hz on a Mac.

It has 12 ports which include an Ethernet port, SD card readers plus 10Gbps USB-A and USB-C ports.

If you need to connect more than two monitors to a base Apple Silicon Mac then the Ugreen USB-C Triple Display Docking Station is an excellent option.

UGREEN Docking Station Triple Display, 12-in-1 8K MacBook Station with 2 HDMI, DP, 10 Gbps USB C and USB A 3.2, 100W PD Charging, Ethernet, Audio, SD TF Card Reader for MacOS, Windows
  • Triple Display Extended: With the DisplayLink technology, UGREEN USB C Docking Station support extends 3 monitors for Windows and macOS systems. It supports both extended mode and mirror mode, which can greatly improve your work efficiency. (Note: Display and network functions need to install the driver)
  • 12-in-1 Expansion: The 12-in-1 USB C Dock is equipped with 12 expansion ports, which are 1x HDMI 8K, 1xHDMI 4K, 1x DP 4K, 1x PD 3.0 100w, 1x USB A 3.2, 1x USB C 3.2, 2x USB A 3.0, 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x SD/Micro SD card slots, and 1x 3.5mm AUX ports. It can meet almost all the needs of your daily work.
  • 8K/4K HD Display: The HDMI2 port supports up to 8K@30Hz display for Windows and up to 4K@60Hz for macOS. The HDMI1 and DP ports support up to 4K@60Hz display for both Windows and macOS. Let you enjoy the ultimate visual experience.
  • Transfer Files in Seconds: With 1x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 and 1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports, this Macbook Docking Station supports up to 10Gbps data transfer speed. It can meet your needs of transferring data in a very short time, greatly saving your waiting time.
  • PD 100W Fast Charge: The 12-in-1 Laptop Docking Station is equipped with a 100W PD 3.0 charging port. It only takes 1.5 Hours to fully charge Macbook Pro 15'', and without taking up another port of the laptop. (The charger is not included)

3. Use a Dual HDMI Adapter

Sale
OWC USB-C to Dual HDMI 4K Display Adapter with DISPLAYLINK for Apple M1 Mac or Any Mac or PC with USB-C or Thunderbolt
  • 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

Another way to make more than one external monitor work with a base model Apple Silicon Mac is by using a dual HDMI adapter.

A dual HDMI adapter plugs into your Apple Silicon Mac’s 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 base model Apple Silicon Macs.

The best dual HDMI adapter is the OWC USB-C/Thunderbolt to Dual HDMI 4K Display Adapter with DisplayLink.

The reason it’s the best dual HDMI adapter for base model Apple Silicon 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.

SoNNeT DisplayLink Dual 4K HDMI Adapter for 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 or M2 Mac Notebooks, 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 M-series Macs.

HyperDrive Dual 4K HDMI Adapter for M1/M2 MacBook 2X HDMI, Pass-Through Charging
  • Connect 2 displays at 4K video - HyperDrive USB-C to HDMI adapter is compatible with M1/M2 or Intel powered MacBook, Windows PC or Chromebook for up to 2 extended monitors with crystal clear 4K HDMI video.
  • Fast and easy setup - Connect the dual HDMI 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 your device - Also use this HDMI adapter as a charger for your M1/M2 MacBook in a flash with 100W of pass-through charging through our USB-C 100W PD charging port.
  • Durable and functional design - Our beautiful, milled aluminum housing perfectly accents the space grey design of your device while ensuring advanced heat dissipation to avoid overheating.
  • Hyper innovation - HYPER creates award-winning, cutting-edge IT and mobile accessories that focus on compatibility with Apple, portable power, and connectivity.

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.

hyperdrive hdmi adapter m1 mac

You’ll also need to download and install DisplayLink adapters for dual HDMI adapters to work with your Mac (see below).

M1, M2 & M3 Mac DisplayPort Drivers

The first solution using InstantView hubs works out of the box and doesn’t require downloading any external drivers.

The second and third solutions using a DisplayLink Hub or Dual HDMI adapter you’ll also need to download the free DisplayLink drivers to drive the monitors that your M1, M2 or M3 Mac is connected to.

You can do this by downloading and installing the DisplayLink Driver from Synaptics which works with macOS Catalina, Big Sur, Monterey, Ventura and the latest version of macOS Sonoma.

Once you’ve installed DisplayLink and connected your monitors via the docking station, you can control any monitors connected to your M1, M2 or M3 Mac from your macOS System Preferences just like any other monitor.

m1 monitor mac displaylink display preferences

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 although it is officially compatible with the latest version of macOS Sonoma.

Some Mac users are still experiencing problems with external monitors after updating to macOS Sonoma, Ventura or connecting them to an M1, M2 or M3 Mac and you can find some fixes to these external monitor issues on Mac here.


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