When I was setting up my study I only had a small space, so being clever about how its configured was key to making it functional. As a programmer who works from home a lot I wanted 3 x 24inch monitors and I wanted a system that was easy to change from my work laptop back to the home Mac mini.
Can a Mac mini support 3 monitors without using Thunderbolt? it can, and the answer is the Dell D3100 USB Hub. The 3, 24inch Full HD displays work great with both the 2012 Mac mini and my work laptop (Microsoft Surface Pro 4).
Dell D3100 USB Hub Compatibility: Windows 10 and Mac OS?
I took a chance with the D3100, as at the time the official Dell documentation for the hub listed Dell hardware only as compatible. As it turns out, it is compatible with both the Mac mini and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, all it needs is a USB 3 port and away it goes.
I run Mac OS (Sierra) and Windows 10 via Bootcamp on the Mac mini and both work great with the dock. There’s been no problem with either operating system recognising the monitors and ports on the dock, and I’ve never had to manually install the drivers. Both operating systems recognised the Dell Dock and took care of the drivers for me when it was initially plugged in.
Dell D3100 Price?
The Dell Hub is an amazing bit of hardware for its price. At the time of writing this article it was $103.89 on Amazon plus shipping, click here to get the latest price.
UPDATE: I purchased the D3100 roughly 2 years ago and in that time Dell has released a newer version of the dock called the Dell D6000, click here to check it out on Amazon. At the time of writing this it’s $104.89 and the D3100 is no longer available.
Dell 3100 Specs
The Dell D3100 dock supports either of the following monitor configurations:
- 1 x 4K display with 2 x Full HD displays
- 3 x Full HD displays (this how I run my setup)
The dock includes the following ports:
- 3 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x Headphone jack (3.5mm)
- 1 x Audio input jack (3.5mm)
- 1 x Network Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
- 2 x HDMI
- 1 x DisplayPort (20 )
- 1 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0 – USB Type B
- Note this one is used connect the dock to the computer or laptop
Dell D6000 Specs
As I mentioned above the D6000 is the latest universal dock from Dell. It’s only $30 more expensive, and if you can spare the extra change it’s a higher spec. The main difference is that it supports 5K.
The monitor configurations it supports is either on of the following:
- 1 x 5K Display
- 3 x 4K displays
- 3 x Full HD Monitors
- 3 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0
- 1 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0 with PowerShare
- 1 x USB Host
- 1 x Headphone jack (3.5mm)
- 1 x Network Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
- 1 x HDMI
- 2 x
- 1 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0 – USB Type C
- Note this one is used connect the dock to the computer or la
My Set up
The Mac is a 2012 Mac mini which I’ve swapped out the regular 500Gb with a 240GB Kingston SSD (and moved the original 500GB drive to drive bay 2).
I’ve got to say that this made such an improvement to performance! It only has 4GB of RAM, yet it boots either Mac OS (Sierra) or Windows 10 in 20-30 seconds. I was so impressed with the performance hit this one update that I’ve never gone back to upgrade the RAM.
Note: This has no bearing on running to Dell dock and 3 monitors but I thought I’d mentioned it as a side note.
The 3 displays are a mix of
- 2 x AOC 24″ gaming monitor
- 1 x LG 24EA53 – I’m looking to update this one to match the AOC monitors once I have the extra cash.
The keyboard is a Microsoft Sculpt wireless keyboard and mouse. I’d highly recommend it. I will add that the keyboard does take some getting used to, but once your muscle memory kicks in, it’s such a great, efficient keyboard. I’m no expert typist, but it has definitely improved my words per minute.
The Dell D3100 USB dock makes running 3 monitors on a Mac mini easy and reliable, and a bonus is you get more USB ports which are easily accessible – no more fiddling around on the back of the Mac mini for that spare USB port. I very rarely get an issue with it, and if I do, all that’s needed is to power it off and back on. I need to do this maybe once every 3-4 weeks.
When I need to run the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, all I need to do is unplug the Dock’s USB cable from the Mac mini and plug it into the Surface. Making it super easy to swap the keyboard and displays over with just one cable.
As you can probably tell by the Mac mini machine specs, I’m no gamer. So I cannot comment on how the 3 monitor setup runs when gaming. It’s the general home machine which we browse the Internet, check mail and watch YouTube. It has no problem running a Full HD YouTube clip in full-screen whilst browsing on the other 2 monitors.
Overall I’m very happy with it, it works well with Mac OS and Windows 10 via (or Windows 10 on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4). I highly recommend it if you are looking for a 3 monitor setup for the Mac mini – click here to check it out on Amazon.
Question:Q:Mac mini 2020 and external displays
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I ordered a MacMini 2020 today and then canceled after reading a review that it will not support three monitors as my 2018 Mac mini does. I wanted to ask the community if this is true?
Posted on Nov 21, 2020 5:51 PM
Yes, you can review the spec’s for both models in an earlier thread.
See > I have 3 4k 27 inch Monitors and am think… - Apple Community
Posted on Nov 21, 2020 7:19 PM
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Nov 21, 2020 6:45 PM in response to Jolly Blackburn1 In response to Jolly Blackburn1
I have the same question. Why would Apple do this?? I have the new MacMini coming this next week. I am trying to figure out a way to hook up dual monitors and still have a thunderbolt port for external drives. I wish it still had 4 outputs, two for monitors and two for peripherals . I had the 2018 Mac mini hooked up to one usb-c port and the other to the HDMI port. Colors did not match at all. I then hooked the monitors using 2 usb-c to HDMI cables and all works great and I still have 2 ports for drives etc. Now what is a guy to do? Go to one wide screen monitor?
Nov 21, 2020 6:45 PM
Nov 21, 2020 9:58 PM in response to Jolly Blackburn1 In response to Jolly Blackburn1
straight from Apple's own website about the Mac Mini.
Two monitors only.
Nov 21, 2020 9:58 PM
Nov 22, 2020 5:01 AM in response to Jolly Blackburn1 In response to Jolly Blackburn1
You will have to wait to see if the next gen Mini will have 3 display support
or what else Apple may have up their sleeves for Apple silicon in the
next year (perhaps a poorman's MacPro?)
Nov 22, 2020 5:01 AM
Nov 22, 2020 7:53 AM in response to den.thed In response to den.thed
This is somewhat disheartening news. I am very surprised that Apple would go this route. It seems the only viable option is to go with the 21:9 aspect ratio monitor.
Nov 22, 2020 7:53 AM
Nov 22, 2020 8:19 AM in response to BradParsons1960 In response to BradParsons1960
Yea' could just push me back to looking for a used 2018 Mac Mini to replace one of my souped-up 2012 Mac Mini's.
Nov 22, 2020 8:19 AM
Question:Q:Mac mini 2020 and external displays
M1 Mac mini can drive six displays with peripherals - but you shouldn't bother
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.
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.
Connect a display to Mac mini
The Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports and the HDMI 2.0 port both support video output, so you can connect an external display, a projector, or an HDTV.
For Mac mini with Apple M1 chip, you can connect one external display up to 6K using a Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port, and one external display up to 4K using the HDMI 2.0 port.
For other Mac mini models, the Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on your Mac mini are managed by two controllers—one for the two ports on the left, and one for the two ports on the right. You can connect one 5K display using a Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port, or up to three 4K displays using two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports and the HDMI 2.0 port.
To connect this device to Mac mini
Use a cable, or an adapter and cable
Apple Pro Display XDR (Mac mini with Apple M1 chip only)
Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) cable
Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) display
Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) cable
USB-C (USB 3.1) cable
HDMI display or HDTV
The HDMI cable that came with your display or HDTV
Thunderbolt 2 display
Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 adapter and the cable that came with your Thunderbolt 2 display
VGA display or projector
USB-C VGA Multiport adapter and the cable that came with your display or projector
DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort display
USB-C to DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort adapter and the cable that came with your display
DVI display or projector
USB-C to DVI adapter and the cable that came with your display or projector
Adapters and other accessories are sold separately. Visit apple.com, your local Apple Store, or other resellers for more information and availability. Review the documentation or check with the manufacturer to make sure you choose the right product. See Adapters for the Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C port on your Mac or iPad Pro.
Learn more. See the Apple Support article Use external monitors with your Mac for details about display preferences. To troubleshoot an issue with an external display, see Get help with video issues on external displays connected to your Mac.
Monitors mini 3 2020 mac
One of the Mac’s greatest long-term advantages has been the ease of attaching external monitors. The attachment connector type, resolutions supported, and total quantity has varied over time, but it’s a persistently easy task.
Or at least it was! Over the last six years, Apple introduced USB 3 over USB-C (12-inch MacBook, now discontinued), Thunderbolt 3, which uses USB-C (and supports many kinds of adapters), and the Apple silicon M1 processor models. Some Macs have or still include video-specific connectors, too: in the past, that included DVI (multiple forms), Mini DisplayPort, DisplayPort over Thunderbolt 2, and HDMI. More recently HDMI 2.0 is the only remaining video connector that’s not USB-C, and it’s found only on Intel and M1 Mac mini models.
Figuring out how many monitors can plug into which Macs has become akin to calculus for many readers, based on our mailbag.
(Have a monitor that uses DVI, Mini DisplayPort, or Thunderbolt 2? Consult our guide from last year on how to determine what you have and which kind of adapter you need. Want to use an iMac as an external monitor? Only iMacs released from 2009 to mid-2014 qualify. See “Troubleshooting tips for using an old iMac as an external display for a Thunderbolt 3 Mac.”)
Here’s the matchup for Macs of the last few generations, starting with the newest, not including the internal display for iMac and Mac laptops. Connections are via a USB-C connection except where noted.
The resolutions, for reference, are:
- 4K UHD: 3840×2160 pixels
- 4K: 4096 wide, with common variations that include 4096×2160 or 4096×2304 pixels
- 5K: 5120×2880 pixels
- 6K: 6016×3384 pixels
The highest resolution supported is listed for each configuration or set of options, but you can use a lower-resolution monitor, too. For instance, the M1 Mac mini allows up to 6K over USB-C, but you can plug a 4K UHD monitor into that port instead.
M1 Mac monitor options
Most M1 Macs allow adding only a single external monitor; the Mac mini allows two. Despite many reader questions, there’s no adapter or trickery you can do to add an additional display beyond the level Apple supports.* The video circuitry simply isn’t there.
Here are your options grouped by display choices:
- MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, iMac: One external display at up to 6K resolution
- Mac mini: Two displays: one at up to 6K over USB-C and one at up to 4K over HDMI 2.0
(*You can use hardware that uses DisplayLink technology to add additional monitors via USB, which is a bit of a clever hack that also requires installing a kernel-level driver from the company. It seems to work for many M1 owners, who have discussed their experiences in online forums. DisplayLink has a long history and also works with Intel Macs.)
Intel Mac with USB 3/Thunderbolt 3 monitor options
Intel Macs with Thunderbolt 3 had a more baroque array of potential external monitor configurations. Here are the possibilities for the last shipped version of each Thunderbolt 3 model and the 12-inch MacBook with USB 3 over USB-C:
- 21.5-inch iMac: One 5K display or two 4K UHD or 4K displays
- 27-inch iMac (standard video card), 13-inch MacBook Pro: Either one 5K or 6K display or two 4K UHD or 4K displays
- 27-inch iMac (AMD Radeon Pro 5700 or AMD Radeon Pro 5700 XT): Up to two 4K UHD, 4K, 5K, or 6K displays
- 16-inch MacBook Pro: Up to two 5K or 6K display or up to four 4K UHD or 4K displays
- Mac mini: One 5K display via USB-C or up to three 4K displays with a combination of USB-C and HDMI 2.0 ports
- Mac Pro: Depending on the video card, it ranges from one 5K or 6K display or up to four 4K displays through up to four 5K or 6K displays or up to eight 4K displays
- 12-inch MacBook: One 4K display
Ask Mac 911
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