MACBOOK PRO WITH DUAL 24″ APPLE CINEMA DISPLAYS!

by tn on February 12, 2010

in GEAR, TECH

Finally put the second Apple Cinema Display to use after months of waiting for the module and adapters to come in.  Matrox just came out with a graphics module (dualhead2go DP Edition) that allows the Macbooks to run two monitors with a total maximum resolution of 3840×1200 (2×1920x1200).

* EDIT: (Everything finally works!  see below)Well it doesn’t work right!  at least not with my Macbook model (unibody /mid 2009/9400M)  running leopard 10.5.8.  The dual setup will ONLY work if the laptop lid is closed or the laptop screen is off.  It will freeze and choke up if all 3 screens are running at the same time.  I contacted Matrox numerous times, and all they could tell me is to try reverting back to 10.5.7 or wait until Apple does something about it, because the problem is with leopard 10.5.8 and snow leopard 10.6+.  Kinda retarded, but guess I am stuck for now until I find a better solution.  I know there are others running dual 24″ displays on their unibody macbook pros no problem, but haven’t heard of anyone running the same setup as mine that actually works (if it works for you, shoot me an email!).  After spending a whole day trying to get it to work, there was only one method that would work (below)

Anyways, here is what you need:

The module was smaller than I thought

IMPORTANT: before you begin, plug the main power of both displays in and individually connect each 24″ ACD to your macbook and change the brightness setting of them to the same (because the max setting of the ACDs are pretty blinding).  After that is done don’t unplug the main power cables because it will reset the settings on your displays.

Install the software FIRST, then connect all the cables together and plug in ONLY the usb cable from the module to your macbook and leave the Mini DisplayPort connection out for now.

Open up the Matrox Powerdesk control panel

It will have manufacturer settings applied.  Click on “configure based on attached displays” and “apply changes” and close the box.  Close your macbook as well.

After connecting the mini displayport cables to the module, you’ll end up with a usb and power cable from each display (24″ displays have 4 cables each – usb, mini displayport, power to laptop connector, and main outlet power )

  • plug the main power of both displays in
  • start from display #2 (right) and connect it’s usb to an open port on the back of display #1 (left) – there should be 3 open usb ports
  • the power connector for display #2 won’t be needed.  Tuck it somewhere behind the displays
  • connect the usb  from the keyboard (in my case, wired keyboard) to an open usb port on the back of Display #1 (left)
  • connect Display #1’s usb and power connector to your macbook

Now plug in the mini displayport from the module to the macbook (macbook is still in sleep mode and closed) and wake up the displays by pressing any key on your keyboard.  It should flicker a bit and resolve at 3840×1200.

  • Dualhead2go module will treat both displays as one big screen.  So if you were to maximize a window, it will maximize it across the two screens which sucks.
  • Volume can be adjusted on the keyboard and only speakers in Display #1 (left) will work
  • You can’t change the brightness!! if it is still too bright, or too dim, you’ll have to unplug the module from the macbook and connect the displays invidually again to reset it.
  • You can open the macbook lid if you want, but make sure it doesn’t get detected and turn on or else everything will freeze.

There is another option available.  VillageTronic just released a new usb graphics module called the Vibook+ Plus ($139.99) that can handle 1920×1200 (24″-28″) that I may try next.

Since it is a usb to dvi, you will also need to buy either a Gefen DVI to Mini DisplayPort converter ($79 bucks) or an Atlona AT-DP200 DVI to Mini Displayport Converter ($127.99)

**EDIT: it seems Matrox has fixed the problem with the corruption issues.  As of the beginning of December 2010, everything should work like suppose to and now I have the dual displays as well as the macbook display working simultaneously!! =) (for more information visit their site http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/support/gxm/selection/, updated matrox powerdesk software as well as updated firmwire! about time Matrox!)

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda February 14, 2010 at 6:22 am

Wahhhhh awesome setup! I’m jealous :(

p.s is that your hello kitty sticker? LOL

tn February 14, 2010 at 6:25 am

hahah its Stephs

Unixfan February 15, 2010 at 1:31 am

try something containing http://displaylink.com/ technology … drivers work on 10.5.8, there are several 1920×1200 usb/dvi adapters to choose from, inexpensive too. i’m running two dell 24″ monitors, one via builtin mini-dp/dvi, one via usb/dvi, together with the display of my mbp 13″. and a mimo s720 touchscreen 7″ for itunes as the fourth display ;)

Justin February 15, 2010 at 2:01 am

Awesome setup and city view!

Rufus February 15, 2010 at 2:13 am

There’s also this device that I’ve had my eye on for a while.
Sewell Minideck

Regis February 15, 2010 at 2:56 am

I use the Atlona with 2 24″ Apple LED Cinemas connected to a current generation Mac mini and everything works great.

Jeff C February 15, 2010 at 3:36 am

I’ve been considering doing exactly what you have done – although I have two older 24 inch displays with the DVI connectors rather than the mini-displayport connectors and am running Snow Leopard.

Definitely lame that you can’t run the laptop display at the same time. I was expecting that this would be possible.

YK February 15, 2010 at 4:55 am

Why don’t you try connecting one monitor to the DualHead2Go and the other directly to your MacBook? Having a single logical display at 3840×1200 just might be too much for the Mac to handle.

Ann February 15, 2010 at 4:58 am

I love happy endings!

Nick Heer February 15, 2010 at 5:30 am

Saw your setup on Lifehacker – it’s slick! I didn’t even recognize Calgary, but my view is a little different to yours.

Looks great!

Mike February 15, 2010 at 5:57 am

What wallpaper are you using? I want it!

tn February 15, 2010 at 7:43 am

@unixfan – thanks, i read someone was using that as well….ill have a look

@rufus – thanks for the heads up

@regis – i am planning to try the atlona method next, once i can find a vibook+ in stock somewhere

@jeff c – if you do not have mdp, you can use the vibook+ / vibook plus module….its about $100 bucks….should work perfectly!

@yk When you connect one display to the dualhead2go, it still needs to be plugged into the mini displayport from the module….the second monitor cannot connect directly to the mbp because there is only one port

@nick heer – its downtown Toronto….i recently relocated from calgary…Jason at lifehacker must have thought i was still living there

@mike – wallpaper is on interfacelift.com =)

Benson Wong February 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

Should have skipped the Matrox Dual Head 2 Go thing and went straight for the DisplayLink. It probably won’t have the response as the Matrox but it is far more convenient (no one big screen spanned over 2 displays).

Here’s a testing set up I had with 3 additional LCD screens (2 x EGA UV Plus+), there’s a video on the blog post.

http://www.mostlygeek.com/personal/multiscreen-macbook-pro/

Since then DisplayLink has come out with a new chip, faster so I’m going to try to find one of the Sewell ones with the new chip (http://www.engadget.com/2009/11/22/sewells-displaylink-enabled-usb-to-dvi-vga-hdmi-adapter-doe/) and test that out.

Serge February 15, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Why not to buy Dell 30″? It’s a good monitor, supports DisplayPort and will give you more or less same real state as two smaller monitors *without* hassle of dealing with buggy matrox product.

kelle February 15, 2010 at 1:47 pm

There’s also this NewerTech USB-DVI converter:
http://www.newertech.com/products/viddu2dvia.php

My understanding is that this just works with the USB port and you don’t need a mini-DVI to USB adapter.

Has anybody tried it?

Tom February 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Very nice solution! Matrox is getting some very nice free advertising from you!

I would also love to see your cable management solutions for your glass desk! Seems many people love the glass desks in the catalogs but when all the equipment gets placed on them they soon realize that it is not as elegant as they wanted it to look.

Were you able to achieve that too? (you realize that if you say yes, I will be forced to buy a glass desk, don’t you?!)

Very nice post, hope you have a fabulous day!

Tom ( Chandler, Arizona, USA)

digitalmandave February 15, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Nice post! I want to do the same thing, but will be using a Wacom Cintiq 12SX as the third monitor along with my 13″ Macbook Pro & Dell 2709W.
This might be the solution:http://the-gadgeteer.com/2009/09/24/diamond-usb-display-adapter-pro-review/
What do you think?

Chip February 15, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Hi,

I have an early 2009 unibody 17″ MBP and I am driving two HP 24″ monitors by using the on-board mini DP with a mini DP to DVI adapter and then the second monitor via the VillageTronic ViBook + and it works great! I can use the MBP display along with the other two displays for a total of three displays and can make all adjustments. I highly recommend it.

I had used the Matox solution with a WinXP laptop and it worked well, so I ordered a new one when I purchased my MBP, but it didn’t work and I returned it. The ViBook + is a great solution.

Thanks.

Richard D. February 15, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I installed the same setup a while back with a MacBook Pro. Worked great but we needed more RAM so upgraded to a MacPro with two matrox-driven dual screens. It generally works fine with OS-X. But seems to have a lot of weird difficulties when running W7 on Parallels. Slightly better with VMware Fusion. There is some sort of limited virtual video ram supplied by Parallels that get overwhelmed by even a single double-wide monitor. My communications with Tech support have not resolved this.

Note. In my experience, the DualHead2Go is expensive, but it works much better than any of the exterior USB-to-monitor converters.

tn February 15, 2010 at 8:27 pm

@tom – cable management with apple products is pretty good….it cleans up very nice!….

i just wrap the cables from the second display around the first displays base/cable slot…that way you cant see any cables hanging around (you can see in my last pic, there is no cables at all…..except the cable for the keyboard -too bad they dont make a wireless keyboard with keypad)

the cables from the first display gets routed around to the macbook pro….the wires you only see are from the dualhead2go module……hopefully when i change the setup to the vibook+, i wont see any cables at all

you cant go wrong with a glass desk!! =)

@digitalmandave – Hey Dave, yes that is what you want to use!

Savillian February 15, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Could tell that was TO right away! The Skydome (errrrrr Rogers Centre) gave it away! Nice setup and view!

Chris A February 16, 2010 at 5:48 am

Hey mate,

Could you please e-mail me? I’m in Calgary as well, looks like we have nearly the exact same view – very insane actually how similar! Would love to chat w/ you more about it.

Great setup, looking forward to your note.

Cheers.

tn February 16, 2010 at 5:54 am

Hey, the view is Downtown Toronto! not Calgary (recently relocated)

Chris A February 16, 2010 at 7:02 am

Weird, totally thought it was still Calgary! This is my view and why I thought it was similar: http://i49.tinypic.com/55pfzs.jpg

Although, I think I can still tell where in Toronto as well (came from there before moving to Calgary). Still, great work ;)

tn February 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Great view Chris!

Ron B. February 16, 2010 at 10:05 pm

What is the stand your MacBook is sitting on?

tn February 16, 2010 at 10:09 pm
Jonas J Schreiber February 17, 2010 at 11:48 am

Please tell me where you got that background

Phillip W February 17, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Hey beautiful setup! Since the Mac only sees the two displays as one, how do you get the dock only on one screen and not split between the two?

tn February 17, 2010 at 6:38 pm

hi Phillip, the matrox powerdesk program allows the dock to be left,right, center justified…….i aligned it to the right….as i add more icons to the dock or enlarge it, it will eventually cross over to the other display so i would have to scroll it to a smaller size to stay on the right screen

the dock can also be placed vertically to the left or right as well….which can be done on any macbook (in the dock preferences)

range February 18, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Hi Tn,
I’m a writer for Apartment Therapy/ Unplggd and we’d like to feature your setup in a post. We’d like permission to use a few of your photos, which will be credited to you by name and with links.

Also, we’d like to feature your workspace and apartment in a tech tour. Please send me an email to find out more.

Thanks!
Range

Spike Lateen February 18, 2010 at 11:47 pm

How does fullscreen (like HULU.com) work on this setup? Does it try to use both screens as well?

walk February 19, 2010 at 11:05 pm

You can also use this MUCH cheaper option, which apparently supports QWXGA (my 23″ LCD panels are QWXGA resolution):
MonoPrice item #6038.

That way you use the mini-DVI-out on the laptop for LCD #1 and the USB device from MonoPrice for LCD#2.

Go Toronto!

walk February 19, 2010 at 11:10 pm

@Serge
I personally like two smaller screen since looking too far up on something like a 30″ screen gives me eye strain. I prefer to look left/right when working. I have two 23″ DELL QWXGA (2048×1152) LCD panels as a result.

Richard February 20, 2010 at 12:57 am

I have a Matrox DualHead running two Dell 20’s from my MBP (10.5.x) with no issues.

Take a look at these two apps from Irradiated Software. I use TwoUp…which has become SizeUp. Works great!

http://www.irradiatedsoftware.com/

mark February 21, 2010 at 2:04 am

this is awesome! good stuff

Tim February 22, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Wow, You have a awesome life !

Tell me please, what do you do, and how do you do it ?

All the best.

Tim

Ricardo February 22, 2010 at 9:24 pm

It’s true there is no name and no contact in this blog..
And I don’t know who is behind tnphn.ca..

tn February 24, 2010 at 12:03 am

I just put back up the about me page. Was playing around with the new design and layout and now taking a different approach with the blog.

I guess, what any internet marketer will tell you….its brutal in the beginning, learning and setting sites and ad campaigns up…..but after that, it gets easier.

Some people have asked me why i need all the screens…..well, when you are juggling between spreadsheets and pages….you need all the estate you can get……my work flow seriously cuts in half…….once you go dual or more….one screen will never be the same

IvyBrick February 26, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Ok, we just tried the Matrox solution above and have to stress that the clarity of both monitors drops significantly with the Matrox TripleHead DP (Dual was on back order).

The directions above were very helpful but beyond the loss of clarity (which was enough to be annoying) the full screen vs. two split screens was very annoying with any Adobe CS Suite products. They try to grab as much real-estate as possible and stretch across both screens. You have to Resize every time you open Photo, AI, and Dreamweaver. In addition, Unity mode in VM Fusion does not work at all with XP, Vista, or Windows 7.

Now, has anyone tried the ViBook + (see 1) and the Gefen DVI to Mini DisplayPort (see 2) together? I realize this is a $200.00 plus solution and would like to try but curious if anyone has.

[1] http://www.villagetronic.com/vibook/index.html
[2] http://store.apple.com/us/product/TY153LL/A?mco=MTY3ODQ5OTY

TN, great site. Very helpful. Hopefully someone will respond back.

- Frank

IvyBrick February 26, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Further Clarification: The above, was tried on (2) Apple LED Cinema 24″ displays with anew 17″ MBP unibody. FYI.

tn February 26, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Hey Frank,

are you getting all three screens working? with snow leopard? or 10.5.8?

does clarity improve if you use just the dual acds with the macbook closed?

tn

IvyBrick March 1, 2010 at 11:47 am

TN – Was able to get both new 24″ Apple LED Cinema displays to work (with MBP screen inactive). It was clear but noticible difference between a single 24″ connected (which was crystal clear) vs. the dual using the Matrox TripHead2Go. This may be a false negative result since we were using Triple version but it states either dual or triple can be used so I am guessing clarity might be an issue. We do a lot of design work and the lack of clarity was noticed pretty quickly.

As you probably already have noticed, you can start successfully with MBP open after initial setup. As long as you do not click Detect Displays in the System Preferences>Displays>Display you the MBP screen will not be active.

OS: 10.6.2

BTW, we attempted to play with refresh and various setting with no luck other than starting the configuration process over again.

Curious as to know your thoughts on the following proposed and whether you have any experience with the VIBook. I worry the signal will also loose clarity from the DVI to mini display port.
[1] http://www.villagetronic.com/vibook/index.html
[2] http://store.apple.com/us/product/TY153LL/A?mco=MTY3ODQ5OTY

Thanks, – Frank

tn March 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I have not yet tried the vibook+, but it does look promising. They seem to be out of stock.

the regular vibook will not support the full resolutions…..but im sure you are talking about the vibook plus+

as for the gefen converter, it is on sale for $68 rather than the $149 from the apple store here:

Gefen DVI to Mini DisplayPort converter

ill give it a try once i find a vibook plus in stock somewhere.

tn March 3, 2010 at 6:25 pm

also VMWare Fusion’s unity works perfectly fine for me (version 2.0)

stormlight March 11, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Can someone tell me how I can have two independent monitor screens in this situation?

I dont like how with the matrox dual head or other solutions force you to span across both monitors as 1 screen.

thanks

Petrophaga March 30, 2010 at 4:42 pm

1.)
Wrt. your black notebook display:
Did you try also Snow Leopard 10.6.1, or 10.5.7?
These versions should be okay according to
http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/support/drivers/download/?id=355
[...]
Supports Mac OS X versions 10.4 – Tiger; 10.5 – Leopard; 10.6 Snow Leopard.
Known issues
Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook and MacBook Pro systems equipped with NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics running Snow Leopard 10.6.2 may display image corruption at dual screen resolutions above 2880×900 (2x 1440×900).
To work around this problem, re-install Snow Leopard 10.6.0 from the original install disk (then optionally install the 10.6.1 update from Apple’s website.
Note that MacBook Pro users can avoid the display corruption by going into System Preferences, Energy Saver, and selecting the “Higher performance” option (if available).
[...]

2.)
Did somebody see or try the software?
http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/multi_display_software/mac_powerdesk/
(swap window, change dock position, manage resolutions)

3.)
Btw. all existing DisplayLink-USB-2.0-solutions are too slow for native graphics,
=> all graphics has to be compressed, transmitted and de-compressed!

Sources:

http://www.slashgear.com/samsung-lapfit-d190su-with-displaylink-review-0135980/
[...]
On entertainment, the USB graphics displayed DVD movies with no lag or ghosting, but we can’t say the same for immersive gaming. As mentioned, the current DisplayLink chip doesn’t support that; it simply lacks the muscle to process 3D simulations or graphic-intense games, though simple titles work fine. As mentioned, new chips and optimized drivers are coming to provide headroom for extra pixels and monitors.
[...]

http://www.lmscope.com/produkt22/USB_Kameras_en.shtml
[...]
Required bandwidth for “FullHD”: 1920×1080 pixels x 36 bit (colour depth per pixel) x 30 images per second = 2240 Mbit/second

USB 2.0: 480 Mbit/second
HDMI 1.2: 3960 Mbit/second
DVI: 3700 Mbit/second
[...]

Review of a DisplayLink UDB-to-DVI-adapter:
http://www.heise.de/ct/hotline/Zweiter-Monitor-am-MacBook-326466.html
Conclusion (translated):
Max. resolution is 1680×1050, stuttering mouse pointer and window movement, NO (!?) video and DVD playback, no hardware-OpenGL

:)

yg April 13, 2010 at 2:17 am

I have the same equipment as yours but i am going to try the second option you suggested , will let you know if it works.

Thanks for taking the initiative and putting in the hard work.

Jeff B April 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Can someone kindly advise if a 13″ MacBook Pro (new as of refresh April 13th) can run two independent 24″ Apple Cinema Displays? My intent would be to have the MBP display off when plugged in, my email dedicated to one of the 24″ displays and all else I run on the second display. The folks at Apple are mightly confused and telling me it is NOT at all possible on the 13″ and they are not even sure if it is possible on the 15″ MBP. This posting, and others, would indicate to the contrary. Again though, I do not want to expand my laptop screen across two monitors, I want two monitors with seperate windows. If it is simply a matter of buying an adapter or whatnot, please post link and advise of solution.
Many thanks for any assistance and support.

tn April 13, 2010 at 10:53 pm

hey Jeff, my brother has a 13″ macbook pro that i can test out. Let me know if you still want me to

tn April 13, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Thanks for the link Michael!….looks very promising and will look more into it

Jeff B April 14, 2010 at 10:34 am

To tn:

Yes, that would be great if you could play around with it and see if you can come up with a solution. Many thanks for the offer and your efforts.

Jeff B April 14, 2010 at 10:41 am

To Michael:
Product looks cool, but again, only seems to extend the MacBook display across TWO monitors versus allowing different screens on both. I want email client dedicated to one display and all other MacBook activity dedicated to second display. I emailed them to ask if they have any suggestions as well.
Thanks for the link.

Michael April 14, 2010 at 10:12 pm

To Jeff B:
That’s what I thought. Please report back should they respond.
Thanks.

QRQ May 22, 2010 at 8:15 am

really cool site. Nice info.
Anymore info about the dual 24″ connect?

Dominik August 16, 2010 at 6:43 am

I own a white Unibody MacBook (late 2009, the first revision) and had not success connecting two 24″ monitors (HP ZR24w; 1920×1200). The screen was always flickering when something on the screen moved (e.g. the cursor). That maybe has something to do with the lowered DisplayPort voltage Apple introduced with 10.6.2, but running 10.6.0 or even 10.5 did not help at all.

So I am just wondering if the same setup would work on a 15″ or 17″ MacBook Pro, which have a real, dedicated graphics card. Theoretically the card should be able to handle 2×1920*1200 + the internal display, I guess. Can anyone confirm this?

Just for the record: running 2×1680*1050 (22″ inch) with the DualHead2Go is no problem at all. Even 2xFull-HD (1920×1080) works fine. But 2×24″ – no chance at all.

Also, even if it would work, at least for me it was a kind of crappy experience, which is really not OSX-worthy :/

sam hurd September 2, 2010 at 7:14 pm

just an FYI…you can use all the speakers for both LED monitors by setting up an aggregate device using the audio midi setup application in osx. also, i have the newer macbook pro w/ gt 330m and i am able to use both monitors and the macbook 15′ display at the same time with zero problems at all!!

Bart September 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm

where are the rest of your blogs? they were awesome reads!

Bigmac267 November 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Congratualations! All I would like to do would be to connect my old Macbook4,1 (equiped with a mini-dvi) to ONE ACD. Everybody tell me that it is impossible. Do you have a solution for me ? Thanks for your help !

Jeff November 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm

FYI – I’m able to run the DualHead2Go DP with a pair of 24″ cinema displays, just fine with two of my MacBooks:

MbP 6,2 i7 and Nvidia GT330M
and
MbAir 3,1 and Nvidia 320M

Screen clarity is excellent and the Matrox PowerDesk utility is very useful for moving windows. Being able to run two monitors will enable me to move to the MbA full time and use the MbP as a backup. As my son says, “sweet”.

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