Utilizing Multiple Displays with An Older Macbook
Like many, I use a laptop to stay portable. My 2008 Macbook Pro has a 15″ display.
When working from the office, I connect an external keyboard/trackball and also an external monitor via the DisplayPort.
I long for my Windows-based desktop at home where I can run two monitors from the on-board video card.
I know that the newer Macbooks support running multiple displays via the thunderbolt or Dual-link DVI, but this model Macbook does not support either technology.
I have read some articles about connecting a piece of hardware that splits the monitor signal into two, allowing you to set your resolution to something like 2800×1024 and then splitting that into two 1400×1024 displays. The problem is that to the laptop, there is only one display…and the quality suffers.
I was skeptical when I found a device at MicroCenter, made by j5create, that allows you to run up to six additional displays off the USB ports on a Mac or Windows PC. I purchased the HDMI version of the device and tested it out.
I was surprised to find that it worked exactly as I had hoped. The only downside I’ve noticed over the native DisplayPort is the speed of animation on the USB display. Since my MacBook is limited to USB2, the bandwidth is not that high, so watching video or any type of animation is noticeably slow.
That was about two months ago, and I’ve been very happy with it since. You connect your monitor to the adapter (There are USB2 and 3 versions that support VGA, HDMI, or DVI-D adapters, ranging from $40 to $70, which is much cheaper than the display splitter I mentioned before), and plug the adapter into one of your USB ports.
When you plug the adapter in, the machine sees the new hardware and creates a new display for it. You can choose to mirror or extend your desktop and control the resolution just like any other external display. Both of my monitors are 1080p, and the adapter supports the 1080p resolution with no problems.
I noticed that j5Create also had some “docking stations” for Mac and Windows which provide two monitor outputs and additional USB ports. If I had a machine with USB3 I would consider looking into one, but for now, I’m very happy with my dual monitor setup.