Triple Monitor Support on MacBook Air 11″ (mid-2011)

Posted on 2012/08/24

So, you want to run 3 external monitors on your MacBook Air – piece of cake.

Click to make this bigger

I’ve been running on this setup stable for about 10 months. Originally Lion and now running Mountain Lion.

There’s only really two secrets. The first one is the Zotac adapter and the second is SwitchResX.


  • MBA11 mid-2011 4/128


  • 3 x LG 22″ IPS226 monitors (dsub/DVI/HDMI)
  • Zotac MDP2HDMI adapter
  • IOGear HDMI DisplayLink adapter
  • 2 x monoprice wall mount double arms
  • 1 x monoprice low-profile wall mount
  • 3 x monoprice HDMI cables


  • SwitchResX

Firstly, Zotac makes this magic little box – you plug it into two monitors (1920×1080 preferred) and your mini-displayport (they also make a version for fullsized displayport) and it tells the computer that you have a 3840×1080 monitor connected.

You may have to hunt a bit to find it, but it’s totally worth it. Around $50 retail. I use my local “cheap but don’t expect service” computer store for a lot of this stuff.

In order to get OSX (on north american hardware) to recognize a monitor as large as 3840×1080, you need to run the output at 50Hz (european PAL standard) which the hardware will cheerfully do, but the software is a little bitchy about. The secret is SwitchResX and you’ll need these settings.

For the third monitor, I use a USB-to-HDMI converter that uses DisplayLink technology. The displaylink stuff works. You’re not going to want to watch video on it, but you could if you wanted. I used the IOGear one because it was on sale. Get drivers directly from DisplayLink.

It does work really well. This is my display set up

The odd part is that you end up with a “split” for most pop-up dialogs if you use the setup I do where the menubar is across the middle and right monitors.

Believe it or not, you get used to it. Just be sure to use the narrowest bezel monitors you can afford. I got mine on sale (IPS-LED for the price of old-style LCD+ florescent)

You do have to be creative about your desktop backgrounds though :)

In the attached photograph of the setup (ignore messy desk) you can see the whole thing and for completeness sake, here’s the rest of the desk stuff.

I’m running a single 1TB USB3-inUSB2mode 2.5″ drive off of the left USB port and the right USB port goes to a 10-port USB hub with:

– Griffin PowerMate
– dexim ipod/iphone dock + SD card + USB hub
– fitbit dock
– Behringer bus-powered UCA202 USB audio interface
– external bus-powered DVD burner
– external 120gb USB2 3.5″ PATA drive (for superduper backups)
– IOGear bus-powered DisplayLink adapter
– Apple bus-powered USB FastEthernet adapter

Audio output is available from all three monitors (they have a 3.5mm stereo jack on the rear) as selected from the sound system preferences pane. I’m using the output from the external USB interface to drive a cheap-ass Vizio speakerbar. Surprisingly good sound. Also, still running analog because I’m too lazy to find the optical cable I have around here somewhere. Audio input is from a Behringer C1 microphone just above me routed through the mixer.

There’s a proliferation of keyboards primarily because I have yet to locate what may be the holy grail of keyboards — the Logitech solar multiple system bluetooth keyboard – the K760 – it lets you select one of three connection profiles as you’re typing along.

At some point, after I clean up, I’ll post about the other three walls in my office. Each has some sort of wicked cool stuff going on, I’ve spent a long time planning the perfect office and this is about the 5th iteration of “the perfect office”. And it’s still not even close to being perfect!

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