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I'd like to use two external monitors for some excels, coding, email, not games or video content.

Can someone please explain how I can go about using two external monitors with my MacBook Pro, and realistically, how good will the performance be of the 2nd external monitor?

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Despite the title, Can I connect more than one external monitor to the new MacBook Air? isn't only about the Air, making this one a virtual dupe of that. –  Dori Feb 1 '11 at 3:06
    
If you let us know which video out you have, that will narrow down the capabilities and guesses as to what your specific mac can do. Your specific mac's video capabilities are documented at support.apple.com/manuals/# (also with so many USB video solutions, it's possible to add monitors past what the internal video system will drive.) –  bmike Jul 24 '11 at 15:55
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6 Answers

In order to attach two or three monitors, you could use a third party device like Matrox GXM (Graphics eXpansion Modules) - you can connect two or three monitors from your Display Port, however, there are some limitations (like the OS does not know natively that there are two or three monitors connected and treats it like one). The price is about $350 for the Tripplehead and around $220 for the Dualhead one.

Here is the GXM homepage.

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If you don't yet have the monitors, the cheapest solution is to get a USB monitor (for example, Display Link). Performance is fine for your uses. Display Link sells a monitor with HD (1920x1080) resolution.

If you have both monitors already, and they are VGA or DVI, then you can buy adapters for them. Performance should improve somewhat.

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If you have an iPhone or iPad, they can become a second monitor with Air Display.

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I highly recommend Plugable's USB 2.0 to VGA/DVI/HDMI Adapter. It will do up to 2048×1152 or 1920×1200. I use it at work every day, along with a second monitor plugged right into the display port. It uses DisplayLink's chip and drivers, and works well on Snow Leopard and Lion.

It's a bit slower to update than the MacBook's internal monitor or the monitor plugged directly into the display port, but as long as I'm not trying to watch video on it it's great.

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I've heard good things about the OWC USB to DVI/HDMI/VGA Display Adapter.

Plug it in with USB, and it drives a monitor connected with DVI, HDMI, or VGA up to 1600x1200 pixels (full HD is 1920x1080).

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You can now do this with the Thunderbolt equipped MacBook Pros that also have discrete graphic cards. Both displays need to be the new Thunderbolt displays.

I use a DisplayLink USB adapter on my MacBook Pro 13, which works well for everything except fullscreen video and 3D.

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