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At work we have two Mac minis and each can run six monitors (twelve total).

I want to use only one Mac mini. How can we do this?

Update:

We have tried using a Thunderbolt PCIe expansion chassis.

We discovered some limitations of OS X and Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt Expansion Chassis: Graphics Cards - FAIL

Mac OS X does not yet support video pass through. We tried multi-channel graphics card in a three-bay PCIe expansion chassis. FAIL. So not all graphics cards will work. When talking to Magna we learned that this is supported in Windows, but not Mac OS X. Maybe WWDC will announce further functionality from an OS end.

Thunderbolt Expansion Chassis: USB Graphics - FAIL

Utilize more USB graphics cards with USB 3 capable PCIe Cards. We discovered that the USB 3 PCIe cards developed by CalDigit does not support anything but hard drives. They said they will support a more full USB 3 spec in a couple of months when their next release comes out, but didn’t guarantee USB graphics cards.

USB Graphics Cards: Partial Success

USB graphics card makers are advertising the support of six USB graphics cards on one computer. Add HDMI and Thunderbolt. That makes eight displays from a Mac mini.

Why?

Because it is there.

Because the cost is right.

It is cool.

Hopefully a replacement for the linear processing of information like unto a PowerPoint presentation.

What?

  • Twelve 1080p LED monitors
  • Two Mac minis
  • FileMaker Pro
  • Eight USB-to-DVI dongles
  • Two HDMI ports
  • Two Thunderbolt ports
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closed as unclear what you're asking by bmike Jul 26 '13 at 13:12

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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How are you currently connecting 6 to each? –  Chris A Jun 5 '13 at 3:09
    
The current Mac Pro supports up to six displays per machine, if you have two ATI 5770 cards (a price of ~$2800). I seriously doubt you will be able to drive twelve monitors with a single Mac mini. (I’m impressed you got six, to be honest.) –  alexwlchan Jun 5 '13 at 9:04
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Why did you stop at 6 USB adapters per Mini? Should we presume that adding the seventh adapter either breaks the system or the software refuses to use the last display added? (In other words, do 8 of these run on one Mini?) –  bmike Jun 9 '13 at 11:10
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When anyone says "there is no way to do . . . ". It is bound to happen. –  Mickey Coke Jun 13 '13 at 18:17
    
This question has become far too much a "blog post" and less of a question that a newcomer can answer. Since it's attracting poor answers, I've left it up, but no new answers will be allowed. To fix this up, please move all the "here's how we got to our best approximation of an answer" information to an actual answer and leave the question simple and clear. Once it's edited, it will enter a review queue to get reopened. –  bmike Jul 26 '13 at 13:58

3 Answers 3

Not if you’re trying to do something different on each display.

If you’re just looking to mirror the same content on twelve displays, then it should be okay: you just need a bunch of DVI splitters such as this one on Amazon.

To elaborate somewhat: the Mac mini is probably the least powerful Mac you can buy today (putting aside refurb models). It only has an integrated graphics processor, and while the Intel HD Graphics 4000 is better than some of the graphics cards Apple has used in the past, it’s still no substitute for a proper graphics card.

If we look at the Mac Pro tech specs page:

Support for up to six displays

Connecting more than three displays requires installation of two ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics cards.

Even though it hasn’t been updated properly in several years, the Mac Pro still outstrips the Mac mini considerably. You might be able to fiddle it somewhat and get an extra display or too on top of what Apple cite, but I think twelve would be a struggle on a Mac Pro. Doing it on a mini is probably impossible.

Another comparison: the Verge tested a Retina MacBook Pro, and were able to drive three external displays with it (four total). That’s one of Apple’s most modern Macs, and it was struggling:

There’s certainly a performance hit overall, and when trying to play four separate videos at once on all four displays (one of which was the 4K footage), we did notice the frame rates begin to drop.

Note that three external displays is more than Apple specifies for that machine. (Two running at 2560 by 1600 pixels.)

Driving twelve individual displays on a Mac mini is almost certainly impossible. I would guess that you probably can’t get a Mac from Apple today that will do it, even with a lot of work.

You can add graphics processing power, but eventually it won’t be your graphics that are the bottleneck. Trying to draw windows across twelve 1080p displays (nearly 25 million pixels) will strain what the window drawing tools in OS X are capable of. I suspect memory and CPU power would rein you in.

(That’s not to say that you can’t get computers that will drive twelve displays: you can buy such machines for trading floors, or maybe build a Hackintosh that will do it, but I’m fairly sure Apple don’t cater to that market.)

Also, what on earth are you trying to drive twelve displays from a single Mac mini for? If you really need to drive twelve displays, you need to buy several machines.

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Thanks, we are currently running two mac mini's and each runs 6 displays. We can run up to 8 displays on one mini. I might go the Hackint0sh route, thanks! –  Phill Pafford Jun 7 '13 at 13:06

There is no way to get a Mac Mini to run this many displays, I'm sorry to say. My brand new MacBook Pro has trouble running more than two at full resolution, and the Mac Mini is a low power machine by all accounts. On top of that, you take a huge performance hit every time you connect a monitor, even more so when you use a DisplayLink (USB video adapter), which is what I'm assuming you're using. If you wanted to try a Mac Pro with a few beefy graphics cards, you might get 12 displays out of it, but I'm seriously questioning why on Earth you would need 12 individual displays unless they're all displaying the same thing. If that is the case, there's no problem at all, but then you need to be more clear in your question.

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each display can be used to display it's own or part of the set –  Phill Pafford Jun 7 '13 at 13:09

In the simple case, you could get a DVI signal splitter and run the same presentation on hundreds of displays (think like a warehouse TV retailer needing to have 100 TV running from one input playing their demo loop).

Assuming you actually need to control each display as a desktop that the OS can control, most people end up finding that RAM and the GPU on whatever computer you use is the limiting factor and not the physical dongles and USB video out devices that act as alternate screens.

Since you have 8 USB to DVI dongles, it should be trivial in time and cost to get a USB hub and see what happens when you try 12 of these to see whether the GPU+RAM lags to the point of disfunction before adding anoer piece of hardware breaks down that chain to add a new display to the OS.

My experience is you will want to get a proper display wall solution for this sort of one computer and many display setup since they almost never are a situation where you want to mirror the exact same image on all 12 displays.

I've had good luck with Barco solutions, but they are pricey.

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