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I have a 15" Mid-2014 Retina MacBook Pro and would like to hook additional monitors to it. Ideally, these would be 4x 27" Apple Displays of some sort.

I have done a bit of Googling, but information on this sort of configuration seems to be a bit sparse. Here's what I know:

  1. This model can officially support 2x Thunderbolt Displays.
  2. Thunderbolt displays can be daisy-chained.
  3. Apple LED Cinema Displays (Mini DisplayPort model) can be daisy-chained off of Thunderbolt displays, but only if there are 1 or more thunderbolt devices separating them, and them
  4. USB to (mini) DisplayPort adapters (external video cards) exist, but can only output at 720p to an iMac or Cinema Display.
  5. USB to Thunderbolt adapters do not exist at this point. (And probably never will)
  6. It is easy to go from (mini) DisplayPort to HDMI, but not the other way.

Based on the above, I have come up with several options in decreasing order of preference. (Ranging from simple/elegant to hackish) I'd like to know if anyone has tried any of these, and what kind of success you have had, or if you've done something different that I haven't thought of.

One last thing. When these monitors are plugged in, the computer will be in clamshell mode in a Henge vertical dock, so it won't need to power the internal display.

Option 1: 4 Thunderbolt displays. Two plugged into the thunderbolt ports, one daisy-chained off of each of those.

I understand that this probably won't work, but am wondering if anyone has tried it.

Option 2: Two Thunderbolt Displays, each with an LED Cinema Display hooked up to it with, something in between (ie. a docking station)

I understand that this configuration will work if I hook up 1 pair, but need to know if the computer can handle 2.

Option 3: Some way of getting a DisplayPort signal from a USB video card, Two thunderbolt displays, and two DisplayPort displays.

I haven't been able to find anything here, but if anyone knows about anything, I would really appreciate it.

  • If you got the money to consider buying 4 Thunderbolt displays, maybe consider buying a Mac Pro and 4 non-Apple displays instead; should give you better performance than a MacBook Pro anyway ;-) – Asmus Dec 23 '14 at 11:00
  • In my case, the portability is more important than the performance. – OthelloAdmin Dec 23 '14 at 19:57
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DisplayLink produces some chipsets that allow to convert HDMI / DVI video stream to USB. Plugable and Anker sell them (around 50-60 USD for one converter). It works for Windows and sometime on Mac (check the product's description). There is some experimental support for Linux. On Mac OS X you can plug up to 4 monitors this way.

Otherwise you can give a shot to Kanex Thunderbolt to eSATA + USB 3.0 Adapter (I haven't tried it).

  • I did a bit of further research, and while I can't find any USB to mini DisplayPort, USB to (full-sized) DisplayPort is available StarTech.com USB 3.0 to DisplayPort, and going from there to mini-DisplayPort is easy. – OthelloAdmin Dec 23 '14 at 20:08
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EveryMac has some words of warning on trying to run 3 additional displays from a MacBook Pro…

On a 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro, site sponsor OWC briefly tested three external displays -- two iMacs used as displays at 2560x1440 via Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt/DisplayPort and an LG monitor at 1920x1200 via HDMI -- and shared that "moving images and media didn't create any lag and we were able to play video on all four displays simultaneously."

However, in more detailed evaluation, a helpful EveryMac.com reader reported:

I have a "Mid-2012" Retina Display MacBook Pro with two 27" Thunderbolt Displays daisy chained in clamshell mode. I tried adding a third 1920x1200 Dell monitor via the HDMI port, and it actually does work. But here is the catch: with no external displays, the system fans hover around 2600 RPM. With two 27" Thunderbolt Displays, regardless of what I do, the fans hover around 2800-3200 RPM. The GPU diode temp reads 69°C (156°F). If I force it via a fan control program to run at 2500 RPM, the GPU heats up. I was afraid of damaging my computer so I turned the fans back to auto-mode. Now the kicker. I tried with the three monitors and the fans go up to 4800 RPM. That's without doing anything. If I start running a YouTube clip, or do anything remotely CPU or graphics intensive, the fans max out at 5900 RPM (which is the max the machine will do). I exceeded that by having a few videos running at the same time, fired up 3 virtual machines, and had it compile some code. The whole system became choppy and it began stuttering. Since then, I've never used three monitors, just the two Apple Thunderbolt Displays. Apple probably doesn't officially recommend using three displays because it gets too hot.

Ultimately, although the Retina Display MacBook Pro models are technically capable of running three external displays as well as the internal one, the above reader is highly likely to be correct. Although Apple does not formally provide a reason for why only two external displays are supported, it is clear that the system can overheat with three connected. Consequently, EveryMac.com does not recommend running more than two external displays on the Retina Display MacBook Pro models.

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    Hmm, good to know. That is a mid-2012 Macbook Pro though - mine is a mid-2014. I currently have 3 24" HDMI monitors (1 via HDMI port, 2 via displayport to HDMI adapters) running at 1920x1080 hooked up to this thing, and cannot hear the fans running at all. – OthelloAdmin Dec 23 '14 at 20:02
  • a quick pixel count may make all the difference … 1920 * 1080 = 2073600 * 3 = 6,220,800 whereas 2560 * 1440 = 3686400 * 4 = 14,745,600 – Tetsujin Dec 23 '14 at 20:10
  • @OthelloAdmin I also have a mid-2014 and was wondering if 2x displayport to DVI would work as well. Your thoughts? – cp3 Sep 27 '15 at 4:19
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    @cp3 HDMI is pretty much just DVI plus audio, so no reason why it wouldn't. – OthelloAdmin Oct 3 '15 at 5:06
  • Good to know, my mid 2015 Macbook Pro 15" is already pretty loud with 2 TB displays connected. Considered connecting a 3rd display but I guess that'll create to much fan noise. I wonder what the alternatives are? iMac with 2 ext. displays? Mac Pro with 3 ext. displays? – Timo Sep 3 '16 at 23:34

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