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I have just bought the MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021) featuring the Apple M1 Pro chip. From previous research I understand that it natively supports 2 additional display monitors, but I need a total of 4, as well as the ability to use USB-A peripherals. I am now researching using hub adapters, but I have doubts about how to proceed. I am researching between the following options from a manufacturer that a close IT-expert friend of mine has recommended:

First option: This option seems to require I buy an additional cable to use the so-called "host port". But, it seems like it would allow me to use only 3 monitors, since, I think, this so-called host port is what connects the hub to the computer.

Second option: This option is my favourite one so far. This option seems to allow me to use 4 display monitor total, given the number of ports visible. Yet, I am unsure if using external hub adapters which require drivers would actually allow me to run 4 display monitors.

Of course I plan to call the manufacturer. Yet, I value the opinion of this community, including options from other manufacturers.

First edit

I now understand that the options listed above are simple hubs; these will NOT allow me to go over the native number of monitors.

Worth clarifying: I do not intend to try and mess with the hardware to get the computer to support more monitors than what it can actually support. I intend to find a good display adapter, such as those in answer 1, using, e.g. DisplayLink drivers to be able to support more than two monitors (native number), to a total of 4.

Refined question: Here's an example of something that makes sense to me. THIS EXAMPLE does NOT specify that drivers are M1 Pro compatible (but they seem to given this site) BUT if they were, I could maybe connect two of these to each USB-C port on my computer and go from 2 to 4?

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    Are you just looking for 4 physical connections or do you expect the graphics card to be able to run 4 monitors? As you do state the M1 can do 2 additional monitors…
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 23:23
  • @SolarMike : Indeed I am seeing the ambiguity in my post; will edit. I want to find display adapter that allows me to add 2 additional monitors BESIDES the 2 native monitors the chip supports. Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 11:31

2 Answers 2

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I found an excellent blog that answers your question: https://danielcompton.net/2021/07/28/apple-m1-displaylink-multiple-display

Since links like to go dead on the internet I'll try to summarize the one and only option you have. That option is DisplayLink. That doesn't mean you have only one product that will solve your problem, it's that every product that will allow 4 displays on M1 based Mac computers will use DisplayLink GPUs.

On Intel based Apple computers there was the option of PCI based GPUs using Thunderbolt. This is still technically an option but nobody has developed drivers yet to make them work on M1 Macs. DisplayLink has written M1 Mac drivers for their USB based GPUs, so that's your one and only option so far.

There's perhaps dozens of products on the market with M1 Mac compatible DisplayLink GPUs in them. Look for docks that have any other ports you desire, double check for driver compatibility. Be aware that the drivers are limited to 4 displays maximum and do not support rotation of the display. There's likely other caveats, those are perhaps the two complained about the most often.

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I'm not convinced that you can increase the number of supported monitors just by adding a hub with more ports.

The graphics capabilities are limited by the power of the GPU and the bandwidth -- the ability of the computer to transmit that much data at one time.

Apple's own specs say 2 monitors for the M1 Pro, and 3 for the M1 Max, which has extra GPU cores and greater bandwidth. This is even though the M1s have 4 ports that could all be connected to displays.

While the base model M1 Pro can support 2 x 6K displays, you can't 'split' those pixels up across more displays, e.g. 3 x 4K.

There are specialist devices that can add an extra display via USB: https://www.synaptics.com/products/displaylink-graphics/displaylink-products-list?field_displaylink_category_value=usb_adapters
but they require additional drivers (which may not be M1-native), and the results may 'stutter', freeze, and lag.

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  • Thanks a lot for this good answer. It did emphasised the difference between a "hub adapter" and a "display adapter" (not sure if right terminology). I am now sure that my two listed options ARE NOT display adapters. Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 11:29

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