One of the biggest long-term benefits of the Mac is the ease with which external monitors can be connected. The type of attachment connector, the resolutions supported, and the total amount varied over time, but it’s a persistently easy task.
Or at least it was! Over the past six years, Apple introduced USB 3 over USB-C (12-inch MacBook, now discontinued), Thunderbolt 3, which uses USB-C (and supports many types of adapters), and Apple’s silicon M-based processor models. series . Some Macs have or still have video-specific connectors: in the past these have been DVI (multiple forms), Mini DisplayPort, DisplayPort over Thunderbolt 2, and HDMI.
More recently, HDMI 2.0 became the only remaining video connector that is not USB-C. Apple has built HDMI into many Intel models, as well as the M1 Mac mini, the 14-inch and 16-inch M1 Pro/Max MacBook Pro, and the Mac Studio.
Figuring out how many monitors can be connected to which Mac is akin to calculus for many readers, based on our mailbag.
(Have a monitor that uses DVI, Mini DisplayPort, or Thunderbolt 2? See our 2020 guide to determine what you have and what adapter you need. Want to use an iMac as an external monitor? Only iMacs released from 2009 to Mid 2014. See “Troubleshooting Tips for Using an Old iMac as an External Display for a Thunderbolt 3 Mac.””)
Here’s the matchup for Macs of the last few generations, starting with the latest, excluding the internal display for iMac and Mac laptops. Connections are via USB-C connection unless otherwise noted.
The resolutions, for reference, are:
4K UHD: 3840×2160 pixels
4K: 4096 wide, with common variations such as 4096×2160 or 4096×2304 pixels
5K: 5120×2880 pixels
6K: 6016×3384 pixels
The highest resolution supported is listed for each configuration or set of options, but you can also use a lower resolution monitor. For example, the M1 Mac mini allows up to 6K over USB-C, but you can connect a 4K UHD monitor to that port instead.
Options for M Series Mac Monitors
Only one external monitor can be added on most M1 and M2 Macs; the Mac mini allows two. Despite many reader questions, there’s no adapter or trick you can do with Apple gear to add an extra display beyond the level Apple supports.* The video circuitry just isn’t there.
Here are your options grouped by display choices:
M1 and M2 MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, M1 iMac: One external display with a resolution of up to 6K
M1 Mac mini: One up to 6K over USB-C and one up to 4K over HDMI 2.0
(*You can use hardware that uses DisplayLink technology to add additional monitors over USB 3. Requires the installation of a company kernel-level driver. Read our review of the Mac-compatible StarTech USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter with DisplayLink.)
M1 Pro, Max and Ultra monitor options
With the October 2021 introduction of the M1 Pro and M1 Ultra chips, followed by the announcement of the M1 Ultra in March 2022, Apple has dramatically expanded display options for professional models:
14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro: Two external displays up to 6K over USB-C and one up to 4K over HDMI 2.0
14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max: Three external displays up to 6K over USB-C and one up to 4K over HDMI 2.0
Mac Studio with M1 Max or M1 Ultra: Four displays up to 6K over USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 and one up to 4K over HDMI 2.0
The Mac Studio’s M1 Max configuration includes two USB 3 front-facing USB-C ports that cannot be used with DisplayPort adapters; the M1 Ultra model upgrades it to Thunderbolt 4, which can be used with a standard USB-C DisplayPort adapter. This does not reduce the number of monitors that can be connected, but an external Thunderbolt 4 dock may be required to have enough USB-C connectors available for all your purposes.
Intel Mac with USB 3/Thunderbolt 3 monitor options
Intel Macs with Thunderbolt 3 had a more baroque range of potential external monitor configurations. Here are the capabilities for the last shipped version of each Thunderbolt 3 model and the 12-inch MacBook with USB 3 over USB-C:
21.5-inch iMac: One 5K display or two 4K UHD or 4K displays
27-inch iMac (standard video card), 13-inch MacBook Pro: One 5K or 6K display or two 4K UHD or 4K displays
27-inch iMac (AMD Radeon Pro 5700 or AMD Radeon Pro 5700 XT): Up to two 4K UHD, 4K, 5K or 6K displays
16-inch MacBook Pro: Up to two 5K or 6K displays or up to four 4K UHD or 4K displays
mac mini: One 5K display over USB-C or up to three 4K displays with a combination of USB-C and HDMI 2.0 ports
Mac pro: Depending on the video card, this ranges from one 5K or 6K display or up to four 4K displays to up to four 5K or 6K displays or up to eight 4K displays
12-inch MacBook: One 4K screen
Ask Mac 911
We’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked questions, along with answers and links to columns: read our super frequently asked questions to see if your question is there. If not, we are always looking for new problems to solve! Email yours to firstname.lastname@example.org including screenshots where needed, and if you’d like to use your full name. Not every question is answered, we don’t answer email and we can’t provide direct advice to solve problems.