From 1999 till 2016, Apple launched and continued to promote a collection of exterior digitally related shows optimized for Mac customers. The shows began with DVI connectors, shifted to the Apple-made ADC connection, then again to DVI, expanded to dual-link DVI, pivoted to industry-standard Mini DisplayPort, and at last ended with Thunderbolt 2 connectors. (It’s solely final yr that Apple introduced it might restart making screens with its personal Thunderbolt Three show, the Professional Show XDR, and started transport it in December for at least $5,000.)

And, gosh, do numerous these older Apple screens stay out within the discipline and in use. Apple by no means releases a lot in the way in which of unit gross sales, nevertheless it’s a good guess that a number of million shows had been offered. Whereas screens dim and parts fail over time, re-using an exterior Apple show with a brand new USB-C or Thunderbolt Three Mac stays one in every of high questions Macworld will get from its readers

That query has cropped up greater than ever since huge numbers of people that labored in workplace have out of the blue needed to shift to working from dwelling. Many people have or want a two-monitor show; some readers have despatched us footage of a number of screens pushed by the identical Mac.

You could have upgraded your Mac since 2015 or 2016 and deserted an older Apple show for compatibility causes, however now it appears awfully interesting on your work-at-home state of affairs. Let’s look by means of the choices throughout generations of Apple tools.

(Additionally, don’t neglect that when you’ve got an iPad that may run iOS 13 and a Mac mannequin launched since about 2015 operating macOS Catalina, you should utilize the brand new Sidebar characteristic to increase your Mac with an iPad. If you happen to don’t meet the parameters or need different choices, take a look at the extra broadly suitable Luma Show, in addition to Duet Show, which works with Apple and different cellular and desktop platforms. We even have directions on connecting extra modem shows (and even an outdated iMac) as a second show. )

On this article, I focus on compatibility with Thunderbolt 3, which depends on the USB-C connector. All of Apple’s present Macs embody Thunderbolt 3, a high-speed data-transfer commonplace. Apple’s model additionally permits for backwards compatibility with Thunderbolt 2 and through adapters can immediately connect with HDMI, DisplayPart, and USB 2 and three, amongst different requirements. Docks lengthen compatibility additional, with Mini DisplayPort, VGA, DVI, and different codecs. (Whereas we’ve written about this earlier than throughout a number of articles, we determined to consolidate every part we knew, alongside newer and better-reviewed adapters, right into a single place.)

Solely a single Mac mannequin ever included a USB-C connector that didn’t embody Thunderbolt 3: the 12-inch MacBook that Apple launched in 2015, up to date in subsequent years, and discontinued in 2019. I’ll observe beneath exceptions for readability.

As a result of it’s extra possible you’ve entry to a more recent Apple Show than an older one, I’ll handle the 4 digital requirements Apple utilized in reverse order: Thunderbolt 2, Mini DisplayPort, ADC, and DVI (together with dual-link DVI for bigger shows).

If you happen to’re undecided what show you’ve, take a look at the again to search out its mannequin quantity (not its identify, which frequently stays the identical throughout many revisions), then enter that element into Google to search out the total technical specs and connector sort.

Lastly, a MagSafe warning. Apple supplied MagSafe and MagSafe 2 connectors with a few of its later-generation screens to allow you to use the show as a hub: plug in a single or two cables and MagSafe, and your laptop computer was set to go. Apple has by no means licensed MagSafe to 3rd events, though yow will discover MagSafe “adapters” for USB-C, these merchandise possible violate Apple patents and haven’t been licensed by Apple.

Because of this, when you use one and it damages your Mac, you could possibly lose your pc and unbacked-up information for the minor comfort of reusing the show’s charging port, and it’s believable that Apple would attempt to deny guarantee restore (if it remained beneath guarantee). Simply learn the one-star critiques on these merchandise for extra particulars. I’ve additionally seen that retailers are cracking down on their sale, as there are virtually none presently accessible at Amazon as I write this.

Thunderbolt 2

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The again of the Apple Thunderbolt Show.

From 2011 to 2016, Apple offered its Apple Thunderbolt Show, a 27-inch 2560×1440-pixel monitor that relied on a Thunderbolt 2 connector to hold information to and from a Mac together with a MagSafe or MagSafe 2 connector (relying on mannequin) for charging. The monitor featured a 720p iSight (front-facing) digital camera, mic and audio system, and several other connections: one gigabit Ethernet port, one FireWire 800 port, and three USB ports.

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DisplayPort connector image (left); Thunderbolt 2 (proper)

You possibly can take a look at the squat Thunderbolt 2 jack to discover a lightning-bolt image to make sure it’s not an earlier monitor that makes use of an identical-appearing connector form, however solely handles Mini DisplayPort. (That image is a rectangle with a vertical line on both aspect.)

Apple sells a Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt Three adapter ($49) that allows you to merely plug the Apple Thunderbolt Show into the adapter and the adapter right into a Thunderbolt Three port. (Observe: This does not work with a 12-inch MacBook, which has dissatisfied many purchasers.)

Whereas the Thunderbolt 2 cable doesn’t energy to a Mac laptop computer, it ought to enable use of all the opposite ports on the show. If in case you have hassle getting the digital camera to work, seeing solely a black feed, do this trick to repair a software program agent at Stephen Foskett’s weblog.

Mini DisplayPort

Shifting backwards, we take a look at the LED Cinema Show. A 24-inch mannequin (1920×1200 pixels) was offered from 2008 to 2010, and the 27-inch model (2560×1440 pixels) from 2010 to 2013. This show collection sported a three-ended cable with a USB plug, MagSafe energy, and a MiniDisplayPort. It additionally had a 480p iSight, a mic, and audio system, and a USB hub with three ports constructed into the again.

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Apple LED Cinema Show

Although Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt Three carry DisplayPort video utilizing the DisplayPort commonplace, the way in which by which that sign is put over the wire makes it incompatible with Thunderbolt. Complicated, I do know, and an irritant for folks since early Thunderbolt days.

To make use of an LED Cinema Show with a contemporary Mac over USB-C, you want an adapter or a dock. Both adapter or dock may be USB-C suitable (for a 12-inch MacBook) or Thunderbolt Three suitable.

(Observe! You can not cross single DVI or dual-link DVI with a DVI-to-Mini DisplayPort adapter by means of a Mini DisplayPort adapter. The DVI-based sign can’t be encapsulated in that sequence. Most adapters and docks warn patrons, a few of whom purchase anyway and depart 1-star critiques within the feedback.)

You may have three stable selections for adapters:

With docks, there are alternatives abound, however the fee is much greater. If you’re seeking to rescue an LED Cinema Show and don’t want the array of different ports in a dock, contemplate buying a far inexpensive DisplayPort or HDMI show and use a USB-C adapter for both of these codecs to hook up with your Mac.

Nevertheless, in order for you the ports and to attach an LED Cinema Show, contemplate these docks.

For the 24-inch USB Cinema Show:

  • OWC USB-C Dock ($119), along with Mini DisplayPort, this powered dock consists of gigabit ethernet, one USB-C USB 3.1 port, 4 USB Kind A 3.1 ports, a mix audio enter/output port, and an SD Card slot. If you happen to later change to a different monitor, OWC features a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. OWC notes explicitly its dock can not help the 27-inch mannequin LED Cinema Show.

For both the 24-inch or 27-inch USB Cinema Show:

  • Brydge’s Stone ($179.99), which works with all USB-C outfitted Macs. The powered dock additionally consists of gigabit ethernet, one USB-C USB 3.1 port, three USB 3.1 Kind A ports, mic and audio out, and an SD Card slot.

  • OWC Thunderbolt Three Dock ($294.75) brings two Thunderbolt Three ports to the combo, in addition to gigabit ethernet, a combo audio in/out jack, optical (S/PDIF) output, SD and Micro SD Card slots, and 4 USB 3.1 Kind A ports. It helps simultaneous shows through Mini DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3.


Lastly, we’re all the way in which again to the earliest vary of digitally related Apple LCD shows of a usable measurement. From 1999 to 2004, Apple launched the 22-inch Apple Cinema Show (DVI in 1999, ADC in 2000), the 23-inch Cinema HD Show (ADC, 2002), the 20-inch Apple Cinema Show (ADC, 2003; DVI, 2004), and the 23-inch (DVI, 2004) and 30-inch (dual-link DVI, 2004) Cinema HD Show fashions. These ranged from 1600×1024 pixels for the earliest to 2560×1600 for the final largest monitor.

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Apple 30-inch Cinema HD Show

For all of the DVI-based shows besides the 30-inch HD mannequin, you possibly can flip to a easy, cheap adapter. For shows with ADC, you’ll have to discover on eBay or elsewhere an ADC to DVI adapter, which had been as soon as plentiful. You would possibly even have one in your junk field of outdated adapters. (Don’t attempt to idiot me; I do know you’ve one.)

A number of well-reviewed adapters embody one from Benfei ($16.99), Cable Issues ($17.99), and Weton ($25.99). Weton’s adapter additionally helps output to VGA and HDMI.

The twin-link DVI port on the 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Show requires older {hardware} to work. There’s no fashionable cable or adapter that may present the connection by itself. No less than one proprietor bought a long-out-of-stock Apple Mini DisplayPort to Twin-Hyperlink DVI Adapter. Monoprice additionally supplied such an merchandise, nevertheless it’s out of inventory, too, in fact.

This adapter paired with a Mini DisplayPort adapter or dock with the port famous for Mini DisplayPort-era screens has labored for some.

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