March 7, 2023

How to Use Dual Monitors with MacBook Airs (M1/M2/M3 Chips)

By Paul William

March 7, 2023

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links which means I receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through them.

I recently purchased a new MacBook Air (2022) with an M2 chip and was disappointed to learn that it does not natively support dual display/multiple monitors. 

I use dual external monitors daily for work, web browsing, and video editing — so finding a solution was a must, or else I would have had to return it.

The (poor) suggestion that’s most repeated online is that if you need dual monitors, you need to spend a few hundred dollars more to upgrade to a MacBook Pro 14 or 16 inch model which does support dual output. 

But I personally prefer the sleek, lightweight, fan-less design of the Air, and wanted to find a way to make dual monitors work.

Is there any way to use multiple monitors with the M1/M2 MacBook Airs?

Yes! Luckily I was able to find a dual monitor hub that not only works with my new MacBook Air, but also works with my HP Windows work computer too.

It’s a simple USB-to-dual display port converter that using a technology called DisplayLink that lets you get around the limitations of your own computers graphics card.

Using this dual-display hub, I was able to easily plug one USB connection into either my MacBook Air M2 or my regular Windows laptop, and instantly have two external monitors for both (3 screens total if you leave your laptop screen open).

Since there seems to be a good amount of misinformation around this process, and I am someone who actually purchased this computer and set it up successfully with dual monitors, I’ve compiled this list of FAQs below to help save time and money for people who find themselves in a similar situation.

MacBook Air (M1/M2) Dual Display Monitors FAQs

What dual monitor hub/display lets you use two external monitors with the MacBook Air?

USB 3.0 to Dual DisplayPort Adapter – 4K 60Hz by StarTech

If you’re looking for an HDMI version instead of DisplayPort, StarTech also makes this Multiport adapter.

If you’re looking for a triple monitor support adapter, you can check out the Triple 4K version

Does this dual monitor hub work for M1/M2/M3 MacBook Airs (2021 and later)?

Yes, as long as you have a DisplayLink enabled adapter and download a free DisplayLink driver which is located here.

Does it work to display dual monitors for both Mac and PC?

Yes. For PC it is plug and play. For Mac you just need to download the driver referenced above (which takes 2 seconds) and then it works.

Does the StarTech USB adapter connect via the old USB-A connections, or the new smaller USB-C connections?

The model I have has a traditional USB-A connection so I use a USB-A to USB-C adapter I got on Amazon for just a few dollars. It works perfectly. 

My MacBook Air has two USB ports. Can’t I just connect two USB-to-DisplayPort (or HDMI) cables for dual monitors?

No. The MacBook Airs with M1/M2 chips do not support dual monitors without an adapter. Only the M1/M2 PRO chips do, and the new M3 chips in clamshell mode.

You are limited by your computer hardware, not the number of ports.

This may seem surprising, since even the MB Airs back from 2015 supported dual display, but with the change to Apple’s own new M chips, this has changed.

The MacBook Pros 14 and 16 inch do natively support dual displays, but those computers are much more expensive. Your only option is to get a hub/docking station/dongle for multiple monitors that is specifically designed to support the MacBook Airs with M1/M2 chips.

Do I need to buy a MacBook Pro if I want to use two computer screens?

No. You can if you prefer to. But if your heart is set on the MacBook Air, you can use this adapter to connect multiple monitors to the M1/M2 MacBook Airs.

What if I want to connect 3 external monitors?

startech tripple monitor MacBook Air m1/m2

While I don’t have personal experience with using three external monitors, I did recently come across this new Triple 4K StarTech dock that claims to support 3 external monitors for M1/M2 MacBooks, and has options for both DisplayPort and HDMI.

Description of compatibility with m1/m2 MacBooks

If you end up trying this, drop me a note and let me know how you found it and I’ll update this post accordingly to help others.

What if I want to use dual monitors with HDMI connections?

One of my readers, Flemming, recently found this HDMI DisplayLink adapter, also by StarTech. They purchased it and then dropped me a note to confirm that it works for the new MacBooks with M chips. Thanks Flemming!

This one is neat because it also includes an SD card reader and connects via USB-C, which is that the new MacBooks have, so you won’t need to buy any other USB A-to-C adapter.

The price now is just slightly higher than the StarTech adapter I own myself, so if I was shopping again from scratch I might consider picking this one up instead if you see it on sale.

What are the specs of the MacBook Air you used for this demo?

This is a 2022 MacBook Air with the M2 chip and 24GB of Ram. This DisplayLink adapter should work regardless of your RAM size though. If you’re interested in my overall impressions of this laptop, you can read more here.

Does the new M3 MacBook Air support dual monitors?

According to recent news, it sounds like the new M3 models will support dual monitors natively, as long as your laptop is in clamshell mode (meaning you’d need to keep your actual laptop screen closed). I will update with more information as the new models are actual released.

Wrapping up

Hopefully now you can stop watching the YouTube videos and reading the Reddit forums filled with answers from people who don’t actually own this laptop or use it with dual monitors. 

The final answer is that if you have a new MacBook Air with the M1/M2 chip and want dual monitors, you currently (as of March 2024) need to buy an adapter with DisplayLink or another technology specifically designed to output from these new M chips. 

There are rumors that Apple may eventually add functionality to the base level M1/M2 chips to allow native dual display, but I think it’s unlikely to happen soon. People have been saying this since the M1 chip was introduced in November 2020, and still nothing has changed coming up on 3 years later.

I think it’s more likely that Apple will keep things as they are to encourage customers to buy the more expensive MacBook Pros which natively support more monitors.

It’s also worth mentioning that Apple is in the business of selling giant monitors which somewhat compete with a dual monitor set up. It’s not unthinkable that this factors into their decision to not provide native dual monitor support as well.

So, if you have a MacBook Air with an M1 or M2 chip and want to use dual or triple external monitors, for now, you’ll need to get something like the DisplayLink adapter that I use.

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