Can a MacBook Air run a large external display?

Can the latest MacBook Air handle a large external screen? Is the Air powerful enough? How is the response? Is there any flicker? To find out, we tested the new MacBook Air with the 27 inch Apple LED Cinema Display. See the video of the test for yourself.

Can the MacBook Air Handle Big External Displays?
– The Short Answer

Photo of a 27 inch external screen being used by a mid-2011 MacBook Air i5 11 inch model

The new MacBook Air 11″ happily using a 27 inch Apple LED Cinema Display

The short answer is yes. The new MacBook Air ran the big, high resolution Apple LED Cinema Display without any sense of strain. Windows, images and videos moved on the monitor with fluidity and crispness.

From reports on the web, the Apple LED Cinema display may flicker with both the MacBook Air and Pro, when at a brightness below level 7. There doesn’t seem to be a fix yet.

For this article, we just did a quick test. To be completely sure the MacBook Air can drive your screen, please test your screen with a MacBook Air to your satisfaction before buying. Tests with other monitors, different applications, alternative cables and extended use may reveal more.

If this enough information for you? If so, please help share this article by clicking the Tweet or Google +1 buttons above. If you’d like more details, or to see video of the test, please read on.

What If You Want a Cheaper External Display?

If you don’t want to spend $1,000 on an Apple Thunderbolt Display, I’ve written some tips for buying a cheap external display for MacBook Air. I’ve included the name of the brand & model I personally use – only $152 for a 23 inch full HD screen, as well as tips for using an external display, born from long experience.

The Graphics Processor in the New MacBook Air

Before covering testing the MacBook Air with a big external display, it’s worth mentioning the graphics processor in the MacBook Air (MBA). The graphics processor in the MacBook Air is the Intel HD Graphics 3000. This HD 3000 graphics processor is actually part of the  MBA’s Intel Core processor –  they are a single silicon chip.

What sort of graphics performance can you expect? As a low cost graphics solution, the HD 3000 uses the Mac’s main memory, rather than dedicated graphics memory. Mid to high-end video cards use dedicated graphics RAM like GDDR5, because graphics RAM is much faster than the computer’s main memory. Specialized graphics memory provides the extraordinary performance needed to handle modern three dimensional (3D) graphics on big screens. There is a cost for this performance: fast graphics cards with dedicated memory use more of a laptop’s battery, generate heat, causing fans to run creating noise, add to the laptop’s size and cost more. These disadvantages – battery life, laptop size, fan noise from heat and cost are why the Air uses an integrated graphics processor.

The HD 3000 is fine for two dimensional graphics (2D) graphics, typical in web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, Photoshop, music production and basic video editing.

The HD 3000 handles high definition video playback – hence the HD in the name. I’ve only tested the MacBook Air with HD 720p resolution video. (Sorry: it was a quick test, the Air didn’t have any 1080p samples on it, and I didn’t have admin rights to install Flash to play a full HD video.)

The HD 3000 also does 3D graphics. The 3D graphics on the Air are only good enough for playing basic games or older games. If you are a gamer, do not buy a MacBook Air – graphics will not update quickly or smoothly for modern games. For gaming, the MacBook Air is the wrong tool for the job.

If you’re needing a more powerful graphics processor for 3D modelling, professional video editing, special effects production or gaming, buy a MacBook Pro instead. That’s what a MacBook Pro is for!

The Setup for Testing the MacBook Air with a Large External Monitor

I tested connecting a high resolution external display to the new MacBook Air 11 inch mid-2011 model, with a Core i5 processor. I chose this model as it is smallest and least powerful of the new MacBook Air models, with a 1.6 GHz Core i5 processor. If this model can handle a big screen, the faster and larger variants of the MacBook Air (11″ i7, 13″ i5, 13″ i7) should have no problems.

We tested the MacBook Air with a 27 inch Apple LED Cinema Display. The Apple Thunderbolt display, which evolved from the LED Cinema Display wasn’t available yet. The maximum resolution for an external display for the 2011 MacBook Air is 2560 by 1600 pixels. I tested with the LED Cinema display as its resolution – 2560 by 1440 pixels – is very close to the MBA’s maximum.

Luckily, the Apple LED Cinema Display is the forerunner to the new Apple Thunderbolt display, so I could get an idea of what the Thunderbolt display will be like.

Connecting Displays to the MacBook Air

The new MacBook Air connects to external displays through its Thunderbolt port.

The Thunderbolt port is the physically the same as the Mini DisplayPort in previous MacBook Air models and other Macs. The Thunderbolt port is backward compatible with the Mini DisplayPort. Thunderbolt expands on Mini DisplayPort’s ability to connect displays, adding the capacity to connect high speed peripherals through the port. High speed storage or a fast Gigabit Ethernet network connection can be added through Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt’s backward compatibility with Mini DisplayPort means you can connect displays to the MacBookAir with VGA, DVI, Dual-Link DVI and HDMI cables, as long as you have the correct Mini DisplayPort adaptor.

Testing a Big Screen with the New MacBook Air

We connected up the great big LED Cinema Display. The mid-2011 MacBook Air can run even a big, super highres display like the Apple LED Cinema Display!

First we tried web browsing. Web pages came up on the screen, no sense of slowness or lag when using the external display.

Testing Full Screen HD 720p Video on an External Monitor

We then tried playing a fullscreen HD 720p video on the big screen:

As you can see, the 720p video played very cleanly on the big Apple display.

I would have liked to test full HD 1080p video playback, but there was no 1080p video loaded on the Air. Streaming 1080p from YouTube also wasn’t possible, as the MacBook Air didn’t have Flash installed, and I didn’t have admin access to install Flash. Sorry.

Testing Interface Responsiveness with Two 720p Videos on the External Screen

In the next test we run iMove, start two 720p videos and then show all windows using Mission Control. Notice how responsive the interface is.

MacBook Air and Flickering on Built-In and External Displays

There are cases of screen flicker with the previous model MacBook Air’s built-in display, show on YouTube, and described on the Apple Support Forum. Apple replaced the user on YouTube’s MacBook Air and he said he loves his MacBook Air.

The reports of a flicker on external screens with previous MacBook Air models (late 2010), for example on Cult of Mac and MacRumors.

I’ve had flickering on my MacBook Pro to my 24″ screen – colors flicked on and off. The issue was due to the Mini DisplayPort adaptor not being pushed all the way in, or the monitor’s cable being loosely connected to Mini DisplayPort adaptor. Ensure all the video connectors were flush fixed the problem.

There are also reports of flickering on the 27″ LED Cinema display at low brightness levels with the new mid-2011 MacBook Air. The flickering happens with the brightness set below 7. This has been confirmed by multiple people and appears to happen with MacBook Pros as well. It appears to an issue with the display’s power supply.

Given this affects both the MacBook Air and Pro, which have different graphics processors and chipsets, chances are this is a power-related Apple Cinema Display problem. This issue has not been resolved.


The 2011 MacBook Air did an excellent job of driving the 27″ Apple LED Cinema Display. The MacBook Air will probably have no problems driving most external screens with reasonable 2D graphics and video performance.

Reports on the web say a flicker occurs on the Apple Cinema Display at a brightness below level 7. This is probably a Apple Cinema Display problem.

This was just a quick test. Technology is never perfect. Different cables, monitors, or apps may yield different results. If you are want to be completely sure the MacBook Air can drive your screen, please test your screen with a MacBook Air before buying.

If you’re looking for a cheap MacBook Air display, remember I’ve written some external display buying tips, including the brand & model of screen I use.

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52 Responses to Can a MacBook Air run a large external display?

  1. Cillian says:

    Would love to see you test the thunderbolt display with the 11″ 1.8ghz core i7 air. That sounds like the dream setup to me. I’m already saving up.

    • Tasman Hayes says:

      Hi Cillian,

      Thanks for your comment!

      I agree – that’s a dream setup. I’ll see if I can get a MacBook Air i7 11″ and Thunderbolt display to test. I may have separation issues returning it though. 😀


  2. chris says:

    I noticed when I connect my macbook pro to external monitors my macbook pro heats up really badly. Badly as in it gets really hot. Was that the case for you with your MBA?

    • Tasman Hayes says:


      Thanks for your question!

      What year MacBook Pro do you have?
      What sort of work are you doing on it?

      I ask because I’ve had a 2009 and have a 2010 MacBook Pro, and neither of them generated any extra noticeable heat driving a 24 inch external screen. I’m not pushing the video card at all – no video, no 3D.

      I didn’t test for heat when we tried the Cinema Display. I think I heard the fans go, but we all running two video streams at once.

      The video chip for the new MacBook Air, the Intel HD3000, is integrated on the same die as the Intel Core chip, so if the CPU & GPU are both busy, it will be one hot little chip.

      If you plug in another screen, the graphics chip is pushing more pixels, which means more work, more power and so more heat.

      I have one report from a user that just streaming online video is causing his MacBook Air i5 13″ to heat up and the fans to run. I’m still confirming this.

      If this is the case, using an external monitor and doing tasks that work the video card and CPU, such as playback of online videos, could create heat and make the fans run.

      If I can get my hands on a unit to test with myself, I’ll let you know the results.


      • I have a Macbook Air 13″ i7 and I can indeed confirm that the fan noise goes way up when connected to an external monitor.

        Even when the CPU is idle the fan is making _alot_ of noise and it is really annoying. I’m using a VGA adaptor and I guess switching to DVI might cause less strain on the GPU – but not sure how much that will help…

        • Tasman Hayes says:


          Thanks for sharing your experience. It makes sense that the fan noise increases, because the HD3000 graphics processor (GPU) (part of the i7 processor’s silicon) needs to work harder to drive that extra display, so it would generate more heat.

          I’m unsure that there’d be much of an improvement switching from VGA to DVI, but it’s certainly worth trying.

          What resolution external monitor are you using? Does the fan noise increase during just light usage (e.g. Word, Mail), or more when you’ve got video running (particularly web video)?


  3. John M says:

    What cable did you use to connect to the cinema display? I’m using VGA to connect a mis-2011 13″ MacBook Air to a Samsung 2253BW monitor that has 1680×1050 resolution. But the display preferences offer me a maximum of 1280×1024 resolution for the external display. Is the list of resolutions offered by the display preferences dependent on the physical connection – i.e. would a DVI or HDMI cable cause the MBA to offer me higher resolutions on the external monitor?

    • John M says:

      Answered my own question. I had unplugged a 19″ monitor from the VGA cable while the other end of the VGA cable was still plugged into the mini-display port adapter which was still plugged into the Thunderbolt port on the running MBA. The display preferences were still showing for the old 19″ monitor.

      The fix was to unplug the adapter from the Thunderbolt port and plug it back in. Then the MBA detected the Samsung display and offered the 1680×1050 resolution. Sweet!

    • Tasman Hayes says:


      The 27 inch LED Cinema Display has a cable with a Mini DisplayPort connector on the end. This Mini Display Port connector goes straight into the MacBook Air.

      With the MacBook Air 2010, I’ve used a Mini DisplayPort to VGA adaptor to connector to a full HD LCD screen. That’s 1920×1080 pixels resolution. So VGA should drive your lower res monitor – 1680×1050 no problems.

      I’ve had this problem before. I can’t quite remember what I did to fix it.

      From memory, it seemed like the Mac doesn’t get all of an external monitor’s available resolutions until the second time it was plugged in. Remember: this is a very loose recollection, and not the product of systematic testing and recorded results. I can think of two possible ways I got my Mac to support my display’s higher resolutions:

      1. Try pulling out the Mini DisplayPort connector from the Mac. After the Mac has happily recognised the external screen has been unplugged and has returned to single screen operation, plug your external screen back in again, and see your Mac recognises your display’s supported resolutions properly.
      2. If that doesn’t work, shutdown your Mac so it is powered off. Restart your Mac with your external screen plugged in.

      Hope this helps!


  4. Filip says:

    I’m using the 2011 Macbook Air 13″ with a Thunderbolt 27″ display.

    It does in general not run 1080p video smoothly in fullscreen.

    720p videos run fine if they are H.264 and can be played by the Quicktime player.

    However you cannot trust Flash based video players to deliver that. It depends. Vimeo and YouTube are OK but can be a bit unsmooth at times (which is why I switched to HTML5 for those sites) and other less advanced flash players may have unviewable content in HD.

  5. Ron says:

    Hi, and thanks for the article. I just want to be sure of something before I make a purchase. I am thinking of purchasing either a macbook pro or the macbook air (my preference), along with the 27″ Thunderbolt display, but only if I’m sure that either laptop will be able to power the display at the resolution of 2560-by-1440. I need a big display with that resolution because of my eyesight. I take it from your article that this shouldn’t be a problem?
    Thanks in advance for you advice.

    • Tasman Hayes says:

      Hi Ron!

      Thanks for your question.

      The Apple Thunderbolt 27 inch display was designed to work with the current generation of MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models, all of which have Thunderbolt ports.

      You can see this when ordering a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro from the Apple online store. It will offer the 27″ Thunderbolt display as an option at purchase time.

      I have personally tried a 2560×1440 screen, in this case the Apple Cinema Display, with the current mid-2011 MacBook Air. It worked well.

      Note Ron’s comments above: some HD video content may not play back smoothly on the MacBook Air.

      Hope this helps Ron.


      • Ron says:

        Wow….that was a super fast response time! Thanks. I guess I’m wondering though if the video driver from either of those laptops actually supports the 2560×1440 resolution capability of the display, or it if just defaults to a lower resolution like my dell laptop does when hooked to a high resolution monitor. For example, though my current monitor supports 1920 by 1080, when I hook my dell laptop to it all I get is something like 1366 by 8xx. I hope I’m making sense.
        Thanks again!

        • Tasman Hayes says:


          You’re welcome!

          I get your question. Happily, both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro will drive the Apple Thunderbolt Display at it’s native resolution: 2560 by 1440.

          From the MacBook Pro tech specs:

          Dual display and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on an external display, both at millions of colors

          From the MacBook Air tech specs:

          Dual display and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on an external display, both at millions of colors

          They are all made to work together by design.

          Let me know how you go Ron!


  6. Ron says:

    Okay, where to I send the donation? This has been the best tech support I’ve ever received!



    • Tasman Hayes says:

      Wow Ron! That’s really kind! :-)

      I’ve added a Donate button at the end of the article.

      I’m hoping to raise enough money from donations so I can buy the latest Mac models for reviews & support and a Thunderbolt display.

      You will be the first to donate towards Mac Crazy! Thanks!

  7. delores hively says:


    I’m using the original macbook air and have it connected to a sony internet tv. I’m running both monitors, but want to be able to shut the lid on the air and set it aside and just use my keyboard and mouse that I have connected to the air, but that keeps putting the external sony monitor to sleep also- can you please help?



    • Christopher Mallow says:

      There are a couple of options for this. For one you can go into your power management settings and set the action you want to occur when you close the lid.

      Personally I didn’t go this route as it is too easy for the system to resort back to the “default” of putting itself to sleep when the lid is closed. I downloaded a very small application called InsomniaX that does a MUCH better job of managing what happens to the MacBooks when the lid is closed. If I remember correctly, it was even free or the charge was very nominal. It’s a great solution to wanting to be able to use our notebooks as a desktop replacement without keeping the lid open needlessly.

      Hope this helps!

  8. Christopher Mallow says:


    I wanted to donate to your cause, Tasman, but it appears your “Donate” link doesn’t work. When I clicked on it, it said, “Sorry, this person is unable to accept payments at this time.”

    Maybe you should look into this? Some of us appreciate the time and effort you put into running this forum and would like to contribute, even if only in a small way.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!

  9. Jadon says:

    I have a late 2011 13″ Macbook Air with the Thunderbolt display port. If I hook up an external monitor to it do I have the the option of either “extending” the desktop onto the external monitor (essentially creating another ‘space’ that you don’t have to even swipe between) or duplicating the display on the laptop screen (so I can close the lid and just use the external monitor). I’m hoping that both options are available because there are times when I like having another desktop or ‘space’ to throw a video on to watch while I browse the internet but there are also times when I just want to close the lid and use only the external monitor as the main display.

    If it does support extending the desktop can you choose which screen you want as your main screen so, for instance, the dock shows up on the external monitor while the laptop screen is your second desktop or space?

    All of these are standard features in Windows 7 that I utilize quite frequently. I hope do have the same ability on my Mac when I go home if I get a second monitor.

    Thanks for the help!


    • Tasman Hayes says:

      Hi Jadon!

      Thanks for your question. The short answer is yes to everything!

      Macs actually had multi display support long before Windows. My fallible memory is first seeing it at an Apple reseller in the late eighties and getting a shock that it was possible. Macs actually had windows for Windows had windows. Anyhow, I think you can see where this is going…

      Can you extend the desktop onto an external monitor? Yes.

      Can you mirror your laptop screen on an external display? Yes.

      Can you close the laptop and just have it drive the external monitor? Yes. You will need an external keyboard and mouse/trackpad connected (either wired or Bluetooth). In Mac parlance, this is called “clamshell mode“.

      When you extend your desktop across two screens, can you choose which screen is the main screen (i.e. with the dock and menu bar). Yes, absolutely. When you arrange the screens in System Preferences (equivalent of Windows Control Panel), you can just drag the menu bar from one screen to another. Easy!

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have more questions Jadon.


      • Jadon says:

        Thanks for the help and the quick response! And of course I am happy with all of your answers too. I just got my first Mac ever, the Macbook Air 13″, a couple of months ago so I am still learning all (tons) of the new shortcuts, tricks, etc. So far it’s been fun.

  10. asterix says:

    Can you use a Thunderbolt Display with an older MacBook Pro that only has a DisplayPort Adapter on it? (no Thunderbolt).

    • Tasman Hayes says:


      I haven’t personally tried this. From what I read , there is a lot of confusion around this, even from Apple Store staff and Apple Support. For example, Apple Support are saying if you upgrade from Snow Leopard to Lion it should work, but users report it doesn’t.

      Based on actual experiences from people, it seems pretty simple: To use a Thunderbolt display, you need a Thunderbolt port on your Mac. End of story.

      If you have an pre-Thunderbolt Mac, connecting its mini DisplayPort to the Thunderbolt display will not work. The Thunderbolt screen will be blank.

      Even if the screen worked, there’s technically no way for your MacBook to connected to the non-screen parts of the Thunderbolt display (gigabit ethernet, USB, webcam), because your Mac can’t physically talk Thunderbolt – it doesn’t have the hardware.

      If you have a mini DisplayPort Mac, buy a 27 inch Apple LED Cinema Display instead of a Thunderbolt display.

      I’ve got a 2010 MacBook Pro with a mini DisplayPort, running Snow Leopard. If you’d like me to try plugging into a Thunderbolt display, I can pop into an Apple Store at some stage.


      • Kris says:

        Can you recommend for a good external Monitor that will work very well with my macbook pro? (I mean not the apple solution of 1000$ :-)


  11. Till Lux says:

    First off– Amazing website, comparisons, answers are all invaluable! Helped me choose my new MBA–
    wanted to help/address the flickering issue on the ACDs, I have a 2011 MBP 15″ spent too much on it and would flicker like mad, months went by and finally Apple came out with a Thunderbolt port update (no fix) but they do have a Apple Cinema Display Firmware Update!

    keep up the magic!!!

  12. Shree says:

    Just got my 3rd Macbook Air since the original (last two being solid state disks). I loved MB Air as it never got as hot the MB Pros. It barely ran warm.

    The latest MB Air along with Lion and 27inch Thunderbolt — noisy fan running constantly. Very annoying!!!

  13. Laura says:

    How can I connect the Samsung or Asus 27″ monitor to the 13″ mac air? Or is there a better 27″ (over 25″) monitor that’s significantly less than the Mac’s $950++

    Like the big monitor, the speed of the solid state in the air, and it’s light weight for portability.

    Thanks for your help!

  14. Victor Ivanov says:

    I confirm the fan/heat issue with the mid2011 MBA 13″ and an external display. My external display haas almost the same resolution as the MBA screen, but still the heat jumps up to 51C and the fan keeps running around 4000 rpm. Very annoying, it makes external display mode almost unusable with MBA2011.

  15. Barry Giordano says:

    I have a 2010 27″ iMac and a mid-2011 MBA. Want to use the iMac display as an external monitor, tried the a thunderbolt cable, no go. Also want to use the iMac display form my dell pc, with HDMI port, bought a mini-Dvi to HDMI adapter, no go. Any help is much appreciated

  16. Eight says:

    I’m facing the problem with loud fan (6500rpm) only when I connect my MBA 13″ i5 to my Thunderbolt Display. Is that normal and does somebody experience the same problem? Thank you!

  17. Robert D says:

    From my experience, it doesn’t appear that the new Lion OS allows the MB Air to stay asleep while open, when using an external monitor.

    I have a 2011 MB Air, which I’ve connected to a 23″ external HP monitor with a MiniDisplay Port to HDMI cable. I did the trick where I close the MBA for a few moments, let it sleep, then wake it up by hitting a key on my external bluetooth keyboard, then turn on my external monitor. Then I can then open up the Air, and it will still be asleep.

    However, with Lion, once you touch your external mouse or keyboard, the M.B. Air wakes right up. This wasn’t the case with Snow Leopard on my MB Pro.

    If anyone knows a work around to this, I’m all ears. As of now, I can only keep the Air asleep, with the external monitor on, if I keep the laptop closed (but then it gets too hot, unfortunately).

  18. Gin says:

    Can you help me please with what I’m sure is a silly problem? How do I turn on Auto-Mirroring so that my desktop is instantly mirrored on the external display? I used to be able to Mirror Display the instant I connect my Macbook Air with the Projector. For some reason, I now have to Detect Display, Turn on Mirroring, only for the desktop screen to shrink, and my Cursor to disappear. I’ve gone to System Preferences but see no options there to change settings. Help??

  19. David says:

    I tried running streaming video using mini display to hdmi and it kept turning off the external display when I started to play the video. It was coming from a streaming tv site. I have mid 2011 mba 11″ with the 4GB Ram. I am note sure it can handle my 42″ 720p plasma. maybe my settings are wrong I dunno but tv goes black once video goes full screen.

  20. MikeH says:

    I have a late 2010 13″ Air and have been streaming video to my 45″ plasma for over a year with no problems (other than the occasional poor wireless signal that messes up the video quality). I connect with a mini display to HDMI and use wireless for receiving video to my Air. Love the Air :-)

  21. Linda R. says:


    I agree this is the best, fastest, clearest “tech help” I’ve got anytime recently. I have always been “Mac at home and PC at work” which simply confirmed my views that Macs had much greater longevity and I love the ease and aesthetics. I had a horrid experience last fall with a 27″ LED cinema display — to go with my Mac Air 2011 pre Thunderbolt. The shop basically lost interest in my issues at some point — when in reality I had a dog (a lemon? whatever). Eventually after much torment, I returned it for a refund (we live rurally, an hour from the shop so none of this was simple). Whether you intended to or not, you gave me the confidence to try another unit (same) purchased online. I’ve avoided shopping online but unfortunately the Apple people (some) seem to treat the shops as second stringers and you feel like they’re dismissive when they call them “re-sellers”.

    Thank you and I’ll be keeping track of your site!

  22. I am working on an upcoming meeting, where I have just found out some presenters will use Mac Book Air’s. They will be on stage, and connect up to a high resolution switcher system that we will then bring to the screen for the audience.

    A few questions: Is the Thunderbolt a “positive locking” connection, so that they may not pull it out. What resolution does the Thunderbolt put out.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Tasman Hayes says:


      Thunderbolt is not a positive locking connection – there are no screws, locking tabs, push-and-turn, or any locking system – it can be pulled out.
      The connector is quite long so sideways movement typically wont pull it all the way out.
      To pull it out, the movement needs to be directly out from the port.
      Still, the connector has very small pins, and is thus fairly sensitive to movement.
      A little movement can cause the external display to stop, and a jiggle of the connector required to reestablish the connection.

      Thunderbolt uses the same connector as Mini DisplayPort.

      Typically a Mini DisplayPort to DVI, MiniDisplay Port to VGA or more rarely, a MiniDisplayPort to HDMI adaptor is used to drive an external projector.
      These adapter cables are typically 3 or 4 inches long, and the DVI and VGA connectors have holes for the standard DVI and VGA cable screws.

      I’d suggest securing the DVI or VGA cable with some zip ties or similar. You can do it so the cable will push the adapter into the MacBook Air.

      Hope this helps you Bob!


  23. ab says:

    thanks a lot for the test, helped a lot

  24. Jeff Pelletier says:

    I used to have an old (2004) Macbook pro, and when not traveling, I used it to drive a 30″ Apple HD cinema display. Worked *beautifully*, through three generations of OS X!! I just (finally!) decided to replace the Pro with an Airbook. I got a 13″ Mid-2011, 1.8GHz i7 with 4GB memory and a Intel HD 3000 graphics. I am running 10.7.3. I use a mini-display-to-DVI connector.
    As I said, the old Pro drove the display flawlessly for many years. But the new Airbook just will not give me a reasonable resolution. In fact, the only ones offered are:
    1280 x 800
    1024 x 768
    1024 x 640
    800 x 600
    800 x 600 (stretched)
    What gives?? Your answers to others, as well as the quote from the Airbook tech manual, says it can drive “Dual display and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on an external display, both at millions of colors.”

    Thanks for any help/advice!!

  25. GregH says:


    Great article and thread! Thanks so much for it! I have a brand new Macbook Air – Mid2011 is what it says on sysinfo. My question is what is the highest res Cinema display model I can get without spending 2K on the new Thunderbolt they just released. That is just way too much to spend, so I am looking for a used HD Cinema. What is the model number you recommend? I notice many have had the displays first, I just happened to have the computer first.

  26. Nimi Natan says:

    Hi, great information. Quick question – I am running Windows 7 on my new MBA using Bootcamp. I can’t seem to be able to connect to my older HD Cinema Display monitor (which used to be hooked up to a Pro running OSX). I used a cheap adapter from Radio Shack to connect the Mini-to-VGA to the DVI. Is the issue the adapter? Windows? Other?



  27. mike says:


    i am interested in hanging a thunderbolt 27 on my pba4,2 and this thread has been very informative.

    would a pbp retina display look any different than a new php on a thunderbolt 27?



  28. Chuck says:

    I have an 11″ Air and an HP w2408 monitor and runs fine (for several hours) then it just freezes the whole system. I have no proof but I think it is overheating. The computer does get quite warm and I’m running the computer with the lid closed. If I don’t use the monitor everything runs great.

  29. Lisa says:

    Hello, could anyone help me with some troubleshooting?
    Why does my MacBook Air not automatically recognise and display on an external (LG E1942C) screen? All cables and adaptors are connected.
    Mac says it doesn’t have the application to run the installation drivers provided with the screen. However, there does seem to be a degree of synching (e.g. wireless mouse), but basically I’m just not getting my Macbook screen displaying on the external.
    Any suggestions much appreciated.

    • Tasman Hayes says:


      I’ve looked up your LG display model. It looks pretty standard, like the new ones we’ve been getting at our office.

      You should *not* need to install any drivers to use your LG screen.

      Let’s start with some basics:

      1. Is the monitor’s power on? If it’s the same as our office model, the power switch is on the bottom right edge of the display panel. The clear switch should glow red if the display is on.

      2. Is the Thunderbolt plug pushed all the way in? Is the white plastic casing of the plug flush with metal case of your MacBook Air?

      Let me know how you go Lisa.


      I’m unsure why you mentioned your wireless mouse. I can’t think what this has to do with your monitor.

  30. nora says:

    Hi Tas,

    Great info – thanks!

    I’ve read all the posts. It’s now 2013 and I wonder if you have updated recommendations for a non-Apple external monitor. I have the mid-2011 mac book air and am concerned about the fan and heat issue several people have mentioned.

    Is this specific to the mid-2011 or all 2011’s? Did you not have the heat/fan
    problem with the AOC monitor you recommended?

    Your advice is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for your help.

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