A moderate monitor for my macbook's Mini DisplayPort?
March 16, 2010 10:33 PM   Subscribe

My Macbook has something called a Mini DisplayPort, which apparently has all sorts of compatibility issues (and benefits?). Before I buy my first monitor, what should I know? More info inside.

I don't know what you'd need to know, but here:

My Mac:
Aluminium Macbook 5.1; Intel Core 2 Duo; Chipset Model, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M; Bus, PCI; VRAM (Total), 256 MB.

With adapters, wiki says the Mini DisplayPort is compatible with VGA, DVI or HDMI interfaces, but there are problems – adapters are expensive, and there are sleep/wake-up problems, not to mention the fact that you can't channel sound through this port. I can't lose a USB port to a monitor.

My eventual desire is to get a (roughly) 23" monitor that's cheap, including the cost of any adapter I have to buy. The display doesn't need to be viewed from many angles, it doesn't need insane resolution (1920 x 1080 is fine, I guess), it doesn't need in-built speakers, but I will be doing movie-editing on it at my desk. TN is fine, I think. Around $200.

So, what are your experiences? Could I get this $189 DellTM ST2410 24” Full HD Widescreen Monitor? Or this $230 Acer B233HUbmidhz Black 23" HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor? Any of these? Thanks!
posted by omnigut to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Dell would be fine. You would then need a $30 Mini Display Port to DVI or VGA adapter as well as some sort of speaker setup. The whole kit and kaboodle shouldn't run more than $300. If you want to keep your total at around $200 but you want sound other than what's coming from your laptop, you'll need to get a cheaper monitor.
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:45 PM on March 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks - I've already got speakers. They're crap, admittedly, but they work. Also, I'll probably have headphones on half the time. Do you have an opinion on which adapter would be better - DVI or VGA? Youcancallmeal, cheers for the response!
posted by omnigut at 10:55 PM on March 16, 2010

DVI gives you a (purportedly clearer) all-digital picture. Maximum DVI resolutions also tend to run higher than VGA. I use a Samsung monitor on my MBP and have no sleep/wake issues.
posted by phaedon at 11:27 PM on March 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks Phaedon. So, if there are no other issues, people, I'm going with this Dell, with this Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter.

Anyone know if that Dell will not wake up? Also, even on the mac site, th adapter is getting bad reviews. Really - everyone is saying it's crap. How will I know I won't have these same issues?
posted by omnigut at 11:39 PM on March 16, 2010

By the way, I think the DVI "single link" adapter you linked to tops out at 1080 resolution. Even though the NVIDIA card is capable of higher resolutions. Anyway, that's the case with my monitor. If you need higher resolution buy the "dual link" adapter. Oh, and I think a lot of those negative reviews are from retards.

Also, revisiting the "waking up" concern. The external monitor is not "put to sleep" by the Macbook. The signal is simply lost and your monitor will go into its own sleep mode until its fed a signal again. This is a non-issue and shouldn't factor into what display you decide to buy.

It's true however that the Macbook itself can have some problems when hooked up to an external monitor and used in 'display closed' mode. Like, it has trouble coming out of that mode. Apple's KB article. I have to say though, I have the MBP running 10.5.8, and even though I normally have the lid open, I've never gotten any black screens or kernel panics. YMMV.
posted by phaedon at 12:13 AM on March 17, 2010

If you look at the actual reviews on the Apple site, most of them are
  1. people who bought the wrong adaptor (Mini DisplayPort vs Mini DVI on different MacBook models)
  2. tried to connect it to a DVI-A monitor, or DVI-I monitor in analogue mode,
  3. expected a dual-link DVI-D adaptor (that's a different adaptor, Apple SKU MB571Z),
  4. expected it to be an extension cord as well, and / or
  5. bought the wrong type of DVI cable
So take them with a grain of salt - they're not too far from YouTube or Ask Yahoo comments…

You're never gonna get sound through a DVI port, unless it's non-standard (& so needing proprietary adaptors or monitors) - DVI is video only. HDMI is the one that carries (digital) audio as well as video.

As for the sleep / wake issues - well, I can certainly say I've seen more such issues with Mini DisplayPort & Mini DVI adaptors connected than without, but I've seen the same number or more on PC laptops with DVI or HDMI ports built-in.

(On point 3: I can sort of understand the confusion - it's actually got a dual-link socket, though it's only wired for single link. But then, so do most single-link monitors these days.)
posted by Pinback at 12:16 AM on March 17, 2010

I have used a cheapo knock-off mini displayport to DVI adapter that I got for $20 at Fry's Electronics to drive monitors of various sizes (21, 22, 23 and 24 inch) and resolutions (1680x1050 and 1920x1080) and had 0 problems. I generally use both my built-in laptop screen and external monitor simultaneously, but the times I've used it with the lid closed have been fine as well.
posted by !Jim at 1:04 AM on March 17, 2010

Response by poster: So the single link is enough for me. Good. Didn't want to have to buy a USB hub (although it is probably a good idea).

Thanks good people. "I think a lot of those negative reviews are from retards." Most helpful thing I've heard in a long time. Very funny.

Off I go to the store...

I'll tell you how they perform when they arrive.
posted by omnigut at 1:13 AM on March 17, 2010

The $15 mini displayport to DVI adapters are fine. They will work at a maximum of 1920 x 1200. Works fine with my 17" MacbookPro5,2 and a 24 inch Samsung.

You will need the really expensive one from Apple if you need to drive a 2560 x 1600 display.

It does not carry audio. Only video.

You can also get a $15 Mini displayport to HDMI adapter if your new display is HDMI only, without a DVI port.
posted by thewalrus at 1:20 AM on March 17, 2010

$8.55 at Monoprice. Used it on a Mac mini with no issues.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:32 AM on March 17, 2010

Or you can just get a cable with Mini DisplayPort on one end and DVI on the other, $9.43 to $13.28 at Monoprice.
posted by The Michael The at 3:58 AM on March 17, 2010

Although I am a satisfied Monoprice customer, from an order many months ago, monoprice just leaked thousands of peoples' credit card details, where they were used to buy everything from home theater setups to Caribbean vacations, so you might want to look for alternate sources for the same adapter, like Frys.
posted by thewalrus at 4:03 AM on March 17, 2010

My wife has exactly the same computer as you, which she hooks up to an old-ish Dell 19".

It works. She has the Apple-branded mini DisplayPort-DVI adapter. Since she works away from her desk fairly frequently, she's frequently plugging and unplugging, and once in a while her computer will have trouble recognizing the external monitor, but it's not a big issue. The color balance on the two monitors is very different, which is a little jarring.
posted by adamrice at 6:46 AM on March 17, 2010

Just another data point: I drive both my 21" monitor and a 42" TV with a Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter. Both work perfectly at 1080i resolution.
posted by General Malaise at 8:14 AM on March 17, 2010

Regarding the sleep/wake up problems - I don't know if the Macbooks exhibit the same thing my NVidia driven iMac does, but about 1 time in 10 my external display wakes up from display sleep with essentially digital static. I put the display back to sleep by moving the mouse to the designated hot corner and let it wake up again and it's fine. I think Apple is still wrestling with NVidia for the driver for this. Occasionally (very rarely) it'll wake up with a few columns of noise, which is also fixed by kicking the display through a sleep/wake cycle. I'm fairly sure none of it's related to the DisplayPort to DVI adaptor, it's all in the graphics card (or god forbid, a bug in the interface spec), but people will point fingers at the one thing in the chain they have some degree of control over.
posted by Kyol at 10:36 PM on March 17, 2010

I have this adapter. It's fine. I'm driving a 1920x1200 monitor via DVI. The monoprice one is probably a better choice but I was in a hurry.
posted by chairface at 11:41 PM on March 17, 2010

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