Connectivity tricks of a multi-display workstation [Setups]

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Oh, what a difference three external displays make.
Oh, what a difference three external displays make.
Photo: Cypher_27@Reddit.com

Not long ago we wrote about a person who fashioned an ergonomically healthy computer setup with little more than an M1 Pro MacBook. At the time, their fancy new display was still to-be-delivered, so they made-do without it. Now all the screens are in place and they make a magnificent workstation, with the MacBook running with one landscape-mode display and two portrait-mode monitors. It took some special connectivity tricks to make it happen.

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Redditor Cypher_27 discussed their temporary, no external display situation in the post, “On-going rebuild of my desk setup. Transitioning from a triple external monitor to a single external monitor (in-transit)…” We wrote about it in “No external monitor? Build an ergonomically correct setup around your laptop.”

Ergonomics basics

Hey, any excuse to revisit the basics of ergonomic practice. Cypher made a nice workstation centered around their MacBook’s 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with a remarkable dynamic range and contrast ratio. Put it on a stand and use external peripherals — a Keychron K2 mechanical keyboard with a wrist rest, a Logitech MX Master 3 mouse and a Magic Trackpad — and they were in business, temporarily, until the screens arrived.

Cypher’s new-and-improved setup with three screens appears in their post titled “M1 Pro updated setup.” Interestingly, though it’s a new post, it shows and describes what appears to be the three-monitor setup their previous post talked about getting away from. They had been waiting for one monitor to replace the three. Now it appears they made the three screens work, even with two in portrait (vertical) mode. Making two displays work vertically with the Mac had been the original problem.

Connecting three displays: two portrait, one landscape

Cypher runs the MacBook Pro in clamshell mode on a vertical stand with three monitors. The left and middle displays sit on an ErGear Dual Monitor Mount while the one of the right uses a Huanuo Single Monitor Mount. Cypher connects the screens in a specific way to make it possible to have not only three external displays, but three external displays with two in portrait mode.

The big center display is a 38-inch Alienware Curved Gaming Monitor with 3440 x 1440 pixel resolution and a refresh rate of 144Hz. It’s connected to the MacBook Pro’s Thunderbolt port via USB-C to DisplayPort cable, Cypher said. That helps take advantage of the display’s 144Hz refresh rate. The HDMI connection would support just 85Hz, they said.

The two smaller screens in portrait orientation are 24-inch LG QHD IPS monitors. They offer 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution and a refresh rate of 75Hz. The one on the left side connects to the MacBook Pro via HDMI. The one on the right side connects to a Tote USB-C/Thunderbolt dock via DisplayPort cable, which connects to a Thunderbolt port on the MacBook.

“I like this [Totu] dock,” Cypher said in response to a query. “I’ve been using this for more than a year now. I used this before to switch my monitors between a Mac Mini and my previous Alienware gaming PC. I didn’t expect that it would work given it’s not a certified DisplayLink dock.”

Here we pull out and see the setup in its larger context, complete with pegboards for extra storage.
Cypher_27’s interim setup, though well thought-out ergonomically, featured just the M1 Pro MacBook for a screen and some well-placed peripherals.
Photo: Cypher_27@Reddit.com

More than just monitors

Since we last covered Cypher’s situation, new gear besides monitors has entered the picture. In the photos, you can still see those cool pegboards loaded with keyboards, cameras and the like. But the setup itself has some additional items, too.

For one thing, the massive external storage — now there’s an OWC Express 4M2 external drive with four 1TB SSDs in it.

For another, check out the audio-visual components. Sure, the cool walnut Kanto Yu2 powered desktop speakers are still there. But added to the mix now are an Elgato Stream Deck, a Behringer audio interface, a Samson Technologies USB microphone, a Logitech Brio 4K Webcam and two considerable sets of over-ear wireless ANC headphones, one from Master & Dynamic and one gaming set from Alienware. Explore the list below.

And, in case you’re wondering, Cypher got the wallpaper from 8K Wallpapers.

Shop these items now:

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Audio and video:

If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to info+setups@cultofmac.com. Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches or challenges.