“How many external displays can I easily run with my Mac and how” is a common question, and some Macs make it much easier to run more than one external monitor than others.
In today’s featured computer setup, a software developer went out and bought a new M2 Mac mini specifically for its generosity in that regard. It really helped his highly portable setup, which features a Studio Display and an LG 4K screen.
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Adding new M2 Mac mini enables setup’s dock-free use of dual displays
Software developer and Redditor strangeweather415 (“Strange”) showcased the setup in a post entitled, “Went and picked up an M2 Pro Mac mini today so I could take advantage of my Studio Display and extra 24” UltraFine.”
“I actually bought the M2 Pro Mini because I was tired of having a completely awesome unused Thunderbolt display,” he said. “I upgraded to the Studio Display from my LG 5K display and gave my LG to my partner to replace her 4K LG TB3 display.”
The M2 Pro Mac mini packs an up to 12-core CPU for complex workflows, an up to 19-core GPU for graphics and up to 32GB of unified memory.
He noted he already had an M2 MacBook Air for personal use, as well as a 16-inch M1 Max MacBook Pro for work. He didn’t want a “dead display hanging off my desk when using the M2 Air,” so he got the mini to free up the M2 Air for portable use only. He plans to switch between his work laptop and the mini at home.
The rig uses a Vivo pole mount with a fixed clamp for the Studio Display, a 27-inch clamp arm for the 24-inch LG display, and another short clamp arm for the laptop tray, Strange said.
‘Future-proofed’ Mac mini
Commenters admired the M2 Mac mini, saying it seems like a great get that should last a long time.
“If I had the cash to burn that’s exactly what I’d do,” one person said. “Mac mini powerhouse for serious work and base model Air for light work and travel. Mac mini M2 Pro seems like it would easily last 7-8 years, if not more. Everything in it feels future-proofed (W-Fi6e, HDMI 2.1, 10GB Ethernet, etc.).”
Strange’s experience so far seems to bear that out. He called it a “seriously great system. I am shocked at how fast it chews through my dev workloads so far. Wi-Fi 6E is a huge draw for me too, even though I have a dock with 2.5GbE. Wi-Fi 6E is nearly as fast and much more convenient.”
Mobile setup was for a much smaller space
Strange said he originally built the setup, based on a small but “super-solid,” wobble-free Stand Steady motorized podium desk, when he and his partner lived in a one-bedroom apartment at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Basically, he didn’t want to share her desk. Now they have a bigger place.
“I love the freedom this thing gives me, I can unplug and roll around the house if I want to,” he said. “The main power cord is also retractable and extendable to 30 feet or so, and I mounted a UPS to the underside as well so I don’t even lose power to the monitors when I unplug. It’s definitely a conversation starter.”
Daisy-chaining 4K LG display and Studio Display
Strange also offered advice on setting up multiple displays.
“If anyone is curious, I just confirmed that you can use the 4K LG as the source from the host port and then daisy chain the 5K Studio Display from the second TB3 port on the LG 4K UltraFine. This is next-level awesome. Both displays are operating at full resolution in this configuration. I honestly did not expect this to work,” he said.
A commenter wondered if that would work with an M2 MacBook Air instead of an M2 Mac mini, and doubted it would work without using a Thunderbolt dock).
Strange confirmed it work not work with an M1 Air or M2 Air without an added dock.
“They are technologically limited to a single external display,” he said. “This will work with an M1 Mac mini though, and all M1 Pro and M1 Max devices.”
Nifty custom mechanical keyboard
Commenters found themselves attracted to Strange’s mechanical keyboard. But good luck going out and buying it — it’s custom-built.
“It’s a custom build I made using a Nice!60 PCB, a wooden case, Zealios switches and a set of Drop’s Extended 2048 keycaps. Absolutely love it, it’s a dream to type on. It’s a great little build, and the caps are probably my favorite part,” he said.
A commenter asked if Strange uses a tiling window manager on macOS, recommending Yabai or Amethyst for the purpose.
“So far I get by using Rectangle, but I am always down to try something new,” Strange replied. “[Rectangle] helps tile windows with key combos or dragging to locations on the display. Another popular one is Magnet, but I have used Rectangle for a pretty long time and don’t want to pay for Magnet.”
Shop these items now:
- Magic Trackpad 2
- Custom-built mechanical keyboard (Nice!60 PCB, wooden case, Zealios switches and Drop’s Extended 2048 keycaps)
If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, challenges and plans for new additions.