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Apple Thunderbolt Display with Multiple Monitors: No Daisy Chaining Mini DisplayPort Monitors [Updated]

With the new 27" Apple Thunderbolt Display now shipping to customers, Apple has posted a new support document outlining what can and can not be accomplished with multiple monitors on Thunderbolt-enabled Mac systems.

As far as compatibility, Apple notes that all Thunderbolt-enabled systems with the exception of the MacBook Air can handle two Thunderbolt displays, with a caveat for the 13-inch MacBook Pro being that the computer's internal display will not function if two Thunderbolt displays are connected. The high-end $799 Mac mini with discrete AMD graphics is also capable of running a third display via HDMI.

- MacBook Air (Mid 2011): One Thunderbolt display.

- MacBook Pro (Early 2011): Two Thunderbolt displays. Connecting a second Apple Thunderbolt Display (27-inch) to a 13-inch MacBook Pro will make the screen on the MacBook Pro turn black. This is expected behavior.

- iMac (Mid 2011 and Late 2011): Two Thunderbolt displays. iMac (27-inch, Mid 2011) with two Thunderbolt ports supports a total of two Thunderbolt displays regardless of which Thunderbolt port each display is connected to.

- Mac mini (Mid 2011): Two Thunderbolt displays. Mac mini with AMD graphics can support a HDMI compatible device on its HDMI port when using two Thunderbolt displays.

One other note of interest that will be a disappointment for some users is the disclosure that users will not be able to daisy chain a Mini DisplayPort display off an Apple Thunderbolt Display.
Mini DisplayPort displays will not light up if connected to the Thunderbolt port on an Apple Thunderbolt Display (27-inch).
The revelation is a bit of a surprise, as Mini DisplayPort displays can currently be daisy chained off other Thunderbolt peripherals. Some users had been hoping to reuse their existing Mini DisplayPort displays as part of multiple-monitor setups using the new Thunderbolt display, but will apparently be unable to do so.

Finally, Apple recommends that users daisy chaining the Apple Thunderbolt Display with Thunderbolt storage devices connect the display directly to the computer's Thunderbolt port, with other peripherals daisy chaining off of the display.

Update: Macworld appears to have demonstrated that you can indeed daisy chain a Mini DisplayPort monitor as long as it is connected to some other device than the Thunderbolt display. In Macworld's apparent setup, a Pegasus RAID storage device is placed between the Thunderbolt display and an older Mini DisplayPort display from Apple and all displays work properly.

It is unclear why simply inserting another Thunderbolt device into the middle of the chain allows the Mini DisplayPort display to function, but at least one MacRumors forum member has confirmed that he is unable to daisy chain his Mini DisplayPort-enabled Apple Cinema Display directly off of the new Thunderbolt display.

Related roundup: Thunderbolt Display

Top Rated Comments

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39 months ago
Once again Apple decides what's best for the customer.
Rating: 17 Votes
39 months ago
This is classic Apple.
Rating: 11 Votes
39 months ago
Wow, this sounds so half-assed. You'd think Apple would be able to get something like this right!
Rating: 10 Votes
39 months ago
Wow... so other thunderbolt devices allow MDP to be used at the end of the chain, but not Apple's own display?

Forcing the TB displays to be the first in line makes me think something's not quite right.
Rating: 9 Votes
39 months ago
Would have been nice if this information had been divulged on day one.
Rating: 9 Votes
39 months ago

You know what's funny? All of you Apple fanboys who stand up for Apple in this case.

- You blame the customer because Apple JUST NOW came out with this KB article when they could have months ago before we all made purchases.

- You say that it's our fault because Apple didn't specifically say two displays or not. Yet Apple's marketing machine sure made it all sound fine and dandy didn't they? Otherwise why would MacRumors be posting this on their front page? They knew many people would be taken aback by this.

- You assume we're all supposed to be technical geniuses who know that it has a 2-channel or a 4-channel Thuderbolt port. Or know what the previous version of the MacBook Air could handle.

- Apple could have added support for more monitors but they didn't. They skimped. It sucks.

Regardless, this is FACT: Apple could have come out with this KB article months ago and it would have saved many of us a lot of time and money.
Rating: 9 Votes
39 months ago

Adding my existing 24" IPS monitor as a daisy-chain from my as-of-yet-unordered t-bolt display was my grand scheme. So now its off.

This limitation is very head scratchy...
Rating: 9 Votes
39 months ago
Adding my existing 24" IPS monitor as a daisy-chain from my as-of-yet-unordered t-bolt display was my grand scheme. So now its off.
Rating: 8 Votes
39 months ago

Apple's hedging it's bets in case 3rd party makers skimp on quality parts. It's smart to have the largest power drawing item any situation.
I'm guessing the screen could flicker.

But the display has its own power connection cable. I doubt it'd be possible to power an entire 27" display through Thunderbolt.
Rating: 8 Votes
39 months ago

Classic Apple.

Apple doesn't play the backward compatibility game too much. If it takes extra work to keep a few people happy, they have no problem cutting the cord. I am not saying Apple is good or bad. It is just their mode of operation.

One more bit of "magic" about TBolt just slipped away.

It seems to morphing from a "magical interface" to a "PITA interface" with each bit of news. And much of the PITA comes from trying to send both DisplayPort and PCIe down the same cable - I hope that TBolt 2.0 fixes that mistake.
Rating: 7 Votes

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