Run More Than 3 Monitors on the 2018 & 2019 Mac Mini

Mac Mini 2018 Sucks

The past few years, Macs have been a little tricky to add multiple monitors to. Whether you have limited ports on the new MacBook Pro or an onboard graphics limitations with the Mac Mini, you start to run into issues as soon as you want to add more than a few displays to your new Apple computer.

The 2018 Mac Mini showed great promise after going 4 years without an update. It features four Thunderbolt 3 ports and an HDMI port, and according to Apple, up to “two 4K displays, and a third on the HDMI port”.

However, unlike the iMac, Mac Pro, and Macbook Pro, these four Thunderbolt 3 ports won’t all work for your displays like you think they will.

In the past, I’ve used docks like the Belkin ThunderBolt dock and the Elgato Thunderbolt dock to add an extra display to my PC.

However, the new Mac Mini seems to have a hardware limitation that, despite having plenty of power and bandwidth to power 4 displays, will not allow a 4th display to work, even with docks or an externally powered dual display option. This is most likely a hardware or macOS limitation.

I’ve tried many different options; different docks, different adapters, different monitors, different resolutions; the max number of displays is always forced to 3, and there’s not a whole lot anyone can do about that according to Apple.

Update 11/20/2018

After chatting with 9 different Apple employees (5 on chat, 2 in person, 2 over the phone), I’ve been told that it is not possible to run more than 3 screens on the Mac Mini, even with adapters or hardware.

I figured out that I can connect the 4th display with AirPlay and an Apple TV. This isn’t the most ideal solution, but it technically connects the 4th monitor and works fine. There’s a very slight cursor lag, but over ethernet, it’s much faster.

Seperate Display

I’ve been Googling this all week and found that this 3 display limitation is actually due to the Intel graphics chipset (Intel UHD Graphics 630), and not a software or Thunderbolt 3 limitation like Apple support suggested.

630 Max Displays

So, I started looking into the possibility of upgrading the graphics; by using an eGPU, which is fully supported by macOS Mojave.

After chatting with another Apple Senior Advisor (Courtney), she told me she is very confident that this will still not work, and it won’t add another display since the hardware is still limited to 3. She also said that eGPU is not supported by Apple since it’s modifying the hardware and something that Apple cannot recommend (Wait, what? Apple supports eGPUs and even sells them in their stores: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208544)

Thankfully, I saw this guy’s video, where he was able to run six 4K monitors off of a single Macbook Pro Thunderbolt port and an eGPU:

So, since I have a spare RX580 graphics card lying around, I bought a Sonnet eGPU Breakaway Box, which is an enclosure that is Apple compatible and recommended on their website. If you’re interested, you can buy it here; I’m not taking affiliate commissions or anything: https://amazon.com/gp/product/B0764J5QVD/

Despite 9 different Apple employees telling me that I can’t add a 4th display to my Mac, I’m now very confident that I will actually be able to do so, and that anyone else looking to do so can either do it by setting up a separate AirPlay display by connecting it to an Apple TV (ever-so-slight cursor lag but great with movies and cheapest option) or an eGPU (expensive but best performance). If you were so inclined, you can hypothetically connect many displays with this method. Here’s my desk with 4 displays working; I guess I did the impossible, even though this was supported by Apple all along!

4 Displays

I hope this helped someone who is looking to add 4 or more displays to their 2018 or 2019 Mac. These new chipsets have a shamefully low limit for monitors. Heck, the old 2012 Macbook Pro was capable of more.

I also hope Apple trains its employees better on Apple-supported options to add additional displays since they all had no clue about eGPUs or Airplay. One senior advisor even told me over the phone that the info I was requesting on adding a 4th monitor was confidential; I wish I was making this up. Apple sells eGPUs in their store, and the manager told me that I wasn’t able to add a 4th display as well when the solution to my problem was 10 feet away on the shelf.

Update 11/21/2018

The eGPU enclosure that I linked above came in the mail, and I was able to hook up all four of my displays to my RX580. It worked perfectly out of the box; no drivers or configuration needed, just plug and play. They are lightning-fast and the eGPU only uses one Thunderbolt 3 port.

4 Monitors in Mac eGPU

setGpu, a project started by “mayankk2308” from Atlanta Georgia, can help you automatically modify all of your apps to prefer using your eGPU instead of your onboard graphics. You can find that here.

It isn’t yet available for Mojave, but the dev claims that he is building a new version that will be Mojave compatible.

Update 2/20/2019

setGpu now supports Mojave! I just tried it and it worked great. If it helped you, make sure you donate to his project as your donations make things like this possible.

Update 5/6/2019

If you are noticing your screen flickering, this may be your power management feature trying to switch back and forth between your onboard and eGPU. The latest Mac update removed this option from the “Energy Saver” settings for some reason, so you’ll need to open Terminal and type in this command:

sudo pmset -a gpuswitch 0

This tells your computer to set your “Automatic Graphic Switching” to 0 (off), and the “-a” value means to apply it to all situations; plugged in, battery, etc. Since the Mac Mini doesn’t have a battery the -a value will ensure it never tries automatically switching your display source on you. No more screen flickering!

Update 9/19/2020

It appears that macOS Catalina has its own set of supported graphics cards – the RX 5700 series.

Catalina Cards

If you’ve already upgraded to Catalina and are looking to add multiple displays with an eGPU, make sure you read the official Apple.com support page linked above that your card and your enclosure are both compatible with your operating system.

If this helped you, or if you have questions / comments / concerns, please leave a comment below!

Comments:

  1. Martin Dunn says:

    Hi James,
    What an absolute legend!
    Thank you for the box and the YouTube link was a great find also!
    I’ll let you know how it goes….
    I’ll be running MacBook Pro 2017, just brought with RX480 and Sonnet GPU550. Displaying to 4 x 4K UHD Samsung 55″ TV’s, (2×2).

    Can I ask, what is a good easy player/ software for getting a video over the 4 screens?

    The screens in the past, (when I was using Display-link hubs), treated each screen as it’s own desktop, and apart from VLC player geometry wall splitting the file into 4 separate windows, I don’t know a good mapping/ screen split software? Any recommendations?
    Thanks!

  2. Preston Mathis says:

    Can you do 5 or 6 displays? 4 via eGpu and one or 2 via the mac mini.

  3. Preston Mathis says:

    What is the maximum amount of diaplays with one eGpu? I would guess 4 from egpu and 2 from Mac Mini. I am running 1080p. I am running pro presenter at my church.

    • James Parsons says:

      It depends on the resolution of those screens.

      If they are 1080p screens, you could run 7 screens, 4 in the eGPU and 3 from your Mac Mini.
      If they are 4k screens, you could run 6 screens, 4 in the eGPU and 2 from your Mac Mini.

      I’m not sure about 5k compatibility, but I know the Mac Mini can only support 1 of them. Not sure how many the RX cards can support, but in theory, it can handle all 4.

  4. Brian Cassim says:

    Hi James. Great info. If I follow your guide and purchase the enclosure and RX 480 graphic card will I then be able to connect 5 or 6 monitors to a mac mini 2019 ? or is it ‘only’ 4 monitors? 4 on the RX 480 and 2 on the mac mini or ? Thanks in advance

    • James Parsons says:

      Thanks Brian! Sorry for the ultra late reply, I was having some issues with my comments system. Yes, those RX cards usually have 4 HDMI ports (check before buying), which will enable you to use 4 screens per eGPU enclosure. I don’t see why you wouldnt be able to use 2 extras plugged directly into the Mac Mini, as long as they arent 5k screens. Apple says it supports up to one 5k screen, two 4k screens, or three 1080p screens. If your 6 displays are under 5k resolution, this setup will work for you.

  5. iamstupendous says:

    USB 3.0 to Display worked (VGA mycase J5CREATE), this would be the cheapest solution but of course itโ€™s emulated and eGPU approach is still the best but costly

    • James Parsons says:

      Indeed, it works, but the slow screen refresh and overall laginess was too much for me to bear. I was fortunate to have an extra graphics card lying around, it would have been very expensive to buy both the enclosure and the card together. Wish I knew this before buying the Mac Mini, but at least I have it working now.

  6. mwoodham says:

    This is a fantastic guide and thank you so much for continuing to update the post! Apple GPUs are becoming the bottleneck for a lot of my work, so it’s great to hear about your success with an eGPU. Please do keep us updated if anything changes in the future! Thanks again ๐Ÿ™‚

    • James Parsons says:

      Thanks for your kind words! All is working well on my end. Having an eGPU isn’t a perfect solution (it takes longer to boot up and restarting the eGPU results in black screens for several minutes), but I’m happy with the setup and back to work ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Bleaker says:

    Hi James, thanks for sharing information. Iโ€™m running my Mac mini 2018 and considering buying an eGPU. Iโ€™m wondering can I set one display using the integrated GPU, while another one using the eGPU? Or all the displays have to use the same GPU?

    • James Parsons says:

      Hi Bleaker! Sorry for the late reply, had to overhaul my comments system, Disqus Comments is the worst. You should be able to use both the integrated GPU as well as an eGPU, though I don’t see why you’d want to, unless it’s a hack to run extra screens. The card in an eGPU is likely going to be way more powerful than the one in your Mac Mini, so if possible you should put a supported card with enough HDMI ports so that you don’t have to use the onboard one.

  8. barhbar says:

    James – Thanks for the info, and am running 3 extended screens from my 2018 13″ MacBook Pro….looking for 3 External extended Screen..4 with my display (non AirPlay)
    Don’t know much about Graphics cards….your comment about getting enough HDMI ports so that I don’t have to use those onboard hit home. Maybe I am looking in the wrong place but the most HDMI ports I have found on a single card is two and that was on the ASUS ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1650 which only had 3.5 Stars for $185.
    Not sure I want to buy 3 x RX480 and a eGPU on top of that. Do you know of any Cards with 3-4 HDMI Ports (Not Switch) another option? I could as you did go with the 3xDisplay Ports, but would rather not if possible.

    • James Parsons says:

      Hi Barhbar!

      Many graphics cards have 4 HDMI ports but if you’re going the eGPU route it’s essential you read the Apple website for supported eGPUs with MacOS. You can’t throw any card in there – there’s a select few ATI cards that are compatible currently and that GeForce card wouldn’t be compatible.

      That being said, you should be able to run 4 extra monitors with a single graphics card. You won’t have to buy three RX480’s unless you want to run 12 displays, and yes that will get quite expensive. From what it sounds like, you need one eGPU enclosure and a supported ATI graphics card with 4 HDMI ports.

      You can find the supported list of enclosures and ATI GPU’s here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208544

      You should check eBay as well, if you can find a lightly owned GPU you’ll save hundreds of dollars. Gamers upgrade their graphics cards every few years when new games come out so there are a ton of them on eBay and the pricing is competitive.

      Good luck!

  9. Caleb MacDonald says:

    Hi James,

    This is perfect timing for me! Thanks for the detailed post. I canโ€™t seem to see the embedded YT link – wondered if you could link it down here somewhere?

    Many thanks,

    Caleb

    • James Parsons says:

      Hey Caleb! Sorry about that, please check again – it was my caching plugin playing tricks with YouTube embeds. Thanks for pointing it out, and I’m glad it helped!

  10. Santosh Khanal says:

    Thanks for the post. I am willing to buy a Mac mini. Will I be able to add three 4k display (2 from type c port) and 1 from HDMI ?

    And how good will the screen refresh be? Will there be any lag or bad latency / response ?

    • James Parsons says:

      Hi Santosh! Out of the box you’ll be able to add only two 4K displays, whether it be from the HDMI port or Thunderbolt 2 ports. All 5 video ports share the same graphic card limitation unfortunately.

      As far as screen refresh / response time, this depends on the display(s) you purchase.

      Bottom line, the only way to properly add three 4K displays on the Mac Mini or Macbook Pro without any lag is with an eGPU.
      Airplay or a USB video card will technically add a third display but the quality and refresh rate will be terrible.

      Hope this helps!

  11. Kole says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for the great help! I have an additional question. I am connecting the 4th monitor to my mac mini but I want the apple tv display to mirror one of my other screens. I am having hard time. When i go to change the mirror settings it does not allow me to move them seperately and just mirrors all of them. Any help would be great!

    Best,

    Kole

    • James Parsons says:

      Hey Kole! Run a Google search for “Set up some displays for mirroring and others for an extended desktop” and you’ll land on Apple’s site, they run you through how to do this ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Bryan says:

    Hey great post! I have an older desktop pc w/ a Rx 480 as well and the mac mini option w/ the egpu seems like a pretty solid option to get into the mac ecosystem without spending 2k+. I also have the 2018 macbook pro laptop so could even plug that in to the egpu from time to time as well if needed. I’ve also been looking at SSD enclosures on amazon which can be under $10 so i can use my desktop pc’s internal ssd’s as external portable drives. So excited to downsize and go w/ a more minimalist approach. I use the macbook pro for dj’ing and i’m looking for a main computer to drive 3 or 4 1440p displays and even take advantage of freesync from amd. would love to see more pics of your setup if you get min. thanks again!

    • James Parsons says:

      Hey Bryan, thanks for the comment ๐Ÿ™‚ two of the pics from my setup are in this post, one is of the back of the eGPU with the 4 HDMI ports and the other is of my desk with those four screens. If you want a picture of the eGPU enclosure or any other part of that setup send me an email through my homepage and I’ll do what I can!

  13. Michael says:

    Hi,
    I have a 5k iMac that already has a built in graphics card. I really need it to connect to more than 2 external displays, but it just won’t. Do I need to get an eGPU to get this to work, even though it already has a built-in graphics card? I feel like since it already has one built-in, I should be able to run more than just 2 external displays.

    Thanks!

    • James Parsons says:

      Hi Michael!

      Well, it depends on the resolution of those displays. If they are 5k displays, then I believe that is the maximum that the built-in card is able to handle.

      If you have the means for 2 external displays and a current-gen iMac, I don’t see the harm in getting an eGPU.
      It will be far more powerful than your eGPU, and you can switch your primary graphics card to your external one so that you can enjoy the performance increase in your applications.

      Hope this helps!

  14. Jean-Martin says:

    Hi James,

    Great article ans thank-you for sharing.

    I was going over this page : (Published Date: March 20, 2020)
    https://support.apple.com/en-ca/HT208544
    and considering the BlackMagic.

    However, it isn’t clear to me the maximum # of monitors you can potentially hookup to the Blackmagic eGPU.

    I am looking to build a setup for 4 to 6 monitors for either my current MacBook Pro 2019 or an eventual Mac Mini.

    What do you think?

    Also in your current setup are you able to use all monitors as 1 graphic workspace i.e: an OS window that is displayed across all or more than one monitor?

    Thanks
    JM

    • James Parsons says:

      Hey JM! Happy it helped. I don’t have any experience with the Blackmagic eGPU. I haven’t heard of a card that can support more than 4 monitors out of the box – heck, finding one that has more than 2 is a little tough. As far as my workspace, I’m not able to stretch out a single OS window to multiple screens. If you put a window in-between two screens it will show on one and the other monitor will be missing the other half, you have to choose one I guess. I’m not sure if you can change this, but if you can I’d love to know.

  15. Danny C says:

    Hey James, am I right to say that once I have plugged in thunderbolt from Mac mini to my eGPU and from eGPU extending 2 hdmi + 2 dp to 4 monitors (HDMI), I would in theory be able to see all the frames coming up ? at the moment my issue is I only have one screen lighting up from my eGPU – is there a setting somewhere that I need to do pls?

    • James Parsons says:

      Hey Danny! Yes that’s correct, that setup would work well.
      I haven’t personally tried this with DP > HDMI adapters but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work the same way.

      Which card and external enclosure are you using, and is it on the supported list of cards?

      You can find a list of supported cards and enclosures here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208544

      If you have a supported card and enclosure, double check each monitor to make sure they are set to the “HDMI” source.

      • Does the eGPU Mac icon show up in your Mac menu bar in the upper right of your screen?
      • Did you try restarting?
      • Are you on the latest version of your OS?
      • Did you try switching the HDMI ports around to see if it’s a monitor or cable issue?

      Let me know ๐Ÿ™‚ feel free to drop me an email if you’re still stuck.

  16. Scott P says:

    Hi James-

    I hope you can give me a hand after speaking with 3 Apple techs for over 3 hrs.

    I have a Mac mini (2018) 3.2 GHz 6-Core Intel Core i7 16 GB 2667 MHz DDR4 Intel UHD Graphics 630 1536 MB connected to a Dell U3011 and two Dell P2014H displays vertically on either side.

    The U3011 has a res of 2560×1600 and the 20’s 900×1600. Both 20’s are connected via Thunderbolt w/adapters and the 30 is via HDMI. Problem is I can only get 1920×1200 on the 30 where I used to get 2560×1600 when connected to just a single 20 monitor.

    Apple can’t figure out how to get all three running with the 2560×1600 on the U3011. Any thoughts on how to remedy this?

    Thanks a lot!
    Scott

    • James Parsons says:

      Hey Scott!

      This is a limitation of the built in graphics chip – to accomplish what you’re looking to do, you’d need an external GPU to accomplish those resolutions.
      The built in chip isn’t powerful enough.

  17. Steve Travell says:

    Hi James,

    This may be a bit of a novice question.

    I have just purchased a brand new Mac mini. I wish to use three monitors.

    I already have two 50 inch (LG) TVs i wish to use as monitors.

    I am using one currently as a second monitor on my imac and works fine with a thunderbolt 2 to HDMI adapter.

    My question is can I connect these two TV/monitors to two thunderbolt 3/usb-c ports with usb-c to HDMI adaptors?

    I wish then to attach a third monitor to the HDMI port.

    I am just looking for someone to confirm this detail… I look forward to your response,

    Steve

    • James Parsons says:

      Hi Steve!

      At those resolutions, the only way to accomplish this would be by purchasing an eGPU.
      The resolutions on those displays are too high for the built-in graphics chip to handle. If they were all 1080p, you could use all three displays without issues, but these are 50 inch TVs (presumably 4k or 5k).

      My recommendation is to invest in an eGPU and you’ll be able to run all three displays as you intend ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Justin McMurtry says:

    Much of the commentary above is inconsistent with my everyday experience. I have a 2018 Mac mini, the mid-level version with a 3GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 processor, and I run a trio of 4K@60Hz displays right outta the box. In my case, each of the three displays is a Dell P2416Q. The first runs straight off the HDMI port, and the other two are via DisplayPort from a couple of the TB3/USB3 ports. I’m pretty sure it helps that I run them all at native 4K resolution, rather than using scaling, because scaling eats up a whole lot more video RAM, and things can get a bit flaky if I try it. It may also help that I’ve installed 32 GB of system RAM. But yeah, 3x4K@60 running fine here.

    • James Parsons says:

      Hey Justin! I was able to run three 1080p displays but haven’t had any experience running 4k yet. It makes no sense why four 1080p’s wouldn’t work but three 4k displays would, must just be a limitation of the chipset. Thank you for sharing with the others.

  19. Frank Weiss says:

    Great post. I am trying to add a third external monitor to my iMac (late 2014) with and Intel Core i7 and AMD Radeon R9 M295X. It has two thunderbolt 2 “mini displayports”. I have a few external hard drives hooked up to it which both allow daisy chaining (one is thunderbolt 2, the other thunderbolt 3/USB-C). There would be four screens total which would include the iMac itself as being one of them. Any advice is appreciated. This has been driving me nuts not being able to get an answer. So far your page is the closest I’ve gotten on the whole damn Internet!

    • James Parsons says:

      Hey Frank! Thanks for the kind words. It depends on the resolution of those monitors, iMacs have graphics limitations of their own.

      I believe the 2014 iMac can only run two 4k displays, so if those displays are 4k you may already be at your limit.
      An eGPU would allow you to run extra displays, though, if you wanted to go that route.

  20. Danny Gilbert says:

    Hi James
    Great research mate I was just wondering if this GF card would work ok with a late 2014 Mac mini. VisionTek 7750 Eye 6 2GB DDR5 PCI Express Graphics Card
    Installed in the Razer Core X Chroma: Thunderbolt 3 External Graphics Enclosure (eGPU) for Windows 10 and Mac with RGB Chroma Lighting?

    Best regards
    Dan

  21. Danny Gilbert says:

    Hi James
    Thanks for getting back to me
    Iโ€™ve not bought anything as of yet but was thinking of going for:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/VisionTek-7750-DDR5-Express-Graphics/dp/B00C7EPSVS/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=visiontek+radeon+7750+2gb+gddr5&qid=1599510621&sr=8-3#

    And

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07PY3JZNX/ref=gno_cart_title_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE

    What do you think mate, in you opinion Iโ€™m I good to pull the trigger on amazon lol ๐Ÿ˜‚

    All the best
    Dan

    • James Parsons says:

      Hey Dan, I haven’t tried this card specifically but if it’s on Apple’s eGPU page as a supported card, I would think it would be compatible!

  22. James Parker says:

    Mac Mini 2018
    3GHZ Intel Core i5

    Ive purchased the egpu and enclosure, Three projectors at 1900×1200 and monitor at 1920×1080.

    Everything is working but the mac only recognizes three screens in display preferences. What settings do I need to do to?

    • James Parsons says:

      Hi James!

      Are all four screens plugged into the eGPU?

      What version of MacOS do you have, and what is the graphics card?
      You can see if your card is supported on your specific OS on Apple’s eGPU support page.

  23. Danny Gilbert says:

    Hi James
    So Iโ€™ve bought everything and setup and connected to my Mac mini the graphics card showed up in the top bar for about 20 seconds and then disappeared Iโ€™ve been doing some reading but thereโ€™s not much making sense. Is there anything I will need to do for the eGPU to start working correctly so I can then plug all my monitors in.
    And I ended up getting a RX 580 8gb card in the end as Iโ€™m only going to use 4 x 32โ€ monitors now.
    Thanks in advance for any help.

    Best regards
    Dan

    • James Parsons says:

      Hey Danny!

      It seems like your chassis and your card are both on the compatibility list which is good.

      Make sure the Thunderbolt 3 cable is connected directly to your Mac and not a third-party peripheral.

      What version of MacOS are you on?

      I just noticed this little tidbit on Apple’s eGPU page:

      “If you’ve installed macOS Catalina 10.15.1 or later, you can use these graphics cards that are based on the AMD Navi RDNA architecture. Recommended graphics cards include the AMD Radeon RX 5700, AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT, and AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary.”

      If you’re on the latest version of MacOS, it’s possible that this specific card is no longer supported. I stayed on Mojave after hearing Catalina horror stories from friend who works at Apple.

      The RX 5700 is a much stronger card, so if you’re on the latest version of Catalina, I’d recommend returning the RX 580 and upgrading to the RX 5700.

      I’d imagine wiping the computer and downgrading to Mojave isn’t high on your priority list so this seems like the way to go.

      Let me know your specs though and if this helps you.

  24. Martin Uhercik says:

    Hello James,

    I am building new system for customer.
    It is 27″ iMac + Sonnet 550W eGPU + AsRock RX5700XT. (3 x DP + HDMI port)
    I have problem using more than 3 monitors on RX5700XT card.
    I can use 2 x DP + HDMI, but not 3 x DP. (DP to HDMI cables used for 2 monitors)
    Do you know about any limitation on this ?

    Thanks for your time.
    M.

    • James Parsons says:

      This one has me stumped. It may be the adapters themselves. Are they all the same adapters? Active or passive adapters? Are all 3 monitors identical? Have you tried switching adapters between the monitors and does that same monitor turn on?

  25. Clay says:

    I can’t seem to find an answer anywhere. Would i be able to run 4 monitors on a Mac Mini and the Blackmagic GPU in the Apple Store? 2 monitors in the eGPU, 2 in the Mac Mini? Or 3+1, ect?

    • James Parsons says:

      I honestly can’t say. For the price of the Blackmagic GPU, why not get a more powerful card where you can (without question) run 4 or more displays? It would cost less, and these graphics cards have 4 HDMI ports instead of 1.

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