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

Mac Mini 2018 Sucks

Mac has never been very friendy with running multiple displays on their products.

The 2018 Mac Mini showed great promise after going 4 years without an update.
It features four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and 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 absolutely not possible to run more than 3 screens on the Mac Mini, even with adapters or hardware.

I figured out myself that I can connect a 4th display with AirPlay and an Apple TV. This isn’t the most ideal solution, but it technically connects a 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 RX480 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 in fact be able to do so, and that anyone else looking to do so can either do it by setting up a seperate 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 actually 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 their 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

My eGPU enclosure that I linked above came in the mail, and I was able to hook up all four of my displays to my RX480. 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 Feb 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 May 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!

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 it’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 🙂

    • 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 🙂

  7. Bleaker says:

    Hi James, thanks for sharing information. I’m running my Mac mini 2018 and considering buying an eGPU. I’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 can’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!

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