Dual Screen Not an Option For Me

To recap I have posted about trying to achieve a Dual Screen set up on my Mac mini before, but after trying a variety of options it is not going to be possible for me. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible, but as you will see only under certain circumstances.

When I bought the Mac mini I knew it didn’t support Dual Screen, so true dual screen was always out of the question. Everything I read said that if I got a DVI splitter then I would be able to split the signal and create a mirrored scenario. I don’t have two DVI Screens so I can’t vouch for this but as a number of people have achieved this elsewhere I am comfortable in accepting that it is possible.

My initial purchase was a Apple DVI to Video Adapter which allows me to connect the Mac mini to my TV via an S-video cable. This works perfectly, as you can see, but it does require that you disconnect the screen from the Mac mini first. Not only is this slightly inconvenient in terms of location of the Mac mini, but it also means that I have to take the Wireless Keyboard and Wireless Mighty Mouse into the lounge to control the image on the TV. The screen requires reformatting both when connecting to the TV and reconnecting to the Screen.

Next I purchased a DVI Splitter from Cable Universe. Unfortunately this didn’t work because the DVI splitter will not work if any analogue connections are fed through it, the splitter has to be used with DVI cables only and cannot be used in conjunction with a DVI to VGA converter, but at least I got a good education on the different type of DVI connections. This was somewhat frustrating though as I had specifically explained to them what I was trying to do before they sold me the Splitter. They did offer a refund, and more importantly they introduced me to Lindy, and in particular Phil. before I go any further I do have to say that Phil went to great lengths to try and find a solution with me, and provided what I consider to be exceptional customer care.

The solution they came up with was to disregard the DVI to Video adapter completely…….and:

Solution.JPG

This involved running a DVI-I cable out of the Mac mini to a DVI to VGA splitter. The Mac screen connects to the DVI cable, and the VGA cable connects to a VGA Converter Lite, otherwise known as a scan converter. It converts a computer VGA signal to a signal that a TV can understand. This will produce an S-Video output, to connect to the TV.

But because the Mac screen has a cable rather than a socket I needed a Female to Female DVI connection

Unfortunately this didn’t work. Further research showed that the Mac mini seems to (I guess understandably) prioritise the DVI output. It doesnt seem to be capable of simultaneously broadcasting both a digital and an analogue signal. When both DVI and VGA connectors are connected to the splitter-adapter at the same time, only the DVI monitor works. (So the Mac mini looks for a DVI connection, and when it finds one, it doesn’t enable the analogue video signal, and hence the VGA Converter gets no video signal).

However there is easier way to successfully achieve a picture on your TV and on a monitor …….. but not the DVI-D Mac monitor.

You need to use a DVI to VGA adapter on the back of the Mac-Mini, then connect a 2 port VGA video splitter, and use your Mac with a PC Monitor that has VGA. This will work perfectly, because the Mac-Mini will detect that no DVI monitor is present, it will output an analogue signal, and then the 2 port video splitter will do the rest for you, multiplying the signal for both the VGA Converter and the PC Monitor.

For me though it just wasn’t an option not use the Mac monitor so the only other way to achieve the result would be to buy a TV with a DVI or HDMI input, so I could use a DVI-D splitter…………….. I did look for a special converter, that can take a DVI-D signal, convert it to analogue, and then output an S-video signal for your TV, but I couldn’t find one, and I came to the conclusion that it would probably be very expensive. Buying a new B&O whilst a nice thought wasn’t going to get past first base with the Financial Controller (wife!) and I have to say I agree with her 100% – it was stupid idea (nice but stupid!!)

So how have I left it? Pretty much back at the original state. I use the Apple DVI to Video Adapter when I want to watch the Mac on the TV, but I have installed Mira for greater flexibility. I am waiting for their USB Mantra TR1 to turn up so that I can use the Apple Remote from the lounge. It may be that this will work through the wall from the study as well, otherwise I will have to reconfigure the Mira software when I want to use the Apple Remote with the Mac Screen, although to be fair this doesn’t happen that often. In fact I don’t actually use the Mac mini to connect to the TV that much anyway as since I first started on this adventure we have bought an iMac that connects to the TV in my wife’s den perfectly well. At the moment I record stuff to my Sky + box. If I want to keep it I transfer it to my Mac mini through the TVMax and eyeTV. When the Mac mini gets full, or if I know I want it on the iMac I transfer it over the network to the iMac so we can watch in dual screen mode on the TV in that room. It is possible to stream a film from the Mac mini to the iMac but it isn’t brilliant and I can’t really see the benefit at this stage.

What next? Well it dawned on me as I kept facing more and more costs to get this solution sorted out that I was going to be spending a pretty big % of what another Mac mini would cost me. Maybe the way forward will be another Mac mini in the lounge connected to the TVMax and the TV permanently. That would save me any converter box costs, provide me with some extra hard drive capacity which is always welcome, and save me having to reformat my screen all the time. I could physically connect the two Mac minis to each other so that transferring films would be quicker than over the wireless network. Will I get an Apple TV? I doubt it very much. I have so much of what it provides already, and I don’t use iTunes for anything other than music and ‘casts. Plus, if I added up an Apple TV, Converter, Cables etc I would pretty much have my second Mac mini.

Of course it would really help if Apple realised that if they want people to use the Mac mini as a hub to their digital media centre they really do need to make it dual screen at the very least!

I will post again on anything that happens with Mira, a second Mac mini etc, and as ever please let me have your thoughts and sugegstions.

For those of you who are interested in the whole email exchange with Phil at Lindy, which is a GREAT example of how to deliver pre and post sales support, you can download it here. For those of you that want a copy of the diagram you can download that here

1 thought on “Dual Screen Not an Option For Me

  1. martin posadovsky

    Well, Chris, (and every one else wondering about such issues): I too have spent my fair share of time learning about {in my case} the macbook’s less than perfect video limitations (as opposed to multimedia “solutions”).

    My problem: Was taking the output of the Macbook from its standard mini dvi to dvi, and then sending that signal to my Acer monitor, while at the same time wanting to send out a signal to the Phillips 32″ Lcd that I own….

    While other Laptops have an S-Video port built into them, the Macbook I own DOES NOT.

    Fortunately, I stumbled onto a combination of “solutions”:

    1st, I purchased IOGEAR’s usb 2.0 external video card (GUC 2015v). Now half the challenge in this conversion was that the drivers they provide are for Vista or XP ONLY, however the company (displaylink) that makes the chipset for the unit also has a beta version of a mac driver Which you can download. Now although they caution that it is somewhat limited, it DOES work on the more basic levels. Some limitations may include 3d type video and other more complex conversions- but hey – its beta, and more important, it’s FREE!

    The IO GEAR video card works through an independent usb out from the laptop. Of course- our next problem was taking the units VGA female port (and signal that it outputs), and changing that into an S-video, or standard “component video” output. To do that, I had to purchase AVERMEDIA’s “AVerkey iMicro” system – which, like magic, is a simple plug and play. A LA PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES (POOF) and the exact results I required. I had hoped that Avermedia’s product would work on its own (w/o IOGEARS usb 2.0 external video card)- and I am sure it does- however I would not be able to use my LCD 21″ monitior in tandem.

    FINALY! I now have 3 monitors that are running all at once, and I can turn my head to the size that fits the media I wish to view my movies, Pictures, videos- whatever as required. The Laptop and External monitor can even work Side by side, and the computer can recognize all 3 as “Independent” monitors, each with their own wall paper/backgrounds!.
    At the end of the 2 day long search, I could not believe the massive TIME needed to get the results – but for the $220 CDN I spent on the components, well – lets just say now I can start all over again to get the DIGITAL signal that I really wanted… Any thoughts on that one?

    Best of all my Acer screen allows for 2 inputs from one computer at a time, so I can run my PC AND MAC to the 21″ LCD. The Averkey imicro also allows for 2 separate VGA inputs, so that I can easily do the same process when the PC is running. Brilliant!!! Hopefully they are hard at work making the same type of product to brodcast digital signals, such as a (mini) DVI input to an HDMI output!!!

    Much thanks to the Calgary sales support staff at Memory Express (North), Shaganappi Future shoppe, and Richmond road London Drugs.

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