Mac mini Dual Screen

When I bought the Mac Mini I knew that it didn’t support Dual Screen but that it was possible to connect two screens via a DVI splitter device, which would allow you to run two screens in mirror mode.

This would be ideal for me as I would like to have the Mac Mini connected to my 23″ Cinema HD Screen and to my TV via the DVI to Video Adapter.

I can connect the screen directly to my Mac Mini and it works perfectly. I can connect the DVI adapter to my Mac Mini and to my TV via an s-cable and it works perfectly.

I have bought a 2 Port DVI Splitter, but this is where I start to have a problem. If I connect the splitter to the Mac Mini and connect the screen to the splitter the screen works perfectly – so far so good. BUT when I connect the DVI to Video adapter to the splitter, zilch. The screen still works but I don’t get anything on the TV.

I have tried the screen connected to both ports on the splitter and it works on both, so I know that both ports are working fine on the splitter. I have followed the splitter instructions to the letter i.e. connect the screens, then connect the splitter to the Mac Mini, then power up the splitter and then finally power up the Mac Mini, so I can’t see what the problem is.

Logic tells me that there must be something different between the port on the back of the Mac Mini which allows the DVI to Video adapter to connect and work, and the ports on the back of the splitter. I have just read this on the Apple site under the description of the DVI to Video Adapter:

The Apple DVI to Video Adapter is designed to work with the DVI port on the MacBook Pro, Mac mini and Power Mac G5 systems only.

Use a separate DVI to VGA Adapter for VGA video out for MacBook Pro, Mac mini or Power Mac G5 (included with all MacBook Pro, Mac mini or Power Mac G5 systems or available for order as a standalone kit). ”

At the moment the workaround is to disconnect the splitter from the Mac Mini and plug in the DVI to Video adapter each time that I want to hook up to the TV, but this is a little fiddley given the inevitable amount of cables at the back of my desk, and not ideal in that the TV is in another room so I can’t actually see the screen (all I want to do is watch a movie that I have recorded to the Mac Mini so this set up is actually not as mad as it seems) so need to take my wireless mighty mouse through with me to control the screen, which is actually a pretty cool thing to do. Another down side is that as I have a number of things hooked up to the USB and Firewire ports on the Screen daisy chained through the Mac Mini and the LaCie external drive and hub, when I unplug the screen I effectively removed devices and they don’t always reconnect straight off when I reconnect the screen.

So I really would appreciate any suggestions on how to work around this problem. Maybe I need a more “powerful” splitter, or another type of converter/adapter?

26 thoughts on “Mac mini Dual Screen

  1. Chris Marshall Post author

    I just got a really helpful (not) email back from the company that I bought the splitter from:

    Hello

    We assume that this should be something to do with your display settings as it should be viable to have both running at the same time.

    Se the FAQ here to see if this helps
    FAQ

    Regards

    Cable Universe Ltd

    Typical – blame the computer, but what makes it worse is that they point me to a FAQ that only has two questions on it and only talks about Windows!!!

    I am starting to think that there must be something in the signal that is causing the problem. The fact that I can hook up to the TV fine when connected directly to the Mac mini with the DVI to Video adapter, but that adapter doesn’t work with the splitter seems to indicate this. The spec of the port on the Mac mini is DVI/VGA output, and although the ports look the same on the splitter they only talk about DVI output, so my guess is that they don’t support VGA?

  2. Chris Marshall Post author

    Looks like the diagnosis was right, although it doesn’t leave me any closer to a solution 🙁

    Hello

    This would indicate that the dvi connection is a DVI-I i.e. it has the ability to convert to an analogue connection (VGA) as it has the 2 pins above and below the horizontal connected. See here for the varying types:
    http://www.cableuniverse.co.uk/hdmi/

    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.

    Hope this makes sense!

    Regards

    Cable Universe Ltd

  3. Chris Marshall Post author

    A possible solution!

    Hello

    Unfortunately this is not an item we stock. We have seen them on the market but tend to be more expensive, e.g.
    http://www.lindy.com/uk/productfolder/03/32/32591/index.php

    We shall naturally refund against switch if of no use.
    Should you decide this is the case, Please return the goods to:
    Cable Universe, Unit 7, Coombe Park, Ashprington, Devon, TQ9 7DY.
    enclosing a copy of your invoice, a daytime contact number & a note
    explaining you require a refund as not required.

    Kind regards

    Cable Universe Ltd

    AND very impressed that they will refund the one that doesn’t work

  4. Chris Marshall Post author

    Looks like progress of some sort, but still not 100% that we are going to find a way of doing this.

    Hello Chris,

    Thanks for your enquiry, and sorry for the delay in replying. Before I can answer you properly, I’m interested to know a couple more things –

    First of all, your “DVI to Video” adapter…… I was looking on the Apple website, and I was reading that the Mac Mini apparently comes with a DVI to VGA adapter…… is this what you meant ? – Or did you mean something else ?

    The Mac Mini has a DVI-I port on the back……. this means that it produces 2 signals at once (using different pins in the same DVI socket); it produces a digital signal (for connecting a DVI display), and also an analogue signal, which allows you to use the analogue DVI to VGA adapter. (If you arent familiar with VGA, this is a common PC-style monitor connector, that is still widely used, but is slowly being replaced by DVI).

    So, my next question is about your TV. Is it a flat panel ? – and does it have a VGA socket in the back ?

    You are right that you cant use a DVI splitter, because if they are like ours, they only support DVI-D (this is a different version of DVI, which only produces a digital signal, that wouldnt work with the VGA adapter). – I could easily have said use your DVI to VGA adapter, and use a VGA splitter…….. but of course, im expecting that your Mac Monitor uses DVI-D, so this wouldnt work either !!!

    In short, I think an adapter cable like this might be the answer: http://www.lindy.com/int/productfolder/04/41219/index.php – please note that you will need a DVI-I cable aswell; this would be a male to male cable, and connect to the the DVI socket on the adapter cable. This then gives you a digital DVI output (to connect your Mac Monitor), and an analogue VGA output for the TV (assuming its VGA you need for the TV !!) 🙂

    Before we go any further, I have assumed a lot here – please could you confirm that I have the right end of the stick ?

    Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you.

    Phil Atkinson
    International Sales Manager

  5. Chris Marshall Post author

    Looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel. This guy has been REALLY helpful 🙂

    Hey Chris,

    Okay, plan B – basically, you would need to disregard your DVI to Video adapter completely…….

    One more important thing to ask – Does your DVI monitor have a DVI socket in the back ? Or a sealed cable ? – Im hoping its a socket ??

    IF it has a DVI socket, then this will work…….but you would need to buy all 3 of these products:
    This DVI-I cable would connect to the DVI-I port on the Mac: http://www.lindy.com/int/productfolder/04/41271/index.php – the price is 19,15 EUR.
    This adapter cable connects to the end of the DVI-I cable: http://www.lindy.com/int/productfolder/04/41219/index.php – the price is 17,40 EUR
    and then, you connect your DVI-D Mac Monitor to the DVI-D connector, and you connect this final product directly onto the VGA connector: http://www.lindy.com/int/productfolder/03/32/32565/index.php – the price is 119,00 EUR.

    You may also want a short (male to female) DVI extension cable from the 41219 adapter cable to your monitor (or you could simply plug the DVI-D connector on the adapter cable directly into the monitor). A cable like this: http://www.lindy.com/int/productfolder/04/41245/index.php

    The last product is our 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 your Bang & Olufsen TV.

    ***This all relies on your DVI monitor having a socket – otherwise you wont have the right genders to connect everything together***

    However, just when there is a solution around the corner, I’m afraid the VGA Convertor is currently sold out 🙂
    These would be sent from Germany for electrical power reasons….. and they arent due into Germany until the week 11/12/2006…… are you able to wait this long ? Otherwise, you may have to source the VGA Convertor if you need it more quickly than that.

    I hope all this has helped – if you need any more information, give me a shout.

    All the best.

    Phil Atkinson
    International Sales Manager

    LINDY International | Tel: +44 1642 754020
    Computer Connection Technology

    http://www.LINDY.com

  6. Chris Marshall Post author

    We may have a solution 🙂

    Hey Chris,

    As these are from the US, I would try the non-powered option (though if you bought the powered one, im pretty sure it would have a step-down transformer plug, so you could probably have just obtained a local transformer that was compatible).

    We can easily deliver to Spain from our German warehouse (which would also ensure that the VGA Convertor has a euro power connection). You could return the items provided it was within a few days of receiving them, but based on the information we have discussed, I would expect this to work with no problems, my main concern would be the female to female DVI connection.

    Finally, please see the JPG I attach below, a little diagram just to clarify the set-up.

    All the best.

    Phil Atkinson
    International Sales Manager

    LINDY International | Tel: +44 1642 754020
    Computer Connection Technology

    I have found two Female to Female options over in the US. The first is a non powered one and obviously would be better in that I wouldn’t have any power conversion issues.

    The second is powered so if you wouldn’t mind looking at them both for me and advising me if either of them would work with the rest of the stuff that you have I would really appreciate.

    The two links for the Female to Female adapters are:

    http://www.solidsignal.com/prod_display.asp?PROD=ADA-DVI-FF

    http://www.solidsignal.com/prod_display.asp?PROD=ADA-DVI-FFWP

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  8. mike

    Ok so I have beeen looking to do this and I wanna find out if there is a conclusion to do all this… I have an old mac mini g4. it has the dvi connnector. I had to buy adapter for my real old 17 display. it has the old input for monitors on it. adc… damn them. anyway. I wanna also hook up my mac mini to the telly. Heres what I found to look promising so far. Lets finish this up with a solid solution… thx

    dvi to dvi and vga …….
    http://www.gefen.com/kvm/product.jsp?prod_id=3342

    then get this and you should be in. I havent bought all this yet but am really close. someone help confirm this will all work……

    vga to svhs/rca composite and also another vga output
    http://sewelldirect.com/pc-to-tv.asp

    heres what i have again…
    old g4 mac mini. (without front row infared, but hcked it, it works great)
    old 17 flat panal display with adc input via using this adaptor….
    Link

    ok. thats it… please lets conclude this for me so i can order this. Its hard on the road to get this shipped correctly ya know….
    thx
    later

  9. MyAppleStuff Post author

    Mike

    Good timing – I am actually just drafting an article on this BUT it isn’t good news I am afraid.

    I was working on the principle that the Mac Mini simply has a DVI-I output (which is correct)…… however, one of the guys iat Lindy has a Mac mni at home, he uses it with a KVM switch. He said that the Mac mini has to detect that a monitor is connected, or it doesnt output a signal from the DVI port (this is different to a PC). So, it should detect the DVI-D monitor once its connected with no problems, BUT, it might not detect the VGA Converter as a “monitor”…… so, because of this, the Mac doesnt output the video signal, and of course, after a few seconds, the VGA Converter powers down, because it isnt receiving a video signal (this would explain why the red light was going off after a few seconds).

    So unless your TV has a DVI or VGA connection you are going to be out of luck as I am.

  10. Dave

    Thanks for posting your research online. I’m hoping to do the same thing you are- have my Mac Mini’s screen show up on my television. Here are the two ideas I have left, let me know what you think:
    1.) VGA multiplier ($100) + VGA-to-TV converter ($100). I would plug the Apple-supplied DVI-to-VGA adapter into the Mac Mini. Plug the VGA multiplier in to the adapter so I would now have 2 VGA output ports. One of the multiplier outputs would connect to my monitor. The other multiplier output would connect to the VGA-to-TV converter.
    2.) USB 2.0 VGA adapter ($75) + VGA-to-S-Video adapter ($10) + SwitchResX (free). Plugging the USB 2.0 VGA adapter into one of the usb ports would give me a new display. Using SwitchResX would allow me to speficy television-resolution on this new display, and the VGA-to-S-Video adapter would allow me to plug my television into it.
    3.) USB 2.0 VGA adapter ($75) + VGA-to-TV converter ($100). Use the adapter to get a second display, then plug that into the VGA-to-TV converter to use the TV as the display.

    Unfortunately #2 and #3 would not mirror the primary monitor’s display. As a result, these don’t meet the goal entirely.

    These are just ideas. Let me know what you think, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

    -Dave

  11. MyAppleStuff Post author

    I am pretty sure that if you have a VGA connector on your PC monitor and a VGA connection to your TV you will be OK as the real issue is the inability of the Mac mini to broadcast both a digital and an analogue signal at the time.

    So if you 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 should 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.

    Please let me know how you get on.

  12. Martin

    Thanks for all the nice research.

    I have the same problem but doesn´t see any solution (or hope there is a better way) than just splitting up a low quality VGA signal or bying expensive powered DVI splitters.

    Is it realy true that the mini can only output either DVI or Analog, and not both at the same time?

    Has anyone tried to split the DVI signal from the mini with a cable like this:

    http://www.gefen.com/kvm/product.jsp?prod_id=3342

    and then just hooked the DVI to a monitor/projector with DVI-plug and the VGA to a standard VGA monitor?

    regards

    -Martin

  13. MyAppleStuff Post author

    Martin

    Yep – that is exactly like one of the cables that I tried 🙁 Not sure if you saw this post that I di (http://myapplestuff.com/dual-screen-not-an-option-for-me/) but I am afraid that it is true. The Mac mini will recognise either a DVI OR and analog signal but not both at the same time, so if you want to split to two DVI screens or two VGA screens you can do it, but if you want to split between one of each you are out of luck.

    Sorry not to have any better news.

  14. Mac Mini

    Thanks for the great information! I’ve been doing research on using dual screens for my MAC too. Very helpful site. 🙂

  15. LCD Projector Rentals Guy

    This is my first comment over here. I like this blog a lot.
    I liked this blog entry the most though, the way you said it was just amazing!
    See ya Later 😉
    P.S. – CSS update?
    LCD Projector Rentals Guy

  16. fabian

    hey ,

    I bought a new mini mac 2ghz ,along with two 20 inch wide screen cinema Displays and a dvi dual box.
    i connected the mac mini to the screens using the dvi dual box and Im getting two displays where in i requiry just one extended screen.

    My problem is how do i connect the mini mac to two 20inch wide screens?
    help me ????????????

  17. Chris Marshall Post author

    The Mac mini will not support dual screen. Your only option is to use the second screen as a mirror, good for presentations but useless for day to day use.

    That was the whole ‘problem’ that I had.

    Sorry not to have better news for you 🙁

  18. Rene Warren

    First of, thanks for all this information, it is very useful.

    I realize that no comments have been posted in almost 1yr, has there been any resolution to this?

    I have a 2GHz Mac mini and want to have 2 LCDs connected to it, in mirror mode (same as you guys).

    The LCD tv has a HDMI and VGA inputs.
    The PC monitor only has a VGA input.

    What are your suggestions?

    From what I gather, my best bet right now is a VGA Y splitter (either DVI-I to 2 VGA OR DVI-I to VGA and VGA Y / VGA switch, but would rather keep the Digital component, as the TV is an HDTV LCD and would like to make use of it (the mini is capable of 720p H264 decoding.).

    If a setup like this could work, that would be great:

    DVI-I to DVI-D and VGA. With the DVI-D to HDMI for the HDTV LCD and VGA for the PC.

    Thanks!

  19. Chris Marshall Post author

    Basically no, the Mac mini still has the limitation of the graphics card. The issue I had though wasn’t mirror mode, as that is actually pretty easy to sort out.

    I would split the DVI out of the Mac mini, and then convert the DVI to VGA to connect to the LCD and PC.

    I think you will have to stick with the same format for both screens though as the Mac mini doesn’t have the power to handle two conversions.

  20. David R

    [quote post=”124″]If a setup like this could work, that would be great:

    DVI-I to DVI-D and VGA. With the DVI-D to HDMI for the HDTV LCD and VGA for the PC.[/quote]

    Interesting. So if my mac mini was connected all digital or all analog it should work with 2 screens being mirrored. Ive read a lot of failed stories of people using normal passive vga splitter cables. Maybe splitting the digital signal would be better? I know the mac mini can only use either vga signal or dvi at one time. Has anyone tried to do DVI-I to DVI-D splitter. Then DVI-D to HDMI for the HDTV LCD and DVI for the PC????????? I only need to run one screen at any one time, as the screens are right nest to each other. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    David

    AGAIN, really want to know if this will work, bearing in mind my hdtv 32 inch samsung will display at 1280×768 and i havent purchased my monitor yet. So im thinking ill need similar resolutions… I just want to watch movies i have on my hard drive on my hdtv occasionally-how hard can it be???

  21. David R

    A bit more info about my setup and want im trying to achieve:

    Mac mini core duo 1.66, gma 950 graphics (dvi-i)
    Samsung 32 Inch 4 series with 3 hdmi’s and vga connection.
    and a pc monitor which im yet to buy because i want to make sure this dual screen approach will work.

    All i want is to occasionally use my hdtv to watch movies etc without swapping cables round, i dont need both screens to be functioning at the same time, but i do want full resolution on each screen while using it without sacrificing picture quality.

  22. Chris Marshall Post author

    Wow is a while since I looked at this 🙂

    The new Mac mini does offer dual screen now. My Mac mini is dead so trying a new hard drive (ordered) otherwise will get a new one!!

    As for what you want ….

    The Mac mini can only split/share the same signal, so the Samsung and PC monitor would have to be the same type.

    What you need to bear in mind as well is that as the screen would just be mirrored the resolution would need to be changed based on which screen you were watching at the time.

    I think that you may well find it is easier overall just to unplug your PC monitor and connect the Samsung when you want to use it to watch a film.

  23. Rene Warren

    David,
    If you have an older mini model (<=2008), you will not be able to split the DVI-I into DVI-D and VGA. I tried (i bought a DVI-I to DVI-D and VGA splitter) but the signal is detected by a single monitor (computer monitor: NEC LCD, TV: sharp aquos). Currently, I plug/unplug cables from the splitter, which doesn’t ruin the DVI-I port on the mini.

    Here’s a [pricey] gadget that may help:

    http://www.tuaw.com/2009/05/11/the-vibook-additional-displays-via-usb?icid=sphere_blogsmith_inpage_engadget

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