MacBook Pro 2011 Unibody with Two External Dell U3011 Monitors Using Matrox DualHead2Go DP Edition

The title pretty much says it all.  The work I do at IBM and in my free time is mostly centered around using my notebook to get my work done.  Whether its programming, writing or creating presentations almost all of the work is on my work is done on screen.  I have opportunity to work from home as well as in the office and I think my time split is about 85 / 15 (office / home).  In the office I have a setup which includes two external monitors (24″) and I also use my Mac (the 17″ MacBook Pro display is a lifesaver).

My Work Environment

At work, my layout is MacBook Pro – Monitor # 1 – Monitor # 2.  Monitor # 1 is connected through the Thunderbolt Display Port while Monitor # 2 is connected through a Kensington DisplayLink device that basically connects via a USB connection and provides the third display.  The resolution on all displays is 1920 x 1200.  Overall this works pretty well.  The only drag is the Kensington is a little slow due to its use of the USB but I use to to place browsers for e-meetings, reference material and the like so high performance is not a hard requirement.

My Home Environment

At home I have a Dell U3011 display (30″) and its awesome.  Really bright, fast, good contrast, etc.  Highly recommend the monitor if your looking for one.  And, its BIG.  I leave my MacBook Pro in a BookArc and simply cable in network, power and the like and leave the MacBook closed.  I’ve become so accustomed to the monitor setup at work that two monitors made sense at home and so I splurged and bought a second U3011.

How to Hook them Together

After doing some research I decided to go with the Matrox DualHead2Go DP edition.  Since I was only going to use the two monitors (leaving the MacBook in the Arc) I wanted to have the highest performance possible so I discounted the Kensington DisplayLink as an option.  Last night I set up the system and have some good and some bad comments.

The Good

The two U3011 displays are fantastic.  Pretty much covers my peripheral range when sitting side by side and the performance is excellent.  They are also really bright and easy to read (running at 1920×1200 each).  They form a single “physical” display as far as the Mac is concerned.  The MAc ses them as a single 3840×1200 display.

The DualHead2Go comes with some software  PowerDesk, well, I downloaded it from the Matrox Support site.  I tried installing it (I run Lion 10.7.4) and it didn’t work.  The software is supposed to creates an icon in the menu bar.  I then went and downloaded the previous driver which worked fine.  With the driver installed you can set the resolution and tweak a few things like where the dock is located.  The software also provides the ability to set a keyboard shortcut so you can size a window in one display or the other.

The Bad

I’m not quite sure I like that as when pop-ups are displayed they are normally centered in the middle of the screen where the two displays come together.  Below you can see the “About this Mac” dialog displayed in the center of the displays.  Yuck.

Dell U3011's Side by Side

What would be ideal would be to have the option to simply treat the two displays as independent physical displays and arrange them correctly using the Display in System Preferences.  I’ll play with it some more as perhaps I’m just not adjusted to how much better this is.  We’ll see.

The other thing that I’m not happy about is the transition time it takes when the displays sleep.  When waking up it can take a few (sometimes several minutes) for the DUalHead2Go and the Mac to both acknowledge the displays are operational.  The Dell’s cycle between “No Link” and “Entering PowerSaver Mode” several times.  I’d like to click the keyboard and simply have them come up.  there is come kind of strange race condition going on that I do not understand.  This is probably my biggest grievance.  I’m using two connectors that came with the DualHead2Go adapter that connect from Display Port connectors on the device to DVI connectors.  Perhaps DisplayPort to DisplayPort might be better and if I can find the cables I give that a try.

Summary

I’m glad to have the two displays in my arsenal at home and I’ve already experience productivity boosts when programming as I can put editor windows all over the place.  Editing of Video is much easier as well.  If you need more realestate, this is the way to go.  If Matrox fixed a few of these bugs then I’d be even happier.  If I can’t fix the sync problems, I’ll have to buy a different device for the Thunderbolt display.  I’m not sold on this device yet.

If you have comments or suggestions, I’m always interested in what I may have missed or new tips.

Thanks

Did you enjoy this post? Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered automatically to your feed reader.

Comments

Thank you for your blog post! I have been struggling with exactly the same issue for over a year, with the dualhead2go being very temperamental in waking up in time before the laptop slept again, occasional flickering and switching off. Once I set the Energy Saver options as you described, it performs perfectly now!

Regards
John

Glad to hear it. I got so much help over the years from others posting their problems and solutions it seemed like a good thing to do my part. I recently moved to a Retina 15″ and its awesome. Dual Thunderbolt ports for the monitors so I can run both at 2560×1600. Now I need a multi-function box to use them USB 3.0 ports efficiently.

Thanks for a great post. I’m considering a Macbook Pro or a Macbook Pro Retina, and want it to work together with two none-apple external screens like your setup. I have a question for your current setup: How do you connect your two external Dell U3011 displays to the Retina 15″ in order to get the 2560×1600 solution on both of them? Via the Matrox DualHead2Go or via another device?
And about your previous setup (with the none-retina-macbook pro): Did you ever get the sleep-mode problem solved? One visitor mentions some settings in the Energy Saver that has solved it, but I don’t se the precise description – can you help?
And: you state, that you got 1920×1200 pixels on each screen in the previous setup. But the macbookpro none-retina says to have only 2560×1600 pixel output (http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/specs/), which for me indicates, that I’ll only be able to get 1280×1200 on each screen, so how did you manage to get 3840×1200 in all out of it?
Thanks!

Thanks for a great post. I’m considering a Macbook Pro or a Macbook Pro Retina, and want it to work together with two none-apple external screens like your setup. I have a question for your current setup: How do you connect your two external Dell U3011 displays to the Retina 15″ in order to get the 2560×1600 solution on both of them? Via the Matrox DualHead2Go or via another device?
And about your previous setup (with the none-retina-macbook pro): Did you ever get the sleep-mode problem solved? One visitor mentions some settings in the Energy Saver that has solved it, but I don’t se the precise description – can you help?
And: you state, that you got 1920×1200 pixels on each screen in the previous setup. But the macbookpro none-retina says to have only 2560×1600 pixel output

I have MacBook Pro with Retina Display for the 2880×1800-pixel resolution of the new 15.4-inch retina display connecting a 30-inch Dell 3007WFP-HC monitor using thunderbolt cable i buy from this site: http://www.kanexlive.com/thunderbolt-cable. The effect is somewhat underwhelming, given that the native resolution of the Dell 3007WFP-HC monitor is 2560×1600 pixels. In resolution scale option the highest resolution is only 1600 X 1000. Is there any configuration to do to maximize the resolution of my monitor?

Sorry for the tardy reply. First question about the Retina. I use the two Thunderbolt ports (one for each display) and run them at full 2560×1600 resolution. This works great and the performance is amazing. Whether just doing coding work or watching a TV show the displays perform flawlessly.

I use a USB Ethernet to connect to the network. Its only 100Mb but my connection to the Internet is 50Mb so this works out fine. Streaming in the house works ok at this speed as well.

WRT the previous setup I thought I had it resolved but it would reappear periodically. The change in the setup of the graphics autoswitching seemed to work where I had less of a problem with the sleep. Unfortunately, when I needed to get going quickly (like I was late for a meeting) it would fall into the problem and I’d eventually have to hard power off and reboot. Less than ideal. I used the Energy Saver (System Preferences -> Energy Saver) and it worked better, but not flawlessly.

In terms of the 3840×1200 this is really two 1920×1200 displays side by side. I didn’t like that as the Mac dealt with it as a single display which made viewing full screen content a bit wonky.

Jip,

I’m using some aftermarket Thunderbolt cables and I am having no problems. One thing you can try is to hold down the Option Key while clicking on Scaled in Display Preferences. This will pop up all display options, not just the ones Apple thinks is best for you. That might fix your problem. Let me know if it does.

Leave a comment

(required)

(required)