Posted 01.28.2009

The Ultimate Workspace Setup

Amy Haywood's Workspace

On Black Thursday, I made a ridiculous purchase. Office Depot had their 20″ monitors cheap. So (naturally), I bought 2. I thought, “I have a MacBook Pro, why not hook up 2 external monitors?! It will be awesome.” If Al Gore can do it, so can I!

Al Gore and 3 Cinema Display Monitors

Unfortunately, I did all my research after the fact. I ended up spending way more than I intended, but vowed that in the end, I would write a blog post so the rest of the world did not have as much trouble as I did.
One of the reasons that Al Gore’s setup works is because he is using a mac tower with multiple graphics cards. –obviously, not the case with my MacBook Pro.

I bought a Triple Head 2 Go Digital:
Triple Head 2 Go

In the end, I realized that this was a bit excessive and the Dual Head 2 Go Digital would have served the same purpose because I only had 2 monitors to hook up. I found myself going in circles on the Matrox site, but it might be worth taking a gander to determine which model will support your system.

You’ll need to download the new driver off Matrox Graphic’s site. This will add the Matrox GXM Control Panel to your System Preferences.
Matrox GXM Control Panel in System Preferences

As you can see from the settings, I marked the number of displays as 2. Then, under Active Resolutions and Refresh Rates, I chose 2 1680×1050.

Changes will also need to be made to the Display Tab under System Preferences. The weird thing about the Matrox hardware is that it causes your external monitors to be seen as one huge monitor.
Display Preferences on System Preferences

Display Arrangement on System Preferences /><br clear=
The tricky part was getting the right screen dimensions to display in the Display Preferences. Everywhere that I read, people kept saying they just plugged it in and…magic, it worked. So, when it didn’t work for me, I just got even more frustrated.

Monitors to Matrox Box
Keep all your cables digital. A couple of times, I tried to mix in my VGA cords (the Head2Go Digital can go Digital or Analog), adding another conversion into the mix only causes problems. So, when I plugged the monitors into the hardware I used 2 DVI cords, plugging them into the first and third slots on the Matrox box, per the hardware directions.

Matrox Box to MacBook Pro
The Mini Display to VGA or Mini Display to DVI converters will not work. These converters cannot handle the bandwidth to be able to power a 3360 x 1050 resolution, which is why I couldn’t get the right resolution to appear in the preferences menu. I had to purchase the Mini Display to Dual DVI Adapter
Mini Display to Dual DVI Adapter

This is the same adapter that it used to connect laptops to Apple’s Cinema Displays. When I first hooked it up, the monitors looked Interlaced. The third (and final) trick was to put the computer to sleep. When I woke it up, it recognized the external monitors like a champ.
This process wasn’t as easy as everyone made it out to be, but I can’t argue, I am pleased with the outcome.

  • Aaron Kruglyak

    do you find the matrox limiting since it treats both monitors as 1?
    I’ve been considering the dual head for a while but it seems more useful for gamers and more annoying for regular osx and design use..isnt the dock in the middle of both screens?

  • Amy

    @Aaron I wouldn’t call it limiting. I’m a left dock person, so the dock isn’t an issue. It is weird, though, when dialogue boxes appear half on one screen and half on the other. It’s also weird when programs like Photoshop want to stretch across both monitors.

    Don’t let that discourage you, though. After having this setup for 3 months, I really am pleased with it. I’ll keep Email or iTunes open on my laptop and work off the top two monitors. Rather than having layers of windows, it does allow me to spread out.

  • aaron

    thanks for the reply amy, still considering it, slightly torn between the matrox and the vidock:

    although at the moment its more like my bank account thats torn smile

  • jamir

    Hi there Amy,

    Thanks for posting! Its really helpful! But to tell you the truth I’m still saving some $ for the setup since my house is not done yet for the constructions. Anyway, I’ll be back more often for more content of your great site and for this topic.


  • Alexander Rust

    Interesting article I must admit. I am planing on buying a new MacBook Pro and looking for a way to connect my two 22” Tfts to is. However I read that the the graphic chip is not capable of outputting a 3360*1050 signal needed for both displays running at their native resolution.
    On the net I only found somewhat controversial statements if the matrox devices would work with such a setup. Could you eventually contact me and provid

  • Amy

    @Alexander Rust In order to achieve the 3360 x 1050 resolution, I had to use the Mini Display to Dual DVI Adapter. The Mini Display to DVI won’t work. I already made that mistake!

    Let me know if you have any more questions or you need more information…

  • Tyler

    Err, so the macbook in the middle is hooked to the monitors? what about the other macbook?

  • Amy

    @Tyler, yes the MacBook pro in the middle is attached to the two monitors, in a T setup. The G4 to the right, is not hooked up to anything. I had some old files on there that I would grab as needed..