The USB adapter claims to quadruple support for M2 and M1 Mac monitors

The USB adapter claims to quadruple support for M2 and M1 Mac monitors
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Enlarge / Plugable claims its latest adapter lets you connect four monitors to Macs.

Dock maker Plugable says it’s found a way to increase the number of supported external monitors for M1- and M2-based Macs. While Apple says Macs with these chips can only support one or two external monitors, the new USB-to-HDMI adapter from Redmond, Wash.-based Plugable claims support for up to four monitors.

Therefore Applethe Mac Mini, which features Apple’s M1 processor, can support up to two monitors. However, all other M1 and M2-based devices are limited to an external display.

Plugable seems to address this limitation and has its USB-C or USB 3.0 to Quad HDMI adapter (USBC-768H4) on Tuesday and says it supports up to four monitors over HDMI, including for M1 and M2 Macs. The adapter requires you to be using Windows 10 or macOS 11 and later.

There is built-in storage for the USB-C to USB-A adapter and no power brick.
Enlarge / There is built-in storage for the USB-C to USB-A adapter and no power brick.

plugables Notice said that the adapter is able to increase M1 and M2 monitor support because it doesn’t rely on alt mode. Instead, the adapter leverages a chipset silicon movementknown for manufacturing NAND flash controllers for SSDs, as well as a software driver.

For Windows users, the driver will be updated automatically, Plugable said. Mac users, meanwhile, will need to download Silicon Motion’s InstantView app. According to Silicon Motion, the app supports enhanced and mirrored viewing in macOS.

“Each time a dock is connected, it automatically allows the monitor to display the laptop screen without user interaction,” says Silicon Motion Instant View website says. Other products that use InstantView are docks from acceleration and Wavelink.

Of course, there are limitations with Plugable’s adapter.

For one thing, Apple doesn’t officially support this product, and its support page for connecting monitors to Macs states that “using docks or daisy-chaining devices doesn’t increase the number of displays you can connect” to the M1 – or M2 Macs. So we wouldn’t be surprised if you hit road bumps controlling four monitors from one of these Macs.

And don’t expect to create a pixel paradise full of high-resolution screens. Each of the four monitors connected via HDMI is limited to a resolution of 1920 x 1080 at a refresh rate of 60 Hz. Even when all ports are used, Mac users are limited to as many pixels as a single 4K display.

However, Windows users get a little more. By adding two adapters to the Quad HDMI Adapter, you can add up to eight monitors to a Windows PC, Plugable says.

We’ve seen products claiming to support adding a 4K monitor and another display to an M1 Mac, including Anker’s 563 USB-C docking station and Docks by Plugable. But 4K will likely be limited to 30Hz.

It’s also worth noting that Plugable’s dock doesn’t support DisplayLink. And the vendor lowers expectations while covering itself by saying the adapter isn’t meant for “gaming, graphics-intensive, or design work,” without going into the specifics of what that means.

Finally, the adapter won’t let you play HDCP-protected content, Plugable says.

Despite its limitations, Plugable’s adapter still claims to be an easy way to increase display count, which will appeal to basic multi-monitor setups and especially M1 and M2 users. The Quad HDMI adapter goes for $120.

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