MacBook Pro to Support Multi-Screen without Processor?

Thanks to Aaron Laird (a member of our community on Twitter) we learned yesterday that Apple’s new Retina MacBook Pro has the capabilities to support 4 simultaneous Display outputs. This is good news for all of you who are using multi-screen or considering going to it. This could mean less machines, less operators, less processors and ultimately less stress!

In this picture below, (posted by Other World Computing) you can see the laptop is powering three external outputs without any processors or in-between signal modifiers. OWC notes that during the test, the video “didn’t create any lag” and were able to play media on all the displays at the same time. Incredible!

Apple has also updated their support documents to note three outputs from the new Retina Macbook Pro. Which confirms it is not something that is hacked.

As seen above, the laptop is outputting one cinema display from Thunderbolt, another from DisplayPort/Tunderbolt and the third from the HDMI port on the other side of the computer. You should be able to find all three plugs into the laptop.


Potential capability: 

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In theory you can do a triple wide video wall without a processor (like the Matrox TripleHead2Go). However at this time ProPresenter, MediaShout, Easy Worship and most other softwares cannot span multiple video card outputs. Which is why the TripleHead and other devices like it are still worth considering.

This setup above is three separate video cards, which would mean that you would need three separate output modules from your playback software. There are very few software options out there that support outputting over multiple video cards and often are more complex with a higher price tag.


If our friends at ProPresenter happen to be reading this… we are expecting this as a feature SOON! 🙂


So what does this mean for us? And for the future?

This is a baby step toward one computer running multiple displays without a single processor. In theory we would be able to output the above video wall from one laptop if the processing existed.

This also may mean that we can possibly run two softwares at the same time for different outputs. For example, lets say that you want to do a triplehead2go out of one Thunderbolt for Environmental Projection running a software like ProVideoPlayer and on the other thunderbolt you provide an output for your main screens (lyrics, video playback, graphics) from a software like ProPresenter. I am not sure if this is possible now, but it may mean simpler systems in the future.

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From a mere output standpoint if you took these three outputs and hook up three DataPath x4’s you could have the possibility of doing 12 outputs. In the example that we showed of OWC, they were processing 15+ million pixels. If you were to do 12x 1280×720 televisions merged, that would only be 11 million pixels. Well under the test conducted by OWC. (above picture is 12 televisions)

You would however need 12 screens/projectors or TVs.


Has anyone bought the Retina MacBook Pro and can you try the multiple software concept?

Luke McElroy

Author Luke McElroy

Luke McElroy is the founder of Orange Thread Media, the parent company to TripleWide Media, SALT Conferences and Orange Thread LIVE. He is the author of The Wide Guide: Blueprint for the Multiscreen Movement. Hailed as one of the “top innovators for worship” by Worship Leader Magazine in 2013, Luke’s leadership has helped create powerful worship environments for thousands of Church communities throughout the entire world. He currently lives in Nashville, TN and regularly writes about creativity, leadership and faith at 

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Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • markmanley says:

    I hope the Renewed Vision team is dreaming! I know I am!

    • triplewidemedia says:

      I am with you! Although Nick Rivero and I were talking last night about this and he reminded me that VDMX can support outputting through a triple head or Datapath with all three outputs right now. That software can span various video cards. 

      The unfortunate part is that there is quite a learning curve. 

  • Actually…could you do this numerically in the display setup? Set the resolutions of the second, third, and fourth monitors then just set the display in ProP to 2400×600?

    • triplewidemedia says:

      Well in some softwares you can do this, but with ProPresenter it will only output through a single video card. Which means you have to use a TripleHead2Go or something like that to trick the software to think that the three screens you are using is one canvas. 

      There could be some play room here if we could modify the stage display output. But the issue is in the processing of the software. Maybe someone from RV can add to this discussion 🙂 

  • Chris Rouse says:

     I’d like to see this work just so I can setup 12 monitors and use that image of the stealth bomber.

  • Fraser Hess says:

    I can’t speak for my competitive brethren but Harmony can span multiple displays, however it takes a bit of manual setup right now. It will be made easier in our next major release.

    • This is great Fraser and glad that Harmony is trying to keep on the cutting edge. I don’t think it will be long until most machines have multiple outputs. The power of the machines is there! 

  • Nicholasrivero says:

    Yeah, apps like VDMX and GrandVJ allow you to span your visual output across many physical outputs. It allows you to easily map video to different outputs with different resolutions. It definitely will open up the possibility of doing two or three outputs without the need for a dual or triple head but also the idea of doing two or three triple heads/data paths on one machine. The shear number of pixels is becoming less and less of an issue to deal with these days, that I’m sure it will be lesser of a concern. There definitely is a greater learning curve to doing something like this versus other software solutions.

  • Fraser Hess says:

    It should also be pointed out that the new MacBook Air supports 2 external displays with the right Thunderbolt hardware and a software update

  • stephen proctor says:

    2 areas of wonder:
    1) I wonder if we’ll ever see Thunderbolt projectors which can be linked (& not simply daisy-chained/mirrored).
    2) I wonder if PVP 2 will be able to handle what we’re talking about.


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