Can a MacBook Air run a large external display?
Can the latest MacBook Air handle a large external screen? Is the Air powerful enough? How is the response? Is there any flicker? To find out, we tested the new MacBook Air with the 27 inch Apple LED Cinema Display. See the video of the test for yourself.Can the MacBook Air Handle Big External Displays?
– The Short Answer
The new MacBook Air 11″ happily using a 27 inch Apple LED Cinema Display
The short answer is yes. The new MacBook Air ran the big, high resolution Apple LED Cinema Display without any sense of strain. Windows, images and videos moved on the monitor with fluidity and crispness.
From reports on the web, the Apple LED Cinema display may flicker with both the MacBook Air and Pro, when at a brightness below level 7. There doesn’t seem to be a fix yet.
For this article, we just did a quick test. To be completely sure the MacBook Air can drive your screen, please test your screen with a MacBook Air to your satisfaction before buying. Tests with other monitors, different applications, alternative cables and extended use may reveal more.
If this enough information for you? If so, please help share this article by clicking the Tweet or Google +1 buttons above. If you’d like more details, or to see video of the test, please read on.What If You Want a Cheaper External Display?
If you don’t want to spend $1,000 on an Apple Thunderbolt Display, I’ve written some tips for buying a cheap external display for MacBook Air. I’ve included the name of the brand & model I personally use – only $152 for a 23 inch full HD screen, as well as tips for using an external display, born from long experience.The Graphics Processor in the New MacBook Air
Before covering testing the MacBook Air with a big external display, it’s worth mentioning the graphics processor in the MacBook Air (MBA). The graphics processor in the MacBook Air is the Intel HD Graphics 3000. This HD 3000 graphics processor is actually part of the MBA’s Intel Core processor – they are a single silicon chip.
What sort of graphics performance can you expect? As a low cost graphics solution, the HD 3000 uses the Mac’s main memory, rather than dedicated graphics memory. Mid to high-end video cards use dedicated graphics RAM like GDDR5, because graphics RAM is much faster than the computer’s main memory. Specialized graphics memory provides the extraordinary performance needed to handle modern three dimensional (3D) graphics on big screens. There is a cost for this performance: fast graphics cards with dedicated memory use more of a laptop’s battery, generate heat, causing fans to run creating noise, add to the laptop’s size and cost more. These disadvantages – battery life, laptop size, fan noise from heat and cost are why the Air uses an integrated graphics processor.
The HD 3000 is fine for two dimensional graphics (2D) graphics, typical in web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, Photoshop, music production and basic video editing.
The HD 3000 handles high definition video playback – hence the HD in the name. I’ve only tested the MacBook Air with HD 720p resolution video. (Sorry: it was a quick test, the Air didn’t have any 1080p samples on it, and I didn’t have admin rights to install Flash to play a full HD video.)
The HD 3000 also does 3D graphics. The 3D graphics on the Air are only good enough for playing basic games or older games. If you are a gamer, do not buy a MacBook Air – graphics will not update quickly or smoothly for modern games. For gaming, the MacBook Air is the wrong tool for the job.
If you’re needing a more powerful graphics processor for 3D modelling, professional video editing, special effects production or gaming, buy a MacBook Pro instead. That’s what a MacBook Pro is for!The Setup for Testing the MacBook Air with a Large External Monitor
I tested connecting a high resolution external display to the new MacBook Air 11 inch mid-2011 model, with a Core i5 processor. I chose this model as it is smallest and least powerful of the new MacBook Air models, with a 1.6 GHz Core i5 processor. If this model can handle a big screen, the faster and larger variants of the MacBook Air (11″ i7, 13″ i5, 13″ i7) should have no problems.