Dear Lifehacker, I am looking to buy a new extra screen for my MacBook Pro for university. However, on my student budget I cannot afford a screen from Apple. So I am looking for a cheaper option. What would you suggest? And how do you get USB ports working on a non-Mac screen if you hook up your MacBook Pro with a DVI? Thanks, Screen Student
Hi Screen Student,
Connecting a Mac to an external monitor is pretty easy and definitely does not require an Apple-specific solution.
First, you’ll need the correct adaptor cable for your MacBook Pro. Depending on the vintage of your machine, you’ll need either a mini DVI or mini DisplayPort connector to DVI, assuming you’re not looking at an older VGA/D-SUB connection.
With monitors, you’ll find some cheap options. We recently picked up a 27-inch model for the office for under $400 but the compromise is that the screen resolution was just 1920 by 1080. If you go for Apple’s $999 LED Cinema Display you get a resolution of 2560 by 1440, three USB 2.0 ports, a built-in iSight camera, microphone and 49-watt speaker system.
Those specs aren’t specific to Apple. If you look at some of the other manufacturers you’ll find similar specs at lower prices. You won’t get the Apple look but you can get the same functionality at a lower price.
The Mac screens don’t deliver USB over the DVI connection. The newer Apple displays have a cable loom with the power, USB and DVI or mini DisplayPort connectors. When it’s connected to your MacBook Pro there are actually three connections you make.
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