Are Macs Compatible with Any Monitor?

So you’re looking to buy a full-size monitor for your new Mac and you’re wondering if MAcs are compatible with any monitor. The good news is most monitors will work on the new Macs.

But there are some common issues with connecting a monitor to a Mac that you should know about. It’s not as straightforward as you think and you will likely need to buy a dongle or adapter. This article will make it easier for you to find a compatible monitor for your new Mac.

While most monitors are compatible with Macs, even 4K monitors, the problem is not all Macs have HDMI ports. The only Mac that has an HDMI port is the Mac Mini which we will talk about later on.

What You Need to Connect a Mac to a Monitor:

The 2020 MacBook Air and 2020 MacBook Pro do not have HDMI ports. The reason for that is Apple prefers Thunderbolt 3 ports which are arguably better because it supports expansion dongles. Most of the Thunderbolt 3 USB ports support video output.

To connect a Mac to a monitor you need to buy an expansion dongle that has a video output port that matches your monitor. Most USB-C hubs or dongles that have an HDMI port should be compatible with your Mac.

You can find Mac-compatible dongles that support all the common video output ports; VGA, HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort. Insert the dongle into a spare Thunderbolt 3 port, plug your monitor into the HDMI port on the dongle, and the monitor should receive a video signal.

The Mac Mini is an exception because it comes with an HDMI port. The tech details are slightly different for each Mac, so it’s a good idea to check the Tech Specs for your specific model.

How Many Monitors Can You Connect to a Mac?

The MacBook Air and Pro both only officially support one external display connected to a dongle via one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports. To connect additional monitors to your Mac, consider using a docking station.

What Monitor Resolutions Do Macs Support?

The new Macs can support a single display with a 5K resolution at 60 Hz. Macs can also support two external 4K 60 Hz displays at the same time.

Mac Mini:

The Mac Mini includes a single HDMI 2.0 port. HDMI 2.0 is also backward compatible with other versions of HDMI, so you can use almost any HDMI monitor with a Mac Mini. The Mac Mini is the only Mac that has an HDMI port. The good news is the Mac Mini also has two Thunderbolt ports for one additional display (no docking station required).

Connecting a Wireless Display to a Mac:

You can connect a wireless display to a Mac but it needs to support AirPlay. Some TVs have AirPlay built-in, but you may need to buy an AirPlay-compatible device, such as the Apple TV, to stream your Mac to the display.

You can also wirelessly stream your Mac desktop to a Chromecast connected to a TV or other display. Remember, the performance will depend on the speed of your Wifi connection, and both your Mac and casting device need to be connected to the same Wifi network.

Do Macs Support HDR?

Yes. All of the 2018 and newer Macs (Pro, Air, Mini, Apple TV) support HDR 10 on their built-in displays. If you don’t see the option on your Mac, either it’s too old or you’re not running the latest macOS. HDR could also be disabled.

Enable HDR on Macs:

To enable HDR on a Mac, open System Preferences, and under Displays, you will see an option to enable High Dynamic Range (HDR). The option will only be there when an external display that supports HDR is connected.

The MacBook Air does not support HDR to an external display when using DisplayPort but it does with HDMI. The MacBook Pro supports HDR on all external displays. To see if your Mac has HDR, visit Apple’s HDR support page.

Mac Won’t Connect to Monitor:

If your Mac won’t recognize an external monitor, here are some possible solutions.

1 – Update & Software Related

There are lots of reports from people who updated their Macs to Big Sur 11.1 the external monitors stopped working. If your monitors stopped working after an update, chances are you’ll have to wait for a new update to fix it. Common issues are the monitors not being recognized or the resolution and refresh rate being lowered.

For some people, upgrading to 11.3 fixed the video output issues, but others still struggle with them. The good news is that your monitor and Mac are probably not broken. It’s mostly a software issue, and you’ll have to wait for an update. To confirm, I would test the monitors with a different device.

2 – Try a Different Thunderbolt Hub

If your Mac does not connect to your monitor, the issue could be with your Thunderbolt hub. First, try disconnecting it and all attached devices and then try a different Thunderbolt port.

If the problem persists, your best option would be to buy a new Thunderbolt adapter. It’s also a good idea to try a cable instead of a hub, such as a Thunderbolt to HDMI cable.

You could also try disconnecting the hub, powering down the Mac, and then reconnecting the hub when it powers on.

3 – Turn Off Monitor, Reconnect all Cables

For some people, turning off the monitor, and disconnecting and reconnecting all the cables helped the Mac detect the display.

4 – Install SwitchResX

SwitchResX is a shareware program that helps you configure display settings on your Mac. In some cases, it can help force your Mac to recognize the connected display. It’s worth a shot.

5 – Display Not Wake Up

If your external display does not power on when you’re Mac is on, reconnect it when your Mac is fully powered on. Disabling sleep mode on your Mac can help with these issues too.


Almost every monitor is compatible with Macs, but you might run into display issues caused by software or third-party dongles. Unfortunately, the M1 Macs have some issues with external monitors.

There doesn’t seem to be a solution other than wait for an update. It seems like the Mac Mini has fewer display issues because it has a dedicated HDMI port and doesn’t require Thunderbolt hubs.

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