To answer the question of how many external displays can one connect to their Apple M1, M1 Pro or M1 Max based systems, we completed the research necessary and present our findings here.
Depending on your chosen system, here is how many displays you can connect including the native built-in display and sidecar with an iPad Pro if you have one.
How Many Displays Can You Connect to an iMac of MacBook based on Apple M1 Chip?
The quick answer is 2 if you don’t count a sidecar with an Apple iPad Pro. Two also includes the built-in display if there is one such as the iMac 24 2021, MacBook Air M1 2020 and MacBook Pro 13 M1 2020. The only M1 system that doesn’t come with its own display is the Mac mini M1 2020. Even so, the mini only supports 2 external displays. That’s one up to 6K resolution display at 60Hz via Thunderbolt USB-C port and one up to 4K resolution display at 60Hz via HDMI2.0 port. As for the iMac and MacBooks (13 and Air), it will only support one external display up to 6K resolution at 60Hz. The other display is its built-in display which will run at its native resolution.
iPad Pro as an extended desktop with Sidecar
The third external display you can add is to take advantage of the iPad Pro’s capability to work as an extended desktop, a feature called Sidecar. This requires the device to be signed in to the same Apple iCloud account and have both Bluetooth and WiFi enabled on the system and the tablet. To sum it up M1 systems support up to 2 display (including built-in display on MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13 and iMac 24). A third ‘display’ can be added in the form of an iPad Pro preferably the 12.9-inch version using Sidecar.
|Mac Mini M1 (2020)||MacBook Air M1 (2020)||MacBook Pro 13 M1 (2020)||iMac 24 M1 (2021)|
|GPU Cores||8 core||7 or 8 core||8 core||9 core|
|Display 1||1 x 6K 60Hz via Thunderbolt 3||Built-in display: 13.3″ 2560 x 1600, 227ppi||Built-in display: 13.3″ 2560 x 1600, 227ppi||Built in display: 24-inch 4480 x 2520, 218ppi|
|Display 2||1 x 4K 60Hz via HDMI 2.0||1 x 6K 60Hz via Thundrebolt 3||1 x 6K 60Hz via Thunderbolt 3||1 x 6K 60Hz via Thunderbolt 3|
|Display 3||1 x Sidecar via iPad Pro||1 x Sidecar via iPad Pro||1 x Sidecar via iPad Pro||1 x Sidecar via iPad Pro|
|Total Ext Displays (excl. Sidecar)||2 (2 external)||2 (1 internal, 1 external)||2 (1 internal, 1 external)||2 (1 internal, 1 external)|
|Total (incl. Sidecar)||3||3||3||3|
How Many Displays Can You Connect to MacBook Pro 14/16 based on Apple M1 Pro and M1 Max Chip?
Next we have the task of determining how many displays the new MacBook Pro 14 and 16 supports. These all new generation laptops launched in 2021 see the return of more connectivity ports including MagSafe 3 power port, USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports x 3, HDMI 2.0, SDXC card slot and headphone jack, see image below. As you might guess from the number of rows in the table above, these laptops can support up to 6 displays.
Maximum number of supported displays on MacBook Pro 14 or 16 powered by Apple M1 Pro chip
Thanks to the increased number of CPU and GPU cores, the MacBook Pro 14 and 16 based on Apple M1 Pro or Apple M1 Max chip overcomes the limitation face by the M1. It can now support more than 2 displays. If your MacBook Pro 14 or 16 is powered by the Apple M1 Pro chip, it can support up to 4 displays. That’s one internal built-in display, two external displays up to 6K resolution at 60 Hz via USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports and one Sidecar if you happen to be a proud owner of an iPad Pro (generation applies). In physical terms, without the use of Sidecar, the system itself supports up to 3 displays (including on board monitor).
Maximum number of supported displays on MacBook Pro 14 or 16 powered by Apple M1 Max chip
If the MacBook Pro 14 or 16 is powered by the Apple M1 Max chip, the number of displays supported goes up to a whooping 6. From that, one is the internal built-in display, three are external displays up to 6K resolution at 60Hz connected via USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, one up to 4K resolution at 60Hz connected via HDMI2.0 port and lastly the iPad Pro as an extended display via Sidecar. In physical terms, without the use of Sidecar, the system itself supports up to 5 displays (including on board monitor). See table below for summary.
|MacBook Pro 14/16 M1 Pro (2021)||MacBook Pro 14/16 M1 Pro (2021)|
|GPU Cores||up to 16||up to 32|
|Display 1||Built-in display: 14.2″ 3024 x 1964, 254ppi||Built-in display: 16.2″ 3456×234, 254ppi|
|Display 2||1 x 6K 60Hz via Thunderbolt 4||1 x 6K 60Hz via Thunderbolt 4|
|Display 3||1 x 6K 60Hz via Thunderbolt 4||1 x 6K 60Hz via Thunderbolt 4|
|Display 4||1 x Sidecar via iPad Pro||1 x 6K 60Hz via Thunderbolt 4|
|Display 5||1 x 4K 60Hz via HDMI|
|Display 6||1 x Sidecar via iPad Pro|
|Total Ext Displays (excl. Sidecar)||3 (1 internal, 2 external)||5 (1 internal, 4 external)|
|Total (incl. Sidecar)||4||6|
Apple will have you buy the Pro Display XDRs 6K resolution displays to go with the Thunderbolt USB-C ports that support Digital Video output. But as we are not all printing money, you can choose your own 4K, 5K or 6K alternatives. If however, you are the luck ones with the dough to spare, the M1 Max system supports up to 3 Pro Displays XDRs and one 4K TV while the M1 Pro system supports up to 2 Pro Displays XDRs. For the latter, you can trade one of those for a 4K TV.