Yes, everything awful you’ve heard about these adapters is true. They don’t really work right, under Mac OS X. The strange thing is that those who’ve turned their Mac Minis into either Windows XP or Linux rigs do not have trouble with the adapter. So it’s not really hardware related. A bit embarassing that the Apple engineers can’t get their own gear working. Another senior engineer transferred to the iPhone video driver department?
Here’s what recent reviews on Apple’s own store say (just two of two hundred):
Flicker two or three times a day – GM, Dec. 9
I am a totally MAC fan. I love their stuff. It is always quality. This thing is awful. I depend on my monitor as I do a lot of photo work. I had an older macbook pro which had the DVI output. Ok, so I have buy a 100 adapter now, I am sort of ok with that. Then I find it takes up one of my USB ports as well. A little less happy, but give me a product that works. Now this… Two or three times a day I need to cycle this thing. Very poor. I really hope they fix this.
bad, bad, bad – VC, Dec. 9
This thing is junk. Sadly I have to re boot or put my computer to sleep at least three or four times a day because it goes out and comes back with the dreaded TV Snow we all hated as kids when the cable went out. Apple should have gotten this right by now. As a consumer and big spender on apple product I’m disappointed again. Windows 7 anyone? (Joke) Is Apple listening?
Straight out of the box with 10.5.6 and without SuperDrive EFI update 3.0 and Performance Update 1.0, the issues were extreme. Flickering every few minutes, with the screen lost in blurry double vision every half hour or so.
The only cure was to unplug the MiniDisplayport and replug it. Absurd remedy.
The adapter was on the fast track back to the store at that point.
The next step was to do some research about what is and what is not working. I updated everything to the most recent versions. It took about 4 cycles to get everything updates, but most of the changes were with iLife and iLife applications and Digital Raw compatibility. That was a good start. But there was one more step to go for success.
I’m on firmware 1.01. There is a 1.02 out there but apparently it can slow down response time for the screen. In this case, the cure might be worse than the disease. In any case the 1.02 firmware is not available for download.
The final step was to delete a couple of lurking preference files:
- Library —> Preferences —> com.apple.windowserver.plist (I don’t know why)
- User —> Library —> Preferences —> ByHost —> com.apple.windowserver.xxxxx.plist
Afterwards, you should the PRAM (Command-Option-P-R and reboot). Which I did, several times (I recommend keeping at least one Apple keyboard around for this sort of troubleshooting: I had to pull mine out of the closet). Often a single PRAM reset won’t ferret out all of the lurking settings.
Immediately afterwards, the issues were far less. I could even turn my HP LP3065 display on and off without getting a fuzzy distorted picture. That’s gone now and I get the fuzz whether I switch off the monitor and turn it on again or switch between displays. During work, the adapter works pretty consistently.
- unplug and replug MiniDisplay connector
- unplug and replug USB jack
- put the computer to sleep and wake it up
All of those are a hassle and involve hands leaving keyboards searching for small plugs (there’s a good chance you’ll knock Apple’s magnetic power plug loose) or long waits.
But you don’t need to go so far. There’s a trick which makes the issues just bearable. Just sleeping the screen is enough.
There are two easy ways to sleep the display:
- press Shift-Control-Eject. Your display will turn off and your hands don’t even need to leave the keyboard. If you use an Apple keyboard as your primary keyboard, this is the easiest and fastest.
- If you don’t use an Apple keyboard, there is a way around it. Go into System Preferences —> Exposé and Spaces —> Exposé and set the lower left corner to Sleep Display. I chose the lower left corner as it’s the one I visit least and it’s never too far out of the way.
After you’ve slept the display, you can almost immediately just move the mouse to wake it up. The work interruption isn’t more than a few seconds. Not exactly productive but a lot better than reaching for the plugs on the back of your computer.
The biggest time saver: if you think that you will be able to make this work perfectly yourself, give it up. I’ve even tried plugging the Dual DVI MiniDisplayport adapter’s USB connector into another USB hub. No better results. Perhaps it would help with a laptop. But on a Mac Mini do plug in the USB connector to the USB plug farthest away from the MiniDisplayport.
If you are thinking about buying alternative hardware, forget it. You’ll need a male MiniDisplayport cable to female DisplayPort (1,2). That didn’t exist a couple of months ago but exists now. But from there you’ll need DisplayPort to Dual DVI. Dell has one but it also costs $100/€100 and also requires USB power. I.e. it looks like it wll cost more and be more complicated (extra MiniDisplayport to DisplayPort adapter).
If you are shopping for a new 30″ monitor to use with Apple computers, I highly recommend buying one of those which comes with displayport in. Currently the Dell UltraSharp 3008WFP looks like the only one. Samsung announced in 2007 but didn’t deliver: their 305T is still Dual DVI.
Personally, I find it incredible that Apple can’t or won’t fix this problem for their 30″ monitor users. It makes them look incompetent and I’m sure it’s costing them a lot of sales (I didn’t buy one of their high end notebooks as a consequence). I’m an old Mac hand so I was able to find the resources necessary to get this issue partially under control. It took hours, as if I were on Windows. What a new Mac user would feel, I can hardly imagine.
If all of the above prevents you from buying a Mac Mini or a Macbook Pro, so be it. If you do want to go Apple (and we do), plan to avoid going with 30″ monitors or buy Dell until this adapter issue is fixed.