How to Use Dual Monitors with an M3 MacBook Air

Two MacBook Airs

The new M3-powered MacBook Air supports two external monitors — when the lid is closed. Here's what to expect when using clamshell mode.

Apple's flip phone mode has been around for a very long time. In short, clamshell mode allows the user to connect an external display and close the lid. Depending on the user's choice, the main display is usually displayed on an external monitor.

On the MacBook Air M1 and M2, you could only have one external display, regardless of the position of the lid. This way, when you close the lid, you will transfer the internal mirror display to the external one without the possibility of installing a second external display.

Things are a little different with the new M3-powered MacBook Air. Instead of being limited to one external display and mirroring the main display, you can have two external work surfaces with the lid closed.

As with computers that support multiple displays, you will still have to select one display as your primary display in the Displays control panel. This display will still mirror your main display and desktop.

Notably, this is only available on the MacBook Air M3. The 14-inch MacBook Pro Core M3 does not have this feature.

Monitor resolution support on MacBook Air with M3

As it stands, MacBook Air with M3 can support the full native resolution on the built-in display (2560 x 1664) when paired with an external 6K display that refreshes at 60Hz. In clamshell mode, the internal display is disabled and can be replaced by a 5K display that refreshes at up to 60Hz.

So, a MacBook Air with an M3 processor will not support two Pro Display XDR units, but will support one. We don't think two 6K displays are a common desire for MacBook Air owners, given the cost difference of two displays compared to one MacBook Air — but you never know.

And, of course, all external monitors must be connected via Thunderbolt. To do this, we recommend using a Thunderbolt dock that provides power and a single cable connection for both monitors and all peripherals to your MacBook Air.

This opens up some new uses for the Apple Silicon MacBook Air

This support is coming out beyond just workspaces. Most professional drawing tablets rely on external video to function properly, and this will allow a MacBook Air user to have a large display and use this tablet at the same time.

It will also be useful for people who need a teleprompter, such as El Gato's new device.

Apple has not yet updated its documentation to support the new MacBook Air clamshell mode. If there are any notable changes beyond what we have here, we will update accordingly.

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