How to: Get your 30-inch Apple Display to work with your new Mac Pro


What’s another $100 when you’ve already spent $10,000 on a Mac Pro, am I right?

Here’s another tip from my “this might only affect me but I’ll throw it out there anyway” department (and I suppose this could also be filed under “First-World-Problems” too)… So after over 2 months of waiting, I finally received my super cool Mac Pro, (12-core, 64GB Ram, AMD FirePro D700 etc.). I connected it to a crappy 21-inch DVI monitor I had laying around while setting it up, with plans to move it over to my 30-inch (DVI) Apple Cinema display once all my apps and plug-ins were up and running smoothly. Well, today was the big day for the switchover, and imagine my surprise when my super cool top-of-the-line Mac Pro looked like absolute crap on my 30-inch Apple cinema display.





For some reason, the monitor was stuck at a resolution of 1280 x 800, and would go no higher despite the display’s native 2560 x 1600 resolution. Everything looked pixelated and blurry. It reminded me of when I would need to help my Dad with some tech support issue on his iMac, and I would see he had his resolution set to 800 x 600 so he could read the text (from the moon, apparently). Apps like Microsoft Word would have drop down menus that he never saw or even knew existed because his resolution was set so low that it cut them off entirely.

Well, suspecting that there had to be a reason for this, I did a little sleuthing and it turns out the reason is the Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter I bought (for $30) for some reason isn’t powerful enough to connect the 30-inch Cinema Display to at full resolution. What I apparently needed to buy was the ($100) Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter. This adapter comes with a USB plug which I assume gives the adapter a little move juice so it can support the full 2560 x 1600 resolution. This is actually the FOURTH Mac Pro I have had hooked to this monitor, and I guess I didn’t realize my previous graphics cards all supported Dual Link DVI natively. I always thought the supported resolution of a monitor was dictated by the power of the graphics card, but it appears the limitation here is the super-lame, underpowered Mini DisplayPort technology Apple loves.


I have to say, while this doesn’t exactly shock me, it certainly does annoy me. As a long-time Apple user, I am used to them sacrificing features and performance for shrinking inches and millimeters off their products (even professional products where we couldn’t care less what it looked like on the outside) just so they look cool. Sadly, while this monitor worked FINE on the previous generation Mac Pro with a worse graphics card, connected directly by the ancient DVI technology, it wasn’t going to work on the new “garbage can” Mac Pro. While dropping DVI may have let Apple make the Mac Pro look cuter, the move to Mini Display port doesn’t seem to have any benefit to the end user aside from us being able to give Apple an extra $100 for an adapter.


And while all that Mac Pro shrinking looks great on their webpage, it quickly looks a lot LESS nice from the back with all the cool adapters (and I have more coming).


OK, rant over. Anyway, if you are having trouble connecting your new Mac Pro to your “old” nice monitor, odds are its because your Mini DisplayPort adapter is not expensive, er, Powerful enough.

(Oh, and btw, this computer is crazy fast. Other than this annoyance, I love it).

25 Responses to “How to: Get your 30-inch Apple Display to work with your new Mac Pro”
  1. Sam B says:

    That’s because (as you wrote yourself) one of the adapters is DVI, while the other is Dual Link DVI; essentially 2 DVI adapters in one. To get that super high resolution you have to have dual link. It’s not a flaw of the Thunderbolt/MiniDisplay port, is that the adapter you originally used didn’t support Dual Link DVI which the monitor requires. Just out of curiosity, it would be interesting to get a DVI-HDMI adapter ($2 probably) and connect it to the HDMI output on the back of the Mac Pro. I wonder if you’d max out at 1920×1080 resolution or if you’d get full resolution.

    • well, I admit to not understanding the technical reasons, but why did the old DVI port on my last Mac Pro work fine and the Mini DisplayPort does NOT, if it is not the Mini DisplayPort’s “fault”?
      Seems to me the MDP is not able to do what a DVI port can?
      – The Doc

      • Sam B says:

        The old DVI port on your last mac was actually a dual-link DVI port. And, for the sake of being pedantic, those aren’t actually MiniDP ports on your new Mac Pro, but Thunderbolt 2 ports, capable of 20Gbps throughput. It’s the teeny MiniDP to DVI adapter that’s the bottleneck. I’d still be curious about trying the HDMI port on the back, straight to DVI and see if it handles dual-link.

  2. xgenius says:

    Get off your high horse for a moment, “the limitation here is the super-lame, underpowered Mini DisplayPort technology Apple loves.”

    You are kidding me right? The 30 dollar adapter you had is mini DisplayPort to DVI. The 30″ Apple Cinema Display has a Dual Link DVI. Thus you need a special adapter to get it functional. The only shame is that that adaptor costs so much but as websites have proven again and again, Apple puts high quality design, materials, and components inside of their adapters.

    So be happy and if before you try to get page views simply for your ego, how about learning something ‘technical’ instead of hoping the internet community will pardon you for not being actually tech-savvy.

    • I agree I should have done my homework as to WHY it doesn’t work, but I doubt this is a “page view” grabbing article. In fact I would assume this issue affects very few people. My rant is towards the end of a non-inflamatory “how to” headline, so anyone googling why their display doesn’t work will have their answer before I start whining.
      – The Doc

  3. CapM says:

    well, technically it sort of IS the Mini DisplayPort’s fault, as all high-end Mac-compatible graphics cards with DVI have had Dual Link DVI built in for quite a long time, and Apple switching to all Mini DisplayPort means everyone NEEDS to shell out for the $100 adapter in order to keep using their dual link displays. I would think a lot of people either forgot this or never knew it as it just used to work.

  4. Sam B says:

    You have an SGI console?!?

  5. jonafer says:

    I, too had to buy this adapter to connect my 30 monitor to the latest MacBook Pro Retina. While it works well, I am getting lots of horizontal “snow” lines (mixture of white and red) whenever the screen shows a solid black background. Also, another weird thing, this adapter only works using the thunderbolt port next to the USB, not the other one (closer to the power) if you want the native resolution. Thanks for sharing this info.

  6. Matthew says:

    It is extremely well documented that the 30″ ACD requires dual-link DVI. However, for those with a 30″ ACD who didn’t realize this, I think your post might be something that comes up when they google. Here’s the Apple support page:

  7. Ken says:

    I just hooked up the same display at work and had the same problem. A quick google search and found your solution. Thanks for posting.

  8. Tim says:

    Weird question, but, what is your wallpaper? It looks like the Iron Giant or something, but I’m not sure. I like it!

    Awesome article, too. I’ll be getting my new Mac Pro in several weeks, and was not aware of this!

  9. John Vidale says:

    Thanks for posting this. A damned nuisance that Mac cut this corner.

  10. Tim says:

    Awesome, thanks!

  11. 0x00 says:

    Anyone seen an adapter that actualky works? The apple products are legendary for not working even after three iterations.iI just tried a Kanex, web searches suggested it had the highest chance of working acceptably (evenif not perfect) and it did not. Dropped connections more than once a minute. Same story as the apple adapter. Would love to find a working mdp to dual link solution…otherwise acd only useful with desktops with dl cards

  12. Matt says:

    Hi, thanks for this article!
    I have excitedly connected the 30in display to a new mac pro. The display is looking great, but none of the ports on the back of the display are working (USB, Firewire). There are two plugs that are currently not plugged in to anything, perhaps that’s the problem… Here’s what I’ve done: The big fat cable that comes out of the back of the display, it ends with 4 plugs: 1 plugged into the display’s big power brick thing, and I have plugged the screw-in plug into the adapter. I am not sure what to do with the remaining two plugs (USB&Firewire) that are part of the display cable. Should I plug them in somewhere? Note: The adapter (Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter) ends with two plugs and I have plugged those into the Mac Pro.

    Sorry for the extra-detailed description!, but if you can offer some help, I’d really appreciate it! I’d love to get the use of the ports on the rear of display. Keep up the interesting articles!

    • Well the Firewire won’t work (without a firewire to Thunderbolt adapter), but there should be a USB plug on the Dual Link DVI Adapter. Plug the USB coming FROM your monitor into that and the USB should work. I am typing on my USB Apple keyboard connected to MY monitor…
      – The Doc

      • Matt says:

        Hi Dr. Macenstein:) Thanks for your reply. I tried the following: I shut down the Mac Pro, then I connected the USB plug on the display’s cable to the USB port on the adapter. Then, I started the computer, the computer came on but the display stayed completely dark. When I pulled the USB out of the adapter the display came on! It’s quite a mystery to me…

  13. Matt says:

    Hi Dr. Macenstein:) Thanks for your reply. I tried the following: I shut down the Mac Pro, then I connected the USB plug on the display’s cable to the USB port on the adapter. Then, I started the computer, the computer came on but the display stayed completely dark. When I pulled the USB out of the adapter the display came on! It’s quite a mystery to me…

  14. Yngve says:

    Do you know if its possible to hook up two Apple 30″ monitors to the new MacPro at the same time? To have dual monitors side by side at the same time with share desktop space?

  15. Mie says:


    Thanks for a great article. It was very helpful to me, and also all the replies to you.

    I have the same MacPro as you and the 30″ Apple Cinema Display. A year ago I bought this adopter to connect the display to a Lenovo computer:

    and there was no problem in that.

    Now with the new MacPro, I’ve use the same adapter, but I experience some black outs once in a while when I’m working. The display goes black for a few seconds, and then it comes back. It’s a little annoying, and I have tried searching the problem, and that is how I found your article.

    My question to you is, with the adopter from apple, do you experience these black outs? The apple adapter:

    Again, thanks for a great article. I’m looking forward to your reply.

    – Mie

  16. Tony says:

    Hi I have a questions. I have an old 2008 imac I want to connect to my 30″ apple monitor. I do have the apple DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter. It worked fine on my mac laptop. The problem is that my imac does not have a display port, it uses a mini dv port. Since I cant find an adapter of any kind, I used a DVI to mini DV connector from the monitor to the computer. The 30 inch monitor wont display full resolution.

    I am lost here.

  17. Sime says:

    Not sure if it’s worth $119AUD to buy one of these adaptors most ratings are 1 star on the apple site – I can’t find any in store anywhere in Melbourne, Aus. For the money I’d be better off selling the 30″ & getting a new 4k monitor and if need be a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI connector.

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