How to Connect the New MacBook to an Apple LED Cinema Display

How to Connect the New MacBook to an Apple LED Cinema Display

How to connect a new MacBook to an Apple LED Cinema Display

Based on the number of people who have reached out and wish to connect them to a USB-C enabled MacBook, I have to think Apple distributed at least hundreds of thousands of its two Apple LED Cinema Displays (24-inch, 2008 to 2010, and 27-inch, 2010 to 2013).

I bought a few adapters and cables that can transform the LED Cinema Display’s Mini DisplayPort (not Thunderbolt) into something that can pass over USB-C in a compatible chain, allowing you to connect to a MacBook with USB-C. Three economical and realistic solutions, as well as a reasonable option for a full-featured USB-C dock that only requires a simple adaptor, emerged from my tests.

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Apple’s displays came in three generations: the first utilised DVI (single-link and dual-link), the second Mini DisplayPort, and the third Thunderbolt 2. Even though both standards use the same connector type, I’m interested in the second connector type, Mini DisplayPort, which is separate from Thunderbolt 2. (There are some DVI alternatives, but we chose not to test them due to the tiny number, poor display quality, and age of those that are still useable.)

Apple’s Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adaptor, which includes the Apple LED Cinema Display, does not function with DisplayPort and Mini DisplayPort displays.

While there are a variety of USB-C docks that accept external video, nearly all of them only have an HDMI port, and there isn’t a female Mini-DisplayPort to male HDMI adapter available, for example. (Don’t make the common error of ordering a male Mini-DisplayPort to female HDMI converter.)

I looked for prospective adapters on Amazon, product maker websites, and other merchants, read reviews, and chose four to try. Because some of the adapters I tried go in and out of supply quickly, I’ve included a couple alternatives.

To cut to the chase, the UPTab USB-C to Mini-DisplayPort adapter is the clear victor in terms of features. What is its hidden weapon? A USB-C power jack that can be passed through.


  • 4K@60Hz UPTab USB-C Type C to Mini DisplayPort Adapter UPTab USB-C Type C to Mini DisplayPort Adapter UPTab USB-C Type C to Mini Display
  • 4K@60Hz UPTab USB-C Type C to Mini DisplayPort Adapter UPTab USB-C Type C to Mini DisplayPort Adapter UPTab USB-C Type C to Mini Display

If you’re looking for a full-scale USB-C dock, the CalDigit USB-C Dock is a good option. It features both HDMI and full-sized DisplayPort ports, and it just requires a sub-$10 Mini-DisplayPort female to full-sized DisplayPort male adapter to work with an LED Cinema Display, which I detail below and in a separate review.

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The drawbacks

With the Apple LED Cinema Display, not everything works perfectly via USB-C, but it’s a near match. I put the model through its paces on a 27-inch screen.

With the goods tested, simply plugging in a Mini DisplayPort adapter yields the following:

External 1440p display (25601440 pixel resolution)

External audio via the display’s speakers, as well as laptop-based audio volume control

The USB 2.0 connectors on the rear of the display receive power (but not data).

When linked through the CalDigit dock, the main flaw appears to be a little line of missing pixels in the upper right corner of the display, but it’s almost invisible.

The only things missing are brightness and USB 2.0 data passthrough. The default brightness setting was not annoying or glaring for me, but that is a highly personal opinion.

After connecting the monitor’s USB Type-A connection with a USB-C to Type-A adapter, you may manage brightness using a keyboard, Touch Bar, or Displays system preference pane, as well as plug in a keyboard, mouse, and other low-data-speed devices.

A built-in iSight (640480 pixel resolution) camera and microphone are enabled by plugging in USB, which are redundant to a Mac laptop’s mic and FaceTime functionality.

Using USB 2.0 on a MacBook Pro requires sacrificing two ports in exchange for brightness and other features: one for the Mini-DisplayPort adapter and one for a USB plug. If you use a USB-C hub or dock with several Type-A connections, however, you can avoid this issue.

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