This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
MacBook Air running a 4K display with Thunderbolt / DisplayPort
I wanted to see if the MacBook Air was capable of showing 4K video despite its alleged-older design. The MacBook Air can handle a 4K display with an inexpensive Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort 1.2 cable.
People who diss the MacBook Air ignore that Apple has continuously updated the design. The 2016 model has 8 GB of RAM, faster SSD drives and a Thunderbolt 2 port. It still is ultralight which is what I like. My daughter has a MacBook Pro and it’s too heavy for my tastes.
The Thunderbolt 2 port handles the external 4K display, which are usually 24 to 32&Prime. A 4K screen on a 13&Prime laptop is just plain silly. Dell has a few models that do that and you can’t read the tiny text. All that resolution is wasted.
Unlike the new 1-port 12&Prime Retina MacBook, the MacBook Air has 2 USB ports, an SDHC memory card slot and a Thunderbolt 2 port.
Reading the fine print I discovered that the Thunderbolt 2 port is plug compatible with a mini Display Port. It delivers 4K video if the cable used is DisplayPort 1.2 compatible.
While that sounds simple, it’s not. Older DisplayPort 1.1 cables only carry 2K video. Thanks to a user review on Amazon.com I found the exact cable you need – Accell B143B-007J UltraAV Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort 1.2. The cable also comes in a 3.3 length.
I suggest you follow the link since there are many cables not compatible with DisplayPort 1.2 4K video.
I already had the ASUS BP287Q 4K monitor, which is awesome. All I had to do was plug the little end of the cord into the Thunderbolt 2 port on the MBA and the larger DisplayPort 1.2 end into the ASUS monitor.
Read my review ASUS PB287Q 4K Monitor At A Reasonable Cost
Both screens flickered while the MacBook Air configured itself. Then I had beautiful 4K video on the screen.
The MacBook Air had no trouble running 4K videos from YouTube on the ASUS and doing other tasks on the laptop’s display.
You can configure the screens as a mirror or as two separate displays in System Preferences. You can also set the display fonts separately which is important since 4K monitors can make the text tenny -tiny.
What can you do with a 4K display? You had edit and view your high-resolution photos.
There are some 4K movies to watch but not many available from Netflix and Amazon Prime.
More important you can edit your own 4K movies from your iPhone with iMovie. If you are a serious video editor, Final Cut Pro works on the MacBook Air with 8 GB of RAM. I haven’t tried that. They say you will need an external drive for storage which makes sense. 4K movies are huge.
All in all, my experiment cost $20 for the cable and I’m satisfied with it.
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network