December 10, 2015 | Posted in: General, Hints and tips, Recording, Studio

As part and parcel of being a musician these days, you seem to need to do so much more than just play music. You need to understand marketing, social media, website maintenance and management, and (certainly if you use a DAW – home studio recording system) you need to be your own IT support team. This post is about the trouble I had connecting my MacBook Pro to a Dell Ultrasharp U2412M Monitor.

I recently retired my ageing iMac and replaced it with a shiny new MacBook Pro (MBP). It was the best computer I could afford (and I’m not really sure I could afford it – no doubt my accountant will tell me later) and it should last me for many years to come.

Much as I loved my iMac, it had become slow and I think the constant updating and improving of the software I wanted to run on it had managed to stretch it past its original design specifications. The MBP is much more powerful, faster, with much more “disk” space (it’s actually got a solid state drive, but let’s not get caught up in that) so I was very happy with the purchase.

One thing it had a lot less of was screen. My iMac had a 20″ screen while the MBP has only a 15″ screen. This meant I needed an external monitor to give me enough room to work. A “Retina” screen (something about twice as many pixels – basically very high quality display) on the MBP means that only certain monitors would work with it. This is frustrating and not least because the Apple external monitor costs hundreds more pounds than I have left…

So I did some research and found a good recommended external monitor is the Dell Ultrasharp U2412M It’s about £180 and various MacBook Pro users had recommended it online, despite it not officially supporting Apple computers.  So I found one on eBay (the seller included the cable they had used to connect it to their MBP, so I thought I had everything I needed.)

The Problem

The monitor turns up a few days after I bought it and I plug it in using the supplied lead (Thunderbolt to DisplayPort) and off I go. Doesn’t look quite as crisp as I’d hoped, but it works. After a few hours of using the monitor I realised that the screen was occasionally going black for about 2 seconds, then coming back on. I carried on with what I was doing and made a note to look it up.

The very next job I had to do required me to use the PC which the Missing Persians were recording on, and that doesn’t have a monitor – so I used the Dell screen and it worked perfectly (using a VGA cable) so I started to think it was my Mac at fault.

Next time I went to use the Mac the screen had also started showing horizontal dotted lines – sometimes these would be about a pixel deep and dart across the screen (left to right) and sometimes they’d be a band of dots reminding me a little of when the tracking needed adjustment on your VHS video. Searching for all those symptoms brought back a load of results suggesting faulty video cards, motherboards, whole heaps of expensive stuff. This wasn’t looking good.

I contacted Apple support – after a series of tests on my Mac (no problems found) they recommended I spoke to Dell.

I contacted Dell support – they suggested a series of tests on my monitor (no problems found) then recommended I spoke to Apple.

I tried several different cables and adapters to go from HDMI > VGA (laptop screen goes blank, then Dell monitor says “No Signal – Entering Power Save Mode”)

I’d also tried several different monitors I had lying around (is there anyone who doesn’t end up with a load of useless computer junk in the house?)

The Solution

Eventually I stumbled across the answer – a Macbook user had found that the cable he was using was faulty and another suggested that when he used a genuine Apple one he found it worked. I couldn’t get a “Genuine” Apple cable but on the Apple website I bought an HDMI > DVI-D lead made by Belkin – it was a bit of a guess, there were two different types of cable I could have tried and I just picked one.

Fortunately for me, the monitor now works very well!

It’s a shame that the Mac is too fussy to work with any old monitor (like most PCs I’ve used will) but maybe that’s progress. I haven’t bought a high-end PC for a while so I can’t comment on what problems exist there. It’s also a shame that the Apple recommended monitor costs about as much as a second hand car. But I know Apple products have always been expensive. I also know that iPods and the like are really funny about what cables they will charge from or devices they will connect to via third party USB leads. I offer no comment on why this might be.

I’m just hoping this post can be useful if anyone else is in a similar situation!

2 Comments

  1. Bharath
    August 21, 2016

    Nice info Chas Maguire.

    My only concern.
    I am currently using non-retina 2011 MacBook Pro 15.
    If I connect u2412m … It’s a good upgrade for my current 1440×900 display .

    I am planning to upgrade my laptop to new MacBook Pro 2016 if the new one come with complete revamp design and features.

    How would be experience using 1980×1200 with new retina displays .

    Isn’t it downgrade on quality … Is it worth investing on u2412m … To connect with retina MacBook ?

    Thanks,
    Bharath

  2. Chas Maguire
    August 30, 2016

    I think the quality of my MBP screen is better than the u2412, but I needed a second monitor because 15″ does not give me enough room, and I couldn’t stretch to the big money for a “proper” Apple monitor. The quality of the 2412m is good, but whether it’s good enough for you probably depends what you are using it for. Most of my work on the computer is using Cubase, or just the general email/web stuff most people do. If you’re wanting to use it for graphic design, photography or video production you might want better quality screen, but this was the best screen I could find for the money.

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