Plugged In: A Guide to Mini DisplayPort Connections

Dr. Bott Mini DisplayPort Extension II, with USB ($39.95): If you’re just fine with a Mini DisplayPort connection but simply need to extend the distance between your monitor and Mac, Dr. Bott offers an extra 6.6 feet of love for 40 bucks -- and throws in a USB extension as a bonus. This solution can even be extended up to 19.6 feet if you want to keep your Mac in a whole other room from the display.

There are plenty of other options available online from, including a less costly dual-link DVI adapter, discounted cables up to 15 feet in length and even a variety of couplers. Monoprice also offers the Mini DisplayPort Male and USB Male/Toslink Audio to HDMI Female Converting Adapter (currently $33.35), which adapts Mini DisplayPort for video (but also works with Thunderbolt) with optical audio out, then spits them out into one convenient female HDMI port, should you need to go that route instead.

Enter Thunderbolt

February, 2011 brought even more excitement to the Mini DisplayPort story with the arrival of Thunderbolt. Engineered by Intel and formerly known as “Light Peak,” Apple rolled the up to 10Gbit per second Thunderbolt connection right into the existing Mini DisplayPort rather than replacing existing data-only FireWire 800 or USB 2.0 ports.

This means that one port can now daisy chain a connection between displays and other peripherals, including high-speed hard drives, video capture devices and much more yet to come. Third-party companies were quick to announce support for Thunderbolt earlier this year, although there hasn’t been much to plug into those jacks until this summer.

Apple has firmly cemented Thunderbolt as part of its future, with the Mini DisplayPort jack now upgraded across all currently shipping Macs with the curious exception of the Mac Pro, which is widely rumored to be in line for a radical retooling any time now. So what do you need to take advantage of it?