The Power of External Power Sources

An Experience With A Samsung SyncMaster Display

I recently decided to get a new external display to connect to my MacBook Air. Even though the new Thunderbolt displays are very nice and the display quality of Apple displays is amazing, my budget for an external display was currently constrained.

Within our team, we also had some discussions about web designers and their displays, pondering the question if it makes sense to have a display that might be a bit closer to our clients reality. With Apple products in general, things always look sharp, shiny and glossy. Just nice. On top of that, these products all work so well together, that is always a great joy to use them.

I opted for a Samsung SyncMaster SA350. In the beginning I wanted to get a 27” display, but then got the 24”, since I didn’t want to pay almost twice as much for the bigger one. Shortly after I got it, the Samsung display started to wreck my nerves already…

When I bought the display, I knew that I would need an adapter to connect to the Mini display port of the MacBook Air. The display itself was fairly cheap and came with VGA and HDMI inputs. I got a Moshi Mini Display to HDMI adapter, since Apple doesn’t offer this kind. I also got an additional HDMI cable. Incredible how much these things cost, amounting to almost one third of the total display cost. Either way, it all worked in the end and I was ready to work away.

The second day, the display wouldn't adjust to the right resolution and when I closed the Macs lid, it went to sleep. I tried over and over and after not getting it up and running like the day before I started to search for a solution. Some forum posts suspected that the Moshi adapter would not recognize USB signals, such as mouse or keyboard input when the lid is closed. In my attempt to get this sorted out and almost ready to switch to other means of connection, I went to a store to find a solution for my problem, prepared to spend more money on various cables and adapters.

During my conversation with the shop guys, one of them briefly mentioned that the MacBook has to be connected to a power source for being able to run with an external display with it's lid closed – and it dawned on me. Since the MacBook Air’s battery lasts as long as advertised, I usually do not bother to put it on power all the time anymore. For the last two weeks I also worked on a Cinema display and forgot about the displays own cable to power the Mac.

After connecting the external power source and the display to the Mac, everything worked as expected again. Since then, I have been very happy with the current setup and no further adjustments or fixes have been neccesary.

Overall the Samsung SyncMaster SA350 is great value for money, does what it needs to do and even design wise it is not too bad. I still peek over to the sleek Apple Cinema Display once in a while though…