External Displays

Maximize Productivity with 4 Displays

Add Displays

All models can drive at least 4 concurrent 4k displays. The XE model requires Thunderbolt daisy-chaining to support more than 3 displays.

Please read the disclaimer before proceeding. We review and update guided solutions like this regularly. If you have suggestions or requests, please write support@kfocus.org.

Open Display Settings

Open Display Settings

System SettingsOpen system settings and then click Displays. The interface will appear as shown when no external displays are attached.

Attach Displays

Attach Displays

The M1 and M2 models can easily drive up to four displays with the discrete RTX GPU: the laptop QHD or 1080p LCD, and three panels using mDP, USB-C, HDMI, and Thunderbolt. All external displays can be at least 4k resolution.

The XE models can drive up to four displays with the integrated Xe GPU: the laptop 1080p LCD, and three panels using HDMI and Thunderbolt. All external displays can be at least 4k resolution. One must use Thunderbolt Daisy Chaining to attach a 4th display.

The NX models can drive up to four displays with the integrated Xe GPU: all external panels using 2 x USB-C ports, HDMI, and mDP. As with the others, the Thunderbolt port may be daisy-chained to drive more than a single monitor. All displays can be at least 4k resolution.

If your monitor does not have matching input, you can convert the signal. You may, for example, use a converter cable to attach a DisplayPort input on a display to the USB-C output on the system. However, it is best to avoid converter cables when you can. With any cable, check the rated capacity to ensure it can drive the display at the resolution you want. Also, remember that HDMI can transport high-quality audio, and this can be useful in certain situations.

USB-C and mDP outputs have the highest capacity and can drive monitors up to 8k @ 60 Hz, while the HDMI output can drive a monitor at 4K @ 60 Hz. Available options are determined by the output capabilities from the laptop and the capabilities of your monitors. If, for example, you attach a 1080p @60 Hz monitor, the highest resolution you may select will be 1920 x 1080.

Add Displays

As you attach the cables, the displays will appear on-screen. You can also attach the cables without the settings window open. In this situation, you will be prompted to configure each monitor as you connect each cable.

Positioning Displays

Once all displays are added, you will want to move them to the desired location. We suggest placing the laptop to one side on a stand and aligning the displays to the bottom edge. Click on Identify to ensure you have them in the proper order. Make sure all the displays are Enabled and the laptop panel is set as the Primary display. Then click Apply.

Panaorama

Once you have the displays positioned, you should be able to sweep your cursor across all displays from left to right. Increase cursor speed as needed. If the cursor does NOT switch smoothly between screens, return to the display settings to adjust as needed.

Scale Displays

Scale Displays

High-resolution 4K displays have a higher pixel density than traditional 1080p or 1440p displays. This can result in text or buttons that are smaller than desired. The solution is to set display scaling or change the DPI. We have found that the latter works with the least amount of fuss.

System SettingsRevisit System Settings and then selects Fonts > Fonts. You may then set the DPI as shown - here we use 144 DPI. Then click Start > Leave > Log Out and then sign in again. This will reset all window geometry and result in a more reasonable presentation size for most people.

Change DPI
Detach Displays

Detach Displays

System SettingsIt is best to disable displays by visiting System Settings > Displays interface. Unplugging a display has the same effect, but it takes longer. In either case, the system moves application windows to the remaining visible displays.

Docking Stations

Docking Stations

We have tested the WavLink WL-UG69DK1 Rev B1 universal docking station. It performs best when one connects to it with USB-C or Thunderbolt. The USB-A port can be used for a few lower resolution displays; however, because of limited bandwidth, it can become laggy and require lots of CPU power when attaching more displays. The best driver to use should be the evdi-dkms package, sudo apt install evdi-dkms. At the time of writing, however, the driver wasn't compatible with kernel 5.17, and we had to use the newest version available from Synaptics. You may also visit the official support page, although we found that driver to often be older.

While we have not tested other docking stations, those that use the evdi-dkms or Synaptics drivers should likely be compatible. We encourage you to ensure hardware is compatible with Linux before committing to a purchase. Usually, a web search will provide lots of guidance. Please write support@kfocus.org if you need further assistance.

Window Behavior and Modifier Key

Modifier Key

One may tile a window by "pushing" it into a screen edge. To change this behavior, click on System Settings > Workspace Behavior > Screen Edges and adjust as desired. Remember, you can always click Defaults to restore the default settings.

Remember, there is a window behavior modifier key, which is Alt by default. One may, for example, press this key and then click-and-drag anywhere in a window to move it. This is very handy, especially if the window is partially off screen.

Unfortunately, many applications have keyboard shortcuts that require the Alt key. To allow these shortcuts, we recommend you change the modifier key to Meta. To do this, click on System Settings > Window Management > Window Behavior > Window Actions tab and then select Meta as shown in the image.

Remote Desktop Display

Modifier Key

Virtual Network Computing can be done with the help of KRFB, and KRDC which is useful when working on the same network as many other machines.

sudo apt install krfb krdc # If you need RDP protocol ... sudo apt install freerdp2-x11

A more in-depth article can be found on BinaryTides showing how to install and setup a VNC

Troubleshooting

Q: I would like to run multiple displays with the iGPU. Is this possible?

A: Yes, but it requires additional hardware. We use a universal USB doc to drive external 1080p or 4K displays from a single USB-A port. The experience is not as smooth as the NVIDIA GPU because of USB-A bandwidth and iGPU limitations. However, it is useful when you run compute on the NVIDIA GPU and use the iGPU for display. See the Docking Stations section above.

Q: When I plug in an external display everything slows down. What is the problem?

A: This can happen when you are using the NVIDIA (On-Demand) graphics mode. This mode uses the Intel GPU for everything by default and can result in slow external displays. As mentioned elsewhere, we recommend this mode only when you want to maximize VRAM for GPGPU purposes. But sometimes one can forget to switch back.

To fix this, visit the GPU widget in the system tray and select Switch to: NVIDIA (Performance mode). After rebooting, your desktop interface should run much more smoothly.

Q: When I booted, my external displays do not work. What could be happening?

A: There are two likely causes. First, you may be running Intel (Powersave mode). Switch to Nvidia (Performance mode) and your displays should return (see Battery Management for more detail). If you are already running in Nvida mode and the displays are still not showing up, the DKMS modules may not be updated correctly. Please try running sudo dkms autoinstall and follow the instructions. Install headers if you are requested. Once complete, reboot and the multi-display support should return.

Q: I was previously able to connect an external monitor. Now that same monitor is not recognized. What I can I do to fix this?

A: The file /lib/modprobe.d/nvidia-kms.conf contains a setting for Nvidia GPUs. Somethimes this gets changed for reasons we have yet to identify. You can edit it using sudo kate /lib/modprobe.d/nvidia-kms.conf (use your preferred text editor like vim, nano, or editor). Then ensure the modset=0 is the final portion of the line as presented below.

# This file was generated by nvidia-prime # Set value to 0 to disable modesetting options nvidia-drm modeset=0

If you changed the file, sign-out and then sign-in again to restart the X-server (although a reboot might be needed - ed), after which your monitor should be recognized. Thanks to Matt K. for sharing his research.

Revisions

This is a partial revision history. See the git repository for all entries.

Disclaimer

We try hard to provide a useful solution validated by professionals. However, we cannot anticipate every situation, and therefore cannot guarantee this procedure will work for your needs. Always backup your data and test the solution to determine the correct procedure for you.

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