Early 2011 model, A1278 / 2.3 GHz i5 or 2.7 GHz i7 processor.

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Avoiding kernel panic with external display

The shared VRAM on my Early 2011 MBP is known to cause kernel panics when an external display is plugged in. I had this thing for three years until I self-diagnosed the problem. My tech says swapping out VRAM is not an option. OWC agrees.

My question is: Are all displays made equal? Or is it possible that a display (say, one made by Apple) will be better behaved and not cause a shared vram freakout?

Video for E2011 MBP:

  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • AMD Radeon HD 6490M - VRAM: 256 MB
  • Color LCD 1440 x 900
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Lets look at this from a different direction:

The GPU chip uses the high speed VRAM to cache the image going to either the internal or external display. So if both displays are equal in their refresh rate, scan and size there is no difference between them.

When you have an external display the settings of the display may stress the GPU and its VRAM as the dimensions of the image and refresh maybe higher than what the internal display causing the GPU & VRAM to overheat which then leads to a kernel crash.

What can push this is what you doing with your system. As an example running a heavy graphics intensive game can push things, unlike someone editing an image.

You may need to look at your systems OS resources using Activity Monitor & add more RAM. I would also start using an app to watch the thermal sensors and fans like this one: TG Pro for less than $20 its well worth it.

You also may need to clean the dust out of your system and refresh your CPU & GPU's thermal paste.

To answer your direct question is some external monitors better than others. Only in the sense the graphic services of the system maybe more taxed. It makes no difference who's external display you use as it's not technically the display brand, but, what the display is asking the system to push within it (settings).

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Thanks, Dan — you provide a lot of help around here so I was pleased you gave a reply.

I think the first solution is going to be the best one for me, finding a used display that matches up with the display (1280 x 800). Those will be some fuzzy pixels, but it will be easier on my aging eyes.


Yep, aging eyes doesn't help ;-{

I'm well over the half century mark my self, I feel your pain!


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abarnhart19972012 will be eternally grateful.
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