With notebooks we're often limited to using just one external monitor, and that's because we typically have only one video card. As notebooks begin to act more like desktop replacements, though, we're beginning to crave everything desktops offer, including the ability to use multiple monitors. As a solution to this problem, DisplayLink has created an adapter that allows any DVI monitor to plug directly into a USB port.
A Tale of Two Cables
Two companies, Sewell and Videk, competing manufacturers, currently offer products using the exact same technology as the DisplayLink prototype we tested. Videk's USB to DVI solution costs $118, a hair cheaper than Sewell's $119 option, but any differences between the two are purely cosmetic. We tested a reference design from DisplayLink on our own setup, which included an LG L206WU USB LCD monitor, to see how well the technology performed, and to determine whether USB adapters are a solid option for those looking to add new DVI displays.
Design and Installation
At just 3.4 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches, the small adapter and its cable can easily go along with you in your laptop bag. Our adapter was matte-gray, and came with a 5-inch-long USB cord that plugged directly into our notebook. We would have appreciated the leeway a longer cable would have provided. Installation took less than 2 minutes, and we're confident that even novices won't have a problem getting up and running. The DisplayLink adapter has a female DVI port on one side, and a mini-USB port on the other. Just plug your monitor into the adapter's DVI port, and use the included USB cable to connect between the mini-USB port and your computer.
With our 20-inch display's resolution set at 1680 x 1050, performance was perfect while performing such standard activities as browsing the Web, checking e-mail, and instant messaging. DisplayLink supports Windows XP and Vista.
The DisplayLink unit doesn't support DirectX yet, and offers only 32MB of video memory, so it's certainly not ready for gaming or video rendering of any sort. DisplayLink expects to make available a unit with DirectX support sometime in 2008. We tested a set of beta drivers from DisplayLink, and DVD playback performance was decent. We were pleased that there wasn't much skipping. Moving the DVD's software playback window around, though, resulted in a lot of jitter.
We suggest that you don't use the DisplayLink monitor to watch movies or play games, but it's a practical solution if you want to add an extra monitor for productivity applications.
Charge your notebook and one other gadget at the same time with this slimmed-down accessory.