Review: DisplayLink USB to DVI adapter, adding an external display to a laptop or desktop

DisplayLink USB

Last week I wrote a review of a Kensington USB docking station which included DisplayLink technology to allow an external display to be added to a laptop via a USB 2.0 port.  I described how I used this docking station to enable the holy grail of three external screens on my laptop.  You can read about it here,

   http://geekswithblogs.net/twickers/archive/2009/06/03/132579.aspx

Declaring an interest

On publishing, I promoted the blog post via Twitter where recently someone had bemoaned the inability of a laptop to support more than two displays.  I was curious to see if DisplayLink might follow me on Twitter, and checked to see if they had an active account.  When I discovered they had no account, I created a DisplayLink account and sent the guys at www.displaylink.com the username and password so they could keep it safe for future use.

The next day, the marketing guys at DisplayLink sent me an e-mail thanking me for setting up the Twitter account.  Also, as a gesture of appreciation they requested my address so they could send out a USB to DVI adapter based on their DL-160 chipset. 

So a big thanks to DisplayLink for enabling me to review the DVI version.

Hardware

Unlike the Kensington docking station which incorporated a USB 10/100 network chip, 4 port hub and USB audio, this is a dedicated display unit.  It’s wonderfully compact compared to the full docking station, approx 10cm x 5cm.  Connecting to the PC via a standard mini USB lead, it is self powered via USB, with video displayed using a DVI connector.

DVI Connector

DVI Connector
Mini USB connector

Mini USB Connector

(I placed a measuring tape next to the adapter sio you can see just how small it is, the tape measure is locked at 10cm)

Software

The software was identical to that used for the Kensington docking station (see previous blog post for details), I just left the old driver in place.  When I booted up Windows 7 RC there was a ‘New Hardware Device’ pop up for a few seconds, after which the DisplayLink adapter worked immediately, appearing as my display number 3 on my desktop.

Being a DVI output, the image was crisp and rock steady first time, with no need to adjust the display.  If anything it looked slightly brighter with better contrast on my test 17” display compared to the analogue version in the docking station, but that is most likely due to the monitor settings.

Conclusion

My third monitor, a 17” Sharp model, while great on the DVI connection, is slightly fuzzy when displaying analogue VGA, so having a DVI version of DisplayLink is a great solution for my setup.

The small size of the dedicated adapter really sells itself to those who spend their life fighting with projectors at client sites.  Having a couple of these, for both analogue and DVI solutions means you could guarantee best connectivity.

I’m tempted to lend the unit to a friend who regularly finds Windows 7 RC on his Mac Air struggles to connect to projectors at anything above 640 x 480 to see if this could solve the problem. I suspect it might.

It’s one of those rare IT products. It does a single job, really well, with the minimum of effort to install.

Print | posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2009 10:04 AM

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