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USB Monitors? DisplayLink's Technology, Examined

Multi-Monitor Notebooks Enabled By USB?

According to a recent poll we posted to our Facebook page, 61% of you currently own a notebook. If you don't, there's a chance you simply have no need for mobility. Or perhaps you've replaced the heft of a mobile PC with a tablet or smartphone for tasks like answering email or online banking. Nevertheless, we expect the percentage of notebook owners to rise as performance increases and prices continue to drop. 

The appeal of notebooks is clear. Plopping down on the couch to browse the Web is far more relaxing than sitting at the same computer desk day after day. But that freedom comes at a price. Even when you move past the fact that mobile systems are necessarily slower at the same price point, you're generally still restricted to a single screen.

Solving that issue isn't easy. Some notebooks include a second display output you can use when there's another monitor available. And we've seen a handful of laptops with AMD-based GPUs that expose Eyefinity functionality, accommodating a third screen. But there aren't many of those around. So, how do you get the flexibility to connect three of four displays at a time? DisplayLink has a solution in its technology that enables graphics over the USB bus, connecting to monitors with USB inputs.

These devices are handy in a pinch, but how do they actually work? We take a deeper look at this technology so you know what to look out for before buying multiple monitors for your mobile workstation.

Test Setup

SystemMacBook Pro 2010 13.3"Lenovo ThinkPad T410
ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo, 2.4 GHzIntel Core i5-540M (Arrandale), 2.53 GHz
MemoryCrucial DDR3-1066 8 GB (2 x 4 GB)Crucial DDR3-1333 8 GB (2 x 4 GB)
Hard DriveWestern Digital Scorpio Blue 1 TBSeagate Momentus 5400.6 500 GB
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 320MNvidia Quadro NVS 3100M
Power Supply--
Network Card-AirPcap Nx USB Adapter
System Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMac OS X 10.6.7Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit SP1
DirectX-DirectX 11
DriversDisplayLink 1.6DisplayLink 5.6

All performance testing is performed using a Plugable USB-to-VGA adapter.