USB Monitors? DisplayLink's Technology, Examined

Would you like to add another monitor, but find yourself out of display outputs? DisplayLink's technology employs the USB bus to extend your screen. The current implementation isn't perfect; we're more excited about the USB 3.0 hardware it has planned.

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

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

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