In the video connection world, USB is still the loser..

by Mike
Posted January 10th, 2009 at 12:37 pm


Take a stroll to your local electronics store and look at the back of a high end monitor or TV.  What do you see?  You’ll see every type of connection known to man kind and multiple’s of some of them.  One would ask, “How did we get to the point where we have so many connections?”.  It’s manufacturers thinking that they have the next latest and greatest, or best solution for the industry.  Naturally not everyone sees eye to eye and someone else or some other group release their own connection format and well there you go.  Currently, HDMI and DVI are the two main contenders when it comes to connecting HD components together.  Even though they look amazing, you still have to deal with the size of the connectors.  The camp behind HDMI is looking towards Wireless HDMI which would get rid of the cords and clutter.  Meanwhile another technology is coming into the foray going by the name Display Port (which was created especially for PC’s).  From display port comes mini-display port, a variation of Display Port that has a smaller connector.  Apple has thrown it’s support behind mini-display port as the next gen Hi-Def connection.  

There is however one other contender you don’t really hear about that often, USB.  Yes, thats right, the same USB port you plug your keyboard, mouse, and external hard drive in can also support monitor output. However, the digital road from graphics card to monitor is more of a road less traveled.  The technology, being pushed by DisplayLink, allows for up to six monitors to be connected through USB.  DisplayLink makes graphics chips for laptop docking stations as well as external USB video cards that connect a laptop to any external monitor and support resolutions up to 1680 x 1050.  As DisplayLink (USB) technology is becoming manufactured into more displays, buyers will supposedly gravitate towards the format because it saves them from having to buy another cord or adapter to connect a monitor.  According to Dennis Crespo, DisplayLink’s Vice President of marketing and business development, 16 monitors are going to be shipping with USB support by the end of January.

Besides supporting multiple screens, USB is a much smaller connector than the aged VGA and DVI connectors.  The mini and micro USB versions are even smaller.  Another plus of USB is that is a rather robust and “tough” connector, where as HDMI reportedly falls out easily leading manufacturers to create “locking” HDMI cables that stay put.

Jon Peddie, head of Jon Peddie Research estimates that “USB could kill Display Port before Display Port kills it.”  One drawback with current USB 2.0 is the 480 Mbps speed.  As Hi-Def is quickly consuming the market, 480 Mbps just won’t cut it.  But with USB 3.0 just around the corner, that argument won’t hold much longer.  Supposedly, by the end of this year, “DisplayLink will be releasing a new chip that combined with software drivers will support resolutions of up to 2560 x 1600″, says Jon Peddie.  

While USB 3.0 is what DisplayLink is looking forward to, according to TG Daily, quoting an unknown representative of the USB implementers forum, (USB-IF), said “it will be several years before USB 3.0 products are able to reach their maximum speeds”.  Another hurdle for USB is that they have to impress graphics chip makers enough to start implementing USB support into their cards.  Adding fuel to the fire, Microsoft is choosing not to support DisplayLink in Windows 7, even though they are supporting HDIM and Display Port.  However, Windows 7 users will still be able to use USB monitors with any Display Link compatible product or a software driver.

So will USB ever be as popular as VGA or become the market leader today?  Probably not.  Consumers are much more pulled toward HDMI, especially wireless HDMI, which has many interested because it will do away with the cords and clutter.  One other reason it might not take on as much popularity is because with USB monitors, the PC has to compress every single video frame that gets sent to the monitor, putting a huge strain on the PC’s processor.  For gamers this is absolutely unacceptable.  Only casual users using normal desktop applications would use this.  In the end it appears (short of some miraculous new USB technology) that USB isn’t really destined to be the main carrier of video.


Source: PC World, Computer World

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