Ah the HP USB Graphics Adapter… Let me first mention how delighted I am to have found something like this exists. Here’s the thing: I have an HP EliteBook 8740w that I will have to return in the long term and unfortunately for me, and since beggars can’t be choosers, the one I have here has the older generation Nvidia Quadro FX3800M graphics. And as I recently discovered… well, actually I knew it was gonna happen but I was just wishfully hoping it wouldn’t be the case… that the Quadro FX3800M does not support more than two displays at any one time.
So I found out about adapters that use the Display Link interface. The DisplayLink certified display comes under all sorts of different names, from the HP USB Graphics Adapter to Kensington Multi-Display Adapter, but regardless of name, they basically do the same thing: USB connector at one end, DVI port on the other, and it allows you to hook up an additional monitor to your computer. This really helps if you have just one external monitor port on your computer and/or have a graphics card that cannot support more than two displays at one time (typically, you need an AMD/ATI 5000-series graphics card or higher, or Nvidia mid 2010 model graphics card or newer)… you can finally add a third monitor to your laptop or basic desktop setup, or even six, if you have enough USB ports and CPU horsepower.
I got the HP USB Graphics Adapter so I could pair the EliteBook 8740w with 2 additional monitors, in addition to its own built-in display, and also (on separate occasions) hook up the HP EliteBook 2530p to 2 external displays, while turning the built-in screen off and using the notebook as a ‘keyboard and touchpad’ only base.
The name HP USB Graphics Adapter is a little confusing… it’s just a DVI to USB adapter. From the name, I would think some unfamiliar users may think this is a USB adapter to connect external graphics cards – so before you jump for joy and drop $50 on this, it’s NOT.
The HP USB Graphics Adapter arrived in a tiny cardboard box with the USB-DVI main adapter itself, a VGA to DVI connector (for those who have monitors that don’t support DVI and convenience of not having to dig up that DVI cable from your original monitor box) and USB connector to connect the adapter to your computer’s USB port, along with a CD and setup guide you’re 99% unlikely to need/use.
The adapter itself works well and the adapter is compact enough to stow in your notebook bag. It’s also plain black and low profile, instead of the cheesy silver/bulky/just weird designs of other adapters. I plugged the monitor and notebook to the adapter and Windows 7 began downloading and automatically installing the DisplayLink driver. Everything works out of the box with no intervention needed by users to set the thing up. I noticed little (only when opening programs and running heavy tasks at the same time) to lag on the connected ‘extra’ screen, even with the ‘ancient’ 1.86 GHz Core2Duo of the EliteBook 2530p driving a main display at 1920 x 1200 resolution and display connected via this adapter at 1680 x 1050 resolution. You can also apparently use more than one adapter (if you buy a handful) to connect more than just 1 additional display to your setup.
One big letdown, caused by both my blind assumption (moral of the story: never assume things!) and real lack of information (by both HP and shopping websites), is the adapter supports external monitor resolutions only up to 1920 x 1080. You can check out Display Link’s official site for various brands of adapters and supported maximum resolutions.
The verdict is the HP DisplayLink certified USB Graphics Adapter is a fast and easy solution to hook up an extra monitor at up to 1920 x 1080 resolution – great if you wanna play some 16:9 ratio widescreen movie on a separate display while doing something else on your other monitors. If you own a 1920 x 1200 resolution monitor (such as the HP ZR24W, LP2475w and 24 inch HP DreamColor display), or have an even rarer 2048 x 1152 display, I would suggest getting another adapter that does higher resolutions instead. Also keep in mind, the graphics adapter is also not a solution/alternative to Eyefinity or Nvidia multi-display, as the computer detects the monitor as a ‘separate’ display, and not blend all your displays into one huge desktop – in short, that’s a big no for multi-monitor gaming.
- Suitable if you have a widescreen monitor that’s 1920 x 1080 resolution or lower
- Fast and easy setup (2 minutes auto driver installation, no user setup needed)
- Compact and low profile design
- Multiple adapters can be used together, as long as you have enough USB ports (I think I read on a couple of tech forums that 6 is the limit, but don’t quote me on that)
- A little pricey for an adapter ($50)
- Doesn’t support resolutions beyond 1920 x 1080
- Doesn’t replace a modern graphics card with Eyefinity/Surround Vision native support for multi-monitors
-Adapters don’t ‘merge’ all monitors into one giant desktop (this con applies to all Display Link adapters at the moment, regardless of brand)