Monday, July 14, 2008

DisplayLink works well

A few months ago, at the ACCU conference in April to be exact, I was lucky enough to be given a Display Link adaptor. For those who don’t know this device, or the company, it is a little box of magic that plugs into a USB port at one end and a regular monitor at the other, all you have to do then is install a software driver and there you are: a monitor connected to your USB port.

Using this device you can have as many monitors attached to your machine as you have USB ports. No more two screen limit. For manufacturers this could eliminate another port on the machine and reducing cost. Some display manufacturers are already building these into their screens so the days of the video cable could be numbered.

I only got around to installing this on my Mac just before I left for EuroPLoP. I already have a perfectly good LCD display connected to my MacBook the usual way so I had no real need for the DisplayLink device but I wanted to try it all the same.

The install was absolutely painless, just downloaded the drivers from DisplayLink, installed them, plugged everything in and it just worked. Really, first time. 10 minutes, including the download, a reboot and unwrapping the cables.

Only two small problems: first the USB connector has to plug into my Mac, not the USB hub I have all the other USB devices plugged into. A shame but not the end of the world. Second the display update is a little slower than the dedicated cable. You only notice the slowness when a lot changes on the screen, for word processing and such it is fine.

At the moment the Mac drivers are beta and the release notes say you might notice a speed issue so by the time they are released fully the problem might have gone away. For all I know the full release version might fix the hub problem. (PC versions already have full release drivers so speed might not be an issue there.)

For the moment I’ve switched back to the video cable. If I have to plug the USB cable into the MacBook I might as well plug in the video cable and have full speed. That said, I think its only a matter of time before we are all using these things.

What’s really nice about this story is: this is a company that gets things right. The product is useful and it is well done. I know people who work at the company and they seem well balanced and happy in their work. Too often I hear stories about messed up development teams and companies that can’t make sensible decisions so its nice to have a positive example that reminds you things can work out.