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At the ShowStoppers show-within-a-show at CES last month, HP was showing what its European distributors call a ”hot desktop” monitor.  (This was new to the company, HP’s Jim Christensen told me, but it is apparently an already-defined category in Europe.)  The targeted applications of what HP calls the HP Compaq L2311C Docking Monitor are hotel rooms and business desks.  Plug the USB cable from the monitor into your laptop and you’re automatically connected to the monitor and the Internet.

A more typical application was shown by Toshiba at the PEPCOM show-within-a-show.  (There are three of these events for media and analysts at CES, each run by a different company.  We go to the events because it is easier to talk to personnel from the exhibiting companies, and the reps are more likely to be knowledgeable than those you meet on the show floor.  There is also free food and drink, a time-honored way to make sure the press shows up.)

Toshiba showed 14- and 15.6-inch USB 3.0-powered monitors.  They will also work with a USB 2.0 cable, but require two USB 2.0 ports to supply the needed power.  The monitors have 1368×768 pixels.  Both models will ship in March, the 14-inch at $199, the 15.6-inch at a price to be determined.  Each unit comes with a leatherette combination stand/case.  These units were only a few of the USB-powered monitors to be found at CES.

DisplayLink supplies the technology that drives these USB-powered monitors, with the USB display controller contained on a chip embedded in the monitor itself.  The controller is also available in free-standing adaptors for supplying video signals to AC-powered monitors via USB connections.

In their booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall, DisplayLink was featuring their USB 3.0 chips, which can drive monitors up to 2560×1600 pixels.  There were several USB 3.0-powered monitors from DisplayLink customers in the booth.  An interesting one was an  AOC 15-inch, available for only $130 at Best Buy, a newly aggressive price point for USB-powered monitors of this size.  The AOC unit has no switches or controls.  The USB receptacle is protected by a fold-out kickstand.  Plug the USB 3.0 cable into the monitor and it turns on, with the controller contained in the embedded DisplayLink adaptor.

Also in the booth was a more elegant model from Lenovo for $199, and  AOC has a 22-inch for $199.  DisplayLink was also showing a variety of docking stations and monitor/audio adaptors available from various vendors.

Why the explosion of USB-powered monitors now?  On the technical side, the sharp recent reductions in power consumption of LCD-monitors, combined with the greater power available from the USB 3.0 socket (compared with USB 2.), has solved the power problem.  In addition to that, said DisplayLink Product Manager Theo Goguely, USB monitors are inherently global products, independent of AC power and plug differences in different markets.  You don’t have to include a different power brick or outlet wart for each market, which makes for a multiplicity of SKUs.  In fact, you don’t include a power brick or outlet wart at all, which results in a significant saving of hardware, packaging, and shipping costs.  USB-powered monitors are on the verge of becoming standard, reasonably priced notebook accessories.

Posted by Pete Putman, February 15, 2012 4:23 PM

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About Pete Putman

Peter Putman is the president of ROAM Consulting L.L.C. His company provides training, marketing communications, and product testing/development services to manufacturers, dealers, and end-users of displays, display interfaces, and related products.

Pete edits and publishes HDTVexpert.com, a Web blog focused on digital TV, HDTV, and display technologies. He is also a columnist for Pro AV magazine, the leading trade publication for commercial AV systems integrators.