USB has yet to win nod from monitor makers or Microsoft

With its 'elegant' simplicity, USB has yet to win strong nod from monitor makers.

Jon Peddie, head of Jon Peddie Research, is even more enthusiastic on USB video. "USB might kill DisplayPort before DisplayPort kills it," he said.

The chief complaint is the 480Mbit/sec. bandwidth limit imposed today by USB 2.0. While enough to surf the Web or watch DVDs mostly flicker-free, current DisplayLink products run into trouble with 3D games or Blu-Ray DVD playback, Crespo said.

By the end of this year, a new DisplayLink chip combined with improved software drivers should boost frame rates and enable resolutions of up to 2560 x 1600, he said.

And when "Superspeed" USB 3.0, with its maximum throughput of 5Gbit/sec. arrives, it should put to rest any fears over USB's support for higher-resolution video and gaming, Crespo said.

But the reality of USB 3.0 lags the hype. A prototype USB 3.0 hard drive shown at CES achieved maximum speeds of 1.3 Gbit/sec. reported TG Daily .

TG Daily quoted an unnamed representative from the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) who said that it will be several years before USB 3.0 products start to approach the spec's top speed.

Also, it's unclear whether mainstream graphics chip makers will adopt USB video. Without direct USB output, video signals must travel from the graphics chip through the main system bus before exiting out to the USB port. That could put a cap on USB's video bandwidth, said Fihn, though DisplayLink's Crespo disputed that.

Another key player, Microsoft, is also not supporting USB video in Windows 7, despite supporting the latest, faster versions of HDMI and DisplayPort.

That was due to technical issues, said Chas Boyd, a Microsoft software architect, during a talk at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in November.

Crespo said that Windows 7 users will still be able to use USB video, provided they have either a DisplayLink-compatible product or software driver.

Fihn even anticipates resistance from many display makers to adding USB ports because they fear consumers may get confused and "walk up to a monitor and say, 'Oh great, I can plug my mouse in here!' "

Fihn said USB will become a popular albeit niche technology for video, but never become as mainstream as VGA in its heyday or DVI today.

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Eric Lai

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