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High Definition Displays Using HDMI to USB Adapters

written by: Bruce Tyson•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 3/3/2010

Users of computers that do not have HDMI ports can still enjoy the benefits of HDMI connectivity through the use of HDMI to USB adapters. HDMI ports on computers enable their contents to be displayed on high definition monitors, televisions, and projectors.

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    HDMI is a media connectivity specification that was developed by a coalition of electronics manufacturers and media producers. The specification was designed to be compatible with older digital interfaces while providing new integration for audio and consumer controls.


    The High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is a way to interface uncompressed digital audio and video data to a high definition display. Many Blu-ray players, game consoles, computers, monitors, projectors, and televisions come equipped with HDMI ports that interconnect with a single cable. This type of connectivity gives high quality results that are superior to analog connections via RF, S-Video, or VGA.HDMI ports are backwards compatible with Digital Video Interface (DVI) ports without requiring any conversion, although an adapter is required to connect the cable.

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    HDMI Hardware

    HDMI ports come in several varieties depending on their particular specification. HDMI version 1.0 hardware is equipped with either a 19 or 29 pin connector. A mini HDMI connector was specified in HDMI version 1. 3, and the micro HDMI connector was designed under HDMI 1.4. The smaller connectors have made HDMI more attractive for smaller portable devices because of their space-saving attributes.

    With the widespread acceptance of HDMI, many desktop and notebook computers come equipped with HDMI ports off the shelf. These ports simplify the creation of multi-monitor configurations, and make it possible to display games, movies, and presentations directly on high definition displays.

    While older desktop computers can often be upgraded with an HDMI compatible adapter, laptop computers such as netbooks and notebooks usually cannot be conveniently upgraded. Fortunately, owners of such computers can acquire the ability to output high definition using HDMI to USB adapters.

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    HDMI to USB adapters

    Computers equipped with USB 2.0 can be configured to output their display to the USB and into an external HDMI adapter. This enables computers of any type to be configured for HDMI output even if they do not have a built in HDMI port. Many of the first digital USB adapters produced Digital Visual Interface ports and required an adapter to fit an HDMI cable. While those configurations worked well, the advent of native HDMI support via a USB adapter has simplified the process and has provided superior results, the most notable being the embedding of audio signals via the HDMI cable.

    The HDMI to USB converter consists of a small box that connects one side to the USB port of your computer and the other side has a DVI or HDMI port that connects to a high definition display. These devices come with software drivers that install in the computer so that it recognizes the USB device as an HDMI output. There is little, if any, noticeable difference between a display connected to the HDMI to USB adapter and a display connected directly to a built-in HDMI port.

    All the advantages of HDMI connectivity including multi-monitor configurations, gaming applications, and presentations, are available using the USB adapter.