I work with some awesome people day in and day out. They are smart, creative, dedicated to their community and a great team with whom to work. They are also, for the most part, tech-phobic or, to be gentler, not the most technically savvy crew around. For example, when I moved my entire staff over to Gmail from Outlook a few years ago, you would have thought I was repeatedly poking them in the eye with a sharp object. The kicking and screaming that went on was painful. Then, one day … bam! … I heard the words “I actually kinda like it.” over and over. (Okay, I am exaggerating but not by much!) And those of the group who were using iPhones or other smartphones? Talk about underutilized devices!!! As I said, GREAT people but none are going to be tech bloggers any time soon.
When we did a renovation a couple of years ago, one of the things I insisted on was our wiring the new classrooms and adding hi-definition TVs in each. It just made sense to set things up in such a manner that we would be ready to make use of the wide variety of audio-visual material that is available.
And now, as a result, each and every time a teacher or guest wants to hook up a computer to one of the TVs it is a production. Different computers need different adapters. Someone can get the audio going but not the video. The list goes on and on and on. So when I had the opportunity to check out the Sewell Minideck USB to DVI/VGA display adapter, I jumped at the chance. The adapter promises to make pushing audio and video from a computer to a TV as simple as plugging in a USB cable. Does it work? You bet.
Let’s take a look.
From the Company:
The Sewell Minideck USB to DVI/VGA display adapter is like an external video card you connect to your system, adding an extra monitor (supporting native resolutions of screens up to 24″) to your desktop through a single USB port. Once you have multiple monitors connected to your computer system, you will be able to use them in ‘extended desktop mode’ which means you can use all screens like one contiguous screen, or ‘mirror mode’ which shows the same image on both screens at all times.
Every Minideck comes with a DVI to VGA adapter so you can use a VGA monitor…
and a DVI to HDMI adapter so you can go straight to your HDTV with beautiful 1080p. This is possible due to the Minideck’s DVI-I (Analog and Digital integrated video) output.
You will also need a separate audio cable to run from your computer to your TV’s RCA audio inputs if you are planning on watching video with sound.
USB 2.0 Host Connection (Mini-B Type for Upstream Link, type-A for Downstream link)
VGA, DVI, or HDMI Video Output Available (With Included Adapters)
Up to 6 adapters on a computer
Dimensions: 84.3 x 55 x 18.2 mm
Minimum OS Requirements (PC): Windows 2000 SP4, XP SP2 32-bit, Vista (32 and 64-bit), Windows 7 (32 and 64-bit)
Minimum OS Requirements (Mac): Mac OS 10.4 (Requires Intel Processor)
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1200 (native 24″ resolution), 2048 x 1080 (1080p: Full HD for HDTVs), 2048 x 1152, and all standard smaller sizes
My Experience Using It:
I got the adapter and immediately opened the box. I was surprised by the small size and simplicity of the device but, in retrospect, am not quite sure why. There are no buttons or switches with which to be concerned. You simply plug one of the adapters into one end and connect the mini-USB to the other. Since the unit had a DVI plug on it, if you are going out to a TV’s DVI port you simply connect the DVI cable.
The unit comes with a mini-CD with the drivers you need if you are using a Windows machine. The Mac driver is available directly from the Sewell site (or from this link!) The driver is ONLY for Intel-based Macs.
It was a small download, and within seconds my Mac was ready to go.
Connect the USB cord that is on the other end of the include min-USB cable to the computer and connect the appropriate cable from the DVI side to the TV connection you want to use.
In this case I used the HDMI adapter; I connected the HDMI cable to the Sewell adapter and to the Spectre High Definition TV I am reviewing.
Within seconds the Mac OS X desktop appeared on the screen.
I simply slid the window with Larry’s YouTube video over to the screen and… there is was.
In the settings area of the Mac you can determine where the additional monitor sits in relationship to the laptop’s screen. In this case I had the two screens sitting side by side.
How was the quality of the video? Excellent!
The Sewell adapter lets you
Add Up To Six Screens- You can connect as many as 6 Minidecks to your system to connect up to six displays to your computer. You can set all screens to ‘mirror mode’ or ‘extended desktop mode.’
Strikingly, the system requirements to make this all work are relatively low. As they explain, “Minideck does not require your computer to be very advanced in order to work. It just requires you have a 1.2 GHz or higher processor, 30MB of disk space, and 256 MB RAM.”
I used the unit with a number of different TVs and monitors and my experience was the same each time. Setup was simple and quick and the device did exactly as it promised. It eliminates the need for numerous Apple adapters and makes the process so simple that I suspect even my tech-phobic colleagues at work will do well with it. In fact, that is the test I am going to do over the next few weeks. I’ll be taking the review unit in and handing it over to my staff members. For those who are using a Mac (I’ve converted many but not all) I’ll make a note as to where they can find the Mac driver. That’s all the help I will give them.If it turns out that the adapter is as easy to use as I suspect it will be for them I’ll be picking up one of these for each of the TVs we put into the new construction. That will lower their stress level and, hopefully, mean I will no longer get panicked calls that begin with “We have someone here making a presentation and they can’t get the TV to work with their laptop.”
That will be worth every penny!
The Sewell Minideck USB-to-DVI Display Adapter is available directly from Sewell’s website.
MSRP: $99.95 (discounts if three or more are purchased)
What I Like: Does exactly what it promises; makes it simple to push video from your laptop (or desktop) to an additional monitor or TV; supports native resolutions of screens up to 24″; includes DVI to VGA adapter and DVI to HDMI adapter so that you have a choice of which connection to use; minimal system requirements mean netbooks work just fine with it; updated Mac driver works great and shows that the company stands behind its products
What Needs Improvement: As they explain on the site: “You will also need a separate audio cable to run from your computer to your TV’s RCA audio inputs if you are planning on watching video with sound.”; discovered this AFTER buying a set of Apple’s adapters