AV Equipment and Connections – Part 7 – USB to HDMI

06/16/16 by Brandon

A connection that most people don’t think about is a USB to HDMI connection. Most people will use the USB port to plug in phones, cameras, printers and other peripherals to charge their device or download information between devices.

USB to HDMI

Standard USB to HDMI Connector

On a recent show, when confronted with a VGA to HDMI compatibility problem like the one we discussed last week, an A/V technician suggested that I pick up a J5Create USB to HDMI adapter to solve the problem. I had never heard of plugging in a monitor from a USB port. Having fears that I would not be able to find a VGA to HDMI active adapter at a local store, I went on the search for the USB to HDMI adapter. I found one pretty easily at an electronics big box store. The price was quite reasonable as they are between $45 and $70. There are other brands but the J5Create is the one the technician said I would find in the store as he also purchased one recently.

When I got back to the show floor the technician showed us how to install the driver that came with the adapter, onto the computer. Once installed the active adapter worked great. Now, this is where the information is going to get pretty intense.

The USB to HDMI active adapter basically works like an external graphics or video card as an interface between the computer and monitor. Most computers will have a USB 2.0 or 3.0 Type A port. This is the slender rectangular port. The other type of USB port is the Type B port that you see more on printers and other peripheral devices.

Micro USB to HDMI

Micro USB to HDMI

When you purchase the USB to HDMI adapter, you may have a choice of a 2.0 or 3.0 adapter. The price difference is about $15 to $20 between the two. The 3.0 Type A is much faster and will probably replace the 2.0 version completely within a few years from now. The 2.0 version is only about 450 megabytes per second which is slow by today’s standards. HD video requires about 750 megabytes per second. Therefore, It is not recommended to run video through a computer with only a 2.0 USB port, as the bandwidth is not enough for smooth playback. If your computer only has a 2.0 USB port you should only run basic PowerPoint and other office applications.

A 2.0 port will accept both a 2.0 adapter and a 3.0 adapter. Remember the computer’s USB port needs to be 3.0 to run video. If you buy a 3.0 adapter it will not play HD video out of a 2.0 USB computer port even though the physical plug will fit. The easiest way to tell if the port is 3.0 is the color ─ 3.0 cables and ports usually have a distinctive blue color. Another way to tell is the cable or port is stamped with the letters “SS,” which stands for Super Speed. The best way to tell is to look inside the port for the extra five contact pads which is a sure indicator. A USB 2.0 port has only 4 contacts whereas the USB 3.0 port has 9 contact pads.

You can also get a USB to DVI, a USB to VGA, and you can add a passive adapter to a USB to HDMI active adapter (on the HDMI side) to create a USB to DVI converter.