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Study: USB adapters better than discrete graphics cards

Posted: 22 Sep 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:USB? graphics? LCD monitor?

DisplayLink, a provider of networked display technology, has released a study that looks at methods used to provide multidisplay capability and their power requirements. The findings showed that USB multimonitor systems use 80 percent less power than discrete graphics solutions.

The DisplayLink study measured the power required for a desktop PC to run one to four LCD monitors. Two identically configured systems were used: one equipped with DisplayLink-enabled USB-to-DVI adapters and software, and another with dual-DVI discrete graphics cards, which DisplayLink claimed is the most common type of dedicated multidisplay board. Power use was measured at the entry of the computer power supply to gauge total system power consumption under different system loads.

The study showed that by adding a display with a USB adapter it incurred an average increase of only 4W per display, or a 7-percent increase in power use.

Meanwhile, DisplayLink said the discrete graphics solution takes considerably higher pay due to the required installation of dedicated hardware inside the computer. When driving a single display, the discrete card uses, on average, an additional 34W of power, or a 67-percent increase in power consumption without the benefit of any additional displays, according to the study. When the system was configured to drive four displays (which required the installation of a second card), the power use jumped to an average of 117W, or an increase of 132-percent compared to the single-display configuration.

The study showed that a USB graphics solution used up to 80 percent less power to drive an extra display than a discrete graphics solution, while the discrete graphics solution consumed as much, if not more, power than an extra LCD monitor. This causes the overall system power use to more than double if three or more displays are used, or an increase of 128 percent, according to DisplayLink.

Another finding seen was that when three additional displays were connected to the system using USB adapters (for a total of four displays), the system used only 22 percent more power (a total of 62W) than needed to drive a single display.

"At the same time, USB multidisplay technology works with notebooks and small form-factor PCs, where a discrete graphics solution is not possible, providing multiple display users to use more power-efficient notebook PCs to replace traditional desktop PCs," said DisplayLink.

-Gina Roos

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