The ViBook, additional displays via USB
I reviewed the Village Tronic ViDock a while back, and I was happy to have the opportunity to take a look at one of their more entry-level solutions for adding additional monitors to machines without an additional video port. This one, the ViBook, is a USB-to-DVI solution.
As was the case with my previous experience with Village Tronic products, I was duly impressed by their classy packaging. But I won't dwell on the shell here (no more rhyming, I mean it!). The device itself is compact, well-engineered and, yes, shiny. It connects to your computer via a standard USB cable plugged into any powered USB 2.0 slot.
It's designed to connect in one of several ways to the monitor: directly attached to the monitor's video port via a compact male-to-male adapter, via a cable directly connected to its embedded female adapter, or -- in a related manner -- via a short cable with the body of the device semi-permanently mounted on the back of the monitor with the included cradle and 3M adhesive pads. It's designed well enough that no matter where you put it, it will fit nicely and stay put (it has a studded rubber base, too). It is, by the way, both Mac and PC compatible. Read on for the rest of the review ...
Aesthetics and design are all well and good, but I should probably talk capability, huh? I've been through several versions of the USB->DVI offerings of various manufacturers, and have never been very impressed. Resolutions and refresh rates are improving, to be sure, but I haven't purchased or tried one that I've found really usable for the long haul. Taking into account that I had very low expectations, the ViBook proved to be a refreshing experience, even holding up to tasks which it doesn't purport to handle ... namely, video playback. I'm not going to say it will pass even the most rudimentary test a videophile would throw at it, but in comparison to some of the other solutions I've looked at, it provided smooth playback and great color.
In trials more geared toward its areas of strength, color, refresh rate and resolution were all impressive for such a small (and relatively inexpensive at $129US) device. The ViBook has the necessary capabilities to be a usable, long-term solution for everyday, additional display needs on a laptop, a Mac mini, or wherever you might need one.
While the drivers for OS X are not as full-featured as those for Windows, installation only takes a minute or so with the included CD. Then, it "just works," and you have a hot-swappable, USB-connected display. More words would be a waste. A video, however, might offer a more concise summary of usability and quality than prose:
The ViBook is currently selling for $129US and is available on its own site or from Village Tronic.
Correction: I had previously listed the price at Euro 129, converting to $175US. The ViBook can actually be purchased for $129US, as the article has been corrected to show.
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