Sewell Minideck USB External Video Card Is A Handy Little Device -- And You Can Win One
When Sewell contacted me, asking if I'd review their Sewell Minideck USB to DVI adapter, I honestly had no idea such a product existed. Basically, it's an external video card that plugs into your USB port and gives you an additional monitor interface. Most laptops can support two monitors out of the box (via an external monitor port) and many desktops can easily do so with a cheap add-in card. But if you're looking for a quick and easy way to add a secondary screen to a computer without monkeying with the innards of a computer, this thing works pretty dang well. Read on for the full review and a chance to win one for yourself...
Here's a video of the adapter in action (not my video -- I'm too lazy to film this kind of thing and put it online):
The adapter itself is basically a small blue box with a mini-USB port on one end and a DVI output on the end. The package also comes with DVI-to-VGA and DVI-to-HDMI adapters so you could basically hook this thing up to most monitors and HDTVs that are out there. It comes with a small carrying case, a mini CD with drivers on it, a quick start guide, and a more detailed instruction manual.
Following the directions in the quick-start, I installed the drivers from the CD first, and then plugged in the device. After just about a minute of driver install, I was able to plug in the device to my computer using the supplied USB cord, plug in a monitor, and low-and-behold, it worked. I had a second monitor up and running quick and easy in extended mode (where you can drag windows to and from both monitors). The software installs a system tray applet that you can right-click and adjust the settings to clone/mirror or extend your desktop, or you can just go into the standard Windows graphics properties area and adjust/move things around there. I then plugged in another monitor into my laptop's DVI port and had three monitors setup for a nice large desktop setup. I was throwing windows around no problem at all with no lag whatsoever.
Since the device is tied to the USB bus, however, it's not going to work for graphically intense applications like accelerated full-screen video or DirectX games. Portal was playable on it, but it was very jittery. I also used the DVI-to-HDMI adapter and plugged it into my HDTV at home, and while full-screen video played, it wasn't nearly as smooth as using my laptop's built-in 8000-series nVidia card. It appeared to work fine on basic Flash games and videos, but running full-screen at high resolution stressed the system. Since it's USB, it can also slow down if you're running a bunch of other high bandwidth applications on your USB bus (large data transfers, I'd imagine -- didn't really test it out much in that regard).
I can see this device being really useful to folks who want to be able to run multiple monitors and don't want to deal with adding more video cards or buying an Eyefinity setup or something similar. If you want to run an external monitor on a netbook that may or may not have an external VGA port, this thing is useful. Or in my case, you want to occasionally run three monitors full of desktop applications off a laptop. It's a nice compact and easy way of adding an additional monitor to a system and giving yourself a bunch of extra desktop space.
Easy Setup. Just make sure you follow the directions and install the driver first before plugging it in.
Compact, portable, with carrying case.
Includes adapters for pretty much everything you need.
Great for netbooks that don’t have external monitor options (see above video).
DisplayLink software is very easy to use.
Probably the simpliest solution to adding another monitor to your system.
Works with Macs, if you get the driver (didn't test Mac functionality as I don't own a Mac -- anybody want to send me one? <slight sarcasm>).
Wish DisplayLink software wasn’t required to be running to have it work. Would rather use windows built-in control and just have the driver installed, but I can see why it needs it. I just hate having more system services running, but I'm uptight that way.
Software install never seemed to give any indication that it had installed or that I could plug in the device. It just disappeared when it was done. It worked, but I would've liked to have known that it was done and I could plug in the device.
Wouldn't recommend running heavy-duty 3D games on it. It choked a bit on Portal, but it certainly wasn’t unplayable.
Driver CD is worthless for netbooks that don’t have optical drive and I couldn't easily find the drivers on Sewell's site.
Carrying bag needs to be slightly larger. You really have to work to cram the cable and the device in there, and forget out getting either of the converter adapters in there, too.
Overall, this product does exactly what it's advertised to do, and it does it pretty darn well. I honestly was expecting a lot less out of this device as video is such a bandwidth-intensive application that this thing did a lot better than I figured it would. For general desktop application use, this thing works perfect.
And you can win one...: Sewell Direct sent me one of these to give away to my readers -- a $100 value. Comment below with your email address in the email field (it won't be published), and next Sunday (before my concert) I'll pick a winner at random (IP addresses are tracked, so I'll be able to see if you're doing multiple entries and it will be frowned upon). I'll ship it anywhere in the lower 48 states. Good luck!
Note: This product was provided to me by Sewell for review at no cost to me, with an additional one to give away to my readers, as long as I posted a review. However, the review above is completely unbiased, and if any other companies out there want me to review your products, contact me and I'll let you know if I'm interested, but I reserve the right to bad-mouth your product if it sucks.
Update on 5/6: We have a winner!
Homersolo, you've won the prize! I'll be contacting you for your mailing address.
Reminders from UtterlyBoring.com on 06/05/10 @ 08:21 PM: Tonight is the last chance to enter to win the USB Video Card. There aren't a load of entries, so your chances are good (and it's a neat little product).Like... (Read More)