Expo Notes: Displays on display

Editor’s Note: Macworld Expo 2008 is in the books, but Macworld editors still have a few reports from the Macworld Expo show floor on meetings with Mac developers, new product announcements, and anything else that catches their eye.

Let’s close out the Expo notebook with a pair of items from the display beat.

One of the coolest things I saw on the floor of Macworld was multiple displays being run off of a single USB port on an Intel-based Mac mini. The company responsible for this turn of events was DisplayLink, which makes the chipset and software that allows companies like Kensington, Toshiba, Samsung, and LG to offer USB connected displays.

At present, DisplayLink-enabled products are not Mac-compatible, but its driver for Intel Macs is in beta and should be available in March.

Samsung and LG make displays that connect directly to USB ports while Toshiba and Kensington make USB docking stations that allow you to connect a VGA or DVI display via USB. In the case of the USB-enabled displays, flash memory in the monitor contains all necessary software to recognize and use the displays. When you connect the display, the software loads and the display automatically shows up. This internal flash memory will soon include both Mac and Windows software. There is a flash memory in the display that contains all necessary software to recognize and use these USB displays. When you connect the display, the software loads and the display automatically shows up. This internal drive will soon include both Mac and Windows software.

At the time of the product launch, you will be able to connect up to 4 Macs via USB 2.0 simultaneously. DisplayLink’s technology currently support up to six displays on Windows, but there are limitations. For instance, DisplayLink monitors are not great for 3-D games or for displaying multiple HD streams. There are also resolution limitations—22-inch displays are about as high as you can currently run with DisplayLink. The company hopes to offer 24-inch widescreen resolution support soon, though it won’t likely ever offer a dual-link DVI option, so those hoping to run four 30-inchers off of a Mac mini will have to keep dreaming.

At its booth last week, Kensington trotted out its sd200v Notebook Docking Station with Video that uses DisplayLink technology to allow you to plug in four USB devices, speakers, a microphone, and a VGA monitor and run them all off of a single USB 2 port. (The linked Web page promises that Mac support is coming soon.)

Over at the NEC booth, there were other cool things to see besides the Best Of Show-winning 30-inch 90 series display. NEC also demonstrated a 42-inch curved display called the CRVD-LMD, meant to help immerse you into your work or game.

Also in the NEC booth, show-goers saw the 21-inch LED-backlight display they first shown at Macworld Expo three years ago. This is a very different technology than the LED backlit displays you’ll find in Apple’s laptops.

The NEC LED display offers amazing color accuracy but at a price that has been out of reach of most. When it debuted back in 2005, the price was a whopping $6,400. Last week, NEC was selling the monitor for $1,899. Just goes to show you, if you wait around long enough, you can afford just about anything.

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