USB to HDMI

So you want to connect a device that only has USB ports to a display that only supports HDMI. Maybe you want to connect more than one monitor to your laptop, but your laptop only has one HDMI output.

The good news is that with a simple USB to HDMI adapter, you can easily add multiple displays to your laptop using its USB ports. Even better, after some research, it seems like these adapters work with most versions of USB, from USB 2.0 and all the latest versions. The best part is these adapters don’t require external power.

However, there are some important things to you need to keep in mind when it comes to USB to HDMI adapters. For example, some require additional software, some aren’t compatible with certain devices, USB 2.0 compatibility, and whatnot. I’ll expand a little more on these issues later on in this article.

Best USB to HDMI Adapters:

1 USB 3.0 to HDMI Adapter


Here’s a USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter that works great for Windows. If you have an extra USB port, simply insert the device, connect a display through an HDMI cable and your computer should automatically detect the new display.

The adapter supports audio and video, with a maximum resolution of 1080P. In some cases, drivers are required, and a small manual is included which explains how to install the drivers for your device.

Overall, a very nice USB to HDMI adapter that you can use to either extend or mirror your laptop screen. Bear in mind, the adapter is not compatible with Mac or IOS devices.

2 USB 3.0 to HDMI Adapter


This USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter works much the same as the one above, it converts USB to HDMI which allows you to add another display to your laptop or PC. It supports up to 1080P at 60 Hertz, and it can carry audio and video signals.

You can also use this adapter with USB 2.0 but because USB 2.0 doesn’t have much bandwidth, the resolution will be limited to 800×600 and that’s not ideal. Make sure it’s plugged into a USB 3.0 port. A very handy USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter!

3 USB to HDMI Adapter Cable


Maybe you want to connect your laptop to a TV but both the USB to HDMI adapter and HDMI cable are not long enough. The solution would be a 2 meter USB to HDMI converter cable.

Unlike VGA to HDMI, these cables actually work with no external power needed. The advantage here is that you don’t need a separate HDMI cable, it’s a male HDMI to USB cable, so you just need to plug each side into the appropriate device.

On newer versions of Windows, the drivers should install automatically. If not, there’s a .exe file inside the USB folder with the driver installation files. Bear in mind, the cable won’t work when connected to a hub, it has to be directly connected to a USB port on your computer.

What to Look for:

  • Plug & Play
  • Data Transfer (Some cables are only for charging devices)
  • Driver Files Included
  • Maximum Supported Resolution (1080P)
  • Supported Operating Systems
  • Hz Rate (60 Hz max)

When it comes to USB to HDMI adapters, the most important issue is the drivers. Windows 10 usually automatically downloads and installs the drivers for detected devices, but in some cases, you’ll need the specific drivers designed for that product. The drivers are usually included in a small USB storage folder on the adapter or cable, similar to a thumb drive.

What This Product is Not:

Before you grab one of these adapters, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Not Compatible with Mac:

For starters, these don’t usually work for Macs because the drivers are different. On that note, Macs usually use USB-C ports, so the connectors are not the same.

With that said, there’s a chance the adapter will work on a Mac too, but I wouldn’t count on it. To be safe, I recommend only using USB to HDMI adapters on Windows, unless you find one that’s specifically designed for Mac.

 Note: You might be able to get these adapters working on a Mac if you manually download the Mac drivers. The problem is the adapter manufacturers rarely create the drivers for Mac, they’re usually limited to Windows. 

Not Backward Compatible:

Another important point is that these adapters are not backward compatible. You won’t be able to plug the USB end into a TV and the HDMI end into your laptop. It’s HDMI output only. The reason it won’t work like that is you need to install the drivers, and most TVs don’t allow you to install third-party drivers. The same with monitors.

USB 2.0 NOT Recommended:

What about USB 2.0? Even though USB 2.0 was released in 2000, you can still find the ports on laptops and PCs today. Since USB is backward compatible, USB to HDMI adapters will work with USB 2.0 ports but the resolution will the extremely limited (800×600). I do not recommend using an adapter with USB 2.0 ports.

FAQ:

Do USB to HDMI Cables Work?
USB 3.0 to HDMI cables can work, and, in some cases, they’re more convenient than adapters because you don’t need an extra HDMI cable. The problem is USB to HDMI cables are not as popular as adapters, and they’re a little bulkier.

Can I Use a USB 3.0 to HDMI Adapter for Chromecast?
You can’t use a USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter for Chromecast because the adapter only works in one direction, USB to HDMI, and it’s not backward compatible.

Can I Add a Second Monitor to My Laptop with a USB to HDMI Adapter?
Yes. You can use the adapters mentioned in this article to add multiple monitors to your laptop. Make sure you connect the adapter to the USB 3.0 ports on your laptop and install the drivers before you connect the display to HDMI. Everything should work with no problems.

Image: “USB Cable” (CC0 Public Domain) by Petr Kratochvil

About S. Santos

Tech columnist and tech blogger, audiovisual aficionado trying to keep up with the ever-evolving world of gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology. If not fiddling with AV cables at home or in front of the computer, he can be found playing tennis or padel.

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