Though we love netbooks like the excellent Toshiba NB200, one of our major complaints with most of them is that they only offer VGA video outputs. This is despite innovations like nVidia’s ION introducing support for digital video outputs. It's not just netbooks either; even some budget laptops and desktops still suffer from the lack of a digital video output. Quite aside from wanting digital quality, with some monitors now eschewing analogue altogether in favour of DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort, this can be a real problem. Thankfully, VillageTronic’s ViBook+ provides a solution.
This little device uses a technology called DisplayLink (not to be confused with DisplayPort, which is a connector standard) to output a digital video signal through an ordinary USB 2 port. It does this by compressing the original signal by means of a software-based virtual graphics card, reducing the bandwidth to a level which USB can cope with. It then decompresses it again using a chip on the device itself. The result is a standard DVI signal seemingly being outputted from a USB port. This is all done in real-time and you can run resolutions up to Full HD (1,920 x 1,200) – the cheaper ViBook can handle up to 1,680 x 1,050 or 1,600 x 1,200.
Since the last time we looked at a DisplayLink product, the impressive Toshiba Dynadock U10, the technology has been updated to work with MacOS as well as Windows, though Linux users will have to wait a bit longer yet.
We must say the ViBook+ is very attractively packaged. Inside the embossed box you get a software CD (the cover of which doubles as a quick-start guide), USB to Mini USB cable, short VGA to DVI adapter cable (both ViBook-branded cables come with Velcro cable ties), a male-to-male DVI-out adapter and of course the ViBook+ itself with included VESA mounting bracket and screws. Basically you get all the accessories you could need or want aside from possibly a DVI to HDMI adapter. The included VT MultiDisplay software (which we’ll get to in a bit) is a nice addition as well. Of course, this is no less than you would expect given the roughly £116 asking price (it’s actually €129 direct from VillageTronic’s website with free shipping, which is cheaper than from any UK retailer we have found).