Just recently, OnlineComputer held a competition on their Facebook page, and I found myself to be a winner of the j5create JUA330 USB 3.0 DVI Display Adapter. Not being a stranger to DisplayLink based USB display adapters, I was thoroughly looking forward to using this, as it would likely be an improvement over the limitations of USB 2.0 which hampered video performance on the DL-1×5 series chipsets.
What follows is a brief look at the product.
The product is packaged in a lovely clear plastic box, and the adapter itself is quite compact with a fixed attached cable.
The rear of the box has some standard information about capabilities (up to 2048×1152 @ 32bits) and requirements – it seems that XP and Mac OS X is not well supported from their text. Unfortunately, as I don’t run Mac, I can’t be sure – and XP is so long-in-the-tooth that it’s practically dead, I won’t bother trying. None of my computers with USB 3.0 ports run XP anyway.
What is notably absent is mention of Linux at all. Further to that, the text above in terms of compatibility already hints that this is not a DisplayLink product. DisplayLink came to dominate the USB graphics market-space for resolutions above 1024×768 (which earlier adapters struggled with) and did it by using compression techniques which only became feasible as processing power and USB bandwidth (USB 2.0) increased.
The adapter itself is nicely finished, with the port recessed into the body – made of a brushed black aluminium with plastic ends. The cable, as mentioned earlier, is fixed. There is a manual and a driver CD provided.
The adapter itself doesn’t come apart easily with the fingers – so I’m going to have to do without a teardown – sorry guys!
The adapter identifies with a VID of 0711 and a PID of 5805. Letting Windows 7 find drivers from Windows Update results in the wrong driver being installed – and the product will not work.
But installing the drivers from the CD reveals that the adapter utilizes a chipset from Magic Control Technology. In fact, the supplied product is very similar to their one. Their INF file says that this is a Trigger 5 External Graphics. The most updated drivers are available from MCT (choose the U3-A8501 as they are in the same family) and they work just fine, although it does spew an error about WDDM drivers (despite having the most updated Nvidia drivers available).
Their drivers don’t like the DisplayLink drivers. If you wanted to use them both – tough, as the MCT drivers disable the DisplayLink drivers upon installation. There may be a way to re-enable them both and have them co-exist, but you are thoroughly warned that there are likely to be compatibilities.
Using it in my day-to-day applications, I find that the performance is slightly better than my old DL-165 based DisplayLink USB 2.0 adapters, but this is likely down to the fact that there is more bandwidth available. Watching full screen videos at 1080 is now a possibility – with slight jitter, it is much clearer and less patchy colour-wise compared to DisplayLink’s “Optimized for Video” mode that is automatically applied – there is no fuzzy text when video is playing either. CPU utilization isn’t noticeably higher either.
Sleeping and resuming with it attached is no trouble either. I was going to say that DisplayLink has the better driver support in general – surely for other OSes, this may still be the case, but it seems like the MCT drivers are polished enough to perform well – I don’t notice a difference having changed to the “less popular” vendor’s solution.
Just like DisplayLink, it does install a tray icon, although under Windows 7, it is pretty much useless. The only thing aside from getting you into the Control Panel quickly is it allows you to set hotkeys to allocate windows to screens. Not that I use this functionality anyway. It does not have a check for updates feature – so you will have to be responsible for keeping your own drivers updated.
They do claim you can attach up to six of them to a single computer – mirroring DisplayLink’s claims – although performance is surely to suffer. It’s strange how j5create’s website seems to claim only four.
I’m not sure it’s an ideal product just yet with the drivers at this stage. While productivity and video work seem fine in general, video suffering only slight jitter depending on CPU loading, I seem to have trouble with gaming. Under my previous set-up with a DisplayLink attached (fourth monitor), I would game on the first monitor and everything will be fine. Doing the same with the MCT adapter results in the video on the first monitor seeming to stutter and jitter and have problems maintaining FPS. I haven’t investigated this further, but it may be a driver compatibility problem. As a result, I have reverted back to DisplayLink DL-165 on my main machine with this adapter attached to a third-monitor attached to a laptop.
It’s a bit of a shame that driver support and compatibility with other vendors is lacking. Hmm. I might have to find out what DisplayLink’s newer USB 3.0 generation chipsets are like before I made a conclusive verdict.
Anyhow, thanks a lot OnlineComputer! And if anyone needs a new laptop … they know where to go ;).