For whatever reason, Griffin’s newest Mac accessory isn’t named as obviously as it could be—“Mini DisplayPort to HDMI / DVI Adapter”—but rather carries the title Video Display Converter, a generic name that’s smaller on its package than the words “CONNECT Mini DisplayPort to HDMI & DVI.” And in another understatement, the box calls the Converter useful “for Mini DisplayPort laptops,” including the “September 2008 and later MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air,” but omits several Apple desktops—new Mac minis, iMacs, and certain Mac Pros—that can also benefit from the two-piece adapter.
Why would anyone need this? See this explanatory photo: it lets your HDTV become a huge external display for your laptop or the aforementioned Macs, and serves as an alternative to an earlier Apple adapter for DVI monitors, as well. The details—and a noteworthy alternative—can be found by clicking on this article’s title or the Read More link below.
In its most basic Mini DisplayPort to HDMI form, the Video Display Converter is a semi-flexible six-inch black cable with one male Mini DisplayPort plug and one female HDMI port on its ends, connecting directly to a Mac’s MiniDisplay Port and a self-supplied HDMI cable to your HDTV. Once the connections are made, your Mac immediately recognizes the TV’s supported resolutions—480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p in the case of a modern U.S. high-definition television—and also offers lower-resolution options that are based on prior Mac monitor settings. In our case, 1080p (1920×1080) was the best setting, and the Mac automatically selected it without any need for user input.
The result? Suddenly a MacBook Pro could be playing content on two displays at once—its own screen and the full HD 1080p television—which enabled us to simultaneously watch a movie on the big TV while running Mac software on the Mac’s built-in monitor. You can also mirror a MacBook’s screen on the TV, which generally results in a lower-resolution image than the TV is capable of displaying, or conceivably turn the laptop’s screen off entirely, transforming it into a desktop machine. Apple’s display settings allow the connected TV image to be rotated, too, which helps if the user’s need for the external display is professional—say, running a video menu screen at a restaurant while using the countertop Mac to take orders.
Griffin also includes a DVI adapter, which effectively transforms the Mini DisplayPort into a female DVI plug. Used in this configuration, the Video Display Converter becomes the equivalent of Apple’s $29 Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter, allowing you to connect your new Mac up to Apple’s 20”/23” Cinema Displays, and other DVI-equipped monitors. Videos outside of iTunes (say, with QuickTime) can be maximized to play on the full screen; using iTunes, we briefly tried to get an iTunes Store HD video (Quantum of Solace) to display on the full screen of the monitor and it would only play in a window, albeit a window of virtually any size we preferred, or on the MacBook Pro’s own display.
So what’s the catch? The price. Griffin’s selling the Video Display Converter for $40, which mightn’t look crazy in an Apple Store given that Apple’s less versatile adapter sells for only $10 less, but places such as MonoPrice are offering full Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cables for $10-$12 depending on length, eliminating your need to supply the HDMI cable yourself. There’s little doubt in our minds that accessories such as this one can be useful alternatives to streaming videos from a Mac to an Apple TV, but Griffin made a name for itself by offering far better pricing than Monster Cable and Apple, and when MonoPrice can offer a similar or better solution for a quarter of the price, something’s a little off. Here’s hoping that Amazon and other retailers will discount the Video Display Converter enough to make it worthy of everyone’s attention.