Using USB-C and HDMI at the same time
How to get 2 extra screens working from a laptop
As technology evolves and advancements keep being made, new video ports are being designed and released for always thinner computers and devices. Two of the newest and most commonly used ones are USB-C and HDMI. Both of these ports can be used to connect devices such as laptops, phones, or tablets to an external monitor. However, many people are left wondering whether USB-C and HDMI can be used together on the same device. In this article, we will explore this question and much more.
Using USB-C and HDMI at the same time
The simple answer is that you can almost always use both USB-C and HDMI at the same time. These two ports mostly serve completely different functions and can be used simultaneously. You can connect your device to an external display using an HDMI cable and charge it at the same time with a USB-C cable. However, the big question is to know if whether or not you can use the USB-C specifically for a second display output. Indeed, depending on your computer, if an external monitor is already plugged via HDMI, the video output from USB-C may not work, or vice versa. Basically, the manufacturer could allow only 1 or 2 external monitors at the same time.
Using USB-C and HDMI to plug two additional external monitors
A USB-C port can handle a DisplayPort or HDMI signal, which both allow to transmit video to a monitor over USB-C. You can either plug the USB-C directly to the monitor if it supports it, or use a USB-C to HDMI adapter, so we will end-up with two HDMI outputs (the native one of your computer and the one of the adapter).
However, as mentioned, some laptops may not support two video output signals at the same time. To know that, you can check the technical specification of your computer but sadly it’s not always well explained and usually the simpler solution is to try, for example by borrowing an adapter from a friend or at work and do the test.
Why are my USB-C and HDMI ports not working together at the same time?
If your USB-C and HDMI are not working at the same, there may be a problem with your cables, your device, or your external monitor. Else, it means your device just doesn’t support it. Here are some common reasons why USB-C and HDMI may not be working:
- Your cables may be damaged or broken. Try using a different cable to see if that solves the problem.
- Your device may not support video output on HDMI or USB-C. Check your device’s manual to see if it supports both before trying to connect.
- Your external monitor may not support either HDMI or USB-C. Check your monitor’s manual to see what type of input it accepts.
- Try one output at the time:
- is the HDMI port outputting video when plugged alone?
- is the USB-C port outputting video when plugged alone?
Connect 2 monitors to a laptop with only USB-C and HDMI
If your laptop only has one USB-C and one HDMI port, you can still connect two monitors by using a multi-port hub or a dock that supports both USB-C and HDMI. These devices will allow you to connect up to two monitors, charge your laptop, and even connect additional USB devices all through a single USB-C port.
Get 2 monitors working off 1 USB-C port
Some devices, such as laptops and tablets, only have one USB-C port. In this case, you may wonder if it is possible to connect two monitors. You can do that by either:
- If your monitors are USB-C and support daisy-chaining, plug a monitor to your laptop and the 2nd monitor to the 1st monitor, via USB-C.
- Buy a docking station (Expensive)
- Buy a USB-C to 2xHDMI splitter (Less expensive, see below)
Using a USB-C splitter with two HDMI outputs
A single USB-C port can be split into two HDMI independently, you can use a dock or adapter to split it into two HDMI ports (or even 2 Display Port if your monitor is compatible with that, it’s even simpler/cheaper as the USB-C carries already the DisplayPort signal). Some docks can support multiple HDMI ports or USB-C ports with video output capability. For information, I found USB-C to 2 HDMI dongle from Amazon or Aliexpress for around $20 (Up to 2x 1440p but not 4K), just search for “USB-C to 2x HDMI adapter”.
USB-C and HDMI can generally be used together to connect to external monitors and other devices. With the right cables, docks, or adapters, you can connect multiple monitors and even charge your device at the same time. However, if you are unlucky, you may have a laptop that just doesn’t support it.Photo by Bram Van Oost on Unsplash