Connecting the Mini DisplayPort on a new Mac to an older DVI-based display is easy; a small adapter is all that's needed. However, connecting an older Mac or PC's DVI output to a modern, Apple DisplayPort monitor is harder. The Atlona DP200 interface makes the connection trivial.
If you have a modern Apple MacBook/Pro, Mac Pro or Mac mini with Mini DisplayPort, and you want to connect that port to an older display with a DVI-D connector, all you need is Apple's "Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter" for US$29.00. It supports up to 1920 x 1200 displays @ 60 Hz.
Apple's Mini DisplayPort to DVI-D connector
However, in the reverse situation, if you have an older Mac with just the DVI-D output and want to take advantage of Apple's new 24-inch LED Cinema Display, you'd be out of luck. That's because it's technically more difficult to convert the DVI signal to a more advanced DisplayPort connector and protocols.
Atlona explained: "With the Mini DisplayPort to DVI, the signal is able to pass-though a simple circuit (level-shift) to transfer to the DVI signal. Therefore the solution is very cheap as it requires a very low cost IC (Integrated Circuit). However, with our DVI to Mini DisplayPort adaptor, the DVI signal is not able to transfer to Mini DisplayPort signal though a simple circuit environment. There are two steps to convert to a Mini DisplayPort signal. First, let the DVI signal transfer to TTL. Second, a TTL signal transfer to Mini DisplayPort signal. The ICs for this solution are very expensive, so the price is much higher."
That's exactly what Atlona has done with its "DVI to Mini DisplayPort Converter." I was able to experiment with the product for a few days, and here's what I found.
First, the set up is trivial. Attach the power adapter to the DP200. Then connect your Mac, with the supplied DVI cable to one side of the DP200. Then connect the Apple Cinema Display's DisplayPort connector to the other side. Then press the power button. It takes a few seconds, but then you'll see the Cinema Display light up, and there's your external display.
24-inch LED Cinema Display and PowerBook G4 17-inch
I tried this with an older G4 PowerBook 17-inch, and it worked perfectly. An output resolution of up to 1920 x 1200 is supported.
No issue issues with video playback -- as expected
Because this is a hardware device, I didn't think there'd be any performance issues, but just to be sure, I played a video on the Cinema Display, and it was perfect. No stutters at all. That's what one would expect from pure hardware.
Here's the official features list:
- Compatible with All Mac and PC computers with DVI output
- Supports High Resolutions up to 1920x1200
- HDCP Compatible
- Full EDID management allows storing EDID information on the converter to make sure there is always a connection in between the computer and display
- Re-Clocking technology will insure that signal stays the same quality as it was before entering the converter
- Video Pass-Though, no scaling (EDID and HDCP compliant)
I did find one problem with the short DVI cable that connects the Mac or PC to the DP200. The cable is short and stiff, and the vertical orientation of the DVI connectors is reversed from what I'd like to see. That is, the stiffness of the cable and the orientation of the DVI connector forces the DP200 itself to sit at an odd angle on the desk due to the torque in the cable. I suppose one could forcefully twist the cable to eliminate that effect, but since it was a review unit that gets passed on to the next reviewer, I decided not to try that.
DVI cable (supplied) connected to DP200
The seven page paper manual is short, but covers the essentials. One thing I really liked was on page 3, a documentation of the pinouts. That could help with long term support and troubleshooting. Here's a link to the product data sheet.
Pinouts shown in manual (Hooray!)
The unit itself is about the size of one of those external, bus powered disk drives. It's made of metal and feels sturdy. One side has the power switch and Mini DisplayPort connector. On the other side has the DVI-D connector complete with threaded securing pins. There seems to be plenty of ventilation.
Apple has a long history of befuddling its customers with display connectors, to the delight of PC critics. That's because Apple just won't stand still and works to move its customer base and technology relentlessly forward. In contrast to that, Apple customers do have a tendency to keep their Macs for a long time, sometimes falling behind Apple's ambitions, and this kind of solution is just what the doctor ordered.
It's an expensive solution, to be sure. Even so, those who need a new Apple external display for their pre-unibody Mac Books, G5s, etc. for example, will be pleased that this solution exists. I've seen refurbished Apple Cinema Displays for US$599, so if you go that route and use the DP200, you're still ahead financially.
Also, I've been working with Atlona for some time now, and they have shown me a strong customer focus on their products, taking feedback very seriously. Hopefully, the next step is a longer, more flexible DVI-D cable with the right kind of "twist" so that the DP200 unit lays nicely flat.
Note that this solution isn't limited to Macs. PCs with DVI-D out can also use the device. The DP200 comes with a three year warranty.
Note. In May, I reviewed the Atlona HDPiX which converts USB/video + analog audio to HDMI.