USB-C display adapter incompatibilities

USB-C display adapters (HDMI, DisplayPort) are a wonderful thing when they work correctly. I prefer this solution to the docking ports on old bulky laptops. A symptom is USB-C adapter works on one laptop, but not on another almost identical laptop model. Symptoms include not being detected by the operating system, to showing a black screen, or very low resolution.

The solution seems to be to stick with expensive OEM display adapters, or at least long established brands. The temptation of a cheap adapter can quickly turn to frustration or botched presentations. Another thing to watch for is cheap adapters may fail intermittently when using more than one high bandwidth feature. For example, using Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI on the cheap USB-C adapter simultaneously may fail intermittently during a conference call or teaching a class, which can be frustrating.


Some adapters that charge the laptop with a USB-C input for power may experience improper operations if the display adapter is plugged into the laptop while the USB-C power input is powered. This problem may persist upon re-plugging the adapter to laptop and/or power cycling the monitor and laptop. A workaround we’ve found is to unplug USB-C power input to the adapter, plug into the laptop with all the desired accessories, then finally plug USB-C power input into the adapter. That is unexpected, but has worked for us sometimes.