A/V Challenge #182: Why Your HDMI to USB Dongle Doesn’t Work

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A/V Challenge #182: Why Your HDMI to USB Dongle Doesn’t Work

The conference room. One of the world’s great equalizers.

Picture that room full of your company’s brightest minds. Now watch what happens as soon as there’s a problem with the web camera. Or the laptop. Nobody’s really sure.

One of conference room technology’s biggest tricks is convincing everyone how easy it is.

Let’s reconsider that “simple” camera to computer set-up. It’s Monday and you’re about to meet with a remote team. You just bought a high end HDMI video camera and you want to connect it to a laptop or conference room computer. So you plug one end of the HDMI cable into the camera and the other into your computer’s HDMI port (assuming it’s new enough to have one).


After spending a few minutes messing with the webcam software, jiggling the cable connectors, and pushing the meeting back another hour, you start Googling.

Cheap is Rarely Simple

You discover the HDMI port on your laptop is for output only. Okay, you think, I can handle this. Is there an adaptor or dongle that converts HDMI into USB?

You Google “HDMI USB dongle” and are presented with a number of options. Eureka!

You don’t need anything special, you think, so you order the cheapest dongle, push your meeting back two days, and wait for your shipment.

It’s Wednesday. You’re now the proud owner of a reasonably priced HDMI USB dongle. But your pride is soon gone. The dongle doesn’t work.

You check the manual and learn your new dongle isn’t bi-directional. It can send HDMI video out from the laptop but not receive HDMI video in from your camera.

You’re starting to feel like a Peanuts cartoon.

Conference Room Tech: A Comedy of Errors

You push your meeting back to Friday and order another dongle. This one, you’re now certain, will feed your signal from the camera into the laptop. It sets you back a few hundred dollars, but at least you know it will work.

And at last, you’re right. It’s Friday, the dongle works, you have your meeting, and it’s a huge success.


But you’re lucky and don’t know it. The dongle just happens to work with your meeting system, computer and OS. (If you run on Mac, you might have been out of luck from the start.) You discover this a couple of months later when you try moving to Zoom and realize it only supports dongles by Logitech and Magewell.

You may be feeling sheepish, but from an A/V standpoint, you’re also wiser. You will never again assume conference room technology is as simple as it seems.

But you also know to consider opting for simplicity when it presents itself. Now you look for devices that:

    • Are plug and play
    • Don’t require drivers
  • Run on both Mac and Windows

You also take time to research your set-up in advance to make sure you’re not buying into any undesired side effects–such as dongles that act like a content source (vs. camera source) and continue to stream content even after you end the meeting.

Because who would be so foolish as to allow something like that to happen, you ask yourself… quietly.

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