With so many peripherals and charging cables vying for the increasingly sparse USB ports on modern laptops and, to a lesser extent, PCs, plugging everything in at the same time can be a challenge or require the purchase of an external USB hub.
Well, before you head off to Amazon, it’s worth looking at the back of your monitor, as it could well have some USB ports you can use. This begs the question, should you plug your keyboard and monitor into the display or use the tried and tested ports on the PC instead?
Where are the USB ports on my monitor?
It should be noted that not all monitors have USB ports. Usually you’ll see it listed as a feature in the listing, either as including USB or a USB hub. One easy way to check is simply take a look at your monitor. The three main places where USB ports appear are on the back panel, the flanks of the display or along the bottom edge.
Some monitors also have additional ports you can use, such as headphone jacks for speakers, Display Ports, DVI-D, and the HDMI connection that you’ll most likely use to link it to your PC. If you’re unsure about your monitor, do a search online for its model name and see if the manufacturer says that it has USB capabilities you can use with a PC.
How do the USB ports work with my PC?
Monitors with built-in USB hubs also come with a port that’s usually marked ‘USB UP’ and looks like a squarer version of the traditional USB shape, called USB Type-B. You’ll need to connect a Type-B cable into this (which might have been supplied in your monitor's box) and attach the other end to your PC.
This will then carry the signals from any attached devices to and from your computer. One thing to bear in mind is that the included USB ports might provide different levels of power, which means some devices will work with some of the ports but not others.
Look at the ports and see if they’re labelled 5V 1.1A or 5V 0.5A (such as in the image above from LG which shows USB 3 ports in blue). The 1.1A means 1.1 Amps, and multiplied by the voltage tells you how many watts the port can deliver.
More power is useful to run peripherals like external hard drives, while the 0.5A low-power variety is suitable for keyboards, mice and flash drives.
Will my keyboard and mouse be slower if connected to the monitor?
Technically, yes. As the signal path from the peripheral to the PC is longer, the transfer of data will be slower. But, and this is the crucial part, it won't be enough of a difference for you to notice.
Even for hardcore gamers, with incredible twitch reflexes, the only lag you’ll be aware of is between your PC and any online servers, rather than those between your keyboard, mouse and computer.
Admittedly, this won’t prevent the placebo effect of knowing that these control surfaces are detached from the PC CPU, but any perceived delays will be more in the mind rather than the hardware.
Of course, you could always plug other devices into the USB ports on your monitor, thus freeing up options on your PC for the keyboard and mouse. So, everyone’s a winner.