Earlier this year Displaylink rolled out their normal goodies with high rez USB displays aplenty. This year they showed SemiAccurate a significant new capability and a couple of interesting demos.
The new capability is that as of R51, now kind of old hat, Chromebooks natively have Displaylink capabilities. Yes it is in the kernel so in theory you should be able to plug any Displaylink device, monitor, or dock into a Chromebook and have external monitors. If you need two more 4K monitors on your Chromebook, just buy the Dell ones with the Dsiplaylink chip in them already and off you go.
A MacBook with how many monitors?
The first demo is pretty nifty, as you can see above it is a MacBook with four external monitors. This may not seem all that impressive until you realize that the MacBook has one USB-C port, Gen1/5Gbps not the 10Gbps variant. How do you get five monitors out of this little port-free fashion accessory?
As you are aware you can do some of it with the Displayport features from Alt-Mode on USB-C but that only gets you so far, three monitors if you are lucky, really lucky. If you want to go farther, Displaylink will let you use the remaining USB lanes for two more monitors. So that is the interesting part, not just five monitors off a toy computer but Alt-Mode for USB-C combined with USB data for two more on the same system. And no it didn’t melt a hole in the table, that wouldn’t play well in the fashionable coffee shops.
Four by 4K but not by choice
If that isn’t enough for you, the farther out demo should sate most graphics geeks. If you look at the picture above you will see 4x 4K monitors running off one system. Cloning screens is old hat even if Microsoft and the content MAFIAA are trying to make it illegal, immoral, and damn near impossible to do on your PC. That said it is still old hat and easy to do.
The picture above does need a little explanation to understand what is going on. Those are indeed four identical 4K videos and they are running at 60Hz, again not a trick. The trick is that they are not cloned, they are actually four individual 4K60 streams over a single USB Gen1/5Gbps link. Why are they all the same image? If you read the spec sheets, Windows is more than capable of putting out 4x 4K video streams but if you try it, well it is Windows.
You can get around this ‘feature’ by sending 4x of the same stream, each independently generated, and coax it into working. It isn’t elegant, it isn’t very stable, on the Windows side, the hardware works fine, and officially problems don’t happen but, well, Windows. Why is this important? 4X 4K60 = 8K60.
Displaylink won’t comment on what chip they are using other than the bandwidth info above but it is unlikely to be their currently shipping product. By the time 8K monitors become commonplace, Displaylink will have a 1-cable solution ready. The fact that it is plain vanilla USB makes it much more interesting too. I want one. With that 150″ LG 8K monitor from CES. Two actually.S|A