Displaylink lets you do 4K video from a non-4K laptop

CES 2014: Not to mention charge it across the same cable with USB-PD

Displaylink LogoWho do you call if you want to do 4K video on your non-4K video capable laptop? Displaylink. At CES they were showing off a new generation of silicon that would enable 4K video even on a tablet.

If you recall the 4000-Series chips that the company was showing off at Computex, it is now joined by 2.5 more families. Welcome to the new DL-3950, DL-5000, and a collaboration with ROHM. All three do different things, the DL-3950 brings two 1080P screens to the table, the DL-5000 ups the ante to 4K, and ROHM adds USB-PD functionality.

Displaylink and Rohm so USB-PD in a Targus ACP71 chassis

The final silicon for USB-PD

Earlier at CES, the USB-IF was showing off prototypes of USB3.1 and USB-PD silicon in a Targus ACP71 chassis using an FPGA emulating a Displaylink chip. At their stand, Displaylink was showing off the real deal in a Targus ACP71+. When that device is released it will have the DL-3950 next to a ROHM BD-92101 USB-PD chipset allowing two 1080P screens that supply 100W to the laptop for charging. If this doesn’t sound like something you want, go back to your console games.

If you haven’t gone back to your console you are probably impressed by now but that is nothing. The new DL-5500 chip from Displaylink will let you double the pixel count of the DL-3950 and do 4K across a USB3 link. Please note that your laptop doesn’t have to be 4K capable to do this, even the less anemic modern Intel integrated graphics parts can easily support 4K as long as the Displaylink chip actually does the heavy lifting. See?

4K from a laptop with a DL-5500 chip

4K from a non-4K capable laptop

Better yet you can do that 4K image from your tablet, Android or that other OS that is tanking PC sales will do fine, but sadly still no Linux yet. The poor soul at Displaylink who drew the short straw for demos had to use a Dell Venue 8 at the show to prove that even a Baytrail can be twisted hard enough to cough up a 4K image if needed. If there is one thing that will make Windows 8 tablets sell, it is touch screen Excel on an 8″ device. Giggle.

SemiAccurate asked about the frame rates at 4K across a USB3 link, and the answer was a bit vague but understandable. Displaylink has a proprietary adaptive compression scheme that minimizes bandwidth used. A 4K/60 image needs more than the 5Gbps that USB3 provides so as you might guess, the frame rates depend on what you are doing. A 4K/60 video is possible but it depends on what is being updated. In short the worst case you will drop frames, the best case you can do 60FPS with ease, and realistically it should be OK for almost everything you do.

The last thing that Displaylink was showing off was a monitor stand from Dell, and it was potentially the highest tech thing we saw in all of CES. No we are not on crack, yes a Dell monitor stand is really impressive, really really impressive. Why? USB-PD with 100W possible and four monitors from a pair of cables to your laptop. It looks like this.

Dell MKS14 monitor stand with USB-PD and Displaylink

Dell monitor stand become the only dock you need

Yes that is a Dell MKS14 monitor stand feeding four 1080p screens off of a MacBook Air using only two cables. You can see the USB3 off the left side and there is also a DisplayPort cable that you can’t see in back. All this is running off the aforementioned Displaylink DL-5500 chip for the non-DP screens. If Apple ever comes around to supporting USB-PD, this rig would charge the laptop as well without adding a single extra cable. Two cable docking isn’t bad and if you don’t need all four monitors you could get away with a single USB-PD cable all courtesy of the Dell monitor stand and Displaylink.

So there you have it, two new chips from Displaylink, DL-3950 and DL-5500, one device with a ROHM USB-PD chipset, and a monitor stand from Dell. These are the first devices that show off what USB-PD can do, and coupled to a Displaylink chip will add many more screens to the mix too. If that isn’t a high-tech monitor stand, I don’t know what is.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate