USB 3.0 displays might rival DisplayPort and HDMI

Subject: Displays | December 26, 2009 - 07:09 PM |
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If you though the display connection battle was already complex with the inclusion of DisplayPort connections as well as HDMI, DVI, dual-link DVI and the legacy VGA ports still showing up on motherboards, be prepared for yet another option.  With the upgrade to USB 3.0 and bandwidth as high as 4.8 Gbps, it is very possible that USB 3.0 powered displays will start to filter out in early 2010.  There are already USB 2.0 displays available (we reviewed one from EVGA here) but they have been limited in frame rates and resolutions because of the 480 Mbps of bandwidth the connection offers.

Obviously, with 10x as much to work with, the ability to push higher resolution and higher frame rates could open up USB 3.0 as a competitor in this large market. 

DisplayLink Inc. has disclosed plans to ship a chip that enables video to run in "SuperSpeed" USB 3.0 standard devices in the second half of 2010, which would allow its use in consumer products as early as next Christmas.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next month, the semiconductor startup plans to demonstrate a USB 3.0 device running its chip that will transmit video at up to 4.8 gigabits-per-second, USB 3.0's maximum rate, said Dennis Crespo, executive vice-president of marketing and business development at DisplayLink.

The video transmission would be 10 times greater than the current USB 2.0 standard's maximum throughput of 480 megabits-per-second, and "faster than any video peripheral for PCs today," Crespo said, citing the still-popular VGA and DVI video adapters, as well as devices using the newer DisplayLink and HDMI formats.

If current USB 2.0 implementations can support 1080p resolutions at 26 FPS or so (as the PC World article quotes) then getting 10x that would (in theory) allow for a 2560x1600 resolution panel to run at about 120 Hz or so.  That would be enough for ultra resolution 3D technologies or higher resolution panels at 60 Hz. 

Now will these panel makers start getting on that for us now?  I am still waiting to be able to put a 10 foot 20k x 20k panel on my wish list. 

Devices using the USB 3.0 version of the chip will appear at next year's CES, he said, though some may be available in time for the 2010 holiday season.

The upgraded video adapters and docking stations won't be useful, however, until laptops and netbooks arrive sporting USB 3.0. That should happen by Christmas, 2010, Crespo said, as Intel Corp. pushes notebook motherboards to manufacturers.

In 2009, Palo Alto, Calif.-based DisplayLink expects to ship about 2.3 million chips, more than double 2008's 1 million total, Crespo said.

DisplayLink counts Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Lenovo Group Ltd., Toshiba and 30-odd other hardware makers as customers. "The only company we don't have is Apple," Crespo said. "I think it shows that the market has accepted our technology."

On the other hand, Crespo acknowledges that sales to LCD display makers have been disapponting. Samsung is the sole manufacturer building USB video connectivity into their screens. Crespo attributed the poor sales to recessionary pressures leading monitor makers to keep costs down.

Analysts like Brian O'Rourke of In-Stat believe that the USB standard will soon start to catch on with LCD makers. He predicted that 70 million USB-enabled monitors will ship in 2013.

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