The next generation of laptops could support 16K monitors over USB-C

The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) unveiled its new video standard that allows PCs to connect to 16K displays using a USC-C cable through the DisplayPort standard.

The new DisplayPort Alt Mode version 2.0 is capable of handling video data for up to two 8K displays or a single 16K display over USB-C and has a maximum bandwidth of nearly 80 Gigabits per second (Gbps) — nearly triple that of the older DisplayPort 1.4 protocol.

That means you can connect a monitor with a whopping resolution of 15,360 × 8,460 pixels and a refresh rate of 60Hz to your desktop or laptop over USB-C. While this may sound exciting, the standard won’t start appearing in products until 2021.

For consumers, the wait won’t be too big of a deal given that there isn’t much mainstream video content on the market that exceeds 4K resolution today. Sure, 8K digital cameras are coming, but experts say you don’t need them. Gamers may be drawn to the visual fidelity afforded by 8K and 16K panels, but the slower 60Hz refresh rate in even the best 144Hz panels of 2020 could limit the appeal of these high-resolution panels among enthusiasts.

At least initially, the standard will likely find interest among photographers and creatives working with 8K content.

“With DisplayPort Alt Mode, the USB-C connector can transmit up to 80 Gigabits per second (Gbps) of DisplayPort video data utilizing all four high-speed lanes in the cable, or up to 40 Gbps with simultaneous SuperSpeed USB data delivery,” the Association said in a prepared statement. The DisplayPort Alt Mode 2.0 is built using USB4 specifications, and VESA worked with the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) to drive the new features of the Alt Mode 2.0.

The DisplayPort 2.0 protocol was initially unveiled last year and provides support for features like higher refresh rates, high dynamic range (HDR) content, multi-display setups, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) displays, and beyond-8K resolutions.

“Through our latest collaboration with the USB-IF, VESA is now taking care of everything related to high-performance displays over USB-C, whether through a native DisplayPort or USB-C connector, or through tunneling of DisplayPort over the native USB4 interface,” said Craig Wiley, senior director of marketing at Parade Technologies, and VESA board member and DisplayPort Alt Mode sub-group leader.

“DisplayPort is also tunneled through the Thunderbolt interface, making it the de facto video standard across PC and mobile displays.”

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