DisplayPort’s Multi-Monitor Feature Saves Power and Money

DisplayPort’s killer feature may be its ability to support multi-display monitors from a single digital output port and provide full display performance with zero latency, while consuming less power and costing less than other multi-monitor solutions.

By Ji Park and Henry Zeng, IDT

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Video/Imaging DesignWire
(11/13/2009 4:00:37 PM)

Multi-Stream, Multi-Display
One of the unique advantages of supporting this new video micro-packet-based interface architecture is the ability to support new cool features; in this case, supporting multiple displays from a single digital port. DisplayPort’s killer feature is this ability to support uninhibited multi-display monitors from a single digital output port and provide full display performance with zero latency that has no display application limitations and can provide the lowest-power multi-monitor solution available. This all can be accomplished at an affordable price point while providing a true plug-and-play, service-free operation.

Who Would Use This?
DisplayPort’s multi-monitor support might be very cool, but the most important question is – who is going to use it? Well, several real-world applications exist for multi-monitor displays. Some of them include:

  • Hard core video gamers who demand full panoramic views, which allows them to become immersed in the game
  • CAD design engineers who can layout a full design in a single-wide window
  • Circuit design engineers who can display schematics and layouts while running simulations
  • Computer programmers who can code and look on flow-charts and documents at same time
  • Spreadsheet accountants who can view extra wide spreadsheets
  • Movie studio editors who can layout multiple clips at a time and edit the story board in real time
  • Graphic artists who can edit and have multiple shots laid out at once
  • Photographers who can view multiple shots at once and pick the best one
  • Financial institutions that can track multiple stock, bonds, client info and spreadsheets at once
  • Government agencies that can monitor and run multiple applications simultaneously
  • Call centers that can display multiple clients at once with other back data being viewed at the same time
  • Office users who can work on multiple documents and spreadsheets while responding to e-mail and searching the Internet
  • Home users who can run side chats while watching a movie and chatting on Facebook

Each of these applications has unique needs that are addressed by the DisplayPort multi-monitor solution, helping improve the user experience and/or improving the overall work efficiency and productivity. Yes, having a multi-monitor solution can improve efficiency and productivity. A February 2009 survey by Fraunhofer IAO Laboratory concluded that “workplaces with three displays increased productivity by 35.5 percent” vs. those with single displays. It went further to highlight that one single, bigger display can only minimally improve the productivity vs. having multiple displays.

To take advantage of multi-monitor displays for PCs today, few options exist. For desktops, users would need to install one graphics card for each additional monitor or install an expensive multi-head graphics card that has multiple outputs. For notebooks, a PCMCIA/Cardbus card with an external box or an external box connected to VGA port must be used. Lastly, for both notebooks and desktops, a USB-based solution can also provide these multi-monitor display solutions.

However, the above-mentioned solutions come with their own issues and drawbacks. Some of those include the following:

  • Higher cost: Each additional card and external box can range in price from $150 for a dual monitor solution to more than $600 for quad monitor support
  • Higher need for serviceability: IT or a skilled technician will need to open the box to install the graphic cards
  • Limitation on expandability: Adding monitors may require upgrades to the graphics cards or the external box
  • Additional power consumption: Multiple cards and multi-head graphic cards can consume as much as 100 watts or more

Some of the limitations for USB implementations include the following:

  • The loss of video quality cause by compression due to the bandwidth limitations of USB
  • The taxing of CPU and memory resources
  • Driver incompatibility with system operating systems
  • Difficulties with Windows Hardware Qualification Labs (WHQL) certification especially with driver updates
  • The inability to support High Definition Content Protection (HDCP) to play back Hollywood movies, make it challenging to fully rely on this solution

NEXT: DisplayPort’s Multi-Monitor Solution

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