Considering their rarity and newness, I thought I would start a thread where we could mention the laptops we come across that are capable of 4-7 high resolution displays (including the internal display). I'd like us to leave out "low resolution" USB connected monitors and stick to greater than 1024x768 capable laptops and displays. This will mean the external displays will be connected via VGA, HDMI, and/or DisplayPort.
Fully integrated into Windows XPô, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and MAC OSX
1080p output picture resolution
Supported Windows Aero mode
Stand alone device
Fully USB 2.0 bus powered
Compatible with all flat panel monitors
Compatible with all CRT monitors, up to 2048x1152 resolution
Standard and wide-screen ratio aspects
Easy plug and play installation
Mirror or extend in any direction
Supports up to six displays 1 display per device. Maximum 6 devices per system
80% less power than a dual-head video card
It might depend on your overall hardware/software environment, but the USB 2.0 display adapters can be quite hit-and-miss, including stability and reliability. Due to the much lower bandwidth of USB 2.0 screen redrawing can be noticeably slow even with something as relatively static as charts, and the more of these USB 2.0 adapters you try to add, the more possible it might be for Windows to sputter and die.
If you have at least 1 USB 3.0 port (or can install one some way), you can much more reliably get at least 5 external monitors running, with little to no performance hit, and with fairly solid reliability.
And this video demonstrates 6 such adapters/monitors running; I've talked to folks who are pushing 4 or more external monitors via USB 3.0 from a laptop, that were endlessly frustrated in a USB 2.0 environment.
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Do the USB adapters use the CPU for processing power to the external displays, instead of a graphics card? Would a discrete graphics card solution be more stable/reliable than using adapters? It would seem logical that adapters are inherently less stable. I am looking to buy or build a new system, and considering stability, and even the cost of multiple adapters likely not being cheaper than a graphics card, seems a dedicated card may be better.
I think it entirely depends on the particular device that is being used. If the device is only using USB as the OS/driver interface and physical connection then in theory it shouldn't be using the CPU to implement hardware functionality (which is what you're referring to).
In the video they show 3 cores being very active and I suspect that is a result of the 3 videos being played without a dedicated hardware decoder. My thinking is that majority of the hardwares rendering functionality is built into the device and a driver is being used to interact with that hardware.
Another interesting comment they made is that the driver is provided by Windows Update (which I'm in favor of: convenient, reliable, single source for updates). So either they are using their third-party vendors driver (which customers would rely on for bug fixes) or they are providing their proprietary driver to Microsoft for distribution (ideal). You might give that particular manufacturer a call. I would ask them about CPU overhead and whether the Windows Update driver is a driver provided by a third-party or their proprietary driver.
Either way, so far, these devices and the manufacturer look very promising and more appealing compared to a docking solution like those provided by Lenovo. Unfortunately the W540 mentioned above and other Lenovo laptops, compared to their previous versions, have not been getting very favorable reviews by IT professionals. Maybe I'll consider another vendor or I'll have to settle, not sure. At least these USB 3.0 devices give us many more options to choose from. My search continues.
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