VESA adds DisplayPort to USB Type-C standard

September 24, 2014 // 10:20 a.m.

Tags: #thunderbolt #usb #usb-30 #usb-31 #usb-if #usb-promoter-group #usb-type-c #vesa

The Video Electronic Standards Association (VESA) has confirmed a partnership with the USB 3.0 Promoter Group that will bring high-resolution DisplayPort support to the upcoming USB Type-C standard.

Better known as 'finally, a reversible USB cable that you can plug in on the first try,' the USB Type-C standard now includes support for DisplayPort Alternate Mode. When enabled, this takes some or all of the SuperSpeed USB signalling lines in the cable and reuses them to send DisplayPort video and audio instead. The result: a single connector that can offer high-speed data, power, high-resolution video and digital audio.

'The USB Type-C specification was developed to provide consumers with a robust connector for everything from mobile devices to PCs, and when combined with SuperSpeed USB 10Gb/s and USB Power Delivery, it truly enables a single cable solution for the market,' boasted Jeff Ravencraft, USB Interface Forum president and chief operating officer, at the announcement. 'The USB-IF is also in the process of developing joint port identification guidelines. We’re working with VESA to ensure consumers can recognise when DisplayPort Alt Mode is supported on USB Type-C devices.'

The USB SuperSpeed standard allows for up to 10Gb/s data transfer rates per lane, while the DisplayPort 1.3 standard requires only 8.1Gb/s per lane in order to operate. Initially, however, the first Alt Mode devices will likely use the older DisplayPort 1.2a standard, which tops out at 5.4Gb/s per lane - still enough, VESA clarifies, to support a 4,096x2,160 (4K) display at 60Hz and 30-bit colour, with the faster DisplayPort 1.3 bumping that up to 5,120x2,880 at the same specifications.

The move to add DisplayPort support to the USB standard is yet another salvo in the ongoing war between the USB Interface Forum and Intel and Apple's Thunderbolt standard. Where Thunderbolt offers PCI Express lanes for data and DisplayPort for audio and video, the latest USB devices will feature both USB 3.1 and USB 2.0 - the former even when the four USB 3.1 lanes are all co-opted for DisplayPort use - for data and the same DisplayPort AV functionality while also featuring enough power to charge portable devices up to and include laptops with 100W to Thunderbolt's 10W.

More details of the DisplayPort Alternate Mode in the USB Type-C standard are available on the VESA website.
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