DisplayLink gets ‘Pro’ upgrade with new Synaptics DL-7000 chip

Forward-looking: You’ve probably heard of Thunderbolt and plain USB-C docking stations. But there’s a third option that’s been quietly gaining steam: docks using Synaptics’ DisplayLink technology. This fall, they’re rolling out the next evolution, called DisplayLink Pro, which aims to up the ante.

DisplayLink docks provide an alternative to pricier Thunderbolt options by using data compression tricks to funnel high-res video streams through plain old USB connections. While you might notice some quality hits with intense gaming, most day-to-day desktop duties are unaffected. The key advantage is that these docks can often push more displays than their Thunderbolt counterparts on a tighter budget.

At a recent Dell conference, Synaptics claimed it could hook up six 4K displays to a single Dell XPS laptop using its ‘Pro’ tech. That’s massive for a relatively low-cost dock solution.

At the heart of this is Synaptics’ new DL-7000 chipset, which can drive a 1080p display at a blistering 240Hz refresh rate. Meanwhile, DisplayLink docks can run 4K displays at 120Hz or a single 4K screen at up to 144Hz.

However, the only way to identify whether a DisplayLink dock features the DL-7000 will apparently be a logo that mentions ‘DisplayLink Pro’ slapped across it – so keep an eye out for it.

Beyond raw specs, DisplayLink Pro marks an interesting evolution of the dock concept itself. As highlighted in the report, Synaptics is referring to its compression tech as a “software graphics card” that’s “GPU agnostic” – meaning it can work across devices regardless of their graphics hardware.

PCWorld also reports that the company showed off the ability for dock makers to essentially load custom software and apps onto the docks themselves at Computex. One mock demo displayed a message from a company’s IT department about upcoming changes right on the dock’s display.

On the connectivity front, you’re looking at 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet in addition to all those high-res display outputs. And backward compatibility with older DisplayLink gear is baked in, so you can upgrade without tossing existing docks.

While Synaptics is steering the technological ship, it won’t be selling these DisplayLink Pro docks directly to consumers. As with previous DisplayLink offerings, the DL-7000 chipsets will find their way into dock designs from Synaptics’ partners and OEMs.

Image credit: PCWorld

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