If you’re hoping to one day drive a full Iron Man-style monitor array with just an inexpensive laptop sitting on your desk, you should check out the latest standards published by VESA. The updated DisplayPort Alt Mode 2.0 includes support for an enormous amount of video data going over the increasingly standard USB-C cable interface.
The new spec lets some of the rails in the cable previously reserved for data (things like external hard drives or network cards) be dedicated to full video output in the alternate mode. This allows the DisplayPort standard to drive a massive amount of pixels across an array of monitors on a single cable. The maximum resolution for a single monitor would theoretically be 16K at 60 hertz—a total resolution of 15360×8460. In more relatable terms, that’s the same resolution as sixty-four 1080p HD monitors in an 8×8 grid.
Other configurations would be possible too. With 80GB of total video bandwidth (using both the up and down lanes), DisplayPort Alt Mode 2.0 could theoretically handle triple 4K monitors at 144Hz, on a single cable, without breaking a sweat. The standard will be compatible with USB 4.0, which will use the same cable connections as today’s USB-C. It will also be compatible with existing DisplayPort connections on the display end, meaning it’ll work with cheaper displays, too.
When will we be able to use this fantastic new monitor standard? Not for quite a while. VESA didn’t give a date for finalizing the spec, and these kinds of cable and interface upgrades are always pretty protracted. I’d say two years—at the very least—is the soonest we could hope for this to show up in consumer devices.