One of the most interesting new features on Intel's Thunderbolt 2 technology is the addition of DisplayPort 1.2 support in order to enable video streaming to a single Ultra HD monitor or dual QHD monitors. While Thunderbolt is targeted at the PC industry, there are a number of IC design firms looking at the potential of a stripped down version of DisplayPort called mobility DisplayPort (MyDP) for doing similar work - streaming video from a smartphone to HD displays.
A key advantage of DisplayPort is that it can be used for driving the video signal for internal screens as well as external screens and can efficiently drive high-resolution displays such as for the 2048x1536 pixel iPad. That helps CPU makers like Intel reduce the number of I/Os needed because they can multiplex the internal and external screens on the same I/O, leaving it to the manufacturer to decide how they want to implement it.
During Computex, IC design house Analogix has been showing off its version of MyDP called SlimPort. Andre Bouwer, vice president of marketing for Analogix, explained that an increasing number of key players in the mobile application processor (APU) market are realizing the advantages of DisplayPort for HD video and are extending their support.
Intel supports DisplayPort across the board, while Apple, Samsung and Nvidia are providing support on the ARM side of the market. A key addition this year will be Qualcomm, which is introducing support in some of its APUs this year.
While many of these semiconductor firms are looking to have DisplayPort drive their internal high-resolution displays, the technology can be leveraged to drive external displays as well. If DisplayPort is supported, then the simpler version of SlimPort can be implemented by the system maker as well.
The Google Nexus 4 was the first smartphone to support SlimPort, and the technology is also used in phones and tablets including the LG Optimus G Pro smartphone, Fujitsu Arrows Tab and Asus PadFone Infinity. The Asus and Futjitsu solutions use a docking solution, while Analogix is marketing connector accessories to deliver video from the micro USB port on the smartphones to a choice of HDMI, DVI and DisplayPort ports on the displays.
Comparing DisplayPort with HDMI, Bouwer noted that HDMI has fees associated with it while DisplayPort is royalty free. This was one of the original big attractions for PC OEMs and it was PC players that pushed development of the technology, especially for notebooks. Bouwer pointed out that the legacy of this development is that design and architecture decisions were made based on a battery-powered mobile device to reduce power consumption, improve EMI through fixed data frequency and spread spectrum, and reduce noise to strengthen the RF signal.
Bouwer noted that if one looks at the total number of transmitter of DisplayPort vs HDMI, there are more DisplayPort transmitters shipped in the market.
However, SlimPort and MyDP are not the only games in town. HDMI remains popular and MHL has found a niche on mobile handsets. Some others think Wi-Fi will be the solution that will win out for transmitting video from a handset to a TV.
Still Bouwer believes that Analogix is only beginning to tap the potential of SlimPort. Next year the company will provide support for USB devices as well as video output through SlimPort. Bouwer envisions a future where smartphones can literally be pocket PCs, with users plugging them into peripherals at work, home and on the road.