More high-end GPUs are now compatible with Dell's 8K monitor

Dell says AMD's Radeon Pro WX 7100 will support the 8K monitor that started shipping last week

Getting 8K displays to work with Windows 10 PCs can be difficult, as Dell is finding out.

But playing with 8K on PCs is a discovery process for Dell, which shipped the first-ever 8K display -- the Dell 32 UltraSharp 8K Monitor -- last week. The small initial stock of the US$5,000 display sold out in a few days.

The display won't work on all PCs and needs specific hardware and display ports. But Dell is finding out that more hardware than it originally thought can handle 8K graphics, including AMD's Radeon Pro WX 7100 workstation GPU.

The 32-inch display shows images at a resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels. The monitor shows stunning colors and features 33.2 million pixels and more than a billion colors.

But being first to market has its own shortcomings. The display has a 60Hz refresh rate, not enough for gaming or fast-moving video because new frames draw up slowly. The monitor is mainly aimed at applications like image manipulation, engineering, and space exploration, where static and deeper images matter more.

Dell willingly admits that this monitor isn't for everyone or for all PCs. But the company is learning more as it works with GPUs, connectors, PC configurations, and drivers.

There is only a handful of GPUs that support 8K. In early demonstrations of the monitor, Dell used a workstation with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card. AMD's Polaris-based Radeon Pro WX 7100 workstation GPU can now be added to the small list of GPUs supporting the 8K monitor, said Michael Turner, manager for monitor products at Dell.

The 8K monitor has two DisplayPort 1.4 ports, and both need to hooked up to a PC to support the full 8K resolution. A single DisplayPort connection won't achieve the 8K resolution.

The PC and GPU running the monitor also need to support DSC (Display Stream Compression), so compressed 8K content can be delivered to the monitor via the two DisplayPort connections. Outside of the new high-end GPUs, many don't support DSC, ruling out 8K support, Turner said.

Standards-setting organizations are developing other connectors for 8K monitors and PCs. The new HDMI version 2.1 specification will support 8K at 60Hz, but Dell doesn't have enough information about it yet to consider the technology. Intel's superfast Thunderbolt 3 connector does not support 8K yet, Turner said.

New details about the HDMI 2.1 specification for 8K could emerge at the upcoming NAB Show in Las Vegas in two weeks. Turner is curious about what the 8K-compatible HDMI cable compatible will look like.

But Microsoft's Windows 10 is ready for 8K, and the OS is capable of scaling to the resolution. Users must ensure they have the right GPU and the latest drivers that scale beyond the 4K resolution.

Users are still warming up to 4K displays, and it may be many years until 8K goes mainstream.

An important milestone for 8K will be in 2020, with the Tokyo Olympics is expected to be broadcast at that resolution. At CES, Chinese TV maker Changhong showed off an 8K TV, and chipmaker Ambarella touted its H3 chip for drones and video cameras that can capture 8K video at 30 frames per second.

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