Part of what sets Windows tablets like the Dell Venue 8 Pro and Asus Transformer Book T100 apart from an iPad or Android tablet is the ability to run full-blown desktop apps. Apparently I’m not the only one who got the idea of actually using one of these tablets as a desktop computer.

The folks at Plugable wanted to see how a tablet with an Intel Atom Bay Trail processor works when you hook up multiple displays — so they connected the tablet to a Plugable dock connected to 4 separate monitors

The results look pretty good.

Plugable Bay Trail multi-display

Plugable used a Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet for the test. The tablet doesn’t have a video port or full-sized USB port, but with a micro USB OTG cable they were able to connect a $129 Plugable docking station to add USB, Ethernet, and DVI and HDMI ports.

That’s all you need to do if you want to connect a monitor or two, since you can use the HDMI and DVI ports to display video on up to 2 external displays. But thanks to DisplayLink adapters which let you hook up a monitor over a USB port, they were able to connect 4 monitors at once.

What’s really cool is that since the Dell Venue 8 Pro is running a full version of Windows 8.1 software, it can download all the drivers automatically so the setup process is pretty painless (once you have the hardware in place). And the Intel Atom Bay Trail processor is powerful enough to handle multiple display setups pretty well.

In the demo video, Plugable’s founder showed a YouTube video playing on an one display — and being dragged from monitor to monitor seamlessly. You can run different windows in each display, or extend windows across multiple monitors.

When you want to take the tablet on the go, just disconnect the dock and you can use it as a standalone device again.

Keep in mind, while the Bay Trail processor is powerful enough to keep up with basic tasks, it’s not exactly a speed demon — so don’t expect to play bleeding edge games on 4 screens at once in this kind of setup. But  for basic computing, you could essentially turn Dell’s $299 tablet into a desktop machine capable of working across multiple displays.

There is a catch though: The Venue 8 Pro has just one USB port, and that’s what you use to charge the tablet. So while it’s connected to Plugable’s docking station, you can’t charge the tablet. Make sure to start your day with a fully charged battery if you want to get any real work done in a setup like this.

via UMPC Portal



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22 replies on “Bay Trail tablet powering 4 PC monitors (video)”

  1. Ok, from everything I’ve read, it seems the USB OTG cable for the Venue 8 pro only supports USB 2.0. Is that right? My PERFECT device would be an 8 inch tablet that I could dock using USB 3.0 and DisplayLink to give me the best possible desktop experience. I’ve tried docking the Venue 8 pro to my touchscreen displaylink monitor, and although it works, you can certainly feel the latency as things draw rather slowly. I have my desktop connected to the same monitor via USB3 and it feels just like a native monitor.

    The thing is, I know that Bay Trail supports USB3, it’s just a matter of finding an 8 inch tablet that outputs to USB3. I know the Venue 11 pro will do this, but I’m still hoping for a desktop replacement in the size of a mini-tablet. Mostly because I just think it would be really cool to push the traditional desktop/laptop/tablet boundary to the furthest extent possible! 🙂

  2. This is great, now make another port for power or make this usb port able to deliver power while docked and you have perfect tablet setup :)!

    1. At this time that is correct. An OTG Y cable commonly used for this task does NOT work on the Venue.

    2. you would have to hack it DYI and install power source to the DC side regulator circuit, it’s not hard to do once you open it up, and that is hard enough because they glue the crap out of these devices!

  3. wow. just need a way to harness the cpu power of other machines, in a similar way to having extra displays, so you can move from location to location and use whatever is available to do heavy work

  4. Is there any reason why Android cannot support multiple monitors? I am not sure exactly what a “full blown desktop app” is anymore. I can do photo editing, write documents, create and edit mind-maps, use spreadsheets, etc. on an Android smartphone, as well as my iPad. While there are some applications which haven’t quite made it to the thin and light platform (e.g. software development environments like Eclipse), most of what people have been using a “desktop” computer for for the last few decades already exists on tablets. Adding a BlueTooth keyboard (and a mouse, but only if you are using Android–Apple, in its omniscience, decided you don’t need a mouse) has let me do away with most of what I need a laptop for when I travel.

    1. I always run into problems with android for certain tasks where I can’t find a reasonable alternative…very difficult to get android to do certain things

      1. Can you give some examples? Like I mentioned, there are some I know of (e.g. a real UML2 tool–with support for profiles, OCL, etc.), but they are “edge” cases that most home, small business and “corporate” users are not apt to run into often.

        Development on Android, from what I can gather, isn’t complicated for those organization who need custom software. You can do an awful lot with HTML5 + web services (some of which may need to run w/ local data store and sync when possible).

        Caveat: I still haven’t written my first app and this will have to wait a while. I am using an iPad & iPhone until I save enough of my allowance for the new ASUS Transformer tablet (and Google releases a solid, updated, slimmed version of the Motorola Droid-If you are on the go, its slide-out keyboard just rocks for email, Evernote, Toodledo, etc.) So take that comment with a grain of salt.

        I don’t know of any sort of decent list of “desktop software” which is either a use case for not using Android*, or a cry for something to be ported. The other question is which of these can be done using a light weight client on the tablet/phone/watch/Google glasses/implanted device and a set of web services. A lot could likely be done with Citrix/RDP/VNC, but that always fails to impress me.

        (or some other light-and-fast ‘nix like OS which supports Java and HTML5–RIM’s QNX and WebOS, as well as Linux distributions aimed at phones/tablets)

        1. well my problem is that android pigeon-holes a lot of the browsers as mobile i’d often have to use boat browser.. for example I was trying to order a phone on a website and they kept on sending me to some mobile site. I cannot find a good DC++ app… wifi is sometimes pretty sluggish vs the same connection on windows..there isn’t a vector drawing app either.. these things keep me coming back to my laptop and make it easy to unfortunately use a windows tablet. I am hoping for a refresh on the Thinkpad tablet 2..hopefully it has an unlocked bootloader because it’d be nice to still be able to run android because for most tasks but for some I’d find myself booting back into windows.

    1. Hi Michael – Sorry, this stuff won’t work at all with Windows RT, because ARM-based Windows doesn’t have a DDK or user-installable drivers in the same way as normal Windows.

      1. Yeah RT can’t install the driver ,but I saw RT been connected to two monitor with HDMI and contents was dragged from one monitor to the other

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