4/23/2019 – Important Update:
As of the today the audio issue mentioned in our 1/22/2019 update has been resolved. Thanks to Google for their efforts to resolve the issue.
3/4/2019 – Important Update:
As of today there is a known issue in Chrome OS when used with DisplayLink’s USB 2.0 DL-165 chipset. Displays connected to a USB 2.0 DL-165 chipset-based device (such as our UD-PRO8 or UGA-165) will work, however some displays may not be able to be configured at their maximum resolution. This bug is not present on Windows platforms, and does not affect devices based on DisplayLink’s USB 3.0 chipsets in Chrome OS. A bug report has been filed with Google herehttps://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=923113
1/22/2019 – Important Update:
As of today there is a known issue with some Chromebook models (such as the Google Chromebook Pixel, HP Chromebook 13 G1, and Samsung Chromebook Plus) that are running Chrome OS version 71.0.3578.127 or later.
The problem is that the audio output device of the Plugable UD-3900 dock is not being detected. At this time this appears to be a bug within Chrome OS itself, and a bug report has been filed by DisplayLink (the maker of the primary chip within the UD-3900) with Google for the issue herehttps://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=924111
Original start of post:
Plugable USB video adapters and USB docking stations can work well with many Chromebooks. In this post we go over the evolution of this support and provide important details broken out in the following categories:
At Plugable we make extensive use of Google’s cloud-based software services like Gmail and Google Docs so it seems only natural that we are also big fans of Google’s Chrome OS line of Chromebooks and Chromeboxes. Since these devices are designed to be integrated with Google’s services they provide for great value and simplicity.
Not surprisingly, due to their inexpensive and easy to use nature Chromebook use has exploded and in fact many schools now rely on Chromebook solutions rather than a traditional PC or tablet (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/02/technology/apple-products-schools-education.html).
As a result, a common question we receive is, do our USB video adapters or docking stations based on DisplayLink technology work well with Chromebooks? We have written in the past about this (https://plugable.com/2015/10/21/chrome-os-usb-docking-stations-displaylink/) but wanted to provide an update with the latest information.
The short answer is that in many cases, yes our USB video adapters and USB docks based on DisplayLink technology can work well with Chromebooks built in 2015 or later but there are important details to consider.
The long answer for those that do what all the details is that the level of support and performance can depend on a few variables, so let’s break those down.
Types of DisplayLink Chips in Our USB Docking Stations and Video Adapters
Our DisplayLink-based products fall into two distinct categories, those that require a USB 2.0 connection and those that require USB 3.0. The key difference here is the type of DisplayLink chip inside the product.
Our USB 2.0 adapters and docks are based on DisplayLink chips that have had drivers written by the open source community for the Linux operating system (in fact our founder Bernie Thompson wrote one version of them himselfhttp://git.plugable.com/gitphp/index.php?p=udlfb&a=summary). Chrome OS is based on and in many ways very similar to Linux, so Google was able to integrate these open source drivers into Chrome OS some time agohttps://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=238785 This support is available for all Chromebooks which have Intel or ARM processors inside, but not ones with an Nvidia Tegra processor (https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=379448#c29)
Compatible USB 2.0 Devices
This means that our USB 2.0 video adapters like our UGA-165 (https://plugable.com/products/uga-165/) and our USB 2.0 docking station the UD-PRO8 (https://plugable.com/products/ud-pro8/) should work with just about any Chromebook device. Why do we say ‘should’? Because given the huge number of Chromebooks available (Google has a good reference for most models herehttps://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/developer-information-for-chrome-os-devices) we do not have the ability to test with each and every model (more information on that later on in this post).
Beyond just plugging in a device and having it work, another important element to consider is the level of performance. DisplayLink devices are ‘virtual’ graphics adapters in that they rely on a system’s internal CPU and graphics adapter to do the work behind the scenes to drive the attached displays.
As Chrome OS is quite efficient it does not generally require a powerful CPU in order to work well, and as a result many Chromebooks have lower powered processors than their Windows and Mac counterparts. This is a boon in that they can be made cheaper and get exceptional battery life, but when it comes to our adapters some lower powered processors may not provide the same level of performance compared to a system with a more powerful CPU. This drives our recommendation that only Chromebooks made in 2015 or later be used with DisplayLink devices.
Compatible USB 3.0 Devices
Moving on to our USB 3.0 DisplayLink products, at this time DisplayLink has released a driver that supports USB 3.0 devices for Linux that is partially open source (http://support.displaylink.com/knowledgebase/articles/1104056-why-has-displaylink-not-released-source-code-for-t) and it has been integrated into Chrome OS (https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=572763)
This support is only for Chromebooks based on an Intel or ARM CPU (Nvidia CPU models not supported), and the support again should be universal for all Chromebook devices. Just as before, because given the huge number of Chromebooks available we do not have the ability to test with each and every model.
This means that products based on USB 3.0 DisplayLink chips like our UD-3900 (https://plugable.com/products/ud-3900/) and UGA-3000 (https://plugable.com/products/uga-3000/) should all work on a supported Chromebook. We say ‘should’ again as the same performance considerations mentioned earlier still need to be taken into account, especially for our UD-3900 dock that can add two additional displays. With each additional display more system resources are required, so both the number and resolution of the attached displays can affect the overall performance.
Chrome OS Behavior
In addition to performance considerations, another important thing to consider is how Chromebooks behave when multiple displays are attached. With Windows and Apple Mac systems there are granular settings that control how things behave in terms of waking from sleep, monitor arrangement and what happens with entering docked mode (lid closed with external display, keyboard and mouse attached). .
In Chrome OS, there are very limited options of terms of changing these behaviors so you have to work they way that Google intends. For example, Chromebooks only gained the ability to operate in the so-called ‘dock mode’ in mid to late 2013 (inital announcement herehttps://plus.google.com/u/0/+FrancoisBeaufort/posts/EuJ3ttYSzvp and Issue tracker herehttps://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=218387 ) which allows for closing the Chromebook lid, disabling the internal display and still allows the externally attached displays to continue to work properly.
In addition to the limited configuration options, there are some unique individual known issues with regard to how our products behave in Chrome OS compared to a Windows system. We pride ourselves on doing our best to provide detail like this up front to help prevent frustration later on, so we have tested our products with a number of Chromebooks and have found the following ‘quirky’ behavior:
- On certain model Chromebooks (like the Dell Chromebook 13), the ability to ‘Duplicate’ the internal display to the DisplayLink display does not work. ‘Extending’ the internal display to the external DisplayLink display works as expected. UPDATE 8/3/2017 – this has been fixed in the latest development build of Chrome OS, version 61.0.3163.20
- USB 3.0 DisplayLink devices in most cases will not work after the Chromebook is shut down completely and then started (also known as a ‘cold boot’). The workaround is to unplug the USB 3.0 device and then reconnect it (also known as a ‘hot-plug’). USB 2.0 DisplayLink devices in most cases work as expected in this scenario.
- In most cases, when closing a Chromebook laptop lid while a DisplayLink device is connected the system will enter ‘Docked mode’. In some instances this message is not displayed when closing the lid.
- When a DisplayLink device is connected that adds more than one additional display, Chrome OS will indicate that the desktop is being extended but will only provide the name of the first display it recognizes. Both displays still work as expected, this is only a cosmetic omission
- When waking a Chromebook from sleep, monitors attached to a USB 3.0 DisplayLink device may not always resume as expected. The workaround is to hot-plug the device. USB 2.0 DisplayLink devices in most cases work as expected in this scenario.
- Another sleep related item, the most reliable trigger to wake a Chrome OS device from sleep when in docked mode is by clicking a button on an external mouse. In many cases pressing a key on an external keyboard will not wake the system from sleep
- While our devices work well with basic usage applications such as the Chrome browser, video playback performance can vary from excellent to less than ideal depending on the system’s specifications. This is due to the aforementioned reliance of DisplayLink devices on the Chromebook’s internal CPU and graphics adapter, and also drives our recommendation of Chrome OS devices made in 2015 or newer
- In some instances, a DisplayLink device will not work properly with a Chromebook. It is necessary to ensure that the latest version of Chrome OS is installed (version 56 of this writing) via the directions Google provides herehttps://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/177889?hl=en
If things are still not working, after backing up any local data try resetting the Chromebook (also known as a PowerWash)https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/183084?hl=en
If a DisplayLink device does not work with a Chromebook after having reset the system, test the unit temporarily with a Windows system (after installing the necessary driverhttps://plugable.com/drivers/displaylink/ ) to confirm that the DisplayLink device itself is working properly
In summation, our USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 DisplayLink based graphics adapters can work on most (but not all) Chromebooks released from 2015 onward with the few known quirks mentioned above. Google maintains control over Chrome OS which is a benefit in terms of not having to load any drivers, but also limits Plugable’s ability to make changes. Chrome OS itself is still evolving in terms of the level of configurability of such devices and the consistency of their performance across all the various models of Chromebooks, and we are optimistic things will continue to improve over time. We look forward to your feedback in the comments below, and as always we are here to help should you need direct assistancehttps://plugable.com/support/email/
Useful Chromebook Tips
- Chromebooks do not have a way to change the time interval before the system will go to sleep. A Chromebook can be forced to go to sleep immediately (even with the lid open) by using the keyboard shortcutSearch key (the magnifying glass) + Shift key + ‘L’
- Alternatively, the Search key + ‘L’ key will lock the device, and it will sleep after a few minutes (https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/2587994)
- The magnification level of the content shown within the Chrome web browser can be changed using the keyboard shortcut of ‘CTRL’ and the ‘+’ or ‘-’ key
- The effective screen resolution on an internal Chromebook display can be changed using the keyboard shortcut ‘CTRL’ and ‘SHIFT’ and the ‘+’ or ‘-’ key This only affects the internal Chromebook display and does not affect an external display directly connected to a Chromebook’s built-in secondary video output or a DisplayLink attached display (even when such a display is the only display connected to the system) when the system is running in Docked mode
- A Chromebook with its lid open and internal display active and an external display connected (either via an internal built-in video output or a DisplayLink device) can be forced to enter ‘Docked Mode’ by holding down the Brightness Down key for a few seconds. This will disable the internal display and leave only the external display, even if the Chromebook lid remains open. To re-enable the internal display, press the Brightness Up key for a few seconds
- Chrome OS has many useful keyboard shortcuts, and a quick way to see many of the options available is by pressing ‘CTRL’ and ‘ALT’ and the ‘?’ key. This will display an on-screen representation of the keyboard and the available shortcuts
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