Replace keyboard module with a display module

Disclaimer: I have zero technical/engineering background, so I apologize in advance if this idea is ridiculous.

I know that there’s a prototype e-ink display module that’s the same size as the numpads, but I am wondering if it’s possible to make a regular display into a keyboard-sized module.

It doesn’t need to have touch input or anything. But I think for those of use who will frequently “dock” and the laptop to a larger screen + keyboard and mouse, it’ll be great to use the space that’s taken up by the keyboard for something else. Nobody needs two sets of keyboards! (Or mouse for that matter, but I digress)

I’d find it quite useful especially since the input modules are hot swappable. Imagine putting the laptop on the stand when you get home, popping off the keyboard and popping on the display so there’s a 3rd screen that can be used for sticky notes and or to-do list windows.

Alternatively, even a keyboard sized spacer module would be nice. At the very least we could either cover the spacer with whiteboard sticker and have a dry erase board, or just place a mini external monitor on top of it.

The idea of having the keyboard just hogging real estate on a hotswappable module when docked really feels like wasted potential…

1 Like

The limiting factor is the interface. The pogo pin connections are only USB 2.0, so it would be extremely difficult to run any large display at framerates greater than 1Hz

1 Like

It would technically be possible using a DisplayLink controller or other similar way to send compressed frames.


USB 2.0 has 32 times as much bandwidth as Netflix recommends for 4k streaming. The big challenge is achieving adequate compression without having too much latency.

As @nrp mentioned it could potentially be achieved with DisplayLink. A lot of people (ex. Here and on Reddit) have indicated they dislike DisplayLink docking stations, although I personally have had a pretty good experience when I’ve used it (although I’ve used the DL-6950, which is DisplayLink’s flagship chip, so that may be better than other chips).

The DL-195 is DisplayLink’s best USB 2.0 specific chipset. The DL-195 supports up to 1200p 16:10 or 1152p 16:9.

The DL-3500 through DL-3950 (all the same for this purpose, higher numbers have more features that would be relevant in docking stations) are the highest end DisplayLink chips that advertise USB 2.0 compatibility. They advertise up to 1600p 16:10 (same resolution as the Framework 16’s display), however it is unclear how well that will work with USB 2.0 (they recommend USB 3.0). Perhaps more importantly they use the newer DL-3 algorithm which should achieve better quality even at the same resolution and bandwidth.

There’s also intermediary products, such as the DL-4120, which may make more sense for this as they get the newer algorithm from the DL-3500 series without including extra features that are only relevant if the chip is used in a docking station. Although the DL-4120 is limited to 1080p, higher resolution requires DL-3500 (although I am skeptical of the DL-3500’s ability to do that decently with USB 2.0).


Ok, now you two have me waiting a 2nd screen. :face_in_clouds:

Now I’m also kinda wanting something like the Asus Rog Zephyrus Duo 16.

Top half (where keyboard and numpad would normally be) replaced with a screen, bottom half (where trackpad would normally be) replaced with a keyboard + a numpad sized trackpad beside it.

Although I expect that doing something like that in a non-janky way would likely have very high initial startup costs, so it would only make sense if whoever did it expected to sell a lot of them (and I am skeptical they would).

I’ve learned so much!!

As someone who has been forced to use DisplayLink due to using a Pixel Phone, I can understand why many people hate it. It’s okay for viewing things but the lag and overheating causes it to be good for just reading articles and scrolling sites and not much else. I suppose it’ll really depend on what the “second screen” is used for.

Although I wonder, if we’re talking janky DIY solutions, instead of the screen module being powered by the actual input connectors, maybe just attaching a display panel that’s connected to one of the USB C expansions ports via a short wire would work. So that input module bay is really just a physical holder for the screen…

But I suppose if the keyboard is bothering me that much, it might just be easier to build a “tablet pc” version (or something like this) using the 16" mainboard…

If a display isn’t really possible down below, I’d love to replace the entire trackpad area with an e-ink display and/or a drawing tablet. And then use the space for the two thin trackpad spacers as a small trackpad.

1 Like