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Mercy Ships
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XPS 13 9365 - What is required for 3 external displays

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So here is my situation...The Boss used to have a Surface setup. When docked, he was able to use the surface screen, 2 external monitors (Display port), and a TV (through HDMI) simultaneously. We have since replaced the surface with the XPS 13, and he is adamant about retaining his current setup of 3 external monitors plus the onboard display. We've tried using our existing docking stations (D6000 and WD-15), but these will not go beyond 3 displays (Onboard + 2 externals). Talking with our dell rep, they tell us there is no offered dock that will support more than 3 displays. 

We've looked at getting an external graphics card, which I think should work, but might be overkill. Basically just need suggestions on how to set this up so he can have his 4 displays. Thanks in advance!

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jphughan
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Re: XPS 13 9365 - What is required for 3 external displays

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There's more to to answering this question than one might think, so settle in.

First, all Intel GPUs on the market today are limited to directly driving a maximum of 3 simultaneous independent displays.  This limitation is separate from and in addition to any other limitations that may exist with respect to maximum resolution, available bandwidth to drive the desired setup over the connection type(s) in use, etc.  So unless your boss had a Surface model that included a discrete GPU (and the discrete GPU was wired to at least one of the display output ports, which would surprise me), then at least one of those 3 external displays would have either been a mirror display rather than an independent display or it would have been driven indirectly -- more on that in a moment.

The WD15 taps into the native GPU output available on the USB-C port, so any displays you attach to those outputs would be directly driven by the GPU and therefore included in the 3 display maximum.  The same goes for the TB16, although it can run more and/or higher resolution displays because it has access to 4x as much display bandwidth as the WD15.  The TB16 requires Thunderbolt 3, whereas the WD15 only requires regular USB-C, but the XPS 13 9365 has Thunderbolt 3 as standard.

By comparison, the D6000 uses DisplayLink, which is indirect display technology.  Indirectly driven displays do not count toward the GPU maximum display limit, but DisplayLink and equivalent indirect display technologies have some drawbacks that I've explained in detail in this thread, specifically the post marked as the answer.  Those may or may not be relevant to your use case.  If you weren't able to get three external displays to work through the D6000, I'd want to know more about exactly how they were connected, because the D6000's product page and documentation clearly state that it can run three displays up to 4K 60 Hz each, on top of the built-in display -- and user experience has confirmed that.

If you feel DisplayLink might be an issue for you, then one other option would be to use either a WD15 or TB16 for two of the external displays (which in conjunction with the built-in display would be 3 GPU-driven displays) and then get a single DisplayLink adapter for the third external display, such as a DisplayPort/HDMI to USB 3.0 adapter.  You could even plug that single adapter into a USB 3.0 port on the WD15/TB16 itself so that there's still only one docking cable going back to the system.  Of course that single display will still be subject to DisplayLink limitations, but if one of them is used for less "intensive" content, that might be acceptable.

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jphughan
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Re: XPS 13 9365 - What is required for 3 external displays

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@Mercy Shipsin addition to my answer above, one other form of indirect display technology is a wireless display.  Microsoft offers this wireless display adapter that plugs into the HDMI input of a display/TV and also a USB port for power.  It then makes itself available via WiFi Direct, and on your system you'd select it as a wireless display.  You don't have to join that adapter to a WiFi network to use it, since it broadcasts as an independent device, and the system can remain connected to its regular WiFi network while also sending display data to that adapter.  That's how WiFi Direct works.  So that would be another way to light up 3 external displays, and this would have the added benefit that your boss would be able to display to that display even while his system isn't plugged into the dock, if that would be useful for the TV scenario.

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Mercy Ships
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Re: XPS 13 9365 - What is required for 3 external displays

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jphughan, thank you for your reply. On your assurance that the D6000 SHOULD work for these, I went back and tested things out a bit more. Turns out my initial mistake was starting by plugging the docking station into the XPS, and then trying to get the monitors to work. This apparently keeps things from setting up correctly...I got everything plugged in right and THEN plugged in the machine, and things seemed to work without issue. 

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