New USB-C-to-HDMI spec will enable adapter-free display hookups for MacBooks

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The company responsible for licensing the HDMI specification on Thursday introduced the "HDMI Alternate Mode" for USB-C, which should allow devices like Apple's 12-inch MacBook to connect displays without the help of an adapter.

Companies will have to manufacture specific USB-C-to-HDMI cables supporting the HDMI 1.4b standard, but these should support 4K resolutions on monitors, TVs, and projectors, said HDMI Licensing LLC. Previously 12-inch MacBooks have had to use an adapter to connect to any external display using HDMI.

When connecting to 4K screens, moreover, MacBooks have been limited to a 30-hertz refresh rate, half what most displays are capable of.

While 12-inch MacBooks aren't really powerful enough to push 4K content, the situation could change later this fall. Apple is expected to launch updated iMac, MacBook Pro, and/or MacBook Air models, all of which may support USB-C and be better equipped for 4K video. The company is also said to be building a new 5K display in cooperation with LG, though whether it will support USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, or both is unknown.

The previous 27-inch Thunderbolt Display was discontinued in June without a replacement. Even up to that point it was still priced at $999, despite being limited to 2560-by-1440 resolution and eclipsed by cheaper third-party monitors supporting 4K.

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