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DisplayPort vs. HDMI - A Definitive Guide

Updated: August 02,2022

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DisplayPort and HDMI are digital video standards for connecting display devices such as TVs, monitors, and projectors, both with each other and computers. Most people are familiar with them but may not be sure of their differences.

In this article, we'll take a look at the key features of both and outline the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed decision about which standard best suits your needs. We’ll first explain the main features of each standard and then compare DisplayPort vs. HDMI in some key areas. Read on to find out everything you’ll need to know.

HDMI - PC and Consoles

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is the industry-standard connector for sending digital video and audio signals. HDMI uses a much smaller cable than older analog standards like DVI and can carry both high-definition video and high-resolution audio.

Before we get into the difference between DP and HDMI standards, you should be aware that the latter is pretty much the only choice if you want to connect a modern laptop, Blu-ray player, game console, or streaming media player to a TV, projector, or monitor.

Most new televisions and computer monitors have HDMI inputs, making it a default standard for HD video and audio signals, especially on TVs and gaming consoles.

An HDMI monitor or TV has some significant advantages over the older DVI standard, including much smaller and more convenient cables and the ability to carry both video and audio signals (DVI is used for video only).

HDMI and DisplayPort both support HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), which is required to play copyrighted Blu-ray movies and other DRM-protected content.

Many different HDMI cables and several iterations of the technology emerged over the years, improving HDMI’s max refresh rate and resolution capabilities. It's essential to use a high-quality HDMI cable to get the best possible picture and sound quality, as poor cables can cause signal degradation, leading to image artifacts and audio dropouts.

Support for high dynamic range (HDR) was added only in HDMI 2.0, and you’ll also need one of the modern HDMI ports for AMD’s Freesync to work correctly. NVIDIA’s G-Sync technology is even more demanding, and you’ll need a 2.1 HDMI connection.

Each HDMI consecutive version improved the maximum HDMI resolution, refresh rate, or transfer bandwidth in some way. Here is a handy list that shows how the tech evolved over the years:

HDMI Version

Maximum Bandwidth

Maximum Data Rate

Highest Available Resolution (Native) 

Audio Support

HDR Support

Year 

1.0

4.95 Gb/s

3.96 Gbps

1080p @ 60 Hz

Eight audio channels

No

2002

1.1 - 1.2

4.95 Gb/s

3.96 Gbps

1440p @ 30 Hz

One-bit audio & DVD audio

No

2004/2005

1.3 - 1.4

10.2 Gb/s

8.16 Gbps

4K @ 60 Hz

ARC, DTS-HD, Dolby TrueHD 

No

2006/2009

2.0

18.0 Gb/s

14.4 Gbps

5K @ 30 Hz

32 audio channels, DRA, HE-AAC 

Yes

2013

2.1

48.0 Gb/s

42.6 Gbps

8K @ 30 Hz

eARC

Yes

2017

DisplayPort - PC Only

Moving on from HDMI to DisplayPort (DP), let's talk a little bit about the alternative display interface often used on personal computers and gaming monitors.

DP is a digital display interface developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). The interface is primarily used to connect a video source to a display device such as a computer monitor, but it can also carry audio, USB, and other connections.

DisplayPort and HDMI were designed to replace the older VGA and DVI display standards. DP uses a different connector than HDMI and the older technologies, though, so it's not compatible with them without an adapter.

DisplayPort 1.0 was released in 2006 and has been updated several times since. The latest version, DisplayPort 2.0, was released in 2019 and is backward-compatible with older versions. It is an open standard, and several companies have DisplayPort-compatible products, including some of the latest Thunderbolt 4-equipped laptops.

One of the key advantages of DisplayPort vs. HDMI is in gaming, where it has supported AMD and NVIDIA variable refresh rate technologies (FSR and G-Sync) for much longer. For example, G-Sync has worked on every DP version since 1.2a, which came out in 2013. On the other hand, it was only properly supported by HDMI 2.1, which was introduced four years later.

If we compare DisplayPort to HDMI, the former has also supported higher resolutions and refresh rates earlier, even without Display Stream Compression (DSC).

Both technologies had a similar number of upgrades over the years, and both underwent substantial revisions with version 2.0. Let’s take a look at how DP developed over the years with this handy table:

DP Version

Maximum Bandwidth

Maximum Data Rate

Notable Resolutions & Refresh Rates

Transmission Modes

HDR

Support

Year 

1.0 - 1.1a

10.8 Gbps

8.64 Gbps

1080p @ 144 Hz, 4K @ 30 Hz

RBR/HBR

No

2006/2007/2008

1.2 -

1.2a

21.6 Gbps

17.28 Gbps

1080p @ 240 Hz, 5K @ 30 Hz

RBR/HBR/HBR2

No

2010/2012

1.3

32.4 Gbps

25.92 Gbps

1080p @ 360 Hz, 

 8K @ 30 Hz

RBR/HBR/HBR2/HBR3

No

2014

1.4 - 

1.4a

32.4 Gbps

25.92 Gbps

8K @ 120 Hz through DSC

RBR/HBR/HBR2/HBR3

Yes

2016/2018

2.0

80.0 Gbps

77.37 Gbps

4K @ 240 Hz,

8K @ 85 Hz through DSC

RBR/HBR/HBR2/UHBR

Yes

2019

HDMI vs. DisplayPort - Why Bandwidth Maters

You may have noticed us mentioning maximum bandwidth and data rates in our tables above and wondering what that has to do with the resolution or refresh rate capabilities of devices running HDMI vs. DisplayPort.

Let's explain it: Every pixel that makes up the picture on your screen is made of three primary colors: red, green, and blue. Each of those needs some bandwidth to get processed when sent from your GPU to your monitor. To get the required bandwidth, multiply the screen's refresh rate and number of pixels with color depth. You also have to take into account display blanking intervals.

But what is color depth? Well, you may have heard of 24-bit or 30-bit color. This means that there are eight or 10 bits for each of the primary colors in a pixel, with 24-bit being the standard dynamic range (SDR) and 30-bit covering the HDR spectrum.

We've discussed the capabilities of a DP cable vs. an HDMI one, but how much bandwidth is required for some standard resolutions and refresh rates? We made a handy list based on VESA documentation freely available online. Let’s take a look:

Target Resolution

Refresh Rate

Color Depth

Bandwidth Required

Full HD (1080p)

60

8-bit

3.20 Gbps

Full HD

60

10-bit

4.00 Gbps

Full HD

144

8-bit

8.00 Gbps

Full HD

144

10-bit

10.00 Gbps

QHD (1440p)

60

8-bit

5.63 Gbps

QHD

60

10-bit

7.04 Gbps

QHD

144

8-bit

14.08 Gbps

QHD

144

10-bit

17.60 Gbps

UHD (2160p)

60

8-bit

12.54 Gbps

UHD

60

10-bit

15.68 Gbps

UHD

144

8-bit

31.35 Gbps

UHD

144

10-bit

39.19 Gbps

As we can see from the table above, bandwidth requirements rise sharply with resolution and refresh rate, so values above 4K resolution at 144 Hz would be too much to handle for modern HDMI ports. 8K at high refresh rates with HDR would make even the latest DP 2.0 struggle.

Luckily, VESA came up with a technique called Display Stream Compression (DSC for short), which is present in both HDMI 2.1 and the latest DisplayPort versions, allowing for nearly lossless 3:1 signal compression. This significantly reduces bandwidth requirements, enabling much higher resolutions and refresh rates whether you use a DisplayPort or HDMI connection.

DP vs. HDMI - The Final Verdict

Having covered both display technologies in detail, and explained how they differ, what is the final takeaway - which one is better? Put simply, this entirely depends on your hardware, but the latest advancements in both technologies make them equally well-suited to most tasks.

Technically speaking, the newest DisplayPort 2.0 technology offers the highest resolutions and refresh rates, but it is not officially out on any devices at the time of writing this article. HDMI 2.1 can beat DP 1.4, but you’ll need a high-end TV to make the most of it, and DP beats earlier HDMI iterations, especially for NVIDIA G-Sync users.

That said, sometimes you won't have a choice - console gamers are stuck with HDMI, while DisplayPort is relegated to PC gaming only. Either way, strive to get the latest standard for both digital display interfaces.

FAQ

What is the difference between DisplayPort and HDMI?

There are numerous differences, which we cover in our article in more detail. The most important ones involve device support, the maximum bandwidth, resolution, and refresh rates available.

Is a DisplayPort better than HDMI?

That depends on the version of DP and HDMI we’re talking about. The latest DP 2.0 generally beats all HMDI standards available at the moment, but HDMI 2.1 is better than DP 1.4 in some scenarios.

Does DisplayPort support 4K?

Yes, it does. It has been supporting it for years now, with the latest version offering a mind-boggling 4K @ 240 Hz on supported hardware.

Is it better to use DisplayPort or HDMI for gaming?

Again, this depends on how you are gaming. If we compare the latest DisplayPort vs. HDMI on paper, DP will provide higher resolutions and refresh rates. That said, it’s not officially supported on any graphics cards currently on the market, while HDMI 2.1 is available on the latest gen consoles, TVs, and PC graphics cards.

Meanwhile, HDMI 2.1 can beat DP 1.4, but you’ll need a high-end TV for now, as widespread support for this technology has yet to hit the gamer monitors on the market.

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Ivan
ABOUT AUTHOR
Ivan

A true tech and gaming savant, Ivan has been fascinated by the digital world since the early days of gaming on antiques such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore’s beloved Amiga. Whether you’re interested in the latest PC and console gaming news, antivirus software, or smartphone reviews, or simply want to learn about the newest geeky gadgets around, we at KT have you covered, and Ivan’s likely the one we’ll ask.

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