HDMI and DisplayPort are two of the most popular display standards but how do you compare the two? HDMI 2.1 is obviously better than HDMI 2.0 but is it better than DisplayPort 1.4?
There’s a lot of confusion about the two interfaces. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the recent versions of each interface and see what resolutions and refresh rates they’re capable of. We’ll be using frames per second (FPS) and refresh rate interchangeably in this post and for all practical purposes, it means the same thing.
Technically, though, they are referring to two different things. FPS refers to the number of frames that your GPU pushes to your display device per second. Your display device, monitor or TV, will need a refresh rate as high as the FPS in order to see all those frames.
The HDMI interface is a popular way to connect to TVs although GPUs tend to have more DisplayPort output ports. HDMI 1.0 that was released all the way back in 2002 with a maximum bit rate of 4.9 Gigabits per second (Gbps). The amazing thing about the HDMI 1.0 cable back then was that it unified audio and video in a single cable. Now you didn’t need to plug in separate audio and visual cables into your display.
HDMI has come a long way since then and the two most recent versions are HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1. HDMI 2.0 has a bit rate of 18 Gbps which can support 4K 60 Hz. If you’re a gamer, you’d be interested to know that HDMI 2.0 can handle 1440p at 144Hz and 1080p at 240 Hz.
One thing you need to look out for is whether your graphics card or video output supports HDMI 2.0. Most modern graphics cards do but if your graphics card is from before 2015, it may not. If that’s the case, you wouldn’t be able to get a 4K 60 Hz on your TV even though you have HDMI 2.0 cables. As we mentioned in our earlier post on the PS5 HDMI cable, your output will be limited by the weakest link in the chain, whether it’s your graphics card, cable or TV / monitor.
Now, we’ve come to the latest HDMI version, HDMI 2.1, which was released in 2017. Thanks to a doubling of the signal rate and with the addition of a fourth channel, HDMI 2.1 has a bandwidth of 48 Gbps. It can support 8K @ 60 Hz, 1440p @ 360 Hz, 1080p @ 500 Hz. For these sort of crazy refresh rates, the bottleneck will probably be the monitor as they’ve only been newly launched in 2022.
Now, let’s move on to DisplayPort. Like we mentioned earlier, GPUs tend to have more DisplayPort interface outputs than they do for HDMI. For example, the MSI GTX 1060 has 3 x DisplayPort 1.4 ports and only 1 x HDMI 2.0b port. The newer NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 has 3x DisplayPort 1.4a ports and 1x HDMI 2.1 port.
DisplayPort has always been two to three years ahead of HDMI and that’s the reason why graphics cards tend to have more DisplayPort ports than HDMI. You don’t want your graphics output to be limited by your port selection. So, in the future, when new monitors come along that can take advantage of the more powerful GPU output, the connection interface wouldn’t be a bottleneck.
DisplayPort version 1.0 launched in 2006 and supported a maximum bandwidth of 10.8 Gbps. Technically it could support 4K 30 Hz all the way back then, something HDMI couldn’t do till 2009. We’ll skip the history lesson again and jump straight to the latest DisplayPort versions that you have to know about – DisplayPort 1.4 and DisplayPort 2.0.
DisplayPort 1.4 launched in 2016 and has a bandwidth of 32.4 Gbps. DisplayPort 1.4 can support 8K @ 60 Hz, 4K @ 120 Hz and 1440p @ 240 Hz. It also included something known as Display Stream Compression 1.2(DSC), which is a compression algorithm that reduces the size of the data stream by 3:1. DSC meets the standard for ‘virtually lossless’ compression and you can’t tell it apart from uncompressed video.
And now we come to DisplayPort 2.0, the latest version of DisplayPort, which was a massive upgrade from version 1.4. DisplayPort 2.0 launched in 2019, and features a massive total bandwidth of 80 Gbps. That’s more than double DisplayPort 1.4’s bandwidth. This massive bandwidth allows you to do some insane resolution and refresh rate combinations:
- 16K @ 60 Hz
- 8K @ 85 Hz
- 4K @ 240 Hz
- 1440P @ 1000 Hz
The technology is too new to incorporate into the current generation of Graphics cards and it will probably take another generation or two, maybe in three to four years, before the cards will be able to generate something like 4K @ 240 Hz.
HDMI 2.1 vs DisplayPort 1.4
HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort are two popular and widely available versions of their respective interfaces. Here’s a comparison of their bandwidth, maximum cable length as well as supported resolution and refresh rates:
|HDMI 2.1||DisplayPort 1.4|
|Bandwidth||48 Gbps||32.4 Gbps|
|Maximum cable length||4 meters (13 feet)||1.8 meters (6 feet)|
|Resolution and refresh rate||8K @ 60 Hz||8K @ 60 Hz|
|Resolution and refresh rate||4K @ 120 Hz||4K @ 120 Hz|
|Resolution and refresh rate||1440p @ 360 Hz||1440p @ 240 Hz|
As you can see, although HDMI 2.1 has a higher bandwidth, DisplayPort 1.4 is capable of pretty much identical resolution and refresh rates.
HDMI 2.1 vs DisplayPort 2.0
Now let’s compare the latest HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 2.0 versions:
|HDMI 2.1||DisplayPort 2.0|
|Bandwidth||48 Gbps||80.0 Gbps|
|Maximum cable length||4 meters (13 feet)||2 meters (6.6 feet)|
|Resolution and refresh rate||8K @ 60 Hz||8K @ 85 Hz|
|Resolution and refresh rate||4K @ 120 Hz||4K @ 240 Hz|
|Resolution and refresh rate||1440p @ 360 Hz||1440p @ 1000 Hz|
It’s not even close when it comes comparing HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 2.0. Like we mentioned earlier, DisplayPort is probably 2-3 years ahead of HDMI in terms of capability. If resolution and refresh rates are your main concern, DisplayPort 2.0 is the clear winner.
Final Thoughts: Which is the Best Option?
The latest versions of HDMI and DisplayPort are good options for connecting your devices to a display. HDMI is used in a wider range of devices and it is highly likely that your gaming devices, computers and displays will have a HDMI port. DisplayPort, on the other hand, is less common but it does offer higher bandwidth.
If you are connecting a computer to a monitor, DisplayPort may be the better option. However, HDMI might be the better choice if you are connecting a game console or Blu-ray player to your TV. Finally, if you want to take advantage of the latest HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 2.0 versions, make sure that every component in the chain is compatible. That means your GPU, motherboard, gaming console, cables and monitor/TV. Your resolution and refresh rate will be bottlenecked by the weakest link in the chain.