HDMI vs. DisplayPort – Which is Better?

HDMI and DisplayPort are two of the most popular cable connectors for many devices, from gaming consoles and monitors to various TVs. However, these connectors have had some friendly competition for some time. They might look similar but are different in practice.

HDMI vs. DisplayPort - Which is Better?

Do you have a dilemma about which one you should pick?

In this article, we’ll help you pick the best option. Learn about the features and which devices work best with each connector.

HDMI – Optimal for Both TVs and PCs

HDMI is most commonly used for TVs to send high-definition video and audio signals over one cable to connect the TV with ISP boxes, STB receivers, or game consoles. It’s also the go-to choice for low-to-mid-range PC monitors. Since modern HDMI is standardized, it’s easy to connect and use with widespread support across brands and models.

Modern display devices, modems, and graphics cards usually have a combination of the following ports:

  • HDMI 1.4: Supports up to 4K resolution at 24Hz, 4K at 30Hz, or 1080p at 120Hz. The bandwidth (data throughput rate) is 10.2Gbps.
  • HDMI 2.0: Supports up to 4K at 60Hz with an 18Gbps bandwidth. Later versions (2.0a, 2.0b) also include HDR (High Dynamic Range) support for improved image contrast.
  • HDMI 2.1: Supports up to 10K at 120Hz. The bandwidth is 48Gbps. This version has improved HDR system support with dynamic metadata and enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC).

It’s important to note that not all devices support the newest version of HDMI, and you should research which options are available to you. As a rule of thumb, newer HDMI versions are superior. You can always look at the HDMI connectors on your devices or the user manual to check for their version compatibility.

Luckily, modern HDMI (1.4 and above) is backward compatible, so that you can connect an HDMI 2.1 screen to a 1.4-compatible device. In these cases, the older device (in terms of HDMI compatibility) will decide the overall image quality.

The same compatibility applies to cables. Plugging an HDMI 2.0 cable into two 2.1-compatible devices will limit them to the bandwidth of the 2.0 standard. It will also disable the additional features the updated standard provides. For HDMI, buying a cable is as essential as picking the devices to connect.

Fortunately, the options are nearly limitless, and you can even get an RGB cable nowadays.

DisplayPort – a PC Upgrade

Although DisplayPort looks like an HDMI cable superficially, it’s more frequently used on PCs than TVs. It features high-definition video and audio, and its standards are different.

On modern graphics cards, monitors, and some TVs, you can find the following versions of DisplayPort cables:

  • DisplayPort 1.2: Supports up to 4K at 60Hz. The bandwidth is 17.28Gbps.
  • DisplayPort 1.3: Supports up to 4K at 120Hz or 8K at 30Hz. The bandwidth is 32.4Gbps.
  • DisplayPort 1.4: Supports up to 8K at 60Hz. The bandwidth is 32.4Gbps.
  • DisplayPort 2.0: Supports up to 16K with HDR at 60Hz. The bandwidth is 80Gbps.

Additionally, DisplayPort supports AMD’s Free Sync and Nvidia’s G-Sync, so you can have great gaming and design experience no matter which video card you use.

Another advantage the DisplayPort cables offer is connecting multiple monitors from one connection through a chain. This is useful if you want to connect two monitors to the PC and your graphics card only has one DisplayPort port installed. If you are using a laptop device, you can also send DisplayPort signals through the USB-C port.

DisplayPort cables are also universal for that connection standard. This effectively means that a single DisplayPort cable purchase is future-proof or at least highly likely to remain as such.

How to Choose Between HDMI and DisplayPort

The first thing to do is check which connection versions your device supports. Generally, a newer standard will work the best and gets obsolete later. For example, if your device supports HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4, DisplayPort would be the better option.

However, HDMI does offer some advantages due to its age. Since it’s more widespread, more devices will have this connection port. If you often travel for business and want to hook your laptop up to a wider array of devices in your accommodations, the better option would be an HDMI.

If you’re on a budget and are buying a monitor, HDMI is the no-brainer choice as pretty much every monitor has it. However, if you’re planning to upgrade to a new graphics card, getting one with a DisplayPort connection would be a wiser decision.

The best solution would be to pick the best cable for your particular setup to get the optimal performance.

Using HDMI and DisplayPort for Gaming

You might think that the best cable to use is the one that comes with your computer, but some differences that might impact your refresh rate, color quality, or both.

Before making any decision about a purchase, you might want to consider the capabilities of the video output of your graphics card and the video input of your display.

In most cases, when it comes to gaming, it’s best to use a DisplayPort cable to connect your graphics card to your monitor. It offers the best bandwidth and full support for adaptive refresh features like G-Sync and FreeSync. Adaptive sync technologies help synchronize the framerate output of games with monitor refresh rates to prevent issues like tearing. It allows a higher-framerate monitor to operate seamlessly when working with lower-frame programs.

For modern, high-end systems, DisplayPort 1.4 is the be-all-end-all solution. It supports HDR, compression, and 32-channel audio support while offering maximum resolution potential for the highest-quality experience. If you are using an inexpensive monitor or a PC without a discrete GPU, HDMI is a better (and usually the only) choice among the two.

The DisplayPort vs. HDMI debate can be decided by your graphics card and monitor type. Nvidia’s G-Sync requires DisplayPort, and AMD’s FreeSync is supported over both connection types. Some older AMD cards might only have an HDMI port. Typically, though, monitors that need to use Adaptive Sync technologies (usually at 144Hz and above) will have both a DisplayPort and an HDMI port.

HDMI is the format of choice for home theater equipment and game consoles like Xbox Series X and Play Station 5. DisplayPort is not yet available for these devices, and you can use HDMI 2.1. However, when it comes to older consoles, you have to pay attention to their version of HDMI and the specific list of features they support.

When it comes to pure visual acuity and quality, DisplayPort is preferred among gaming pros and enthusiasts, with HDMI 2.1 coming a close second.

It should also be noted that Apple monitors don’t support HDMI, making DisplayPort a clear winner for this brand.

Sometimes There’s No Winner

HDMI and DisplayPort have similar performances, but each has advantages and disadvantages. HDMI is widely supported on most devices, but DisplayPort offers some features that HDMI doesn’t. However, the right choice still comes down to the equipment you’re using and what you want to get by choosing between the two types.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you make the right decision for your needs.

Have you used HDMI or DisplayPort cables before? Did this article help you make the decision? Let us know in the comments section below.

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