HDMI vs DisplayPort: Which is Better?

When you look at HDMI and DisplayPort, they appear very much alike. But despite that their hardware includes similar “micro USB” type cables, that both are digital interface technologies, and that their ports are almost identical, they have their differences. 

Indeed, HDMI and DisplayPort each support different capabilities and compatibilities. 

So, if you’re holding an HDMI cable in one hand and DisplayPort in the other, wondering which one is the right connector to link up your monitor and PC, then this article can help you to make the best choice. 

We explain what HDMI and DisplayPort actually are, what they can do, which devices they are compatible with, and more.

What is HDMI?

HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. HDMI is a specification that merges audio and video signals into a single digital interface. As the name suggests, it is designed to work with multimedia devices such as DVD players, set-top boxes, DTV players, PCs, and TVs. 

Most people are familiar with HDMI because it’s a common standard for sending high-definition video and audio signals over a single cable. However, there are different versions of HDMI, each designed to be better than the last – and we’ll cover each one in finer detail later on in the section called “HDMI specifications and resolutions.” 

At the core of HDMI technologies are Digital Visual Interface (DVI) and High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP). The latter is an Intel specification that guards any digital content sent or received by DVI-compliant displays.

Here are some of HDMI’s abilities and benefits:

  • Supports different video definitions; standard, enhanced, and high-definition
  • Supports standard or multi-channel surround sound
  • Sends uncompressed digital video and audio signals
  • Maintains high bandwidth over a single cable
  • Simplifies connectivity between devices
  • Offers 2-way communication with automatic configurations
  • Provides authentication and encryption of data carried by cables

What is DisplayPort?

DisplayPort can also be used to transmit audio and video signals simultaneously, but you are more likely to find its port on PCs than on TVs. Indeed, DisplayPort is mainly used to connect video sources to computer monitors. 

DisplayPort is commonly built into devices. You will know when you are looking at one of these products because every item that has DisplayPort carries a special logo. 

You might see this logo on top-of-the-range PCs, laptops, displays, graphic cards, and motherboards. 

Here’s a quick rundown of some of DisplayPort’s best features:

  • It delivers high-resolution support
  • Eliminates screen tearing and juddering during gaming
  • Supports multiple monitors via a single cable
  • Provides an excellent refresh rate
  • Deeper colour depth

Supported technologies for HDMI and DisplayPort

HDMI and DisplayPort overlap in some ways, but at the end of the day, each interface was designed to support a range of their own different technologies. Scan the following lists to see if HDMI or DisplayPort is the better choice for your setup. 

Which technologies does HDMI support?

  • High-speed HDMI supports AMD’s FreeSync technology
  • High-definition data loads
  • Backward compatible with DVI
  • HDMI 2.1 devices (and earlier versions)
  • Almost all home audio/video devices
  • Smart devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets
  • Compatible PC monitors, TV monitors, and projectors
  • Supports PAL/NTPC TV standards
  • Video formats: 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 480p
  • ARC and eARC
  • The latest HDMI 2.1 supports static and dynamic HDR solutions
  • PS5 and Xbox consoles.

Which technologies does DisplayPort support?

  • Supports AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s similar G-Sync technology
  • High-definition data loads
  • A single port can drive multiple monitors
  • Supports monitors and computers
  • In-built support for 3D stereo transmission
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR)
  • Fast Variable Refresh Rate (VRR).

HDMI specifications and resolutions

HDMI has undergone several upgrades since it first appeared in the early 2000s. Some versions are more outdated than others. These days, HDMI 2.1 is the most preferred and latest evolution of HDMI, but for interest’s sake, we will also look at its predecessors to show you just how much HDMI has improved over the years. 

HDMI Versions 1.0/1.1/1.2 (2002)

HDMI 1.0 broke new ground by supporting the first high-end digital TV standard (1920×1080). Sometime later, HDMI 1.1 and 1.2 added DVD-Audio and SACD audio formats into the mix. The maximum resolution was 1920×1200 at 60Hz.

HDMI Version 1.3 (2006)

HDMI 1.3 improved resolution and colour even more (maximum resolution 2560×1440 at 60Hz). This was also the first version that included surround sound modes, lip sync, and different cable categories.

HDMI Version 1.4 (2009)

A few years later, HDMI 1.4 appeared and brought amazing home theatre enhancements into people’s living rooms. These major changes included Ethernet sharing, 3D and Blu-ray 3D, and the audio return channel (HDMI ARC). HDMI 1.4 also supports up to 4K resolution (4,096×2,160 at 24Hz), 4K (3,840×2,160 at 30Hz), or 1080p at 120Hz.

HDMI Version 2.0 (2013)

HDMI 2.0 managed to increase the frame rate of 4K without the need to add more cables to your home theatre setup. That wasn’t the only perk that HDMI 2.0 offered. It also had the capacity to support 32 audio channels, 2 simultaneous video streams, 3D at 25 fps, the Rec. 2020 colour space, and a wide 21:9 aspect ratio. Resolution is supported at 3840×2160 at 60Hz.

HDMI Version 2.0a (2015)

Later versions of HDMI 2.0, which included HDMI 2.0a and 2.0b, also included support for High Dynamic Range meta-data (HDR). The maximum resolution for these two “subtypes” of HDMI 2.0 remains steady at 3840×2160 at 60Hz.

HDMI Version 2.1 (2017)

HDMI 2.1 is currently the latest version of HDMI technology. It has added support for 4K and 8K and has the capacity to support 10K resolution at 120Hz as well. HDMI 2.1 is also valued for its Dynamic HDR, ARC, and eARC capabilities.

These, in turn, allow you to effortlessly send Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio from a display to a receiver. HDMI 2.1 also has FreeSync for a variable refresh rate that eliminates problems like lip-syncing and screen tearing. 

To get the best out of HDMI 2.1 devices, you must use a High Speed or Ultra High-Speed HDMI 2.1 cable. 

DisplayPort specifications and resolutions

When you look at a modern monitor, you are likely to find one of four basic DisplayPort versions. Just like HDMI, each one evolved to be better than the last.

DisplayPort 1.2

Introduced in 2019, DisplayPort 1.2 was an improvement on DisplayPort 1.0 and 1.1. The most noteworthy improvement is that DisplayPort 1.2 can handle double the data rate (17.28 Gbit/s in High Bit Rate 2) that its predecessors. 

This allows for higher refresh rates, better colour depth, and increased resolutions up to 4K at 60Hz. 

Here are more 1.2 tweaks that kicked DisplayPort up a gear:

  • Multi-Stream Transport
  • Some 1.2a ports support AMD’s FreeSync
  • Stereoscopic 3D facilities
  • Increased AUX channel bandwidth (1 Mbit/s increased to 720 Mbit/s), 
  • Added colour spaces: xvYCC, scRGB, and Adobe RGB 1998
  • Global Time Code for audio/video synchronisation.
  • Mini DisplayPort connector designed for laptops and other small devices

DisplayPort 1.3

This standard boosted transmission bandwidth to 32.4 Gbit/s. This allows DisplayPort 1.3 to support 4K at 120Hz, 5K at 60Hz, and 8K at 30Hz. Thanks to its Multi-Stream Transport (MST) feature, a single port can also drive two 4K displays at 60 Hz, or as many as four WQXGA displays at 60 Hz. 

The new standard also included the following: 

  • Dual-mode for DVI and HDMI adapters
  • HDMI 2.0 standard
  • HDCP 2.2 content protection
  • Adaptive Sync feature

DisplayPort 1.4

Published in 2016, the new features of DisplayPort 1.4 didn’t include increased transmission speed, so the best you could hope for was still 32.4 Gbit/s, as it happened with DisplayPort 1.3. However, this new version did add support for important features. 

  • Display Stream Compression 1.2 (DSC)
  • Forward Error Correction
  • HDR10 metadata (static and dynamic)
  • The Rec. 2020 colour space
  • HDMI interoperability
  • 32 maximum number of inline audio channels.

DisplayPort 1.4 also made strides in resolution. By using the DSC compression algorithm mentioned above, DisplayPort 1.4 can support up to 8K at 60Hz, and 4K at 120Hz. 

Some displays do not support DSC, but that doesn’t affect the decent maximum limit offered by DisplayPort 1.3, which is what you’ll get instead – 4K at 120Hz, 5K at 60Hz, or 8K at 30Hz.

DisplayPort 2.0

DisplayPort 2.0 became available in 2019. Here’s a quick rundown of the new capabilities that arrived with this version. 

  • The data rate increased from 25.92 to 77.37 Gbit/s
  • Supports 10K at 80Hz and 16K at 60Hz
  • Higher refresh rates
  • High dynamic range (HDR) 
  • Improved support for multiple display configurations
  • Improved augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) user experience
  • Support for 4K (and higher) VR resolutions

Is HDMI or DisplayPort better for gaming?

You can have a pleasant gaming experience with both HDMI and DisplayPort. However, when it comes to the best, these two technologies are not equal. Instead, HDMI might lose this one if it were a race, but that doesn’t mean that this type of connector is totally useless for gaming. On the contrary. 

If you have a high-end TV and monitor that supports HDR, HDMI 2.1 can provide the high refresh rate you need for a decent 4K resolution and minimal screen tearing. 

HDMI is also a natural choice if you prefer to play on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles. Neither support DisplayPort. Instead, HDMI 2.1 is fully integrated into both consoles.

If you’re a gamer who likes to play on a computer or you want all the benefits that technology has to offer, then there are several reasons why DisplayPort is the better choice. 

More Bandwidth

DisplayPort 2.0 outstrips HDMI 2.1 by far when it comes to bandwidth. Whereas HDMI 2.1 has a maximum capacity of 48 Gbps and 10K, DisplayPort 2.0 maxes out at 80 Gbps and 16K at 60 Hz. 

Even though most devices won’t be able to take full advantage of DisplayPort’s 16K limit, this feature is a good way to future-proof your gaming setup. 

Multiple Displays

If you are a gamer who wants to play on a dual-monitor setup, then DisplayPort can scratch that itch. One of this standard’s best features is the ability to output to several displays using a single cable. If you prefer HDMI, then you need a cable for every monitor.

High Refresh Rate

Both HDMI and DisplayPort have High Refresh Rate technology to ensure better gaming experiences, but because DisplayPort can handle more bandwidth, the chances are that you will get a much higher refresh rate on multiple monitors than anything HDMI can offer in the same situation. 

DisplayPort is Geared Towards Gamers

HDMI wasn’t originally designed to jump into the gaming world with both feet. It was meant for the living room entertainment system first. 

While HDMI has practical applications for gamers (like its integration in PS5 and Xbox consoles), DisplayPort was designed with gamers in mind from very early on. 

One of the main benefits aimed at gamers is DisplayPort’s ability to support both FreeSync and G-Sync (HDMI only has FreeSync). These adaptive sync technologies are a must if you’re using NVIDIA graphics; otherwise, you’ll end up with a cable bottleneck.

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Marcel Deer

As a qualified journalist and 'veteran' gamer, Marcel has loved all things tech since the halcyon days of the 'scart lead'. When not writing about the latest tech, he's reviewing indie video games or trying to convince his wife the TV is too small...again.

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