If we have added a recent video card to our gaming PC, we have certainly noticed that (especially on high-end models) there are two types of connection for video output: HDMI and DisplayPort, apparently similar but profoundly different.
In some cases there are even more DisplayPort ports than HDMI, although this last standard is more widespread!
If we are used to using only HDMI for convenience (and because the cables are really everywhere) underestimate the capabilities of the DisplayPort connection could be a big mistake, especially with some monitors and some high-end video cards.
We find in this guide the differences between HDMI and DisplayPort and which connection should be used when we play on the PC.
1) Types of connection
When we talk about cables and connectors DisplayPort and HDMI, we must know that there are different types with different sizes, so not always an HDMI cable is fine in all situations, as a DisplayPort cable may not be compatible with a precise format.
There are 3 different types of HDMI:
– Type A: the classic one available on TV, on TV Box, on PC monitors and on most video cards.
– Type C (mini-HDMI): present on tablets and notebooks.
– Type D (micro-HDMI): present more on smartphones equipped with HDMI output.
Here below we can see a picture where there are various types of HDMI connection, so you can compare them.
These cables are adapted to carry audio and video simultaneously, in digital format, without the need to use separate cables (as was the case before its arrival in the market). In the latest versions it can also carry the Ethernet signal up to 100 Mbps, thus guaranteeing access to the Internet. Each type is incompatible with the other (change the size of the connector), but can be adapted with special HDMI adapters, able to switch from one type to another with minimal loss of signal.
There are two types of DisplayPort: –
DisplayPort: the classic, unidirectional connector on video cards, monitors and some living room devices.
– Mini DisplayPort: a smaller and differently shaped connector, mainly used by Apple for some MacBooks (ThunderBolt).Below we can see a picture where both DisplayPort connectors are present so you can compare them.
The Mini type is not widespread now, so when we talk about DisplayPort we refer to the classic type.
One of the characteristics of this cable is to transmit even simple data like a normal USB cable, leaving enough bandwidth to be able to transmit the video signal and the audio signal (predominant if you use DisplayPort as a video cable for monitor or TV).
2) Resolution, video quality and additional features
Resolution and video quality depend on the version of the cable and connector: depending on the version we will get support at different resolutions.
The most common versions of HDMI are
– HDMI 1.2: very old version but still present, with support for the maximum FullHD resolution (1920x1080p).
– HDMI 1.4: format among the most popular on TV, decoder, video cards and monitors, with support for 4K resolution (3840×2160 pixels at 24 Hz, 25 Hz and 30 Hz) or 4096×2160 at 24 Hz.
– HDMI 2.0: next-generation format, with support for HDR technology for 4K (2160p) videos shot at 48 or 60 fps (25 fps for 3D videos).
– HDMI 2.1: latest format, with support for 4K, 8K and 10K resolutions to any framerate.
Other additional features of the HDMI are return audio (ARC), Ethernet signal transport and control of devices with only one remote control (CEC).
The most common versions of DisplayPort are:
– DisplayPort 1.2a: fallen into disuse but still present, supports FullHD resolution and offers support for AMD FreeSync technology.
– DisplayPort 1.3: the most common format, with support for 4K resolutions.
–DisplayPort 1.4: the most recent format, with support for 8K UHD resolutions (7680 × 4320) at 60 Hz.
Among the DisplayPort’s outstanding features there are the possibility of connecting multiple monitors with a single cable, the possibility of adapting it to a connector HDMI or DVI (Dual Link DisplayPort) and technologies to automatically adjust the refresh rate between video card and monitor, so as to avoid flickering (acting as a sort of automatic vertical synchronization).
3) Audio Video
also wants its part, since both cables transmit digital audio on the same cable as the video, without having to insert an additional audio cable.
In this context the two technologies are very similar, supporting both the Dolby standard audio up to 8 channels up to 192kHz and, in the latest versions, up to 32 audio channels.
If we need the return audio (so that we can both transmit and send audio) for the Home Theater devices we will have to aim for HDMI.
4) Cable length
Regarding the cable length, the first substantial differences between the two technologies begin.
– HDMI: the maximum length obtainable with a passive cable (without signal amplifiers) is 2 meters, over the signal degrades quickly; with active cables and amplifiers we can reach up to 11 meters.
– DisplayPort: the maximum length with a passive cable of 3 meters, with the possibility of maintaining a FullHD resolution without using amplifiers up to 15 meters; with active cables and amplifiers we can reach up to 33 meters away.
Conclusions: which one to choose?
After seeing all the features of the two cables, what can we recommend?
The choice is relatively easy and depends entirely on the devices we intend to connect; Below we have analyzed some standard scenarios easily found in everyday life where we can choose one of two technologies (or both):
– Office PC with FullHD or 4K monitor: we can use both HDMI and DisplayPort.
– Gaming PC with FullHD monitor: it is preferable to use DisplayPort.
– Gaming PC with 4K monitor: it is preferable to use DisplayPort.
– PC for living room and TV: it is better to use HDMI.
– Home Theater System: it is better to use HDMI.
– PC away from the monitor: it is preferable to use DisplayPort.
In general DisplayPort we can use it when we use the PC to play or, as a limitation case, when the two devices are far away and we do not want a loss of signal and quality.