DisplayPort vs. HDMI: 5 Major Comparisons

    • DisplayPort is defined as a digital audio and video interface used to connect a display device such as a computer monitor or projector to a data source such as a CPU.
    • DisplayPort comes in two varieties: standard and the smaller Mini DisplayPort. 
    • HDMI is defined as an interface for transferring high-definition audio and video over a single cable. 
    • It is popular for both commercial applications and personal use. 
    • This article provides a detailed comparison between DisplayPort and HDMI.

DisplayPort and HDMI: An Overview

DisplayPort is a digital interface for video and audio originally created by the Video Electronics Standard Association (VESA). DisplayPort cables are primarily used to connect a display device, such as a desktop monitor, laptop, or projector, to a video source like a CPU. DisplayPort connections are primarily available in two varieties: standard and mini. The smaller Mini DisplayPort can transmit signals identical to the standard DisplayPort variant.

DisplayPort vs. HDMI: Form Factor (Pin) Comparison

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On the other hand, high definition multimedia interface (HDMI) is an interface primarily used to transfer high-definition video and audio over a single cable. Today, HDMI sees widespread use in both commercial setups and homes. It is used to connect devices such as Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, and gaming consoles to televisions, as well as CPUs to computer desktops.

Let’s learn more about these media interfaces.

What Is DisplayPort?

DisplayPort has seen widespread usage in the past decade, especially in consumer commodities such as high-end desktop monitors and graphics cards. It is an asymmetric connector that features an L-shaped header. While DisplayPort does not quite enjoy the universal presence that HDMI sees today, it is a critical hardware standard featuring several capabilities as a connector and cable technology.

At its core, DisplayPort functions just like other data connection standards. The user must plug each end of the DisplayPort cable into the relevant devices with supporting slots. Once the physical connection is established, most modern-day devices automatically detect each other and complete configuration procedures automatically. For older devices, users might have to use the control panel of the display device to choose the DisplayPort input manually and set the compatible resolution and refresh rate.

However, when we dive into the functioning of DisplayPort at a more technical level, we find that it leverages packetized data transmission in a manner similar to motherboard PCI-Express ports and Ethernet cables. This means DisplayPort transmits micro packets of data with an embedded clock signal. Such transmissions are highly efficient and capable of supporting higher resolutions and refresh rates.

Apart from this, DisplayPort features an open and expandable design that enables this standard to receive improvements and see newer iterations over time. When combined, these factors make DisplayPort one of the most important display standards of the past decade.

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What Is HDMI?

High-definition multimedia interface, widely known as HDMI, is a data transmission standard that connects a data source, such as a CPU or a set-top box, to an output device, such as a television, projector, desktop monitor, laptop, or speaker.

The original reason for the development of HDMI by electronics manufacturers was to set a universal standard for linking devices. Its primary purpose was to enhance connectivity standards and address the demands of high-definition video content by enabling higher data throughput. The ultimate creation to fulfill this goal was the HDMI cable, featuring a small, handy connector and increased support for embedded audio.

Since HDMI was developed in 2002, it has seen widespread adoption across devices. Today, HDMI is as ubiquitous as USB for consumer devices such as televisions and computers.

Various types of HDMI cables exist for different use cases. The Standard HDMI cable is the most common variant. It is created to be compatible with satellite TV resolutions of up to 720p and 1080i. Its throughput capability reaches up to 5Gbps.

A standard automotive HDMI connector has the same specifications as the regular cable but is primarily designed for in-car video displays and other industrial applications. It differs from the regular variant — it is reinforced with extra shielding to minimize interference from nearby electrical systems.

Other HDMI connector variants provide even higher throughput, making them more viable for media at higher resolutions. For instance, high-speed HDMI connectors support throughput speeds of up to 10.2Gbps and can handle 4K video resolutions. High-speed automotive HDMI cables feature the same specifications but are optimized for automotive and industrial applications.

Other types of HDMI include premium high-speed HDMI and ultra high-speed HDMI, with the latter supporting 8K video alongside a transfer speed of 48gbps and support for HDR and HDMI 2.1.

HDMI cables are generally capable of supporting in-built ethernet. This allows numerous HDMI-supporting devices to connect over a shared ethernet connection using a router. Such a configuration is capable of supporting speeds of up to 100Mbps. The automotive variants are an exception to this rule.

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DisplayPort vs. HDMI: 5 Major Comparisons

DisplayPort and HDMI are both widely used standards for connecting various devices to a video display. There are several similarities as well as some key differences between the two. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Development

DisplayPort HDMI
DisplayPort 1.0 was the first iteration of the technology. Introduced in 2006, it came with a data transfer rate of 8.64Gbps using four lanes.

Next in line is DisplayPort 1.1, which was introduced in 2007 and supported 3D video, fiber optics linking, Dual Mode, and DisplayPort Content Protection.

In 2009, DisplayPort 1.2 was rolled out with a double data rate of 17.28Gbps, which meant higher refresh rates and better resolutions. This version came with more color spaces and multiple monitor support. It also served as the introduction to the Apple Mini DisplayPort connector. In a minor update, DisplayPort 1.2a was enhanced with FreeSync support.

Next came DisplayPort 1.3 in 2014, with an enhanced transmission speed of 32.4Gbps and support for 4K (120Hz) and 8K (30Hz). This version also featured an improved RGB color ratio per pixel and mandatory dual-mode compatibility for related adapters.

2016 saw DisplayPort 1.4 with the number of audio channels expanded to 32 and support for Display Stream Compression 1.2. This enabled lossless compressed quality, as well as support for 8K (60Hz) if compressed.

Finally, DisplayPort 2.0 was introduced in 2019, with throughput at 48Gbps and resolution support at 16K (60Hz). This iteration also enhanced support for several displays, including augmented reality and virtual reality resolutions beyond 4K.

HDMI 1.0 was the first iteration of the technology. Introduced in 2002, it offered support for high-definition video and audio transfer at 4.95Gbps. This version’s main use case was Blu-ray.

Next came HDMI 1.1, which was introduced in 2004 and supported HD DVD audio. This iteration also included small technical revisions.

In 2005, HDMI 1.2 was rolled out with a new Type-A connector compatible with personal computers. This version also came with improved Super Audio CD transmission, as well as support for Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr colors. In a mini update, HDMI 1.2a was enhanced with Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) support.

Next came HDMI 1.3 in 2006, with an enhanced data transfer capacity of 10.2Gbps and a smaller form factor, known as HDMI Type C. This version also increased color resolution up to 16-bit per channel. Apart from this, it provided support for DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. Small experimental enhancements were introduced in HDMI 1.3a, HDMI 1.3b, HDMI 1.3b1, and HDMI 1.3c.

2009 saw HDMI 1.4 with the addition of HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC) internet support and support for 100Mbps speed. This iteration amped up the highest resolution supported to 4K, along with support for newer color profiles, 3D formats, micro HDMI, and new cables. Availability of audio upstream removed the need for a distinct audio cable. Soon followed HDMI 1.4a and HDMI 1.4b, which provided minor changes in quality and 3D optimization.

HDMI 2.0 was introduced in 2013, with an enhanced data transfer speed and support for UHD content (4K at 60Hz). This iteration supported dual video streams on a single display, as well as 32 audio channels for improved quality. Soon followed HDMI 2.0a and HDMI 2.0b, adding and enhancing HDR support.

Finally, HDMI 2.1 was introduced in 2017 with the added capability of 8K at 60 Hz. This version is even capable of supporting 10K at lower refresh rates. In this iteration, Display Stream Compression is used for running formats greater than 8K.


2. Purpose

DisplayPort HDMI
Simply put, DisplayPort is a digital interface created to ensure seamless delivery of video and audio using a single cable. It links a display to a data source (think monitor to graphics card) and delivers video and sound data for processing and output.

DisplayPort cables and connectors are usually seen in their “full-sized” variant, which features 20 pins on a double-L-shaped connector. A unique advantage of its asymmetrical form factor is increased seamless physical connectivity compared to more uniform ports such as HDMI and USB.

However, the smaller “Mini DisplayPort” variant is also used for standalone monitors, especially those used for high-end gaming. It was originally introduced in 2008 for Apple devices.

Apart from its data transmission capabilities, DisplayPort sees use on other technology platforms for its form factor. In fact, other protocols utilize the DisplayPort form factor for data delivery across different cables. For instance, the Intel Thunderbolt 3 supports DisplayPort version 1.2.

DisplayPort may not be commonly found on mainstream devices such as gaming consoles, monitors, graphics cards, and televisions. However, it is common in devices priced higher than average, such as gaming monitors and high-end graphics cards. For instance, AMD’s RX 5700 Navi cards and Nvidia’s RTX 2000 GPUs both come with DisplayPort connectors.

HDMI connectors come in four sizes—standard, mini, micro, and automotive—each serving a unique purpose.

Standard HDMI connectors or Type A HDMI connectors are typically used by corporations and personal users. They connect source devices such as gaming consoles and Blu-ray players to monitors and televisions.

Mini HDMI connectors, also called Type C HDMI connectors, are created for more specific device use cases, such as DSLR cameras and tablet computers. The smaller “Mini HDMI” plugs into the smaller device, while the other end is a regular connector used with a computer, projector, or monitor.

Micro HDMI connectors or Type D HDMI connectors are seen in even smaller and more portable devices (think smartphones, digital cameras, and small tablets). Just like a Mini HDMI connector, the other end of the Micro HDMI cable comes with a standard connector.

Finally comes the automotive or Type E HDMI connector, rarely found in everyday use and generally seen in automotive and industrial applications.

Type B HDMI connectors are also used but minimally. This is because the Type B HDMI connector was also introduced alongside the original standard in 2002 to transmit dual-link DVI video; however, once HDMI 1.3 was introduced, the throughput offered by a single link surpassed that of the dual-link connection. Apart from this, the Type B connector had a larger form factor than the single-link standard connector, giving another reason to move away from it. However, Type B HDMI is still a specification retained on record.


3. Form factor

DisplayPort HDMI
The standard DisplayPort connector comes with 20 pins and offers only two sizes. While this may be a limiting factor in some cases, it also allows users to choose the right variation for them.

The first size variant is the standard DisplayPort connector. The second is a smaller alternative, “Mini DisplayPort,” designed primarily for Apple devices. The latter features the same form factor as the Apple Thunderbolt port.

Regular DisplayPort connectors also feature a locking mechanism, a hook or lock system that keeps the cable in place. This mechanism helps users minimize the risk of accidental disconnection. However, it also increases the risk of breakage in cases involving human error, such as the cord being pulled without the locking mechanism being deactivated.

Finally, the DisplayPort standard pegs optimum data transmission at approximately 3 meters of cable length. However, the cable can be extended up to 20 meters while allowing at least a high-definition resolution.

Unlike DisplayPort, HDMI comes with numerous form factors.

The most commonly seen HDMI variant is Type A, a standard in almost every modern-day television and computer. HDMI Type C is a standard for tablet computers and smaller laptops. Type D is used in smartphones and tablets. Finally, Type E is customized for automobile and industrial applications. All these variants come with 19 pins.

The unused Type B (extended pin HDMI) variant, primarily made for DVD applications, comes with 29 pins.

Unlike DisplayPort, which features a locking mechanism in the standard form factor, only Type E HDMI (Automotive) offers a locking mechanism. Other HDMI connectors are just a pull away from disconnection. However, they insert firmly into ports and require a reasonably strong pull to be removed. They don’t just fall out of their sockets!

Finally, the HDMI standard does not specify exact dimensions and capabilities in terms of cable length. Generally, HDMI cables are shorter than DisplayPort cables and normally come in 2-meter lengths for optimum performance.


4. Function

DisplayPort HDMI
The DisplayPort standard allows multiple monitors to function concurrently on a single connection. It supports stable performance and HD resolution up to 1920×1200 when four displays operate on a single connection. The connection will function even when more displays are linked as long as the maximum bandwidth is not exceeded. However, this may lead to hampered performance.

DisplayPort is technically capable of supporting CEC functions. However, this feature is seldom seen in standard DisplayPort connections.

Finally, DisplayPort does not support Ethernet functionality or audio return signals, making it incapable of commanding audio systems.

All HDMI variants do not inherently offer multiple monitor functionality and would generally require a converter DisplayPort hub to do so.

On the other hand, HDMI, which was created as a consumer electronics standard, comes with CEC support. This allows HDMI to control an entire entertainment system with a single remote control, including the primary device, connected display, and peripherals.

Finally, the latest HDMI iteration offers a special HEC function, allowing in-built HDMI ethernet channel functionality. This gives users up to 100Mbps internet speed over HDMI connections and allows audio control functions. HDMI is also capable of linking devices to the internet without the need for additional connection lines.


5. Use cases

DisplayPort HDMI
When it comes to desktop monitors, DisplayPort is the standard of choice for specific use cases.

DisplayPort supports G-Sync and FreeSync. It also offers technical advantages for setups that feature older-generation hardware.

One use case where DisplayPort is the clear winner is configurations requiring multi-display support.

Apart from this, DisplayPort cables that correspond to the equivalent HDMI release offer higher maximum throughput. This makes them ideal for higher refresh rates and frames per second (FPS) in gaming applications.

HDMI enjoys widespread usability and more commonplace use cases than DisplayPort.

For instance, many modern-day output devices offer direct compatibility solely with HDMI. This is because most display devices come with seamless HDMI connectivity. Gaming consoles, such as Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox are excellent examples of this phenomenon. 

Apart from this, HDMI is ideal for use cases requiring ethernet support. The additional support for popular audio signals like Dolby also gives HDMI an edge over DisplayPort in more popular use cases.

Finally, CEC support means HDMI is better suited for entertainment applications.

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Both HDMI and DisplayPort have unique advantages and a few limitations—choosing the right video interface depends on the specific use case, as well as the technical specifications of the display and video card included in the setup.

The newest version of DisplayPort (version 2.0) offers an extremely high resolution and refresh rate but may not be easily found in some markets due to ongoing post-pandemic supply chain issues.

For devices that offer a choice between DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.0, the latter may be preferred for HDR support. However, even in the case of HDMI, it is necessary for all devices in the setup to support the latest HDMI version. For instance, if a user wishes to enjoy the features of HDMI 2.0, the monitor and video card must both support HDMI 2.0 and not an earlier version.

Regardless of the standard, users must check the compatibility of every link in the device chain before choosing a cable. This will offer an optimum combination for the best possible performance.

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