Answer Summary: DisplayPort 1.4 is the best connection for NVIDIA graphics cards, on the other hand, for AMD cards, both DisplayPort and HDMI are the perfect options although DisplayPort is preferred over HDMI due to the availability of FreeSync compatible monitors for DisplayPort than an HDMI cable.
When we talk about modern serial interfaces, two names resonate in our brains. The first one is more multimedia and LEDs oriented named HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface). The second is the gamer’s choice and recently uplifted its specs sheet with the latest technology, commonly known as DP (DisplayPort). Both these technologies carry data from one source to other through cable. Many long-running analog interfaces like S-video, RGB, and VGA saw a steep decline with their introduction.
Both HDMI and DisplayPort can run high-definition (HD) audio and video data at higher transfer rates. Although both these interfaces are perfect for data-intensive transfers, there is still a division between them in their capabilities. Both these interfaces are high-speed and digital interfaces with many differences in essential aspects. As we already stated, HDMI is more famous for consuming electronics equipment, while DisplayPort has a reputation for targeting the consumer for computer and peripheral video connections.
HDMI and DisplayPort ports
In our discussion about HDMI vs DisplayPort, the only thing which wins is the common phrase “it depends.” Both these connections are incredibly efficient in data transfer over the digital interface. However, their application can depend on several factors.
If you are looking for the best cables for your 4K or higher gaming, video editing, and photo studio or mixed-use, the choice depends on your system and monitor specifications. Sometimes monitor support both technologies; sometimes, they support only a specific version of an interface. So the selection process is dependent on your needs, refresh rate, the resolution supported, and other features that will be discussed in this article.
Besides high rates of digital data transmission, HDMI and DP have many other perks. One of the most obvious is their backward compatibility. This feature is really helpful as both HDMI and DisplayPort have differences in their versions. Both technologies are not created equal. So, backward compatibility ensures that an older monitor with HDMI or DisplayPort interfaces can work with the new and more powerful RTX 3080s or RTX 3090s graphics cards.
But there are some limitations in connecting and older and new interfaces. No matter what specifications your graphics cards are carrying, if your monitor does not support the latest HDMI and DP interface, it will end up using the best options supported by both. The sending and receiving of the data set to the maximum value that both the system supports. There is both positive and negative aspect of this backward compatibility. It’s beneficial as you do not have to change the hardware for ports. Simultaneously it has a limiting effect as it can limit the performance of a 4K 144Hz monitor to 4K with lower refresh rates when used with an older graphics card.
When we compare HDMI vs. DisplayPort in terms of specifications and resolution, DisplayPort wins by a significant lead. To support this argument, we have compared the specs sheet of the latest technologies of HDMI and DisplayPort. The DP 2.0 does support a max transmission rate of 80 Gbps vs. 48 Gbps of the HDMI 2.1. In max data rates, again DisplayPort showed a promising 77.37 Gbps vs. 42.6 Gbps of HSMI. Similarly, DP supports 4K resolution at 240 Hz refresh rate and 8K at 85 Hz refresh rate. HDMI typically works on 4K with 144 Hz, while with DSC, it can manage to touch 240 Hz rate. While with 8K resolution HDMI does reach 30 Hz, and with DSC, it can reach 120 Hz refresh rate.
There is a difference between the bandwidth claimed and the actual bandwidth transfer of both HDMI and DisplayPort. The bandwidths stream has a division between the transmission rate and data rate. For example, if data of 8 bits transfers, then it actually transfers 10 bits. The extra data transmission ensures the maintenance of signal integrity. Different transmission standards like DisplayPort 2.0 follow 128b/132b, while HDMI 2.1 uses 16b/18b. It means that DP 2.0 transfers 132bits data for transferring 128bit data.
DisplayPort Vs. HDMI HDR Support
Both technologies are compatible with the HDR (High Dynamic Range). They both support the HDR with its color gamuts and more comprehensive brightness. However, HDMI 2.0 only supports HDR10, which is status metadata, while DP 2.0 and latest HDMI 2.1 support HDR10+, which is dynamic metadata.
There is a clear-cut difference between static and dynamic metadata. Static metadata means that the adjustment data of the video is sent at the beginning of the video stream, and it does not change throughout the video. The dynamic metadata sends the adjustments throughout the video and allows a finer range of adjustments.
HDMI Vs DisplayPort Audio Transmission
Both HDMI and DisplayPort can handle 24-bit audio at a 192 Hz rate. The capability of transferring the data is equal, but HDMI does that over only a single cable connection. HDMI uses ARC (Audi Return Channel) for uncompressed audio, while this is limited to two channels divided across 44.1 Hz over 10-bit audio. The ARC can support a highly compressed 5.1 surround with sample rates of 192 kHz over 24-bit in the new HDMI eARC. This is an enhanced version of ARC that is present in HDMI 2.1.
DisplayPort does pass uncompressed 7.1 surrounds with 192 Hz over 24-bit audio. It has not been issued as we observe in HDMI if you have DisplayPort 1.4 or higher. Even the audio stream can connect to four different displays using DisplayPort, unlike the previous versions that only supported a singles receiver or display.
Multi-Display Support on HDMI and DisplayPort
DisplayPort is a clear winner when it comes to multiple display support. Both HDMI and DisplayPort can support multiple displays, but the difference is that the Display port can support four displays while HDMI can run only two displays. We have not seen many multiple displays with HDMI lately because gamers and graphics designers switch to DisplayPort for its speed and versatility.
Another thing to note about multiple display connectivity is the ability of the transfer speed of both interfaces. DisplayPort can run 80 Gbps while HDMI 2.1 limits at 48 Gbps. Each lane on the DisplayPort 2.0 can deliver 19.34 Gbps per lane when connected to four displays while a total of 77.37 Gbps. HDMI 2.0 can deliver 14.4 Gbps per lane. The clear difference between the ability to connect with multiple displays and more incredible speeds makes the DisplayPort more favorable in the competition.
Each version of DisplayPort and HDMI does support different resolutions and refresh rates. Depending upon the version, each technology can have advantages over others. In this case, if we compare HDMI 2.1 with Display 1.4, then HDMI is a clear winner. However, with the latest DisplayPort 2.0, the specs game reversed. It does carry the resolution triple fold that DisplayPort 1.4 supports. Theoretically, you can achieve a resolution of up to 16K. Even the refresh rates can be staggering high as DisplayPort 2.0 can support a 240 Hz refresh rate at 4K resolution.
When we compare the resolution and refresh rate with the technology’s availability, HDMI leads the race. Its latest HDMI 2.1 is readily available compared to the DisplayPort 2.1, a reasonably new technology. However, you can expect DisplayPort 2.1 to be more common in late 2021 or the first quarter of the following year.
Variable Refresh Rate Support
VRR or variable refresh rate is the technology that is pretty common these days. This technology adjusts the refresh rate of the display according to frame rate per second demand. There are two mainstream VRR technologies right now: FreeSync and G-Sync.
If you have a PC with an AMD graphics card, then you are stuck with FreeSync. Both HDMI and DisplayPort support FreeSync, and you do not need to worry about your cable selection in this case. There is a bit of disappointment for the HDMI fans as it does not support Nvidia’s G-Sync. Only DisplayPort supports G-Sync, so if you have an Nvidia graphics card, you only have DisplayPort as a choice.
USB-C Alt-Mode is the connectivity option in many compact computers and some phones. This interface is an alternative way to send video data over the USB cable in the form of video signals. Both HDMI and DisplayPort support USB-C Alt-Mode. However, HDMI requires a more complex cable setup, and its signal needs to be converted from DisplayPort to HDMI.
DisplayPort does support USB-C Alt-Mode since 2014. It does not require any complex cable setup as the data can be sent over the same cable. The USB allows data transfer according to the bandwidth requirement. This USB-C Alt-Mode is essentially perfect if you are looking for the data transfer of monitor USB setup. It allows transferring data and video signals from the same cable and power the display effectively.
DisplayPort vs. HDMI: What’s in for Gamers?
Even after covering technical and functional aspects of DisplayPort and HDMI, you may still think which is best for gaming? Besides the specs sheet, the most influencing factor of your decision-making lies in the hardware setup you have for gaming. As both standards are equally good, and their comparability is not an issue for most time except G-Sync (which we will discuss later), gamers stay clueless until the last seconds of their purchase.
Let’s clarify the things from the gamer’s perspective. Both HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 1.4 are highly capable and provide a great gaming experience. However, HDMI 2.1 has better overall performance than DisplayPort 1.4, but the release of DP 2.0 shaken the HDMI’s chances for survival. With both HDMI and DisplayPort, there are issues. If you want HDMI 2.1, then you may want a TV to connect rather than a monitor. DisplayPort 2.0 is still not mainstream as it is not still available in bulk for purchase for normal users.
If you have an NVIDIA graphics card, then DisplayPort 1.4 is the best connection. It supports a G-Sync display that synchronizes the refresh rate with the frame rate. Now the problem is that G-Sync is only compatible with HDMI 2.1 TVs and lacks monitor support. This way the prioritizing the DisplayPort over HDMI is the only viable option when playing on NVIDIA cards.
AMD graphics cards have both HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity. Still, DisplayPort is the main driver for AMD-based cards. The preference for DisplayPort over HDMI is probably due to the availability of FreeSync compatible monitors for DisplayPort than HDMI. It is easier to find a 144 Hz compatible monitor with DisplayPort than HDMI.