DisplayPort Vs. HDMI: Which Is Better For Gaming?
There are two main display cables to consider when gaming on a monitor or TV: HDMI and DisplayPort.
If you’re looking to connect your PC or console to a TV or gaming monitor, there’s a good chance you have multiple options and even more cables. HDMI and DisplayPort cables both allow you to transfer multiple audio channels and high-definition video from your gaming device to your display of choice. But what are the benefits and limitations of each format? And which option is right for your display? Here's what you should know about HDMI and DisplayPort cables and the best options available in each format.
What is HDMI?
HDMI stands for high-definition multimedia interface, and the cable allows users to transfer high-definition video and audio to a connected TV or monitor. HDMI has been used since 2003, so unless you’re planning to game on a CRT, your TV or monitor almost certainly supports HDMI. If you’re using a TV, it likely has multiple ports, too.
- HDMI 1.0 to 1.2a (1080i or 720p, 4.95Gbps)
- HDMI 1.3 to 1.4a (1080p and 4K at 30Hz, 10.2Gbps)
- HDMI 2.0, 2.0a, 2.0b (4K at 60Hz, 18Gbps)
- HDMI 2.1 (8K at 60Hz, 4K at 120Hz, 48Gbps)
What is DisplayPort?
DisplayPort, like HDMI, is a cable format for transmitting high-definition video and audio. The latest version, DisplayPort 2.0, debuted in 2019, but there are not yet any commercial products that support it. That approval process was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so DisplayPort 1.4 is currently the most recent usable version.
DisplayPort is not nearly as mainstream as HDMI. You won’t find a DisplayPort jack on your game console and your TV likely won't support it either. Instead, DisplayPort is most useful (and sometimes essential) for PC gamers because it can connect from a monitor to the PC’s dedicated graphics card, and it supports higher resolutions, higher refresh rates, and more bandwidth than HDMI.
- DisplayPort 1.0 to 1.1 (4K at 30Hz, 10.8Gbps)
- DisplayPort 1.2 (4K at 75Hz, 21.6Gbps)
- 1.2a added adaptive sync
- DisplayPort 1.3 (5120x2880 at 60Hz, 32.4Gbps)
- DisplayPort 1.4 (4K at 144Hz, 32.4Gbps)
- DisplayPort 2.0 (16K resolution at 60Hz, 80Gbps)
HDMI vs. DisplayPort: How they compare
Video and bandwidth
Over the years, HDMI has gone through multiple iterations. HDMI 2.1 is the latest (and best), introduced in 2017. With the introduction of this version, HDMI added support for higher resolutions and refresh rates: 4K at 120Hz and 8K at 60Hz. This newest cable is capable of transmitting 48Gbps, a huge increase over the 18Gbps of previous cables. Of course, older versions are still compatible with most devices, but won’t provide the same image quality or bandwidth.
DisplayPort 1.4, by contrast, has a maximum bandwidth of 32.4Gbps and can support 4K resolution at 144Hz. DisplayPort 1.2 is older, introduced in 2010, and less capable than 1.4, supporting a maximum bandwidth of 21.6Gbps, with 5K resolution at 30Hz, 4K at 75Hz, and 1080p at 240Hz.
Devices that support DisplayPort 2.0 should arrive later this year. None of them will be able to take advantage of DisplayPort’s full capabilities as the newest cables allow for a jump in resolution all the way to 16K--a future-proofing measure, to be sure, as few commercially available displays support 8K. However, DisplayPort 2.0 will be more powerful than HDMI 2.1 in nearly every way, with a max bandwidth of 80 Gbps and 16K for 60 Hz single display configurations. By comparison, HDMI 2.1 maxes out at 48 Gbps and 10K.
HDMI and DisplayPort support the same number of audio channels (eight) at the same level of quality (24 bit, 192kHz). The primary difference between the two formats, where sound is concerned, is that HDMI includes an audio return channel, meaning the cable can transmit audio both ways.
PC vs. console
HDMI has one huge advantage if you’re planning to play on console: Both PS5 and Xbox Series X/S include support for HDMI 2.1, the newest and best version of HDMI. Neither console support DisplayPort. If you’re a PC user, however, DisplayPort will likely be your best bet for optimal performance (though the most optimal performance won’t be available until DisplayPort 2.0-enabled devices show up on store shelves sometime in 2021).
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In addition to audio and visual performance, DisplayPort has the benefit of being able to output to multiple displays from one cable. So, if you want to play games on a dual-monitor setup, DisplayPort is the way to go. HDMI, on the other hand, requires one cable for each additional monitor you wish to display on.
HDMI cables have 19 pins and are vertically symmetrical, tapering from the top to the bottom in the shape of a smiling mouth. A DisplayPort cable has 20 pins and is similarly shaped. The key difference is that the one side is vertically straight, instead of tapering, and features a locking mechanism so that it won’t come unplugged. HDMI doesn’t have a similar mechanism and, as a result, can come unplugged more easily, for better and for worse.
HDMI cables come with a variety of different connector sizes. The typical size is referred to as Standard and works with most TVs, PCs, and game consoles. Mini and Micro connectors are also available and compatible with tablets, DSLR cameras (Mini), and phones (Micro). On the other hand, Mini DisplayPort ports are increasingly popular and, if your laptop has a DisplayPort jack at all, this is likely the version that it features. This connector is smaller and rectangular, with rounded edges on the laptop side, while being full-sized where it connects to the display device.
Final thoughts: Which display cable is best for gaming?
Both HDMI and DisplayPort have strengths and weaknesses. But where gaming is concerned, the platform you want to play on may determine the cable you need to use. The PS5 and Xbox Series X do not support DisplayPort, but both machines come with HDMI 2.1 ports. So, for console gaming, HDMI is the way to go (though you'll need a 4K TV or monitor that supports HDMI 2.1 to reap the full benefits).
However, PCs are much more likely to include a DisplayPort outlet and, if you’re building your own gaming PC, you can make sure to include it. The gains that DisplayPort 2.0 provides over HDMI 2.1 will be more easily visible on a monitor with a high refresh rate. Additionally, DisplayPort includes a locking mechanism so you can securely fasten the cable to your monitor. This could be a danger if you need to run the cable across your room, but if your cords are contained, it's useful.
If you’re interested in VR, specifically, you may need a PC with DisplayPort compatibility depending on your VR headset of choice. The Valve Index and Oculus Rift S, for example, do not support an HDMI connection.
Where to buy HDMI and DisplayPort cables
If you're in need of a new HDMI cable, you can find some highly rated options at Amazon, including this Zeskit HDMI 2.1 cable with over 13,000 reviews and 4.8 out of 5 stars. It supports 4K at 120Hz, making it an excellent option for PS5 and Xbox Series X. For those in need of a cheaper HDMI 2.0 cable, PowerBear offers high-quality cables in a variety of sizes.
New versions of HDMI and DisplayPort will continue to leapfrog over each other. DisplayPort 2.0 launched in 2019 and is set to get compatible machines in the next year, but HDMI hasn’t had a refresh since 2017. As a result, the advantages that each format has over the other will likely change in the coming years. Those changes may be marginal, but when it comes to the performance boosts that HDMI and DisplayPort promise, you'll have to ask yourself what's best for your setup.
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