HDMI and DisplayPort are two of the most commonly seen connectors on displays and media devices. From computers and game consoles to the smallest monitors and the largest TVs, chances are you have something that supports at least one of these connectors. But what about monitors? Most monitors these days come with at least one HDMI and DisplayPort connection, and most computers support both. But what is the difference between them, and how do you decide which one to use?
Designed for different uses, HDMI and DisplayPort support different technologies, each with their own advantages depending on how you are planning on using them.
The maximum resolution and refresh rate available depends on the specific versions of DisplayPort and HDMI available to you. Most monitors on the market today support either DisplayPort 1.2 or 1.4, and/or HDMI 1.4 or 2.0. While the exact specifications vary depending on a few other factors, below is a list of the approximate maximum formats each connector can support.
|HDMI 1.4||HDMI 2.0||HDMI 2.1||DP 1.2||DP 1.3||DP 1.4||DP 2.0|
|1080p @ 120Hz|
|4k @ 30Hz|
|4k @ 60Hz|
|4k @ 120Hz|
|8k @ 30Hz|
|8k @ 60Hz|
|8k @ 120Hz|
HDMI is technically superior thanks to the recent release of HDMI 2.1, which surpasses the capabilities of DisplayPort 1.4, but no 2.1 monitors have been announced. When comparing DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort is superior. DisplayPort 2.0 has been announced, and it has a higher maximum bandwidth than HDMI 2.1. As of 08/08/2019, no DisplayPort 2.0 devices have been announced though, and it may be some time before anything new is released that supports it.
First introduced in DisplayPort 1.2, Multi-Stream Transport, or MST, allows you to connect multiple displays to a single DisplayPort port on your computer. Although the total bandwidth can't exceed the maximum bandwidth of the port you are using, in theory, this technology allows you to run up to 63 separate displays on a single port. This device chaining can be done either from one display to another, a technique known as "daisy-chaining", or through an external hub.
HDMI does not natively support MST, but it is possible to achieve similar results using DisplayPort to HDMI hubs. This still requires a DisplayPort connection on the source device.
With two different mainstream VRR technologies currently on the market, it is important that your choice of connector match your needs. If you are looking to connect a PC with an AMD graphics card, or an Xbox One, you'll be looking for a display that supports FreeSync. FreeSync is supported on both HDMI and DisplayPort, so you don't really have to worry about it. G-SYNC, NVIDIA's VRR technology, is only supported over DisplayPort at the moment, so if you have an NVIDIA graphics card, a DisplayPort connection is best.
Mainly supported on compact 2-in-1 PCs and some phones, USB-C Alt-Mode can send a video signal over the USB-C port. DisplayPort has supported this capability since 2014, and depending on the bandwidth required for the display, it also allows USB data to be sent over the same cable, so if your monitor has built-in USB ports, you can drive the display and the USB ports with a single cable. This also allows for USB Power Delivery mode, powering your computer with a single cable. HDMI also supports USB-C Alt-Mode, but requires a more complex cable, as the signal must be converted from DisplayPort to HDMI.
This is just a summary of the major technologies supported by DisplayPort and HDMI 2.0. HDMI supports other technologies, including ARC and eARC and Ethernet-Over-HDMI. With very few exceptions, these technologies are mainly designed with TVs in mind, and they aren't supported on the vast majority of monitors, so they are beyond the scope of this article.
HDMI and DisplayPort are physically very similar. HDMI uses a 19-pin cable, whereas DisplayPort has 20 pins. Both connectors look very similar, but most DisplayPort cables have a physical latch that prevents them from being disconnected accidentally. Although not officially part of the DisplayPort standard, the majority of DisplayPort cables have a latching mechanism. On the other hand, very few HDMI cables have latches.
Standard HDMI cables are available in lengths exceeding 100' for 1080p signals, or 30' for 4k signals. Using active cables, or other transmission methods, such as HDMI over HDBaseT, makes it possible to run HDMI cables for over 300'. DisplayPort, on the other hand, has a maximum length of about 10' according to the official standard. Longer cables exist, but the maximum resolution and refresh rate may decrease with longer cables.
Originally designed for HDTVs, HDMI is now supported by almost any home audio/video device, including computers, home theater systems, game consoles, etc. HDMI is also supported by the vast majority of displays currently on the market, from small portable displays to the largest 8k TVs.
DisplayPort, although also designed as a replacement for DVI and VGA connectors, was designed for computer use. There are no consumer TVs that support DisplayPort at this time, and we don't know if there ever will be. None of the major game consoles support DisplayPort, nor do most cable/satellite boxes or streaming devices.
DisplayPort and HDMI cables deliver very similar performance, but they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. HDMI is supported on more devices, but DisplayPort, which was designed for computers, has a few technical advantages. Overall, if you are looking to connect your computer to your new monitor, use DisplayPort if it is an option. If not, HDMI is an almost equally good choice. If your monitor has a limited number of inputs, using DisplayPort will also leave your HDMI ports free, which is great in case you want to connect a game console or other device.