HDMI vs DisplayPort: Which is Best for 4K, HD, and Gaming Monitors?

hdmi-displayport-i-mini-displayport connectors

Top to bottom: HDMI, DisplayPort, and Mini DisplayPort connectors. You can also get DisplayPort over a USB-C connection that supports DP Alt mode.

Sarah Tew / topwatchbest

Elections, elections. When it comes to connecting your computer to a monitor (or choosing a monitor to buy), one of the last things you want to get bogged down in is deciding which connections you need. Especially when you can dwell on more exciting features like whether HDR you can afford is worth it.

The truth is, a lot of people wonder about it – most of the time it doesn’t matter. It they can when new technologies start to overlap, such as when HD gives way to 4K, but then you usually have no choice

For general use – and a single 4K display is no longer a special case – it doesn’t matter. You’re probably better off with HDMIgenerally simply because monitors with DisplayPort (DP) in addition to HDMI, they are sometimes more expensive.

But if you’re one of the most critical cases where you need to think about it – console or PC gambling, a job where color is crucialbusiness travel or multi-monitor setups – here are some tips.

On the way

If you’re traveling on business and want to hook up monitors in different locations, it’s HDMI all the time (and the version doesn’t really matter). This is the most common type of connection. You may want to make sure your laptop also has a full-size HDMI connection built-in, although there are fewer and fewer of them; While you can use USB-C-to-HDMI or micro HDMI-to-HDMI dongles, it’s easy to lose them and you don’t want to spend the first 20 minutes of your meeting hunting for one. Any laptop that’s light enough to take anywhere with you, doesn’t have a DP connection anyway.

In the game

For games … ugh. There are really no easy answers as this opens up “AMD vs. Nvidia versus no “can of worms. If you already have a monitor with a DP 1.4 connector and a matching graphics card, use DP, simply because it gives you the most adaptive refresh configurations and currently supports the highest refresh rates HDMI peaks at 144Hz uncompressed or 240 Hz with compression, while DP 1.4 can reach 360 Hz in 1080p.

If you’re trying to pick a monitor, HDMI is an inexpensive choice, but if you have DP you’ll have more options if you plan on upgrading to a new graphics card or adding an external graphics processor in the near future. DP is obviously better if you have an Nvidia card and want to use it G-Sync; FreeSync it can also be better than DP.

For consoles, you really don’t have a choice – they only support HDMI – but you need to pay attention not only to the HDMI version, but to the specific list of features they support. To support variable rate refresh (VRR) on Xbox Series X / Sand in the near future PS5as well as dynamic HDR metadata (HDR10 Plus) for better HDR rendering it cannot be assumed that a monitor with HDMI 2.1 connection automatically supports it. You’ll need to double-check that your monitor or TV specs for HDMI 2.1 clearly say yes, at the resolution you care about.

The color of the work

For color-critical work, either HDMI 2.1 or DP 1.4 has enough bandwidth to handle an uncompressed data stream, especially in 4K.

Multiple monitors

For a multi-monitor setup, you may want (or need) both. Depending on your graphics card, you may only have one connection of each type or only USB-C, and if you are forced to serial USB-C DP, this may limit your resolution options. (In a multi-computer setup – connecting two computers to one monitor – the connection type is less important than the monitor’s features.)

USB-c-to-hdmi-dongle

Dongle keys are sometimes a necessary evil, but avoid them if you can: they are easy to lose and don’t always work properly, or at least as expected. For example, some HDMI dongles and hubs with HDMI connectors, especially cheap ones, cannot display 4K at 60Hz, only 30Hz.

Sarah Tew / topwatchbest

Decide for yourself

However, if you want to make a decision, here are some things to consider:

  • If a feature requires a specific version of one of the standards, that means Both monitor and graphics card must have this. In other words, if your graphics card uses DP 1.4 but your monitor is DP 1.2, you won’t get HDR.
  • DP 1.2 and above support daisy chaining, which allows you to disable more than one monitor from a single output connection. The number of monitors depends on their resolution and you will most likely need a splitter or hub. However, it’s not automatically supported, so check your monitor specs.
  • Mini DP, sometimes found in games laptopsand the USB-C alternate mode is DP 1.4; USB-C with Alt Mode support is actually the successor to the Mini DP.
  • HDR display requires DP 1.4 or HDMI 2.0a (or later). On the graphics card side, that means Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 (aka Pascal) and AMD Radeon RX 400 series or newer. (The Nvidia RTX series supports HDMI 2.0b which is essential for Hybrid Log Gamma HDR display, which is really only relevant these days when you’re editing HDR video.)
  • Currently, 8K requires two DP 1.4 connections for 60 Hz or one connection for 30 Hz. And the monster system. But we haven’t seen any 8K monitors since the pair came out about five years ago.
  • Adaptive sync technologies help to synchronize the output framerate of games with the monitor’s refresh rates (how quickly the screen can update) to prevent temporary artifacts such as excruciating (where you briefly see the elements of two frames simultaneously). For the purposes of this decision, you really just need to know that AMD FreeSync works over both HDMI and DP, while Nvidia’s G-Sync only works over DP. However, Nvidia G-Sync doesn’t work over USB-C (even though it’s technically DP) because USB doesn’t connect directly to the GPU. This is changing (in theory) thanks to Intel’s 12th-gen mobile chipset that supports projects that do this.
  • HDMI is almost universal on modern monitors – ie, in every conference room around the world – while DP is generally only available on the higher, more expensive models. Cheap monitors usually have an old version of HDMI, often 1.4, which only matters if you’re trying to play 4K HDCP 2.2 protected content. However, these monitors rarely have a 4K resolution.
  • As of today, some monitors have finally added connections for HDMI 2.1which can handle general variable refresh rates (i.e. will work with your TV), resolutions above 5K, and Dynamic HDR. Most of the current graphics cards support HDMI 2.1.
  • If your system doesn’t have a discrete graphics card, it likely only has an HDMI connection anyway.

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