Are DisplayPorts Important?
It’s easy to get excited about new version numbers when it comes to operating systems, graphics cards, and CPUs. However, A/V ports like HDMI, DVI, or DisplayPort? That’s plumbing. As long as it works, who cares if you have the newest version or not, right?
Maybe not. While you’ll never find a literal game changer like real-time ray tracing in your A/V ports they can have a big impact on your experience. Especially if you’re going into the realm of high end 4K monitors, or even on the cutting edge with 8K displays.
That’s why it’s important to know at least a little bit about HDMI and DisplayPort. In this article, we’re going to dive right into what you need to know about DisplayPort 1.4, which is the latest version of the standard that you can find on store shelves at this writing.
What does DisplayPort look like?
A DisplayPort cable Photo Credit: Belkin
First, let’s discuss how to identify the connector and port. DisplayPort is easy to recognize, because of its unique shape (pictured above). The port and connector also come along with the logo:
However, the native DisplayPort connectors are not the only way to use the standard.
A USB-C Cable.
DisplayPort functionality can also run over a USB Type-C connection. This is called Alt Mode, and requires that both USB-C ports (the one on your PC and the one on the display) support it.
If they do then you can get the benefits of DisplayPort without having to have a DisplayPort cable. DisplayPort Alt Mode can also be folded into Thunderbolt 4 ports, which have Type-C connectors and the ability to double as generic USB-C ports.
DisplayPort 1.4: The Basics
There are actually two versions of DisplayPort 1.4: the plain vanilla version and DisplayPort 1.4a. The original, DisplayPort 1.4, rolled out from the Video Electronics Standard Association (VESA) in early 2016 replacing its predecessor DisplayPort 1.3. Version 1.4 was largely a small upgrade building, as new versions do, on what came before it.
DisplayPort 1.3, for example, was the version that introduced the Alt Mode for Type-C connectors that we discussed earlier. It also introduced support for uncompressed display resolutions up to 5120-by-2880 (5K by 3K), and the ability to run two 4K displays at once via Vesa Coordinated Video Timing.
DisplayPort 1.4 didn’t increase the bandwidth of the standard or anything like that. Instead, it introduced Display Stream Compression (DSC) version 1.2. VESA calls DSC 1.2 a “visually lossless” compression technology.
Compression is when you take a larger file, or in this case a data stream, and make it smaller by removing extraneous information. The end result is that DisplayPort 1.4 with DSC can enable up to 8K displays with no perceptible loss in image quality.
DisplayPort 1.4 also introduced HDR meta transport for enhanced support of high dynamic range (HDR) standards. It also expanded audio support from 8 to 32 channels and doubled the sample rate to 1,536kHz.
Two years after DisplayPort 1.4, in spring 2018, version 1.4a rolled out, which introduced a minor improvement to the original. The most important change was that version 1.4a introduced DSC 1.2a, which has better support for HDR. If you’re not familiar with HDR, it’s a technology that allows for greater variations in colors on a display.
In practice, that means you get a more vibrant image on the screen. To get the true experience of HDR, however, you need a display that has up to 1,000 nits of brightness.
DisplayPort 1.4 vs HDMI
Three DisplayPort and one HDMI port on an EVGA NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080.
There’s no question that HDMI is the better known cable compared to DisplayPort. HDMI is the standard connector for modern televisions, and is available on nearly every new monitor you can find out there.
However, until recently DisplayPort 1.4 was what you wanted on gaming PCs. The reason for that was the support for higher refresh rates, especially for 1080p and 1440p monitors. DisplayPort supports 144Hz and 165Hz monitors at those resolutions, while HDMI didn’t get there until HDMI 2.1
When you get to 4K DisplayPort 1.4a works, as does HDMI 2.1 for 144Hz, which is the most common high refresh rate you can get right now. A more modern DisplayPort is on its way, however. DisplayPort 2.0 was announced in June 2019. It was initially planned to start showing up in products in 2020, but Covid-19 derailed those plans.
At this writing the current expectation is to see DisplayPort 2.0 show up sometime in 2022. DisplayPort 2.0 will support display resolutions up to 8K with a 60Hz refresh rate and HDR10.
Do I need DisplayPort 1.4?
DP or HDMI
DP or HDMI
DP 1.4+ or HDMI 2.0
DP 1.4+ or HDMI 2.1+
DP 1.2a+ or HDMI 1.4b+
DP 1.2a or HDMI 2.0+
DP 1.4+ or HDMI 2.1
DP 1.4a+ or HDMI 2.1+
DP or HDMI
DP or HDMI
DP or HDMI
DP or HDMI
Whether you need DisplayPort 1.4 depends on what you’re doing. First, let’s talk about resolution.
If you’re editing a video or doing some other digital creative work that’s using an 8K monitor then you need DisplayPort 1.4 or higher (DP 1.3 will work at 30Hz), or HDMI 2.1. For 4K monitors when we’re talking about digital creative work you can go with DisplayPort 1.4, 1.4a (remember that better HDR support), or HDMI 2.0.
What about refresh rates? Here we move away from professional considerations, unless you happen to be a pro gamer. Higher refresh rates matter for gaming, while for video editing a standard 60Hz refresh rate is suitable.
Higher refresh rates translate into a better gaming experience since they allow more information to be displayed on the screen. This allows for smoother gameplay, which can mean faster reaction times in things like e-sports. There are other factors to consider such as the ping rate and general speed of your Internet connection, but our focus here is higher refresh rates.
Since you want higher frame rates in a game it matters which connection type you use. For the most part you should go with DisplayPort 1.4 or 1.4a on the basis of refresh rates, though HDMI 2.1 works too.
Should you seek out hardware just to find a DisplayPort connection? Not really. A monitor from a trusted brand will automatically have the connection types that are appropriate for its features.
As far as the graphics card is concerned modern parts usually come with both DisplayPort 1.4 or 1.4a and HDMI 2.0 or 2.1. It doesn’t hurt to check. Again, however, modern graphics cards are typically built with specific resolutions in mind such as 1080p, 1440p, or 4K and up.
So if your graphics card is meant for 4K resolutions then it should have an appropriate generation of port by default. Again, however, it helps to check especially if you’re comparing the features of two cards.
DisplayPort VS HDMI
So far we’ve discussed DisplayPort 1.4, some of the improvements it has over the previous version, and the forthcoming DisplayPort 2.0. We’ve also gone through a few different scenarios to help you choose whether DisplayPort or HDMI is right for you.
If you need additional assistance figuring out which port best suits you on your next computer, SabrePC can help you sort it all out to get a rig appropriate for your needs be it gaming, video editing, or productivity applications. If you have any questions or want to suggest some other topics for us to focus on, please feel free to contact us.