DisplayPort vs HDMI: Which Is Better?

How to choose the right connection for your next monitor

Two connection standards used for transferring digital video and audio between devices are DisplayPort and HDMI. DisplayPort is primarily used in the computer and IT environment whereas HDMI is primarily used in home entertainment and home theater. However, there are instances where you may be able to choose DisplayPort or HDMI. To find out which might be best for you, let's check out their similarities and differences.

DisplayPort vs HDMI

What Is DisplayPort?

Advantages
  • Support for ultra high resolution.

  • Very high speed connection.

  • Great compatibility among computer systems.

Disadvantages
  • Not commonly supported on TVs.

DisplayPort (aka DP) was introduced in 2006 by VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) as a replacement for VGA and DVI connections used primarily for connecting PCs to monitors. 

In addition to video, DisplayPort can also carry audio signals if they are provided by the source device. However, if the display device does not provide a speaker system or an output to an external audio system, the audio signal will not be accessible. 

Devices that may have DisplayPort connections include: 

  • PCs 
  • Macs 
  • Select Mobile Devices
  • PC Monitors 
  • TVs/Projectors (very rare)

DisplayPort can be used with select devices that have other types of connections, such as VGA, DVI, and HDMI, using an adapter or adapter cable per any additional requirements.

DisplayPort Versions and Cables

The DisplayPort standard has six versions. More recent versions are backward compatible with previous versions.

For connecting a device to a monitor or TV here is how each version breaks down:

  • DisplayPort 1.0 (2006): Video resolution up to 4K/30 Hz. Transfer speed up to 8.64 Gbps along with other video resolution and transfer speed features of HBR1 (High Bitrate Level 1).
  • DisplayPort 1.1 (2007): Video resolution up to 4K/30 Hz, HDCP (High Definition Copy Protection), Video data transfer speed of 8.64 Gbps along with other features of HBR1.
  • DisplayPort 1.2 (2009): Video resolution up to 4K/60 Hz, 3D, multiple independent video streams (daisy-chain connection with multiple monitors) called Multi-Stream Transport (MST), Video data transfer speed up to 17.28 Gbps, along with other features of HBR2 (High Bitrate Level 2).
  • DisplayPort 1.3 (2014): Video resolution up to 8K/30 Hz, compatibility with HDMI ver 2.0, HDCP 2.2, and 25.92 Gbps transfer speed along with other features of HBR3 (High Bitrate Level 3).
  • DisplayPort 1.4 (2016): Video resolution up to 8K/60 Hz, HDR, 25.92 Gbps transfer speed along with other features of HBR3.

As mentioned previously, a DisplayPort cable that supports a later version (such as 1.4) can be used with devices that support earlier versions, but a cable that supports a previous DisplayPort version (such as 1.0) may not support features of later versions. 

DisplayPort Connectors

In addition to DisplayPort versions, there are two types of DisplayPort connectors: standard size, and mini.

Most DisplayPort-enabled devices have standard size connections that allow the use of cables with standard size DisplayPort inputs/outputs.

In 2008 a mini DisplayPort (MiniDP or mDP) connector and cables were introduced by Apple and was added to the DisplayPort 1.2 spec in 2009. Since Apple was the one that developed mini DisplayPort, it is found mostly on Apple Macs and associated products. However, mini display port connectors can be mixed with standard connectors using adapters or adapter cables. 

DP uses the same type of connector (usually mini) as Thunderbolt (1 and 2). A DisplayPort device will work with Thunderbolt, but a Thunderbolt device will not work with DisplayPort. This means if you connect a Thunderbolt-enabled device to a device (such as a monitor) that is only DisplayPort-enabled, the connection will not work, but if you connect a DisplayPort-enabled device to a device (such as a monitor) that is Thunderbolt-enabled, the connection will work.

What is HDMI?

Advantages
  • Nearly universal compatibility.

  • Audio support.

  • Select support for 4K and 8K Ultra HD.

Disadvantages
  • Cable variants can be confusing.

  • Not all HDMI cables are equal.

  • Bandwidth isn't dedicated entirely to video.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) was introduced in 2003 by HDMI Licensing as a standard for connecting Digital/HDTVs and home theater components together. HDMI cables can pass video, audio, and limited control signals.

Devices that may use HDMI connections include:

  • TVs, Video Projectors
  • DVD, Blu-ray, Ultra HD players
  • Cable/Satellite Boxes and DVRs
  • Home Theater Receivers
  • Media Streamers
  • Game Consoles 
  • Select Digital Cameras, Camcorders, and Smartphones.

You can also connect most PCs to a monitor using HDMI, or use HDMI to connect most PCs to a TV that has an HDMI input. 

HDMI Cables

HDMI cables provide different capabilities depending on their signal transfer speed (bandwidth) an HDMI version they are compatible with.

  • Standard: Video up to 720p and 1080i resolution, up to 5 Gbps transfer speed, compatible with HDMI versions 1.0 to 1.2a. 
  • High-Speed: Video resolutions of 1080p and 4K (30Hz) as well as support for 3D, and Deep Color. Bandwidth transfer speeds up to 10 Gbps, compatible with HDMI versions 1.3 to 1.4a.
  • Premium High-Speed: 4K/UltraHD resolution video up to 4K/60 Hz, HDR, and expanded color range. Up to 18 Gbps transfer speed, compatible with HDMI versions 2.0/a/b.
  • Ultra High-Speed: Up to 8K video resolution with HDR. Up to 48 Gbps transfer speed, increased shielding from EMI (ElectroMagnetic Interference) caused by some wireless devices, compatible with HDMI version 2.1.
  • Automotive: HDMI Automotive cables come in standard and hi-speed types and are used for device connection to in-vehicle video displays. Extra shielding is provided to limit interference from car electrical systems.
  • HDMI Cables with Ethernet: There are also Standard, High-Speed, Premium High-Speed, and Ultra High-Speed HDMI cables that support an HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC). This allows several HDMI-connected devices to share a single Ethernet connection to an internet router at speeds up to 100 Mb/sec. However, this feature is very rarely implemented.

HDMI Connectors

HDMI cables may also provide one or more type of end-connector.

Regular Size (Type A): For connection of DVD/Blu-ray/Ultra HD players, PCs/Laptops, media streamers, cable/satellite boxes, and video game consoles to TVs, video projectors, home theater receivers, and many PC monitors.

Mini Size (Type C): Found mostly on DSLR cameras and large tablets. The mini-sized end connects to the camera or tablet, while the standard end connects to a PC monitor, TV, or video projector.

Micro Size (Type D): Used on smaller digital cameras, smartphones, and tablets. The micro connector is on one end and a standard size connector is on the other. 

Automotive (Type E): This connector is for Automotive HDMI cables.

HDMI can also be used with other connections, such as DVI, USB-C, MHL, and Display Port via adapters.

Most HDMI cables are passive, but some are active (amplified). There are also fiber-optic (optical) HDMI cables. Active and optical HDMI cables are designed for longer lengths but unlike passive cables, they are directional (source end vs display end).

HDMI signals can also be sent across long distances using other wired and wireless options. 

How To Choose Between DisplayPort and HDMI

DisplayPort
  • Great compatibility for computers.

  • Designed for high quality video.

  • Excellent speed.

  • Not well supported beyond computers.

HDMI
  • Nearly universal.

  • Supports Audio.

  • Provides excellent quality video.

  • Bandwidth split between audio and video.

Here are some key things to consider that can help determine whether DisplayPort or HDMI might be best for your setup.

  • DisplayPort has been designed from the ground up for computer/monitor connection applications.
  • HDMI has been designed for use in the home theater/home entertainment environment. However, many PCs and Monitors include HDMI as a connection option.
  • Very few TVs or projectors have a DisplayPort connection. To connect a DisplayPort source to a TV or projector with HDMI inputs, you need a DisplayPort to HDMI adapter or a cable with a DP connector on one end and HDMI on the other.

Panasonic offered DisplayPort inputs on select 4K Ultra HD TVs but has discontinued this feature. Some models that included DisplayPort connections were the WT600, AX800, AX802, and AX902 series. 

  • If a DisplayPort connection is carrying an audio signal, the signal will be able to pass through an HDMI adapter. The audio will be heard if the monitor has speakers or connects to an external audio system. 

DisplayPort does not support HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC).

  • DP cables supporting version 1.2 (and up) allow connection of one source (such as a PC) to multiple monitors at the same time without an additional splitter, provided the monitors include both a DP input and output that allows daisy-chaining. The number of monitors that can be daisy-chained depends on video resolution and the DisplayPort version used.

If your monitors only have DisplayPort inputs and no outputs, you will need to use an MST (Multistream Transport) adapter/splitter to display images from a single DP source on multiple monitors.

  • HDMI allows the connection of one source to one TV or monitor using a single cable. To send an HDMI source to multiple TVs or monitors at the same time, an additional splitter is necessary.
  • In addition to HDMI, DisplayPort can be used in combination with VGA, DVI, USB, and Thunderbolt connectors in certain circumstances.
  • You can connect a DP source to an HDMI-only monitor or TV using a passive cable or adapter.
  • If connecting an HDMI source to a PC monitor or video display that only has DisplayPort input, you may need to use a powered adapter to perform any needed signal conversion.
  • If you are connecting a PC or Laptop to one monitor only, and the monitor has both a DisplayPort and HDMI input, you can use either, but DisplayPort might be best as it is optimized for PC use.  
  • If you are connecting a PC or Laptop to a TV, and the TV only has HDMI inputs, and if your PC has an HDMI output, use that option. 
  • If your PC/Laptop only has a DisplayPort output, and your TV only has an HDMI input, use a DisplayPort to HDMI cable or adapter to connect the PC/Laptop to the TV. 

Since home theater receivers do not have DisplayPort, to pass audio and video through the receiver from a DP source, you need to use a DP to HDMI adapter. However, DP sources will not supply most encoded surround sound formats to the receiver.

  • Depending on the version of DP or HDMI you are using, there is no significant difference in displayed video quality. If you are using a version of HDMI or DP that supports 4K video, you should see the same result on the same monitor if both types of connections are provided. 

When you purchase your PC components, monitors, and cables make sure they provide the connection options that fit your needs.