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DisplayPort 1.4 vs HDMI 2.1 Cables

When you’re setting up a home theater, smart TV, gaming console, or PC, you need cables that connect the devices to the displays.

The thing is, you have a few options, and if you’re working with high-definition equipment, your leading options are HDMI and DisplayPort.

Even with those two options, there are plenty of different versions, but at the front of the pack are DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1. Which is best for your setup? That’s going to depend on a few things, so let’s break down this comparison.

DisplayPort 1.4

The original DisplayPort technology debuted in 2008, and it is known for its rectangular design that features a notch on one side. It has seen upgrades since, and the dominant version right now is 1.4, which has been around since 2016. DisplayPort was designed for advanced high-definition displays. HDMI could already handle regular high definition, but as 4K and other expanded video definitions arose, DisplayPort adapted to provide the needed quality.

With DisplayPort 1.4, you get amazing technical specifications. The connector still utilizes 20 pins, but 1.4 can hit a maximum bandwidth of 32.4 Gbps, and real data rates can hit 25.92 Gbps.

It also provides 8-bit and 10-bit color, Display Stream Compression (DSC), High Bit Rate (all the way to High Bit Rate 3), and cross-functionality with USB-C and Thunderbolt 4.

As for display specifications, this technology can provide 4K video at frame rates up to 120Hz, 5K up to 60Hz, and 8K up to 30Hz. DisplayPort 1.4 also supports up to 4 separate displays on a single video output.

HDMI 2.1

As for High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), this is a technology so prolific that you are likely already familiar with it. The first versions launched in the early 2000s, and it has become the de facto connection type for high-definition video ever since.

With the latest version (2.1), you get substantial performance inputs. HDMI 2.1 maximizes bandwidth at 48 Gbps with a real max data rate of 42 Gbps.

In terms of viewing, you can use HDMI 2.1 to see 4K video at 144Hz, 5K at 60Hz, and 8K at 30Hz. With DSC, HDMI 2.1 can get 8K video up to 120Hz.

Also, this version of HDMI supports 7.1-point surround sound and Dolby Atmos.

Which Should You Use?

That covers the technical data, but when it comes to purchasing, which cable should you choose?

In terms of raw specs, it looks like HDMI 2.1 is the winner, but things aren’t always so clear. In reality, the best cable depends on the application. So, we can look at three common applications and concerns to help sort out when each video technology really shines.

Maximum Video Quality

If you’re trying to get the very highest resolutions at the fastest frame rates, HDMI 2.1 wins. That’s clear in the data sheets. DisplayPort 1.4 simply cannot match the maximum output of HDMI 2.1.

Home Entertainment

If you’re working with home entertainment, where you might have a TV, BlueRay player, and possibly gaming consoles, then the raw performance of HDMI 2.1 is no longer the top concern. Instead, the universality of HDMI 2.1 will shine.

HDMI 2.1 is reverse-compatible with other HDMI forms. So, you can use a single set of cables for the latest gaming consoles, older consoles (that can’t take advantage of 2.1 performance specs), your TV, your streaming device, and anything else in the bunch. Connecting everything with HDMI is just easier, and you can make sure you utilize 2.1 when and where it matters most.

Multi-Monitor PCs

So far, HDMI 2.1 is dominating, but we have come to a category where DisplayPort 1.4 still shines. When you’re using a PC, HDMI 2.1 still provides the very best video quality, but graphics cards tend to favor DisplayPorts.

With a modern PC, you might have one HDMI 2.1 port, and you can use it to get those great resolutions and frame rates. But if you want to connect multiple monitors, odds are that the rest of your ports will be DisplayPort 1.4. So, for multi-monitor functions, DisplayPort is already primed and ready to go, and it’s just easier to take advantage of that fact.

Here’s a quick recap. If you want the very best performance, HDMI 2.1 is flat-out better than DisplayPort 1.4. If your devices are easier to set up and maintain with HDMI, then stick with it. If you’re using a PC or something else that favors DisplayPort, then that’s your answer.

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