DisplayPort 2.1 vs. HDMI 2.1: Which is Better for PC Gaming?

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Patrick_Yu
edited May 20 in PC Tech

The gaming world is filled with debates: PC vs. console, keyboard vs. controller, and, of course, DisplayPort vs. HDMI. While some debates might boil down to personal preference, the battle between HDMI and DisplayPort hinges on cold, hard facts.

Before we jump into the debate, let us cover the basics of DisplayPort and HDMI. 

What is DisplayPort?

DisplayPort, developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA), is a digital interface designed primarily for transmitting video from PCs to monitors, although it can also carry audio and data. Since its debut in 2006, there have been multiple versions, with DisplayPort 1.4, a feature-based upgrade, being the most prevalent in modern devices. 

The standard DisplayPort connector has a 20-pin design with a lock for secure connection, but there's also a Mini DisplayPort variant without this feature. Recently, Mini DisplayPort has given way to USB-C, which can deliver DisplayPort capabilities via DisplayPort Alt Mode. DisplayPort 2.1 is currently the most advanced version, supporting exceptionally high resolutions and refresh rates.

What is HDMI?

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), introduced in 2022, is a digital interface that transmits video and audio signals from a source device to displays, like TVs and monitors. With over 10 billion devices sold, HDMI is widely used in home entertainment systems and computers, HDMI cables combine audio and video into one cable, simplifying connections and ensuring high-quality signal transmission.

The common types of HDMI you will encounter are Type A (Standard), Type C (Mini), and Type D (Micro).

Over the years, various versions of HDMI have been released, each offering improvements in resolution, audio capabilities, and other features. HDMI 2.1 is the latest iteration of this connector.

DisplayPort 2.1 vs. HDMI 2.1: Which is better for PC gaming?

In PC gaming, every component, from the graphics card to the cable, is crucial in delivering an optimal experience. Among the pivotal decisions gamers face is choosing the right display interface. HDMI and DisplayPort, two of the foremost contenders in this arena, often go head-to-head in discussions about visual performance, refresh rates, and audio quality.

At this point, you are probably wondering, “Is DisplayPort better than HDMI, or is HDMI better than DisplayPort?”

To successfully answer the DisplayPort Vs. HDMI question, you must look at four important features of the connectors that play a big impact on PC gaming. These four features are are follows: bandwidth and resolution support, Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Multi-Stream Transport (MST), and latency. 

1. Bandwidth and Resolution Support

Bandwidth dictates the maximum data transfer rate, affecting how quickly and smoothly game visuals and audio are transmitted to your display. Resolution support determines the clarity and detail of game graphics, with higher resolutions offering crisper and more immersive visuals. Thus, higher bandwidth and resolution support directly elevate the fidelity and responsiveness of your PC gaming experience.

DisplayPort and HDMI versions dictate the maximum resolution and refresh rate capabilities. Commonly, monitors and computers support DisplayPort 1.2 or 1.4 and HDMI 1.4 or 2.0.

DisplayPort 2.0 and 2.1, boasting nearly three times the bandwidth of DisplayPort 1.4, offer the potential for up to 16K resolutions using compression or high refresh rates at lower resolutions. HDMI 2.1 only offers up to 10k, so based on numbers alone, DP 2.1 beats out HDMI 2.1.

However, in the current gaming market, DisplayPort 2.0 and 2.1 have limited support with GPUs from both Nvidia and AMD. As of September 2023, only the AMD Radeon™ RX 7800 XT with AMD RDNA™ 3 architecture supports DisplayPort 2.0 and 2.1. Nvidia GPUs, at the time of the posting, do not support DisplayPort 2.1 or 2.0.

Considering G-SYNCS's rapport with DisplayPort, it is very likely that Nvidia will follow suit and eventually announce support for Display Port 2.0 and 2.1. According to industry sources, the anticipated GeForce RTX 50-series graphics cards, set for release in 2024, are expected to incorporate DisplayPort 2.0 and 2.1 interfaces. However, as with any forward-looking technology, definitive specifications will become clear closer to the launch date.

In comparison, both HDMI 2.1 and 2.0 are currently supported by both Nvidia and AMD.

Winner: HDMI 2.1 (but not for long)  

2. Variable Refresh Rate (VRR)

Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) is a technology that allows a display to dynamically adjust its refresh rate to match the frame rate output of a content source, like a gaming console or PC. By synchronizing these rates, VRR reduces visual artifacts like screen tearing and stutter, providing a smoother visual experience. This technology is especially beneficial for gaming, where frame rates can fluctuate frequently.

Two primary VRR technologies dominate the market: FreeSync and G-SYNC. For users with an AMD graphics card, FreeSync is the go-to choice, and it's compatible with both HDMI and DisplayPort connectors. On the other hand, if you're using NVIDIA's graphics solutions, you'll want G-SYNC, which currently only supports DisplayPort. Thus, NVIDIA users should prioritize a DisplayPort connection.

Winner: DisplayPort 2.1  

3. Multi-Stream Transport (MST)

MST is a technology incorporated into the DisplayPort 1.2 standard and later versions. Its primary purpose is to allow a single DisplayPort connection on your computer to handle multiple video outputs simultaneously; this official term is called Daisy Chain. This technology can allow for expansive game views or simultaneous multitasking, such as gaming on one screen while monitoring streams or chats on another. MST's efficient bandwidth use ensures that each connected display delivers optimal gaming visuals without compromising performance.

MST theoretically supports linking up to 60+ displays from that single connection. You can achieve this by 'daisy-chaining' monitors directly or using an external hub. Though HDMI doesn't inherently support MST, a DisplayPort to HDMI hub can simulate this function, provided the source device has a DisplayPort output.

Winner: DisplayPort 2.1  

4. Latency

Latency denotes the delay between sending a signal from a source device and its display on a target device. Measured in milliseconds, it impacts synchronization and real-time interactions, especially in gaming. Lower latency means faster response and smoother experiences.

The latency of HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 2.1 is quite similar (0.01 milliseconds). However, some factors can affect the latency, such as the length of the cable, the quality of the cable, and the specific devices that are being used. 

In general, the latency of HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 2.1 is low enough that it is not noticeable for most gamers.

Winner: Tie

Verdict

While HDMI 2.1 has its merits and is a versatile connector found in various entertainment setups, when it comes to PC gaming performance, DisplayPort 2.1 edges out as the champion. Its superior bandwidth and resolution support, exclusive compatibility with NVIDIA's G-SYNC, and the daisy-chaining capabilities of MST offer gamers a higher tier of immersion and flexibility. Unfortunately, DisplayPort 2.1 and 2.0 have limited support with Nvidia and AMD GPUs, which means that in terms of resolution, HDMI 2.1 is still king. However, when DisplayPort finally gets full support from both AMD and Nvidia, those seeking the pinnacle of PC gaming experiences should look towards the benefits of DisplayPort.

Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.

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