If you’ve bought a new 4K monitor recently, you might have been puzzled by the array of ports on the back. HDMI, DisplayPort, USB-C, and Thunderbolt are all commonplace now, but which is the best, and why?
HDMI 2.1: The All-Rounder
High Definition Multimedia Interface, or HDMI, is the most common display interface today. It’s used in televisions to connect games consoles and Blu-ray players. It provides a stable digital signal that can be hot-swapped (unplugged and plugged in without turning devices off) at will.
HDMI 2.1 is the latest standard adopted by device manufacturers, supporting a throughput of 48 Gbps. That’s enough to drive a 10K display at 60 frames per second in full 10-bit color. Because we’re talking about 4K displays, HDMI 2.1 is more than adequate.
Daisy-chaining—connecting a computer to a monitor, and then connecting that monitor to another monitor—is possible with HDMI 2.1. Monitors that support this are quite rare, however, and you can only daisy-chain two displays at once.
HDMI 2.1 has a few extra tricks up its sleeve, including limited power delivery (uncommon) and the ability to act as an Ethernet adapter (with the right cable). It can also useFreeSync (or VESA AdaptiveSync) to eliminate screen-tearing.
HDMI cables are cheap, but keep in mind you’ll need to upgrade them to be compatible with the 2.1 standard if you want to make full use of the feature set.
While HDMI 2.1 is very capable, watch out—it’s possible your 4K monitor only supports the older HDMI 2.0 standard. This means it’s limited to outputting a 4K signal at 60 frames per second in 8-bit color. You’ll also be limited to 44.1 kHz and 16-bit pass-through audio with only two uncompressed audio channels (5.1 audio channels are compressed).
For gamers, HDMI 2.0 doesn’t support the FreeSync standard. HDR content is limited to static metadata (the HDR 10 standard) compared to 2.1, which supports dynamic metadata (including HDR10+ and Dolby Vision). These older HDMI 2.0 4K monitors will save you some money, but you’ll also lose out on some features.
If you’re rocking a 4K monitor with HDMI 2.1, you’re unlikely to hit any serious bottlenecks at this stage. If your monitor only supports HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort could provide a better experience in terms of overall features—especially if you want to daisy-chain more than two displays.
DisplayPort: Better, Faster, Stronger
DisplayPort has long been the PC enthusiast’s choice, and, on paper, it’s not hard to see why. While HDMI 2.1 caps out at 48 Gbps, the upcoming DisplayPort 2.0 standard can handle a throughput of 80 Gbps. It’s worth noting, though, DisplayPort 2.0 devices aren’t expected to hit the market until late 2020.
This means most people will still be using the DisplayPort 1.4 standard, which still stacks up favorably when compared to HDMI 2.0.
DisplayPort 1.4 can handle 8K resolution at 60 frames in true 10-bit color, but only with display stream compression. Uncompressed performance is similar to HDMI 2.1 with support for 4K/120/8-bit, though 10-bit performance caps out at 4K at 90Hz. You can connect up to two displays via daisy-chaining at 4K resolution, provided your monitors support it.
There are no limits on pass-through audio like there are with HDMI 2.0. DisplayPort 1.4 is capable of up to 192 kHz, and 24-bit sound with 7.1 channels of uncompressed audio. You’ll also get FreeSync support as DisplayPort was previously a requirement for this prior to the arrival of HDMI 2.1.
DisplayPort 1.4a also supports dynamic metadata for HDR content, which means Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support for wider brightness and color gamut. Your monitor’s capabilities will be the limiting factor here, though, not DisplayPort.
Unlike HDMI, DisplayPort lacks any kind of Ethernet support. This is primarily because DisplayPort is mostly used for computer-to-monitor connections. HDMI, on the other hand, has broader applications, including connecting AV receivers, TVs, and other consumer electronic devices.
DisplayPort offers some good advantages over HDMI 2.0, but they mostly only apply if you want to daisy-chain multiple monitors. In the future, with the arrival of DisplayPort 2.0, 4K at frame rates of higher than 60 frames in true 10-bit color will be possible, but only on a monitor that supports it.
RELATED: DisplayPort 2: What's Different, and Why It Matters
USB-C: Ideal for Laptop Owners
USB-Chas a broad range of uses. The ability to carry a display signal over USB-C relies on a technology called USB-C Alt Mode. In essence, this is just DisplayPort via a USB-C plug. The raw throughput and supported resolutions depend on the DisplayPort standard being used (at this stage, it’s likely 1.4).
This means all the technical aspects of USB-C DisplayPort over Alt Mode mirror those of regular DisplayPort 1.4. With display stream compression, it’stheoretically possible to get an 8K signal at 60 frames with 10-bit color, or an uncompressed 4K 8-bit signal at 120Hz.
One of the main reasons to choose USB-C is ease of use—USB-C ports are on all modern laptops. However, you’ll need to make sure your laptop supports display output over USB-C Alt Mode. This will likely be included in the technical specifications or on the manufacturer’s website.
USB-C Alt Mode display output should also provide support for USB Power Delivery (USB-PD). If your laptop supports USB-PD (and many do), you can charge your laptop and output to a monitor with a single cable.
You’ll need to do your research first to make sure your monitor provides the right power output for your laptop. For example, the Dell UltraSharp U3219Qoffers USB-C connectivity, with 90 W of USB-PD. That’s more than enough to charge a MacBook Air or a Dell XPS 13 laptop. However, it falls slightly short of the 96 W “required” by a 16-inch MacBook Pro (although the machine rarely sucks up that much power).
USB-C is a great choice if your laptop is compatible with it—particularly if you move around the house or workplace a lot. USB-PD means you won’t have to bring a charger with you to plug into a monitor. You’ll also get all the benefits of DisplayPort 1.4, which is still a highly capable standard.
There’s some contention over whether daisy-chaining multiple 4K monitors is possible over USB-C, though. If that’s important to you, you’re better off going with DisplayPort or opting for a Thunderbolt 3 monitor, instead.
RELATED: USB Type-C Explained: What is USB-C and Why You'll Want it
Thunderbolt: Great for Daisy-Chaining and Macs
Thunderbolt also uses the USB-C port, but that’s where the similarities end. Thunderbolt 3 is an active technology, offering up to 40 Gbps throughput with the use of a Thunderbolt 3 cable. USB 3.2 Gen 2 is a passive technology that offers up to 20 Gbps.
Although these two technologies use the same USB-C port, they’re not interchangeable. Thunderbolt 3 offers some serious advantages over the latest USB standard, thanks to all that extra bandwidth. It’s possible to run two 4K displays (at 60 frames), a single 4K display (at 120 frames), or a single 5K display (at 60 frames) with just one Thunderbolt 3 cable.
On a 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro, two Thunderbolt cables can drive four daisy-chained 4K displays or two 5Ks. Apple has been a strong proponent of the technology since its first iteration, which is why Thunderbolt may be the ideal choice for Mac owners.
Thunderbolt 3 not only allows you to daisy-chain other displays, but other devices, as well, like external storage arrays, docks, or even external GPU enclosures.
You’ll have to buy a Thunderbolt 3-capable monitor if you want to use Thunderbolt 3 to connect your display. These generally cost more than your average HDMI or DisplayPort 4K monitors. The Thunderbolt 3 cables required to drive them aren’t cheap, either.
Keep Thunderbolt in mind when you upgrade if it’s not an option for you right now. The high-speed Thunderbolt storage is worth the investment, plus, it cuts down on cables.
If you’ve already got the capability, Thunderbolt is definitely worth it—especially if you want to daisy-chain multiple 4K monitors.
It’s likely not worth shelling out the cash for a priceyThunderbolt 3 cable if you only use a single monitor, as it wouldn’t offer you any huge benefit.
RELATED: Thunderbolt 3 vs. USB-C: What's the Difference?
So, Which Is Right for You?
Which option you should choose ultimately depends on what you’re hoping to achieve, and which technologies are available to you. At the time of writing, HDMI 2.1 is already on the market. It provides the greatest throughput in terms of maximum resolution, frame rate, and color depth, and is a solid choice.
DisplayPort 1.4 is still preferable to HDMI 2.0 due to its superior throughput and daisy-chaining abilities. However, if you aren’t running multiple monitors, the two are fairly evenly matched.
USB-C ultimately depends on whether your laptop supports USB-C Alt Mode with DisplayPort, and whether the monitor delivers enough power to charge your laptop. If your laptop has both of those capabilities, USB-C is a convenient choice.
Thunderbolt 3 is the fastest connection available on many computers, very few of which have HDMI 2.1 ports yet. For daisy-chaining two 4K monitors or connecting a 5K display, it’s pretty much unbeatable. You can connect other devices, too, which is neat. However, you’ll need support on both the monitor and computer side—and a pricey cable or two.
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HDMI 2.0 supports a maximum bandwidth of 18 Gbps, which is enough to handle 4K resolution at up to 60Hz, or 1080p at up to 240Hz. In comparison, DisplayPort 1.4 has a maximum bandwidth of 32.4Gbps, which opens up a much greater resolution and frame rate potential.Is it better to use HDMI or USB-C for monitor? ›
A key advantage of a USB-C over HDMI is that it can support both charging and video output. Moreover, USB-C's small and sleek design means they take up less space than the more bulky HDMI cable. Ultimately, the HDMI is not necessarily better than the USB-C, nor the USB-C is better than the HDMI.Do 4K monitors need DisplayPort? ›
For a 2160p image signal, your 4k screen and your PC or laptop should have DisplayPort, HDMI, Thunderbolt 3, or USB-C. Old connectors like VGA and DVI connectors don't support 4K.Does USB-C support 4K monitor? ›
USB-C monitor often supports a high resolution, such as Quad HD or even 4K. That means these monitors support the high resolution of an Apple MacBook, for example. A USB-C cable supports resolutions up to 4K and a Thunderbolt 3 cable even supports 8K with a refresh rate of 60Hz, or 60 frames per second.Which cable is best for 4K monitor? ›
HDMI 1.4 – If you want your HDMI cables to support 4K resolution, you need to make sure that they are High-Speed HDMI cables. They are tested to transmit video resolutions from 1080p to 4K with a richer color palette. With or without HDR, you need High-Speed HDMI cables.Do you lose quality with HDMI to DisplayPort? ›
The system is completely plug and play, handles both video and audio, and does not need any driver to work. You even don't really need a special adapter anymore, because there are DisplayPort to HDMI cables available on the market. There is normally no loss in quality when using such a dp to hdmi cable.Does HDMI to USB-C lose quality? ›
Q: Do You Lose Quality With USB-C to HDMI Adapter? You don't lose quality with a USB-C to HDMI adapter, but you have to make sure the display supports the right HDMI specification. Monitors, projectors, and TVs with HDMI 1.4 ports support 4K at 30Hz, no matter which adapter or HDMI cable you use.Can DisplayPort do 4K 144Hz? ›
The DisplayPort 2.0 standard, ratified in June 2019, increases bandwidth by up to three times, making it possible to support far higher resolutions (like 10K and 16K) but also faster refresh rates on multiple monitors. It's capable of running two 4K displays at up to 144Hz when using 8bpc.Is USB Type-C better than DisplayPort? ›
One of the major advantages of DisplayPort over USB-C is that you can use it more easily in newer, slimmer devices such as notebooks, tablets, phones, or displays. Since the USB Type-C connector is the latest USB interface that almost all new devices sport, this reduces the number of ports required on any one device.Can you get 4K through DisplayPort? ›
DisplayPort: For PC
DisplayPort 1.2: Supports up to 4K at 60Hz, some 1.2a ports may also support AMD's FreeSync. DisplayPort 1.3: Supports up to 4K at 120Hz or 8K at 30Hz. DisplayPort 1.4: Supports up to 8K at 60Hz and HDR. DisplayPort 2.0: Supports 16K with HDR at 60Hz and 10K without HDR at 80Hz.
Do I need a “4K Compatible HDMI Cable? If you are wondering about whether your existing HDMI cable will work, it is possible that you will not need to upgrade to one that is “4K-compatible.” Any HDMI cable up to five meters in length labeled “high speed” should be able to handle the increased bandwidth of 4K signals.Does USB-C to HDMI work with 4K? ›
The USB-C video adapter is fully compatible with your HDMI 2.0b equipment, supporting resolutions up to 4K 60Hz (3840 X 2160) and bandwidths up to 18Gbps.Can USB-C handle 4K 120Hz? ›
The Cable Matters USB-C to 8K HDMI Cable combines the latest in HDMI technology with the versatility of the USB-C connector. Transform your device into an 8K@60Hz video powerhouse with support for the latest 4K@120Hz televisions and monitors.Does USB Type-C Support 4K 120Hz? ›
The USB C to DisplayPort cable allows you to connect a modern computer or laptop with a USB C port to a monitor with a DisplayPort input. You can enjoy resolutions of up to 8k @ 60Hz or 4k @ 120Hz.Does 4K need a special HDMI cable? ›
If you bought a 4K TV with a true 120Hz refresh rate, like for use with a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, you should move up to an Ultra High Speed HDMI cable. If you attach a gaming PC capable of gaming at 4K/60fps to your TV, you'll need an HDMI cable that can handle that level of data transmission.What HDMI port is best for 4K? ›
So, What Should I Do? HDMI 2.1 is only needed if you want to use HDMI with 4K over 60Hz. This applies to consoles, as on PC you can get the same performance with DisplayPort 1.4, which is readily available. So, it's likely adding HDMI 2.1 cables and expense to your setup is not something you need to worry about now.Can DisplayPort do 4K 120Hz? ›
Additionally, since DisplayPort version 1.3 and later supports 4K 120Hz with a bandwidth of approximately 30Gbps, you can use DisplayPort instead of HDMI to achieve this high resolution and refresh rate.Is it better to run HDMI or DisplayPort? ›
HDMI is technically superior thanks to the release of HDMI 2.1, which surpasses the capabilities of DisplayPort 1.4, but monitors that support it are scarce. Expect that to change soon, though, as a number of manufacturers announced HDMI 2.1 monitors at CES 2021.Is it better to connect via HDMI or DisplayPort? ›
DisplayPort cables can achieve a higher bandwidth than HDMI cables. If there's a higher bandwidth, the cable transmits more signals at the same time. This mainly has an advantage if you want to connect multiple monitors to your computer.Why does HDMI look better than DisplayPort? ›
In terms of image quality, there is virtually no difference between HDMI and DP. The newer the version, the higher the maximum bandwidth and the supported resolution. It is in fact much more important to check the version than the standard (HDMI or DP) itself.
The advantage of using a DisplayPort is that even the older generation DisplayPort can support 4K@60Hz viewing. This means that you won't lose any video output quality on the ports.Will USB-C replace HDMI and DisplayPort? ›
USB-C is the latest USB standard. It has support for Alternate Mode partner specification which can support third party protocols like HDMI, DP, MHL etc. So HDMI 1.4b can also be brought out via USB-C port. The latest HDMI 2.0/2.1 are not supported via USB-C.Why hasn t USB-C replace HDMI? ›
USB-C supports older versions of the HDCP copy protection standard, but cannot yet handle the latest HDCP 2.2 standard. Only HDMI can currently do that. You'll still need HDMI cables to support “legacy” devices which weren't built with USB-C ports and will take years to disappear from homes.Is HDMI 2.1 better than DisplayPort? ›
From a pure bandwidth perspective, HDMI 2.1 offers far more. Where HDMI 2.1 offers a maximum bandwidth of 48 Gbps. DisplayPort 1.4, on the other hand, is limited to just 32.4 Gbps.Should I use HDMI or DisplayPort 144Hz? ›
HDMI tops out at 144Hz uncompressed or 240Hz compressed, while DP 1.4 can hit 360Hz in 1080p. If you're trying to pick a monitor, HDMI is the budget-friendly choice, but if you've got DP you'll have more options if you plan to upgrade to a new graphics card or add an external GPU in the near future.Does DisplayPort to HDMI work for 4K? ›
Plug into an HDMI-enabled monitor, projector, or HDTV with our DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter. It supports high-definition resolutions up to 4K at 60Hz as well as High Dynamic Range (HDR) displays for more vivid colors and an immersive viewing experience.Does USB-C to DisplayPort support 144Hz? ›
This Display port to USB C Adapter: Supports 8K@30Hz resolution, backwards compatible with 8K@30Hz/ 4K@144Hz/ 2K@165Hz resolution; Supports DP 1.4; Supports Multi-Stream (MST) for daisy chaining multiple monitors.Is it worth getting a monitor with USB-C? ›
Yes, USB-C monitors are definitely worth it, considering higher data transfer speed, charging times, and compatibility with all types of devices and accessories.Is USB-C important for monitor? ›
USB-C connections allow the monitor to serve multiple functions that previously needed to be performed by the laptop. All of your peripheral equipment plugs into the monitor — which also offers quick charging, without the need for that bulky power brick that used to connect your laptop to the mains.Can HDMI to DisplayPort do 4K 60Hz? ›
Product Details. This DisplayPort to HDMI® adapter lets you output HDMI video and audio from a DP device, with support for Ultra HD 4K at 60Hz.
For the ultimate HDMI 144Hz gaming experience, however, you want the latest generation of HDMI connectors. HDMI 2.1 144Hz options include every one of the most popular gaming resolutions, from 1080p, all the way to 4K – no compression required. So, does HDMI support 144Hz? Absolutely.What cable to use for 4K 144Hz? ›
For 144Hz at 1440p, you will need at least HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 while for 4K 144Hz you are going to need HDMI 2.1 or alternatively, DisplayPort 1.4 with DSC 1.2.Are 4K monitors actually 4K? ›
"4K" refers to horizontal resolutions of around 4,000 pixels. The "K" stands for "kilo" (thousand). As things stand, the majority of 4K displays come with 3840 x 2160 pixel (4K UHDTV) resolution, which is exactly four times the pixel count of full HD displays (1920 x 1080 pixels).What cable do I need for 4K 60Hz? ›
For MOST 4K content, which is broadcast at 30Hz, an HDMI cable tested to the version 1.4 specification (or 10.2Gbps) will work perfectly. Only those consumers who want to future-proof their HDMI-capable broad to 60Hz will ever need to use an HDMI 2.0 cable (capable of 18Gbps at 60Hz).Why is 1920x1080 blurry on a 4K monitor? ›
You're upscaling a 1080p picture to fit on a 2160p/4K monitor, which makes it seem fuzzy. Because it's trying to work within that 4K resolution, it's blurry. Because the material is always pixelated when operating at a lower resolution than the display's native one.Why doesn't my 4K monitor doesn't look 4K? ›
Check to make sure the HDMI Firmware on the NUC is up to date. Check the support site of the 4K display manufacturer to see if a firmware update is required. Download and install the latest driver or firmware. Make sure to use a high-speed HDMI cable.How far should you sit from a 4K monitor? ›
Since a 4K Ultra HD TV has more pixels than a 1080p Full HD screen, you can sit closer to get fully immersed without recognizing any pixels. Therefore, the perfect viewing distance for 4K UHD TV screens is roughly 1 to 1.5 times the screen size. 40'': The optimal screen distance lies between 3.5 and 5 feet.Does USB-C to HDMI work well? ›
It is easy to output audio and video from your USB-C devices via HDMI, as long as your source device has an HDMI chip and is, therefore, compatible. However, this is somewhat of a moot point since most of the latest smartphones and tablets support this straight out of the box.Does HDR work over USB-C? ›
The HDR display or TV must support HDR10, DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0 or higher, USB-C, or Thunderbolt. To find the specifications for a specific PC or external display, visit the device manufacturer's website.Are HDMI to USB-C cables good? ›
That being said, the quality is almost negligible when it comes to USB C to HDMI adapters. The main reason behind that is the high data transmission rate supported by both USB Type C and HDMI. If you are going with a premium option, you can even get up to 4K resolution output at a 60 Hz refresh rate, if not higher.
DisplayPort 2.0 which can use a USB-C connector can even go up to 16K or two 8K HDR monitors at 120Hz refresh rate compared to HDMI 2.1's 4K at 120Hz. This is because HDMI 2.1 has a max bandwidth of 48Gbps compared to DisplayPort 2.0's 77.37Gbps.Can USB-C do 4K 144Hz? ›
Yes, you can watch content at 144Hz with a USB-C cable.
DisplayPort Alternate Mode, which allows USB-C to transmit video and audio, supports a 4K video resolution at a 144Hz refresh rate. In addition to supporting USB-C, it also supports HDMI 2.0.
If you want to take advantage of 4K @ 120Hz or 8K you'll need an HDMI 2.1 cable with bandwidth capability of up to 48 Gbps.What refresh rate is needed for 4K? ›
Refresh rate is the number of times per second a TV, projector, or monitor can reset and display an image. It's measured in Hz, and a standard refresh rate for 4K TVs is 60Hz which means the image is refreshed sixty times every second. You can also find 120Hz and 240Hz.Does USB-C support dual 4K 60Hz? ›
This USB‑C® to Dual 4K HDMI® Adapter supports up to two 4K@60Hz HDMI displays, when connected to hosts that support the DisplayPort® 1.4 Alt Mode.What version of HDMI supports 4K 120Hz? ›
HDMI® Specification HDMI 2.1a is the most recent update of the HDMI® specification and supports a range of higher video resolutions and refresh rates including 8K60 and 4K120, and resolutions up to 10K. Dynamic HDR formats are also supported, and bandwidth capability is increased up to 48Gbps.Does DisplayPort have better image quality than HDMI? ›
In terms of image quality, there is virtually no difference between HDMI and DP. The newer the version, the higher the maximum bandwidth and the supported resolution. It is in fact much more important to check the version than the standard (HDMI or DP) itself.Is it better to have HDMI or DisplayPort? ›
Here are a few scenarios to consider to help you pick the best cable for optimal performance: If you need to choose between HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4, go for DisplayPort. If your monitor/connecting devices support HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0 is the better choice as it offers HDR support.Why is HDMI more popular than DisplayPort? ›
HDMI is simply the better known standard for main stream consumers. It is hanging on despite better technologies like display port much like VGA did for years (and VGA kind of still is hanging on too). Besides, the newest HDMI standard supports 4k 60HZ which is about the most anybody needs in the console/TV industry.Can 4K pass through HDMI? ›
The answer: Yes … most likely.
As TV manufacturers enhance their products with Ultra HD resolution, it is not surprising that cable manufacturers are producing 4K HDMI cables. However, your standard HDMI cables will likely support 4K just fine.
One of the major advantages of DisplayPort over USB-C is that you can use it more easily in newer, slimmer devices such as notebooks, tablets, phones, or displays. Since the USB Type-C connector is the latest USB interface that almost all new devices sport, this reduces the number of ports required on any one device.Does DisplayPort increase resolution? ›
DisplayPort cables are commonly used in computer systems and can support resolutions up to 8K, high refresh rates, and HDR content. They can also be used to daisy-chain multiple display devices, allowing for a multi-monitor setup without the need for multiple cables.Does DisplayPort have less input lag than HDMI? ›
For 120Hz displays such as Eizo FG2421, would there be an advantage to use one port over another? The difference of input lag between DisplayPort vs HDMI vs DVI is less than 1 millisecond. So it's not a significant deal. However, DisplayPort has the convenient ability to pre-transmit frames faster than a refresh cycle.Should you use both HDMI and DisplayPort? ›
If your computer has an HDMI 2.0 port and a DisplayPort 1.4 or above, it's probably best to use the DisplayPort, especially if you're looking to play 4K or 8K games at 120Hz. However, HDMI is more popular for entertainment systems, like TVs, gaming consoles, audio players, and so on.