HDMI and DisplayPort are two standards for connecting devices like computers, laptops, and game consoles to TVs and monitors. Each with advantages and disadvantages; there’s no outright winner when comparing the two. Power users will find what DisplayPort offers more appealing, but HDMI is the king of compatibility.
These competing display connection standards transmit both video and audio singles over a single male/male cable to respective female ports on the display and source device. They’re both physically sturdy and easy to connect, sporting backward and forward compatibility. HDMI uses standard and mini- connectors. DisplayPort uses DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt, and USB 3 connections.
Specifications (Resolution, Refresh Rate, and Bandwidth)
DisplayPort wins the spec war over HDMI. Not all ports and cables are the same for HDMI and DisplayPort, as both have several version revisions. Performance scales to the lowest supported revision between the source device, display, and connector cable.
HDMI has four revision groups as of 2021:
1.0-1.2: 4.95 Gbps of data bandwidth that supports 1080p at 60 Hz.
1.3-1.4: 10.2 Gbps of data bandwidth that supports 1080p up to 144 Hz and 4K at 30 Hz.
2.0: 18.0 Gbps of data bandwidth that supports 1080p at 240 Hz, 4K at 60 Hz, and HDR.
2.1: 48 Gbps of data bandwidth that supports 4K at 144 Hz and 8K at 30Hz.
DisplayPort has five revision groups as of 2021:
1.0-1.1: 10.8 Gbps of data bandwidth that supports 1080p at 144 Hz and 4K at 30 Hz.
1.2: 21.6 Gbps of data bandwidth that supports 1080p at 240 Hz, 4K at 75 Hz, and 5K at 30 Hz.
1.3: 32.4 Gbps of data bandwidth that supports 1080p at 360 Hz, 4K at 120 Hz, 5K at 60 Hz, and 8K at 30 Hz.
1.4: 32.4 Gbps of data bandwidth that supports up to 8K at 60 Hz and HDR.
2: 80.0 Gbps of data bandwidth that supports up to 16K at 60 Hz with HDR on and up to 10K with HDR off at 80 Hz.
If you’re using a 4K 120 Hz display, you’re only able to use half the refresh rate with an HDMI 2.0 connection while you’d get the maximum refresh rate over DisplayPort 1.3. If you’re using a single 4K 60 Hz monitor, you won’t be able to tell the difference between HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2.
An HDMI port can only connect to one screen, but DisplayPort features Multi-Stream Transport (MST) for multiple screens and daisy-chaining. DisplayPort can connect to four screens at once. However, DisplayPort splits bandwidth between the displays. Results will vary depending on the setup.
Outright, more devices support HDMI than DisplayPort. If you’re trying to connect your source device to a TV, HDMI is pretty much the only way to go. Higher-end monitors support both, while budget screens usually only have HDMI. Notable outliers are modern Apple monitors, which only have DisplayPort.
Gamers will be pleased to know that both HDMI and DisplayPort support Variable Refresh Rate (however, NVidia G-SYNC requires HDMI 2.1). VRR means the display adjusts its refresh rate to match the frame rate of the source device. VRR prevents screen tearing, which is when the screen shows data from two frames at once.
If you run into a situation where one device supports HDMI and the other supports DisplayPort, you’re in luck because there are adapters that handle both situations. HDMI-to-DisplayPort and DisplayPort to HDMI require different adapters. In either case, you’re going to be stuck with the lowest output specs of the connected devices.
Note that you will lose support for daisy-chaining when outputting to HDMI with a standard dongle adapter. If you want to output to multiple monitors, use a DisplayPort to HDMI hub.
Which Works Better for My Use Case?
Depending on your use case, you’re looking at a different optimal standard.
Console gaming: In every case, HDMI 2.0+ is the best option because it’s the only output source on the device.
Computer gaming: DisplayPort is the better option when supported, but HDMI 2.0+ is likely sufficient.
Connecting a laptop to a projector or large TV: You may not know the hardware in advance when presenting on your laptop, but it’s a safe bet the display supports HDMI.
Laptop dock with multiple monitors: DisplayPort is the better option for two or more external screens. HDMI is usually sufficient for a single screen.
Workstation with three or more displays: DisplayPort is the better option because it may be the only way to connect all those screens to your device.
Apple monitors: DisplayPort because these devices don’t support HDMI.
In the end, it’s not “better” if you’re using HDMI or DisplayPort. The connection you are using must have enough bandwidth to get the best experience out of your connected device and displays.