DisplayPort 1.4 vs. HDMI 2.1: Which One Wins the Crown?

Last Updated: April 26, 2024By
Close up view of black DisplayPort connector

DisplayPort and HDMI have been battling for supremacy in the world of display connectivity for years. As technology advances, so do these standards, each vying to offer the best performance and features for demanding applications.

With the introduction of DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1, the competition has reached new heights, leaving many wondering which interface reigns supreme.

Decoding the Specs: DP 1.4 vs HDMI 2.1

To truly appreciate the capabilities of DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1, we must first examine their technical specifications and bandwidth. These factors play a crucial role in determining the maximum resolution, refresh rate, color depth, and overall performance of each interface.

Bandwidth and Data Rate Showdown

DP 1.4 boasts a maximum bandwidth of 32.4 Gbps, utilizing the High Bit Rate 3 (HBR3) mode. In contrast, HDMI 2.1 takes the lead with an impressive 48 Gbps bandwidth.

However, it’s essential to note that these figures represent the raw bandwidth, and the effective bandwidth available for video transmission is slightly lower due to overhead and encoding.

Resolution, Refresh Rate, and Color Depth

Both DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 support a wide range of resolutions, refresh rates, and color depths. Here’s a comparison table showcasing their capabilities:

ResolutionRefresh RateColor DepthDP 1.4HDMI 2.1
8K60 Hz8-bitYesYes
8K60 Hz10-bitYesYes
4K120 Hz8-bitYesYes
4K120 Hz10-bitYesYes
4K144 Hz8-bitYesYes
1080p240 Hz8-bitYesYes

As evident from the table, both interfaces excel in supporting high resolutions and refresh rates. DP 1.4 can handle 8K at 60 Hz with 8-bit and 10-bit color depths, while HDMI 2.1 matches this capability.

For 4K resolution, both standards support up to 144 Hz at 8-bit color depth and 120 Hz at 10-bit color depth. Even at 1080p, they can deliver a smooth 240 Hz refresh rate.

HDR and Color Depth Support

High Dynamic Range (HDR) and color depth are crucial factors in delivering vivid and lifelike visuals. DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 both support various HDR formats, including HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

They can handle color depths up to 12-bit, enabling a wider color gamut and more precise color gradations.

Display Stream Compression (DSC)

To optimize bandwidth efficiency, both DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 employ Display Stream Compression (DSC). This visually lossless compression technique allows for higher resolutions and refresh rates without sacrificing image quality.

DSC compresses the video stream before transmission and decompresses it at the display end, effectively increasing the available bandwidth for video data.

By leveraging DSC, DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 can support higher resolutions and refresh rates than their raw bandwidth would typically allow. This compression technique plays a vital role in enabling the impressive capabilities of these interfaces while maintaining optimal visual fidelity.

Elevating the Gaming Experience

Gaming headset on desk near computer monitor

DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 have introduced a range of features specifically designed to enhance the gaming experience. These features focus on delivering smooth, responsive gameplay with minimal visual artifacts and input lag.

Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Quick Frame Transport (QFT)

Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) is a game-changing technology that synchronizes the refresh rate of the display with the frame rate output of the graphics card. This synchronization eliminates screen tearing and stuttering, resulting in a seamless and fluid gaming experience.

HDMI 2.1 introduces native VRR support, while DisplayPort 1.4 offers Adaptive-Sync, which is functionally similar to VRR.

Quick Frame Transport (QFT) is another feature that reduces latency by allowing the display to immediately show a frame once it’s received, without waiting for the next refresh cycle. This feature, combined with VRR, minimizes input lag and enhances the overall responsiveness of the gaming setup.

Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)

Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) is a feature introduced in HDMI 2.1 that automatically switches the display to its lowest latency mode when a compatible gaming device is detected. This eliminates the need for manual adjustments and ensures that the display is always optimized for gaming, reducing input lag and providing a more responsive gaming experience.

Compatibility with Proprietary Adaptive Sync Technologies

Both DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 offer compatibility with proprietary adaptive sync technologies like NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync. These technologies work in conjunction with VRR to provide a tear-free and stutter-free gaming experience.

NVIDIA G-Sync is a hardware-based solution that requires a compatible NVIDIA graphics card and a G-Sync certified display. It offers a premium VRR experience with tight synchronization and minimal input lag.

AMD FreeSync, on the other hand, is a more open standard that works with a wider range of graphics cards and displays. It provides a similar VRR experience to G-Sync but may have slightly more relaxed certification requirements.

Audio, HDR, and Content Protection

While DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 are primarily known for their video capabilities, they also offer significant improvements in audio, High Dynamic Range (HDR), and content protection. These features contribute to a more immersive and secure multimedia experience.

Immersive Audio Experience

Both DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 support advanced audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, which deliver object-based, immersive sound. These formats allow for precise placement of audio objects in a 3D space, creating a more realistic and engaging audio experience.

HDMI 2.1 takes audio capabilities a step further with the introduction of enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC). eARC enables the transmission of high-bitrate, uncompressed audio from the display back to the audio system, simplifying home theater setups and ensuring the highest audio quality.

DP 1.4, while not featuring eARC, still supports multi-channel audio and high-bandwidth audio formats. It can transmit audio alongside video, eliminating the need for separate audio cables in many cases.

HDR Formats and Metadata Handling

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a crucial aspect of modern video content, offering enhanced contrast, brightness, and color gamut. Both DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 support various HDR formats, including HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision.

HDR10 is the most common HDR format, using static metadata to define the display parameters for the entire video. HDR10+, an extension of HDR10, introduces dynamic metadata, allowing for scene-by-scene optimization of HDR settings.

Dolby Vision, a proprietary HDR format, also utilizes dynamic metadata but offers a higher peak brightness and a wider color gamut compared to HDR10 and HDR10+.

DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 can handle both static and dynamic HDR metadata, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of HDR content. Dynamic metadata allows for more precise and adaptive HDR performance, resulting in improved picture quality and more accurate representation of the creator’s intent.

Content Protection with HDCP

High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) is a content protection scheme that prevents unauthorized copying and distribution of digital content. Both DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 implement HDCP to safeguard 4K and 8K content.

HDMI 2.1 supports HDCP 2.3, the latest version of the protection scheme, which provides enhanced security and authentication measures. HDCP 2.3 is designed to handle the demands of high-resolution content and ensures a secure connection between the source device and the display.

DP 1.4 also supports HDCP, typically using HDCP 2.2 or earlier versions. While not as advanced as HDCP 2.3, these versions still provide robust content protection for 4K and HDR content.

The inclusion of HDCP is essential for streaming services, Ultra HD Blu-ray players, and other content providers to protect their intellectual property and prevent piracy. Both DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 ensure a secure and compliant connection for protected content playback.

Cable Lengths, Signal Integrity, and Connectors

Back panel showing HDMI port and USB port

When it comes to setting up your DisplayPort 1.4 or HDMI 2.1 connection, the physical aspects of the cable and connectors play a crucial role in ensuring optimal performance.

Maximum Reliable Cable Lengths and Signal Integrity

The maximum reliable cable length for DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 depends on the bandwidth and signal requirements of the connection. For DP 1.4, a cable length of up to 2 meters is recommended when using the highest bandwidth (HBR3) mode.

HDMI 2.1, on the other hand, supports cable lengths up to 5 meters at its maximum Ultra High Speed bandwidth.

As the cable length increases, signal degradation and attenuation become more noticeable, potentially impacting image and sound quality. To mitigate these issues, both DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 employ advanced error correction techniques, such as Forward Error Correction (FEC) and Clock Recovery.

These techniques help maintain signal integrity over longer distances, ensuring a stable and reliable connection.

It’s important to choose high-quality cables that are certified for the specific version of DisplayPort or HDMI you are using. Look for cables that have undergone rigorous testing and comply with the official specifications to ensure optimal signal integrity and performance.

Connector Types and Durability

DisplayPort 1.4 offers three connector types to cater to different device form factors and requirements. The Standard DisplayPort connector is the most common and is found on most desktop computers and monitors.

Mini DisplayPort is often used on laptops and smaller devices, providing a more compact connection option. Micro DisplayPort, although less prevalent, is designed for ultra-portable devices where space is at a premium.

HDMI 2.1 primarily uses the familiar Type A connector, which is the standard connector found on most HDMI devices. However, with the introduction of HDMI 2.1, a new smaller connector called Type C has been introduced.

The Type C connector is designed for portable devices and offers a more compact form factor, making it ideal for slim laptops and tablets.

Regardless of the connector type, both DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 incorporate locking mechanisms and strain relief features to ensure a secure and reliable connection. These mechanisms prevent accidental disconnection and protect the connectors from damage caused by excessive bending or pulling of the cable.

When it comes to durability, both DisplayPort and HDMI connectors are designed to withstand repeated insertions and removals. However, the specific durability rating may vary depending on the manufacturer and the quality of the connectors used.

Premium cables often feature reinforced connectors and robust strain relief to enhance durability and longevity.

Compatibility and Adoption

HDMI 2.1 has seen significant adoption in the latest gaming consoles, such as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, enabling high-resolution gaming at 120 frames per second. Many newer televisions and gaming monitors also support HDMI 2.1, catering to the demand for high-refresh-rate gaming and 8K content.

On the other hand, DisplayPort 1.4 has a strong presence in the PC market, with many graphics cards and gaming monitors supporting this interface. DP 1.4 is widely used in professional content creation and productivity setups, where high resolutions and color accuracy are prioritized.

While HDMI 2.1 is gaining ground in the consumer electronics market, DP 1.4 maintains its position as a reliable and widely adopted interface in the PC ecosystem.

USB-C, Thunderbolt, and Alt Mode Integration

DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 have embraced the versatility of USB-C and Thunderbolt interfaces, enabling single-cable connectivity for video, audio, data, and power delivery. This integration is particularly advantageous for docking stations, laptops, and VR headsets.

USB-C with DisplayPort Alt Mode allows a USB-C port to directly output a DisplayPort signal, eliminating the need for separate video cables. This simplifies connectivity for laptops and enables sleek, minimalist setups.

Thunderbolt, a high-bandwidth interface that combines PCIe, DisplayPort, and USB, leverages the capabilities of DP 1.4 to deliver high-resolution video and fast data transfer speeds. Thunderbolt docks and laptops can drive multiple high-resolution displays and connect to various peripherals through a single cable.

Common Misconceptions and Marketing Confusion

Despite the clear specifications and capabilities of HDMI 2.1 and DP 1.4, there can be confusion in the market due to inconsistent marketing and feature fragmentation.

One common misconception is that all HDMI 2.1 devices support the full range of features, such as 8K resolution, 48 Gbps bandwidth, and variable refresh rate (VRR). However, not all HDMI 2.1 devices implement every optional feature, leading to confusion among consumers.

To ensure compatibility and avoid disappointment, it’s essential to carefully review the specifications and supported features of the devices you intend to use. Don’t rely solely on the HDMI 2.1 or DP 1.4 label; instead, verify that the specific features you require are explicitly mentioned in the device’s documentation.


DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 are both powerful display interfaces that offer a wide range of features and capabilities. While they share similarities in supporting high resolutions, refresh rates, and HDR, they also have distinct advantages that cater to different use cases.

HDMI 2.1 excels in gaming and home theater setups, with its higher bandwidth, VRR support, and eARC functionality. DP 1.4, on the other hand, is a versatile choice for PC users, particularly in professional content creation and productivity workflows.

Choosing between DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 depends on your specific requirements and the devices you plan to use. For dedicated gaming setups, HDMI 2.1 is the preferred choice, especially when paired with the latest gaming consoles and TVs.

Professional users who prioritize color accuracy, multiple display setups, and compatibility with PC ecosystems may find DP 1.4 more suitable. In home theater environments, HDMI 2.1’s enhanced audio features and wider adoption make it the ideal option.