HDMI vs. DisplayPort


In many computer components, you may find HDMI  and DisplayPort side by side.  Both are evolving to become the two all-digital standards.  While they are known to complement each other, a small level of competition prevails between the two interfaces.   Before beginning this comparison war between the two popular interfaces, it is important to understand that both formats are here to stay.  Since there is no clear winner, it all boils down to understanding the differences between the two interfaces and making a choice that is most suitable for you.

Both DisplayPort and HDMI offer high speed digital connections for audio and video with additional copy protection features as well as 3D imagery. While the basic capabilities and specifications of both ports are similar in function, the operation itself is unique. HDMI is a well known name in the world of HD television and consumer electronic DVD players. This interface uses composite signals and assumes S-VHS to be the starting point. DisplayPort on the other hand finds its origins in the computer world and uses more flexible and sophisticated methods for data transmission.

HDMI In a Nutshell

First appearing in 2003, HDMI was designed to replace a wide range of analog formats commonly used in consumer electronic products. With the ability to combine the functions and uses of RF, composite, RGB, S-VHS and SCART cables all in one, HDMI has the ability to transfer high quality uncompressed 48-bit color data and about eight audio channels. It can also control connections. HDMI is also compatible with a wide number of consumer products and was created with the combined efforts of several leading electronic companies.

Currently, HDMI is in its fourth version i.e. 1.4. The original specification of HDMI interface included a maximum of 165 MHz that was just about adequate to handle Full HD video i.e. 1080p. In the recent versions, clock speed of the cables has been increased, leading to greater bandwidth. In Version 1.3, the speed shifted from 165 MHz to 340 MHz and was capable of handling up to 1600p, a digital format technically termed as Wide Quad Extended Graphics Array. In this version, the maximum data rate is 10.4 GB per second. The latest version of HDMI was launched in March 2010 when 1.4 was equipped with an Ethernet connection, additional control protocols, audio return channels and 3D signals. This version was capable of handling displays up to 4096 x 2160 pixels, adequate for a large home cinema setup.

Just three years after the advent of HDMI, the world of consumer electronics was introduced to the DisplayPort. This digital standard, introduced by VESA, was designed to connect monitors and graphics cards.

DisplayPort: A Fierce Competitor

DisplayPort makes use of a packet-based transmission system that allows you to adopt multiple bandwidths for flexibility. It is available in one-link, two-link and four-link versions that are available with increasing data capacities. The original version of the DisplayPort facilitated a maximum transfer rate of 8.64 GB per second while the second version introduced in late 2009 doubled this speed. Offering an impressive maximum transfer speed of 17.28 GB per second, DisplayPort 1.2 was already much faster than HDMI.

This interface has a specific cable length that cannot exceed three meters of copper wiring or up to 15 meters of fiber optic cables. If you are hoping to allow little space between  monitor and box, DisplayPort is a fine choice. It was designed around connections between graphics cards and monitors, including their internal components.  It can operate a monitor directly from the DisplayPort signal and does not require an LVDS (Low Voltage Differential Signaling) circuit.

Differences between HDMI and DisplayPort

One major difference between HDMI and DisplayPort is the royalty.  All HDMI ports are required to pay a royalty of four cents per device, while DisplayPort is completely free of any royalty. DisplayPort was then adopted after the UDI (United Display Interface) standard that was developed by Intel to replace DVI. Unlike HDMI, DisplayPort is a new digital standard. It is not possible to easily produce connection converters like HDMI. However, you can also explore DP++ ports, a new variation that offers multi-mode connections like DVI signals and single-link HDMI. This can be used as a converter cable, albeit with a lot more effort.

Advantages of DisplayPort

Apart from the absence of royalty, DisplayPort has fewer implementation rules and is not as tightly regulated. This allows manufacturers to experiment with different configurations and create more effective models. Compared to HDMI, DisplayPort is technically advanced and more flexible. It is capable of carrying bigger bandwidths of audio and video and has a marginally larger maximum speed of 17.28 GB per second compared to HDMI’s 10.2 GB per second. Having been designed for both fiber optic and copper cables, DisplayPort limits its maximum length to prevent loss of signal. In comparison, HDMI cables do not have a specific length limit and are at greater risk of signal degradation.

CCM manufactures a wide range of DisplayPort Connectors and HDMI Connectors as well as HDMI DisplayPort combo receptacles that offer the best of both worlds.   Whatever your application is, both HDMI and DisplayPort each play a useful role in audio/visual connectivity and are here to stay.

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