HDMI vs DisplayPort; Picking the Right Cable(s) for Your Gaming Setup

HDMI vs DisplayPort; Picking the Right Cable(s) for Your Gaming Setup

PC gaming setup

Sweet! You got your PC ready! You bought a laptop or desktop that has a sweet processor and graphics card and are ready to push it to the limit. 60FPS, 144FPS, 240FPS, maybe even 360FPS, you want to go all the way! Or maybe you got your new sweet Playstation 5 or Xbox Series X/S and want to game at 4K/120FPS.

xbox console 

So what’s next? You need a display that can match those frames! For consoles, maybe a 4K TV that can display at 120Hz refresh rate is your preference. Or would you prefer better response time, so you go with a monitor instead. Most gaming monitors can have a max of 1080p resolution or 1440p resolution, and there are some monitors that are 2160p, which is 4K! 


So, okay! You get a monitor that shows it can display at 4K@120Hz refresh rate! You go to plug it into your console or desktop using some random HDMI cable you found in your home, and find out, oh no, you can only do 4K at 60Hz refresh rate. What happened? The monitor says it supports 4K@120Hz. What gives?? 

disappointed gamer


The type of cable actually matters here, and so does the version of the port being used! There are different standards and versions of each cable that may support different features and specs. We’re here to help explain about the most common cables you can find on the market currently, HDMI and DisplayPort cables! There are two common versions of DisplayPort cables that you should know about, 1.2 and 1.4. For HDMI, the most common cables currently are 1.4, 2.0 and 2.1. I know, these numbers can be confusing, but I’ll do my best to explain as simply as possible and help you understand the nuances of HDMI and DisplayPort cables (and the ports). 

HD, oh my!

Let’s start with HDMI cables. These cables started appearing in the gaming world around the time the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were released, back in 2005. HDMI cables definitely existed before, with its earliest iteration dating back to 2003 for the consumer market. It allowed consumers to connect both FHD 1080P resolution signals and audio signals from their displays to their devices with one cable. Since then, there have been many advances and upgrades to this format. There are three main versions of the HDMI cable that we will discuss: HDMI1.4, HDMI2.0, and HDMI2.1.

These three versions are still relevant today, with HDMI1.4 being the absolute baseline. 

HDMI 1.4 is the start of 4K support at 30Hz refresh rate and also for higher refresh rates of 120Hz at a resolution of 1080p. However, a minimum acceptable refresh rate for PC gaming is now at 144Hz.

Enter HDMI 2.0, which can support up to 240Hz refresh rate at 1080p. For 1440p, it can support up to 144Hz, and for 4K, it can support up to 60Hz. This has been the new standard for some time, but current gen consoles boast 4K resolution at 120Hz refresh rates.

The HDMI 2.1 interface will be your best friend for this. This cable will allow one to display at 4K@120Hz easily.

DisplayPort, a window to my soul (as a PC gamer)

So why use DisplayPort over HDMI if they both just provide video signal and audio from their connected devices?

displayport cable

DisplayPort was introduced to the PC consumer market around 2008, shortly after HDMI. The intention of DisplayPort was to replace VGA and DVI as standard means of connection for PCs. Also, those with NVidia graphics cards must use DisplayPort to get Adaptive Sync capabilities since it is not supported on HDMI for Nvidia cards. AMD graphics card users should still be able to use AMD Freesync on both DisplayPort and HDMI 2.1, though ultimately it depends on the monitor that you have.

Although the most current version of DisplayPort is at 2.1, most devices, including Nvidia’s latest graphics card line the RTX 40XX series, does not support it. Therefore, we will consider discussing two more common versions of DisplayPort which are DisplayPort 1.2 and DisplayPort 1.4.

DisplayPort 1.2 can output 1080p and 1440p at 144Hz refresh rate, with 4K limited to 60Hz. Since 144Hz refresh rate was the standard for such a long time for PC gaming, DP 1.2 was sufficient. However, monitors nowadays can go upwards to 1440p at 240Hz or even 4K@165Hz. This requires a tremendous amount of bandwidth, so DisplayPort 1.4 was made. This version also supports DSC, Display Stream Compression. This means that if there is not enough bandwidth, the signal will be compressed to accommodate for the desired setting the user wants. For example, our PX259 Prime S is rated at 360Hz refresh rate and is a 1080p resolution monitor. Normally, DisplayPort 1.2 cables can only go up to a max of 240Hz on 1080p, the PX259 Prime S has DisplayPort 1.4 ports, so DSC is applied and even though DP1.2 cables are used, a user can still set the monitor to display at 360Hz refresh rate. Although the signal is compressed, it is usually not perceptible.

So wait,  which cable do I use?

Ultimately, it’s not as simple as one may think. A lot depends on the application and the specs of your device, whether it is a gaming PC or gaming console. At the end of the day, look at what display inputs your device has and you should probably use the cable that is rated for that; if your monitor and console have HDMI2.1, you should probably use HDMI2.1. If you are using an Nvidia graphics card in your gaming PC and want access to Adaptive Sync, you should probably use DP1.4 as that is the more common port on graphics cards now. If you have a TV you are using with your gaming PC, and you want to game at 4K at high refresh rates, HDMI2.1 may be better for you. 

If you are on console, HDMI 2.1 supports 4K@120Hz, but if you choose a 1440p gaming monitor, you won't need to use an HDMI 2.1 cable. If you have one, use it anyway as it is backwards compatible!

Just be conscious of the specs of your device and display and that should generally lead you to the right type of cable to use.



Work Hard. Game Harder.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.