Which monitor is right for your computer? There are many factors to consider before you make a purchase, but a big one has to do with the ports the monitor will plug into. Different ports have different capabilities and compatibilities, but first take a look at the back of your PC to see what options are available to you.
If you’re looking to plug a new monitor into your gaming computer, you’ll probably notice two ports that look remarkably similar. There will be HDMI and DisplayPort ports to choose from, but what’s the difference between the two, and does it really matter which one you use?
The answer, as always, is “it depends.” What are you looking to do? For instance, you will have different needs depending on if you’re gaming, or photo editing, or just looking to hook your Mac up to something that works.
Even if your monitor supports both connections, it may only support certain versions of each, which determines what resolution, refresh rate, and other features it can handle. Here’s what you need to know.
Connecting With HDMI
Let’s start by talking about HDMI, the standard with which you’re probably most familiar. HDMI is most commonly used on TVs, like the LG OLED55E8PUA, sending high-definition video and audio signals over one cable for an easy, clean setup. There have been multiple versions of HDMI, each improving on the last. On modern monitors, you’ll find any combination of the following ports:
- HDMI 1.4: Supports up to 4K (4,096 by 2,160) at 24Hz, 4K (3,840 by 2,160) at 30Hz, or 1080p at 120Hz.
- HDMI 2.0: Supports up to 4K at 60Hz, and later versions (HDMI 2.0a and 2.0b) included support for HDR
- HDMI 2.1: Supports up to 10K resolution at 120Hz, as well as improved HDR with dynamic metadata and enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) which allows sending Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio from the display to a receiver.
These are somewhat simplified explanations, as there are other feature improvements in each standard, but they’re the things most PC users will care about.
In addition to the above, all modern HDMI ports should support AMD’s FreeSync technology, which eliminates screen tearing in games by matching the monitor’s refresh rate to your video card’s output framerate (with newer HDMI versions supporting FreeSync at higher refresh rates). HDMI does not, however, support Nvidia’s similar G-Sync technology—for that, you need DisplayPort.
Best Gaming Monitors of 2018
Connecting With DisplayPort
DisplayPort looks similar to HDMI, but is a different connector more common on PCs than TVs. It still allows for high-definition video and, in many cases, audio, but its standards are a bit different. On modern monitors, you’ll likely find any of the following:
- 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
That may seem less powerful than HDMI (especially considering the features of HDMI 2.1), but DisplayPort is featured on some of our best monitors—including the Acer XR382CQK—and also has a few advantages.
First, it supports AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-Sync, so you can have a tear-free gaming experience no matter which brand of card you use (as long as your monitor supports the technology, of course). In addition, you can drive multiple monitors from one DisplayPort connection, rather than having to use multiple ports, which is handy. Laptops can even send DisplayPort signals through a USB-C port.
In the end, which port you choose depends on your monitor’s capabilities, and the features you need. DisplayPort is a bit more versatile, but if your monitor only gives you the choice between HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2—like this Pixio display does—HDMI may be the better choice, since HDMI 2.0 supports HDR and DisplayPort 1.2 does not. Of course, you’ll need to refer to your monitor’s specs to decide which port to use in your specific setup.