What is DisplayPort 2.1?

Staff Writer By Staff Writer - October 10th, 2023
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DisplayPort 2.1 is the latest evolution in DisplayPort technology. It brings some major enhancements in both features and performance, delivering an exciting new connection solution for top-tier computers and gaming monitors. With advancements in visual technology demanding more powerful connections, DisplayPort 2.1 could very well emerge as the connection of choice for PCs in the years to come. While it is rivaled by HDMl, DisplayPort 2.1 supports a massive amount of data, making it more capable for video and audio transmission. 

The downside is the current lack of supporting devices in comparison to HDMI. That being said, along with being backwards compatible, when used with adapters, DisplayPort can be compatible with other display standards such as HDMI and DVI, making it an adaptable and future-proof interface. Additionally, with the release of the new 2.1 standard, we can expect wider integration to occur in due time. According to a VESA press release, a solid test infrastructure is in place to support wider testing and deployment of 2.1 certified devices in the marketplace. 

What is DisplayPort?

DisplayPort is a popular digital display interface that is designed to transmit video and audio from a desktop PC to a connected monitor or display. DisplayPort was designed to replace older standards like VGA and DVI, and it's also used as an alternative to HDMI. It supports features such as high video resolutions (up to 8K with DisplayPort 1.4 and up to 16K with DisplayPort 2.0/2.1), impressive colour depth (up to 48 bits), high refresh rates, and multiple monitor setups, making it ideal for both general computing and gaming.

The first generation of DisplayPort was introduced in 2006 and we’ve seen a number of successions since including DisplayPort 1.2 (2009), DisplayPort 1.3 (2014), DisplayPort 1.4 (2016) which is currently the most widely used standard, and DisplayPort 2.0 (2019). The new DisplayPort 2.1 standard was originally released in October 2022 and is expected to become more mainstream in 2023. It supersedes DisplayPort 2.0 and defines the new normative requirement and informative guideline for component and system design.

What’s new with DisplayPort 2.1?

Compared to the widely used DisplayPort 1.4, DisplayPort 2.1 brings some major upgrades. The main improvement is the increased bandwidth support. Current DisplayPort 1.4 connections are capable of supporting a total bandwidth of 32.4 Gbps with a data rate of 25.92 Gbps. This was surpassed recently by the increasingly accessible HDMI 2.1 connection, which offers a total bandwidth of 48 Gbps with a data rate of 42 Gbps. DisplayPort 2.1 offers a total bandwidth of up to 80 Gbps with a data rate of 77.37 Gbps. That is 3x the bandwidth of the 1.4 standard and surpasses even the latest HDMI 2.1 connection.

The increased bandwidth support is thanks to three new transmission modes: Ultra High Bit Rate 10 (UHBR 10), Ultra High Bit Rate 13.5 (UHBR 13.5), and Ultra High Bit Rate 20 (UHBR 20). Coupled with 128n/323b encoding, this provides greater efficiency in managing larger resolutions. DisplayPort 2.1 can support resolutions up to 16K, along with superior power management functions, higher refresh rates and HDR, and enhanced support for multiple screens and daisy chaining. It offers improved capabilities for handling a wide range of resolutions for audio and video.

While DisplayPort 2.1 and 2.0 share many similarities in terms of specifications, 2.1 integrates the new DP40 and DP80 cable certifications; and offers enhancements regarding its integration with USB-C cables and USB4, and its use of DisplayPort Alt Mode. Additionally, since 2.0 was barely utilised by any devices or displays, the advantages are passed on to the adoption of the new 2.1 standard.

Should you buy a DisplayPort 2.1 cable?

DisplayPort 2.1 has enhanced features like greater bandwidth and supports high-resolution displays, multiple monitor setups, and refresh rates which is ideal for gaming. If your device supports DisplayPort 2.0 or DisplayPort 2.1, then you will certainly benefit from a DisplayPort 2.1 cable. Even if you don’t currently have supporting devices, like other new versions of DisplayPort, DisplayPort 2.1 is backward compatible with earlier standards so you may wish to invest in one now for futureproofing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between DisplayPort and HDMI?

For over ten years, HDMI has been the go-to connection in home entertainment systems and HDTVs, and is included in some PCs and monitors to connect with consumer electronics. DisplayPort, a newer, more powerful standard, was designed for PCs using updated signal technology like that in modern computer systems, boosting performance and integration. DisplayPort can be paired with standards like USB and Thunderbolt due to its common signaling technology and packetized data structure. It also offers a more robust and stable AV link due to its link training/quality monitoring feature.

Is DisplayPort 2.1 better than HDMI?

Yes, DisplayPort 2.1 is generally considered better than HDMI as it supports a higher bandwidth, allowing for higher resolutions, refresh rates, and colour depths. DisplayPort 2.1 can support up to 16k resolution as well as multiple video streams over a single cable, which HDMI can't do. However, DisplayPort has less support than HDMI so is typically only available for certain devices.

What devices can use DisplayPort 2.1?

The type of devices that typically use DisplayPort include high-end monitors, graphic cards, laptops, desktop computers, docking stations, and some gaming consoles that need high resolution, fast refresh rates, and deep colour depths. At the time of this article, devices with DisplayPort 2.1 support are limited. However, DisplayPort 2.1 is backward compatible, so it can also be used with devices that support earlier versions of DisplayPort (these devices will not be able to utilise the enhanced performance capabilities of DisplayPort 2.1 however).

Is DisplayPort or HDMI better for gaming?

Both HDMI and DisplayPort can be great for gaming, but the choice largely depends on your specific gaming setup and needs. HDMI has universal support and is ideal for console gaming, supporting up to 4K at 120Hz or 8K at 60Hz with HDMI 2.1. It's also suitable for connecting PCs to TVs. On the other hand, DisplayPort is preferable for PC gaming and offers superior performance capabilities. With its higher refresh rates and resolutions, DisplayPort 2.1 not only supports up to 8K resolution at 60Hz without compression but it can even handle up to 16K with compression. Thus, for PC gamers, DisplayPort is typically the better choice.

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