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Which ports to connect 4K monitors: HDMI, DisplayPort or USB-C

ports for connecting 4K monitors

If you recently purchased a new 4K monitor for work or gaming, you will surely have been puzzled by the series of ports on the back. Door HDMI, DisplayPort, USB-C is Thunderbolt they are all potentially present on a latest generation monitor, but this large choice raises a question: what is the best port for the connection of the monitor and why? Here is the purpose of this guide, to explain in a simple way which of these ports should be used, aimed naturally at the purpose and use of the monitor. Let's go, then, to illustrate the meaning and the choice of which ports to connect 4K monitors right for you.

Which ports to connect 4K monitors

The choice of video support depends a lot on the technology of the devices in your possession, or which ones you need to buy and the use you have to make of them. You may need to connect one or more screens to work on with graphics or video editing, or use it for gaming. The choice of ports to connect 4K monitors depends exclusively on the use and how much you want to invest in the purchase of the monitor and the connection cables. In the meantime, take a look at these Ultrawide screens recommended by us.

HDMI 2.1 port: the all-rounder

HDMI 2.1 port

HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) the best-known monitor interface and is also used on televisions to connect game consoles and Blu-ray players. It provides a stable digital signal that can be hot-swapped (disconnected and connected without turning off the devices) without compromising the devices.

HDMI 2.1 the latest standard adopted by device manufacturers, which supports an outgoing data transmission of 48 Gbps. enough to operate a display from 10K at 60 frames per second in 10 bit color. Since we are talking about a 4K display, the interface HDMI 2.1 more than adequate for this type of monitor.

HDMI 2.1

With the HDMI 2.1 port You can also make a cascade connection (connecting a computer to a monitor and then connecting that monitor to another monitor). Monitors that support this technology are quite rare, however, you can sequentially connect two displays simultaneously.

HDMI 2.1 has an ace up its sleeve compared to other supports, has a limited supply of energy (uncommon) and the ability to act as an Ethernet adapter (with the right cable). Can also use FreeSync (or VESA AdaptiveSync) to eliminate screen-tearing (a visual distortion that occurs when 2 or more frames are shown simultaneously).

HDMI cables are fairly cheap, but you have to keep in mind that they must be compatible with the 2.1 standard if you want to take full advantage of the feature set.

HDMI 2.1 is more powerful than the old standard, but be careful: It is possible that your 4K monitor only supports the old HDMI 2.0 standard. This means you are limited to an 8-bit color 60-kHz 4K signal per second. You will also be limited to 44.1 kHz and 16-bit audio pass-through with only two uncompressed audio channels (5.1 audio channels are compressed).

For those who use the monitor for gaming, HDMI 2.0 does not support the standard FreeSync. HDR content limited to static metadata (the HDR 10 standard) compared to 2.1, which supports dynamic metadata (including HDR10 + and Dolby Vision). These old HDMI 2.0 4K monitors will save you on the purchase price, but you will also lose some functionality.

If you're running a 4K monitor with HDMI 2.1, serious bottlenecks are unlikely to occur. If your monitor only supports HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort could offer a better experience in terms of general functionality, especially if you want to cascade more than two screens.

DisplayPort: better, faster, more powerful

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<p><strong>DisplayPort</strong>  long been the best choice for PC enthusiasts and not difficult to understand why. While HDMI 2.1 exceeds 48 Gbps, the standard <strong>DisplayPort 2.0 capable of handling 80 Gbps outgoing data traffic</strong>. It is worth noting, however, that the devices <strong>DisplayPort 2.0</strong> they are not expected on the market before the end of 2020.</p>
<p>This means that most people will still use the DisplayPort 1.4 standard, which still builds up favorably compared to HDMI 2.0.</p>
<p>The current version of <strong>DisplayPort 1.4</strong>  can handle a resolution <strong>of 8 KB at 60 frames with 10-bit color</strong>, but only with the compression of the display stream. Uncompressed performance is the same as HDMI 2.0, at 4K / 60/8-bit. With the version of <strong>DisplayPort 1.4</strong>  Up to two displays can be connected in cascade connection at 4K resolution, provided that the monitors support it.</p>
<figure class=DisplayPort 1.4

There are no limits to pass-through audio as there are with HDMI 2.0. DisplayPort 1.4 capable of supporting up to 192 kHz and 24-bit audio with uncompressed 7.1 audio channels. You will also receive support at FreeSync. DisplayPort was previously the one that had this requirement before HDMI 2.1 support came.

DisplayPort 1.4 also supports dynamic metadata for HDR content, which means support Dolby Vision is HDR10 + for greater brightness and range of colors. Your monitor's capabilities will be the limiting factor, certainly not DisplayPort support.

Unlike HDMI, DisplayPort lacks any type of Ethernet support. This is mainly due to the fact that DisplayPort is mainly used for computer-to-monitor connections. HDMI, on the other hand, has wider applications, including connecting AV receivers, TVs and other consumer electronic devices.

DisplayPort offers some good advantages over HDMI 2.0, but they mainly apply if you want to cascade multiple monitors. In the future, with the arrival of DisplayPort 2.14K will be possible at frame rates above 60 frames with true 10-bit color, but only on a monitor that supports it.

USB-C: ideal for laptop owners

USB-C port

USB-C has a wide range of uses. USB-C support is based on a technology called USB-C Alt Mode. Basically, a DisplayPort support via a USB-C port. The output data flow and the resolutions supported depend on the DisplayPort standard in use (at this stage, probably 1.4).

This means that all the technical aspects of the DisplayPort USB-C Alt Mode mirror those of the normal DisplayPort 1.4. With the compression of the visualization flow, it is theoretically possible to obtain a 60-frame 4K signal with 8-bit color with 10-bit 8K resolutions.

One of the main reasons for choosing USB-C is ease of use: ports USB-Type C found on all modern laptops. However, you will need to make sure that your laptop supports the display output in USB-C Alt Mode. This will likely be included in the technical specifications or on the manufacturer's website.

USB-C

The USB-C Alt Mode display output should also provide support for USB Power Delivery (USB-PD). If your laptop supports USB-PD (and many have it), you can charge your laptop and send it to a monitor with a single cable.

You will first need to inquire to make sure your monitor is supplying the right output power for your laptop. For example, the Dell UltraSharp U3219Q offers USB-C connectivity, with 90W of USB-PD. more than enough to charge a MacBook Air or a Dell XPS 13 laptop. However, slightly less than the 96 W "required" by a 16-inch MacBook Pro (although the machine rarely draws so much power).

USB-C a great choice if your laptop is compatible with it, especially if you travel a lot at home or in the workplace. USB-PD means you don't have to bring a charger with you to connect it to a monitor. You will also have all the advantages of DisplayPort 1.4, which is still a highly used standard.

However, there are some doubts that multiple 4K monitors can be cascaded over USB-C. If that's important to you, better go with the DisplayPort or opt for a Thunderbolt 3 monitor.

Thunderbolt: great for Daisy-Chaining and Mac

ports for connecting 4K Thunderbolt monitors

Thunderbolt also uses the USB-C port, but there that end the similarities. Thunderbolt 3 an active technology that offers throughput of up to 40 Gbps with the use of a Thunderbolt 3 cable. USB 3.2 Gen 2 a passive technology that offers up to 20 Gbps.

Although these two technologies use the same USB-C port, they are not interchangeable. Thunderbolt 3 offers some important advantages over the latest USB standard, thanks to the additional bandwidth. can connect two 4K displays (60 frames), a single 4K display (120 frames) or a single 5K display (60 frames) with a single cable Thunderbolt 3.

Thunderbolt 3

On a 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro, two Thunderbolt cables can handle four 4K chain displays or two 5K displays. Apple has been a strong supporter of this technology since its first release, which is why Thunderbolt could be the ideal choice for Mac owners.

Thunderbolt 3 not only allows you to cascade other displays, but also other devices, such as a set of external hard drives, docks or even external GPUs.

If you want to use Thunderbolt 3 to connect your screen, you will need to purchase a monitor compatible with the Thunderbolt 3 port. These generally cost more than regular HDMI or DisplayPort 4K monitors. The Thunderbolt 3 cables needed to connect them aren't cheap either.

If you already have a compatible device, the Thunderbolt choice is definitely worth it, especially if you want to cascade multiple 4K monitors. It's probably not worth the money to pay for an expensive Thunderbolt 3 cable if you're using a single monitor, as it wouldn't offer you any additional benefits.

So which ports to connect the right 4K monitor for you?

The choice of ports to connect 4K monitors ultimately depends on what you hope to achieve and what technology you have. HDMI 2.1 provides maximum productivity in terms of maximum resolution, frame rate and color depth and a powerful choice.

DisplayPort 1.4 still preferred over HDMI 2.0 thanks to its superior transmission capacity and cascade connection capabilities. However, if you don't have multiple monitors to connect, the two stands are quite similar.

The choice of the door USB-C it ultimately depends on whether the laptop supports USB-C Alt mode with DisplayPort and that the monitor provides enough power to charge the laptop. If your laptop has both of these features, USB-C is a convenient choice.

Thunderbolt 3 the fastest connection with the maximum data transmission speed. To connect two 4K monitors or a practically unbeatable 5K display. You can also connect other devices, which is beneficial. However, you will need support for this technology on both the monitor and computer sides and the more expensive cable.