As we’ve been talking about for quite some time, HDMI has not been a standard that I would consider up to par with the technologies that are available. The best example was with HDMI 1.4a and it’s inability to provide enough bandwidth over an HDMI cable to actually display anything in 4K resolution beyond 24 frames per second. I have spoken extensively with the people at VESA about the limitations of HDMI and how long we’d have to wait until we actually saw it catch up to the competing standard, DisplayPort. But today marks the update of HDMI to HDMI 2.0 from HDMI 1.4a.
Keep in mind, DisplayPort 1.2 has been capable of 4K display since the initial implementation of the standard in graphics cards and displays. DisplayPort 1.2 itself was actually approved as a standard in 2009, four years before HDMI 2.0 basically announced the same specifications. Some say that DisplayPort is a professional standard, but I think it is the better standard, professional or not.
First and foremost, HDMI requires licensing for every single cable and connector while DisplayPort is royalty free and simply requires manufacturers to become members in order to be able to utilize the standard. Additionally, HDMI can only display from one input out to one output and no adapters exist within the standard to enable anything more. There are some new features that HDMI enables within a single display, but the ultimate result is one output to one displays, still.
DisplayPort on the other hand, is capable of taking one single video connector and enabling up to four 1920 x 1080 resolution displays. A single connector that can drive up to four different displays is pretty impressive and versatile. In addition to that, a single DisplayPort 1.2 connector is capable of a maximum data throughput of 21.6 Gbps while HDMI 2.0 is only capable of 18 Gbps. Even though there is a slight bandwidth difference, the bandwidth between HDMI cables varies greatly depending on the quality of the cable and length. DisplayPort 1.2 has enabled 4K at 60 FPS since essentially 2009, while HDMI 2.0 is only enabling such a 4K frame rate in 2013.
HDMI 2.0 also brings a few other interesting features, which I frankly find incredibly niche and irrelevant to almost all consumers. Essentially, HDMI totes themselves as a consumer standard, but most of the new features they have implemented feel more professional and niche than what DisplayPort does.
HDMI 2.0, which is backwards compatible with earlier versions of the HDMI specifications, significantly increases bandwidth up to 18Gbps and adds key enhancements to support continuing market requirements for enhancing the consumer video and audio experience. New functionality (with our commentary) includes:
4K @ 50/60p, (2160p)
Up to 32 audio channels for a multi-dimensional immersive audio experience (what consumer would ever use this?)
Up to 1536kHz audio sample frequency for the highest audio fidelity (once again, what consumer?!)
Simultaneous delivery of dual video streams to multiple users on the same screen (why? just why?)
Simultaneous delivery of multi-stream audio to multiple users (How often do you need multiple audio streams for one display?)
Support for the wide angle theatrical 21:9 video aspect ratio (there are almost no monitors out there with this resolution)
Dynamic synchronization of video and audio streams (this seems arbitrary since this is usually done before output)
CEC extensions provides expanded command and control of consumer electronics devices through a single control point (this could prove useful, but is incredibly vague in terms of what it could do)
Keep in mind all of the features that have been listed above and realize that the only important one is the support for 4K at 60 FPS. Almost none of the other features matter to 99% of the consumer electronics market and the only reason why HDMI will continue to be successful is because they continue to keep the connector the same and people know what an HDMI cable is. So, we’ll continue to watch as DisplayPort grows and improves functionality and usability while HDMI lags 4 years behind it.