Did you know that your computer monitor has several ports on it to connect to your computer? You might wonder why there are so many and what’s the difference between them.

These video connections mostly have initials for names, so we’ll sort this out for you. Let’s learn all you need to know about DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort video connectors.

You may wonder why we’re not talking about USB-C and Thunderbolt video connections. It’s true that USB-C can carry video and DisplayPort and HDMI are working on having their specs work through USB-C, but it’s not that popular yet.

Thunderbolt is also gaining popularity, but don’t confuse it with mini DisplayPort as they use the same connector. We’ll go in-depth on USB-C in an upcoming article.

Video Specification Terms You Need To Know

It makes sense that video specifications have a lot of details. A picture seems to be worth a thousand specs. For most of us, these are the most important specs to know.

Maximum Total Data Rate: Like Internet data rates, the maximum total data rate determines how much information it transfers per second. Generally, the higher the data rate, the higher the image quality.

Color Format: The colors on screens are made by combining just a few basic colors. RGB pixels are the most well-known, using red, green, and blue in different combinations and brightnesses to deliver different colors. 

The more modern format is YCbCr, where Y is the brightness, Cb is the blue difference, and Cr is the red difference color, or chroma, component. Simply, the Cb and the Cr are mixed to give the color and Y controls how vibrant the color is.

Resolution: It’s a bit like dots per inch (DPI), but for video. Just as a printer with a high DPI makes a clearer image, a monitor with higher resolution makes the clearer video. You’ll see a resolution formatted like 2048 x 1080. The first part is the number of pixels wide and the second part is the number of pixels high supported.

Different resolutions can also have names like 2K, 4K, 8K, and even 10K. The higher the number in front of the K, the clearer the image. The K represents 1024 pixels. So 2K means 2 x 1024, 4K is 4 x1024, and so on.

ResolutionDimensions in PixelsPixel Count
720p (HD)1280×720921,600
1080p (Full HD)1920×10802,073,600
4k (Ultra HD)3840×21608,294,400
8k (Ultra HD)7680×432033,177,600

Refresh Rate: Video works somewhat like animation. It’s a series of still images, displayed rapidly to give the illusion of movement. The refresh rate is how rapidly the images get drawn. It’s measured in Hertz, which means times per second, loosely. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the motion in the video.

What is DVI?

It’s an odd-looking connector with the most pins of the group. DVI (Digital Visual Interface) is more of a group of display connectors than just one standard connector. DVI is the oldest of the 3 connectors, having been around since 1999. It took us from analog connections through VGA or SVGA to a digital connection, improving the display quality dramatically. 

DVI-D Dual Link has a maximum data rate of 7.92 Gbit/s, supports only the RGB color format, and has a maximum resolution of 3840×2400 at a 30 Hz refresh rate. It’s rare, but in some configurations, it may support audio as well.

What is HDMI?

You’ve seen HDMI before as it’s popular for regular TVs and computer monitors. The High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is a digital connector with a variety of physical formats. Type A is the format you’ve likely seen on TVs and monitors.

Type C is the mini HDMI which you may have seen on smaller devices like cameras. Type D is the micro HDMI that you’ve likely seen on some phones, GoPro cameras, and newer RaspberryPi computers. Type E is used in cars, as it has a locking tab to keep it from coming loose because of vibrations.

There are several versions of HDMI that have different specifications. The newest version is 2.1, and it has a maximum data rate of 43 Gbit/s, supports RGB and YCbCr color formats, carries 32 audio channels, and supports a resolution of up to 7680×4320 at a 120 Hz refresh rate.

What is DisplayPort?

The newer of the connectors, DisplayPort (DP) is a versatile digital connector. DP can carry data other than videos, such as USB and audio. There are two DP form factors. The standard connector looks like a USB connector with one corner shaved off. It also has a locking mechanism that prevents loose connections. The mini DP resembles a shorter USB printer connector, like a square with two corners shaved off.

Like HDMI, there are different versions of the DisplayPort specification. DP is currently at version 2.0. It supports up to 77 Gbit/s data rate, RGB, YCbCr, and monochrome color formats, and resolutions up to 15360×8640 at a 60Hz refresh rate.

Which is Best – DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort?

Like most things, the best tool depends on the job for which it’s needed. DVI is common in office monitors but is on the way out. You probably won’t see this on your home PC, so it’s a non-issue but still good to know about.

HDMI is like a multi-tool with its capabilities and has been around longer than DisplayPort so it has a better representation in the market. Its mini and micro formats make it ideal for smaller devices. Most home theater devices like TVs, DVD players, and PVRs have HDMI ports. With resolutions up to 8K and 120Hz refresh rate, it’s also good for gaming.

DisplayPort has the highest specs of the three connectors and is becoming more popular in home video devices, but still doesn’t have as much of the market as HDMI.  DP does everything that HDMI does but can manage a higher resolution and refresh rate. You can daisy chain some monitors with DisplayPort for dual monitors.

DisplayPort is ideal for large format video like digital signage and also for gaming, but unnecessary for most home video. Also, DisplayPort signals are only good for about 9 feet of cable, whereas an HDMI cable can be up to 90 feet long.

So Which Is Best?

Each type was designed for different purposes. You now have the knowledge to research and decide for yourself. Well, you and your wallet. What’s your favorite, and why? We’re open to learning more too.