VESA this week released version 2.1 of the DisplayPort specification. The update brings several important changes concerning efficiency, but as you will read, VESA strove to keep things smooth for both implementers and consumers.
DisplayPort 2.1 is more than just backward compatible with DisplayPort 2.0. Due to the efforts of VESA and its partners, "all previously certified DisplayPort 2.0 products… have already been certified to the stricter DisplayPort 2.1 spec." So yes, any GPU, Docking Station, monitor, cable (or anything) certified for DisplayPort 2.0 will fall under the stricter newer v2.1 specification.
VESA says one of the most important things it has tried to achieve with this update is to offer a robust experience. This philosophy applies to users connecting peripherals via a native DisplayPort cable, via DisplayPort Alt Mode (DisplayPort over the USB Type-C connector), or tunneling through the USB4 link. Whichever solution you might use, the alignment of the spec and PHY (physical layer) has been tightened for dependability.
So, if all these things remain the same, and DisplayPort 2.0 and 2.1 are interchangeable, you might be wondering what's the point of the new specification. Perhaps the most important introduction is the new DisplayPort bandwidth management feature "to enable DisplayPort tunneling to coexist with other I/O data traffic more efficiently over the USB4 link." According to the VESA press release, this efficiency comes on top of new mandated support for VESA's visually lossless Display Stream Compression (DSC) codec and VESA's Panel Replay capability. VESA's DSC implementation will reduce bandwidth usage by as much as 67% without visual artifacts. Moreover, the new Panel Replay capability can reduce tunneling packet transport bandwidth by over 99% in certain situations.
VESA Board Chair and VESA DisplayPort Task Group Chair Alan Kobayashi boldly claimed that the higher bitrates supported by DisplayPort 2.1 "offers ample bandwidth for the needs of virtually every practical application."
The announcement also revealed that cable specs were updated. With DisplayPort 2.1, VESA aims to allow for improved capabilities and longer cable lengths, sometimes extending over two meters. "VESA certified DP40 cables support up to the UHBR10 link rate (10 Gbps), with four lanes, providing a maximum throughput of 40 Gbps," VESA explains. "VESA certified DP80 cables support up to the UHBR20 link rate (20 Gbps), with four lanes, providing a maximum throughput of 80 Gbps."
Interestingly, ex-HardOCP Editor-in-Chief Kyle Bennett tweeted last week that multiple sources had indicated to him that AMD Radeon Navi 31 GPUs would offer support for the DisplayPort 2.1 specification. This summer, there were rumors of RDNA 3 supporting DisplayPort 2.0 and UHBR20. Intel Arc LE model GPUs also support DisplayPort 2.0. Considering what VESA has said, both the AMD and Intel GPUs will support DisplayPort 2.1. Putting these into competitive perspective, the recently launched Nvidia Ada Lovelace flagship, the GeForce RTX 4090, supports DisplayPort 1.4.