Currently, many of the best gaming monitors on offer feature DisplayPort 1.4a, but this tech has been available for three years now, and the market's itching for an upgrade. The DisplayPort 2.0 spec was announced in June, so when can gamers expect to see monitors and graphics cards supporting it?
It's true that HDMI 2.1 is only just catching up to DisplayPort 1.4 with 4K and high refresh rates. But at CES 2021 this week, we saw numerous HDMI 2.1 monitors announced and nothing in the way of the next-generation of DisplayPort products.
DisplayPort 2.0 promises gains over DisplayPort 1.4a, especially where 4K is concerned. The downside to DisplayPort 1.4a is that to pull off high refresh rates at 4K, it needs to use a technique called Display Stream Compression (DSC). Many monitors don't support this though, and it's expensive to implement. That's why there haven't been many 4K, 144 Hz monitors.
What's Taking So Long?
As explained by VESA's display rep Craig Wiley on The Tom's Hardware Show, currently, the chips to support DisplayPort 2.0 are being tested in labs.
"What's kind of created a delay is the COVID-19 situation," Wiley said. "What normally happens is that companies get together and test hardware among themselves to check out interoperability between a PC and a display. As a matter of fact, VESA has test events we call PlugTests, typically two or three a year. But we had none in 2020. This has caused a delay in debugging and developing."
During those PlugTests, PC, chip, display and display chip vendors all come together to make sure the products work well together.
"That also kind of proves out the compliance testing so we can certify equipment," Wiley explained. "So without being able to test a lot of different things and seeing how things work together, it's kind of hard to finish that whole compliance program. So that's been part of the problem. "
The good news is Wiley expects DisplayPort 2.0 products to be available on the consumer market in the second half of 2021.
In terms of whether graphics cards or monitors will arrive first, Wiley noted that "they all kind of prototype together."
A new PlugTest is planned for March in 2021, in Taiwan, where the compliance spec should be completed.
For more from Wiley and on DisplayPort, check out our interview with the VESA exec on The Tom's Hardware Show.
Why Do We Need DisplayPort 2.0 Again?
DSC works well and certainly better than chroma subsampling but is still subject to artifacts from time to time, though opinions about that seem to be divided. Still, consumers and professionals generally agree that it's best to avoid compression if possible -- even if it's supposed to be visually unnoticeable.
That's where DisplayPort 2.0 comes in. It more than triples the bandwidth to a mighty 80 Gbps and alleviates the need for DSC. That's enough for up to 8K at 60 Hz or 4K at 240 Hz without compression. With compression, 16K resolution 60 Hz HDR monitors are no longer out of reach.
Also making DisplayPort 2.0 interesting is boosted support for multi-monitor setups. This tech is already present in older DisplayPort versions, but due to the limited bandwidth, it's mostly useful for lower-resolution monitors. The max effectiveness you could get out of multi-monitor setups with DisplayPort 1.4a was two 1440p panels at 60 Hz without compression.
For gamers, DisplayPort 2.0 means they can run two of their best 4K gaming monitors at 144 Hz over a single cable without the use of compression or one 4K 144 Hz screen alongside a pair of 1440p panels.
That being said, the best graphics cards currently not in stock at most retailers don't have DisplayPort 2.0 hardware on them yet, meaning you'll have to wait for yet another generation and hope DisplayPort 2.0 makes it onto those.
While we wouldn't postpone a GPU purchase based on DisplayPort 2.0 alone, if you want your laptop to feed a big wall of monitors through a single cable, there might be a case to hold onto your pennies a little longer, especially with USB 4 packing DisplayPort 2.0 as Alt-mode -- even if the bandwidth is limited to 'only' 40 Gbps there.