DisplayPort 2.1 might be a huge deal for PC gaming in 2023

DisplayPort 2.1 became a much bigger talking point than expected when AMD revealed its upcoming RX 7900 XTX and RX 7900 XT GPUs. It is the latest standard from DisplayPort, a revision to the 2.0 spec, released in 2019, and the natural inclusion of next-gen GPUs. There’s just one problem – the Nvidia behemoth RTX 4090 still uses Port 1.4a.

Although the 1.4a spec is still more than enough for most, the inclusion of DisplayPort 2.1 provides an advantage for this AMD generation. No, I’m not here to sell you on 8K gaming — in some parts of the world, 8K isn’t even possible — but for the crowd of gamers and VR fanatics, DisplayPort 2.1 could mark a major change.

An update four years on

Port on the RTX 3050 graphics card.
The EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black includes three USB 3.0 ports and one HDMI. Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

VESA, the company that defines and clarifies the DisplayPort standard, released DisplayPort 2.1 in October 2022. It usually takes years for products to make their way to market to support a new standard, but DisplayPort 2.1 isn’t all that new. It’s an update to DisplayPort 2.0, which was launched in 2019, and a huge improvement over DisplayPort 1.4 that we saw from 2016.

Like any new connection, it’s all about the band. DisplayPort 1.4a, which you’ll find on all the latest graphics cards from Intel’s Arc A770 and A750, as well as AMD’s upcoming RX 7900 XTX, peaks at 25.92 Gbps of maximum data. DisplayPort 2.1 goes up to 77.37Gbps (But it is higher theoretical, if you see different numbers, but this is the actual data that is possible through the cable). If you run some complicated math, you’ll find that the required data rate for 4K converted to 120Hz with HDR is 32.27Gbps — higher than what DisplayPort 1.4a is capable of.

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Monitors like the Samsung Odyssey Neo G8 support 4K at 240Hz with only DisplayPort 1.4a, so what gives? DisplayPort (and now HDMI) uses Display Stream Compression (DSC) to reduce the amount of data required. DSC is not mathematically lossless, but it is visually lossless. And it can reduce the required data by up to a 3:1 ratio, taking that 32.27Gbps count down to 10.76Gbps. It’s great, and DSC is the only reason DisplayPort 1.4a isn’t kicked out already.

Cable management on the Samsung Odyssey Neo G8.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The problem is that the limitations of DisplayPort 1.4a are starting to creep in, even with DSC enabled. A theoretical 4K monitor could not run at 360Hz at its full refresh rate, even with DSC compression by 3:1 (required data rate is 36.54Gbps, in case you were wondering). And higher color depths for HDR add even greater requirements, as do higher refresh rates and resolutions.

A 4K 360Hz monitor might be insane now, but we have hardware capable of driving such a display. AMD claims 295 fps in 4K The peak of the story and 350 fps in * To lay down II. In addition, the RTX 4090 over 300 fps in 4K in . can knock Iris Siege; and the frame generation capabilities of DLSS 3 and the upcoming FSR 3 are sure to challenge the 4K position at 240Hz maximum that we currently have in gaming monitors.

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Most people don’t need that extra recreating rate, but it should be honest; most people don’t need to spend $1,600 (or even $1,000) on a GPU, either.

We have the hardware

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

We don’t expect a surprise in the hardware that monitors use. We are waiting for the monitors to display the new hardware. LG has already teased its “8K” Odyssey Neo G9 for CES this year — as evidence, it’s not true 8K, but instead displays two 4K sides in a 32:9 aspect ratio — and we’re certainly waiting to see. A team of 8K gaming monitors will be presented at the show by Samsung Display.

That display is also a good stone. Assuming Samsung keeps with the 240Hz refresh rate as it has the current version, you’re looking at a data rate of over 45Gbps with HDR on (36.19Gbps ​​with HDR off), and that’s with 3:1 compression. This is all theoretical at the moment until we see this display and other 8K options, but the numbers suggest that the RTX 4090 cannot drive them due to its DisplayPort 1.4a connection (at least at full refresh rate, DisplayPort is backwards compatible).

A slide showing the first 8K ultrawide monitor from Samsung.

There’s no need to restrict this conversation to 8K or recreate it at super high rates in 4K, either. OLED TVs are becoming more and more popular as gaming monitors, and could see huge benefits from 5K and 6K resolutions. As I saw with the LG UltraGear 48 OLED, the pixel density needs to be higher for such a large screen so close to your face. DisplayPort 1.4a can drive 5K and 6K with DSC, but not at refresh rates above 120Hz at higher HDR color depths.

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That shows the capping of the data rate in VR, as well. Crystal Pimax, which is currently in the kick-off campaign, should require around 29Gbps ​​of data with DSC at 3:1 based on the spectrum. That’s what DisplayPort 1.4a is capable of, but it’s reaching its limit.

From large form factor VR headset displays to higher refresh rates in 4K, DisplayPort 1.4a is starting to reach its full potential. If both AMD and Nvidia stick with DisplayPort 1.4a, that won’t matter much. Show manufacturers are adapting to the capabilities of what is currently on the market. But AMD is opening the floodgates with its new GPUs.

A great distinction, but not a selling point

RX 7900 XTX graphics cards die with their own.

Of all things, to base a purchase decision on, standard DisplayPort should be high on that list. We still have to see how AMD’s new GPUs will work, which will bring features like FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) 3.0, and if gaming monitors are bypassing the barrier, it also makes sense now.

That’s where the trend is headed, though, and the difference between DisplayPort 1.4a and 2.1, much faster than we expected, is much more relevant – at least to the high-end type of gamers who want to experiment with bleeding-edge tech.

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