DisplayPort 2.0: Everything you need to know

A billion colors, 16K resolution, Thunderbolt 3 -- DisplayPort 2.0 is on its way

With technology evolving faster than our minds can comprehend, hard wiring becomes more advanced beyond belief with each passing day. The addition of the new DisplayPort 2.0 standard, published in June 2019,  creates an exciting advantage for consumers who now have a superior connection over the now-aged HDMI cable.

While HDMI 2.1 definitely has its benefits, the new DisplayPort 2.0 specification allows for resolutions up to an amazing 16K along with higher refresh rates — all thanks to a near-tripled bandwidth over DisplayPort 1.4a.

But that’s not all this new standard brings to the table. Here’s everything you need to know about DisplayPort 2.0.

When is it coming?

The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) is an organization that standardizes DisplayPort technology. It suggests that the first products incorporating DisplayPort 2.0 will hit the market in late 2020.

Resolution, refresh rates, and color

We may not see 8K content gracing our 8K screens for some time, but the VESA foundation looks beyond that standard to greater resolutions and higher refresh rates. DisplayPort 2.0 facilitates it all.

The typical DisplayPort connection consists of four lanes. Each lane has a dedicated set of twisted-pair copper wires. According to VESA, the new DisplayPort 2.0 standard pushes a combined 77.4 gigabits per second. That a significant increase over DisplayPort 1.4a which only achieves 25.92 gigabits per second across all four lanes. The overhead is smaller too by switching to the 128b/132b encoding scheme.

For a single screen, DisplayPort 2.0 handles a hefty 15,360 × 8,460 resolution (16K) with HDR at 60Hz and up to 30 bits per pixel (30 bpp). This requires VESA’s Display Stream Compression (DSC 1.2a) to push the high pixel count across current hardware limitations. DSC promises a “lossless” experience, meaning you won’t lose visual quality due to compression.

DisplayPort 2.0 also supports a 10,240 x 4,320 (10K) resolution without HDR at 80Hz and up to 24 bpp. This single-screen resolution does not require compression.

If you’re not looking to run a billboard-sized display any time soon, DisplayPort 2.0 offers great resolutions for dual-monitor setups. For instance, you can run two displays with a 7,680 × 4,320 resolution (8K) and HDR at 120Hz with 30 bpp (DSC required). Want a higher refresh rate? Crank the resolution down to 3,840 × 2,160 (4K) to get 144Hz at 24 bpp. No compression required.

Setups with three monitors get love too. DisplayPort 2.0 enables 10,240 × 4,320 (10K) at 60Hz and 30 bpp using compression. And like the dual-monitor setup, you can reduce the resolution for a better refresh rate: 3,840 × 2,160 (4K) at 90Hz and 30 bpp without compression on three screens.

Take note of the 30 bpp support listed with several resolutions. That’s 30-bit color, a significant upgrade over more typical 24-bit color. Where 24-bit supports 26.7 million distinct colors, 30-bit increases that exponentially to over a billion colors, a requirement for HDR10.

Connectors new and old

DisplayPort 2.0 uses the same traditional DisplayPort connector. It’s backward compatible with all previous DisplayPort standards.

Like DisplayPort 1.4, the new standard works with USB-C ports supporting “DP Alt Mode.” Here you can have a single cable for both video and data, enabling high-speed data delivery without compromising video performance. Not all USB-C ports support DP Alt Mode, however.

In addition to USB-C, DisplayPort 2.0 leverages the Thunderbolt 3 physical interface layer which is a more unifying standard for the future. Using that physical layer allows DisplayPort 2.0 to use the more efficient 128/132b encoding scheme, which has far less overhead.

With Thunderbolt 3 eventually consolidating with USB 4, however, we’d expect this merge to help DisplayPort 2.0 become the de facto cable of choice for high-end monitors.

Which cable will you use? That depends on your needs. As Anandtech breaks down, the full-fat DisplayPort 2.0 experience requires active cabling with transceivers at both ends, much like Thunderbolt 3 does. That means they’ll be more expensive. But for 40Gbps or smaller bandwidth requirements, you can still use passive cables.

Power saving and other features

Alongside raw bandwidth improvements, DisplayPort 2.0 also has a few enhancements on the feature front, one of which is Panel Replay.

This new feature optimizes the way a display refreshes to help control power draw and thermal output. For example, with Panel Replay enabled, a smaller device with a high-resolution display only updates elements that change on-screen. This cuts down on power requirements when in use, especially on static web pages or other content. It can also help speed up device charging when in use or left on when charging.

VESA’s DSC is now a mandatory feature of DisplayPort 2.0 certified devices. This near-lossless compression format enables the super high-resolution and refresh rate modes for DisplayPort 2.0.

The last-but-not-least feature on the DisplayPort 2.0 list is multi-stream transport which makes daisy-chaining displays easier. Single DisplayPort 2.0 cables handle multiple visual streams, sending them to a hub before distributing the different streams to different displays.

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