DisplayPort 2.0: Everything you need to know

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

DisplayPort cable
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If HDMI 2.0 is the mainstream connection for monitors and TVs — and has been for the past decade — DisplayPort (DP) has been the premium alternative. That will continue well into the future, too. While HDMI 2.1 has its own enhancements, the new DisplayPort 2.0 specification will allow for resolutions as high as 16K, and higher refresh rates, thanks to a near-tripling of bandwidth over DisplayPort 1.4a.

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

When is it coming?

The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) that standardizes DisplayPort technology, has suggested that the first products incorporating DisplayPort 2.0 will hit the market at some point in late 2020.

Resolution, refresh rates, and color

As much as it might be a while until we’re all enjoying 8K resolution content on our 8K screens, the VESA foundation is thinking beyond that standard to greater resolutions and higher refresh rates, and DisplayPort 2.0 facilitates it all. DP 2.0 can handle single streams of 10K (10,240 × 4,320) and 16K (15,360 × 8,460) at 60 Hz at up to 30 bits per pixel (bpp) with HDR — although DSC compression will be required for 16K.

For those not looking to run a billboard-sized display in their home, the more important supporting feature will be with multiple displays at higher resolutions. DisplayPort 2.0 will be capable of two 8K (7,680 × 4,320) displays at 120Hz with 30 bpp and HDR (with compression) or two 4K (3,840 × 2,160) displays at 144Hz and 24 bpp with no compression.

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There’s even support for triple displays at up to 10K and 60 Hz, and the ability to leverage multiple 4K screens at 144Hz even when high-speed USB data is being used over the same connection at the same time.

Also take note of the 30 bpp support with some of those 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

The traditional DisplayPort connector will still be used for new DisplayPort 2.0 connections and it will retain backwards compatibility with all previous DisplayPort standards. But, like DisplayPort 1.4, it will also be possible to enjoy its benefits over certain USB-C connectors using “DP Alt Mode.” This allows for the use of a singular cable for video and data transfer, allowing for high-speed data delivering without compromising display performance.

DisplayPort 2.0 also leverages the Thunderbolt 3 physical interface layer which is a more unifying standard for the future. With all the plans for Thunderbolt 3 to be consolidated with USB 4, we’d expect this to help DisplayPort 2.0 become the de facto cable of choice for high-end monitors.

Using that physical layer also allows DisplayPort 2.0 to use the more efficient 128/132b encoding scheme, which has far less overhead.

Which cable will you use? It will depend 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 will mean they’ll be more expensive. But, for 40Gbps or smaller bandwidth requirements, passive cables can still be used.

Power saving and other features

Alongside raw bandwidth improvements, DisplayPort 2.0 also has some enhancements on the feature front. One of those is Panel Replay, which optimizes the way a display is refreshed to help control power draw and thermal output. If a smaller device with a higher resolution display wants to take advantage of it, Panel Replay will make it so that the display only updates elements that have changed. That cuts down on power requirements when in use, especially on static web pages or other content and can help speed up the charging of a device if in use or left on when charging.

Display Stream Compression, or DSC, will now be a mandatory feature of DisplayPort 2.0 certified devices. This near-lossless compression format will enable the super high-resolution and refresh rate modes for DP 2.0.

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

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