Today’s computer monitor
comes with a variety of port options, all of which have different functions and use cases. And when it comes to buying a new monitor, you’ll want to know exactly which ports are included in your latest device.
But which ports do you actually need? Well, it all depends. If you own a legacy device, you may require certain older style ports in addition to the latest, speediest ones.
To make sense of all things port-related, read on. We’ll help you learn more about the most common ports, which ones you need to connect your favorite monitor, and when you may need them.
What monitor ports are most common?
HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C™ are the most common types of monitor ports and cables
, and you’ll find them on the majority of modern displays. However, there are legacy options available as well, such as VGA and DVI, that you may need to connect to older devices.
Selecting the right monitor port type for your needs is essential, because most monitors don’t come with all five types of display ports. That’s why it’s important to know which monitor cable is relevant for which device, as well as the benefits and disadvantages of each one of these video port types on a new monitor.
HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) ports are the most ubiquitous on the market. And in many ways, HDMI is the industry standard. It’s used by film companies such as Universal, Warner Bros., and Disney to showcase their films, as well as technology and video game manufacturers such as Panasonic, Philips, Silicon Image, Sony, and Toshiba.
While that may seem to imply that there is only one type of HDMI cable, that is not the case. There are actually 4 active types of HDMI cables that you can connect to a monitor’s HDMI port:
- HDMI Standard: For resolutions up to 1080p. This is the most common option, but if you want a higher resolution, you’ll need to opt for one of the other three HDMI monitor cable types.
- HDMI High Speed: For 4K resolution.
- HDMI Premium High Speed: For HDR-enabled devices.
- HDMI Ultra High Speed: For HDMI 2.1 features, which include uncompressed 8K video display and 48 GB/s bandwidth.
Prior to the advent of HDMI ports, DVI (digital visual interface) ports were one of two analog standards that were widely used by PCs. However, many monitors still come with this monitor port type, often alongside the HDMI and VGA ports. While DVI is less common than a VGA port, and is not capable of carrying audio, it has specific uses.
For one, a DVI port can provide you with a higher frame rate than an HDMI cable on 1080p monitors. This is because a DVI port directly transmits digital signals, which increases transmission speed. This can also provide a clearer picture and increase image sharpness and detail in comparison to HDMI. A higher frame rate is a boon for gamers, in particular, especially those with graphics cards capable of more than 60 frames per second (fps).
When selecting a DVI cable type, make sure to get a double-link cable. This is because a dual-link DVI cable can support up to 2560 x 1600 resolution, while a single-link cable can only support up to 1920 x 1200 resolution.
Keep in mind that a DVI cable is not capable of delivering 4K video. If you use a monitor and graphics card capable of 4K, and you want to utilize those capabilities, then you are better off using an HDMI High Speed cable or the DisplayPort.
DisplayPort (DP) is a newer connection (launched in 2008) that’s primarily found on premium-level monitors. Given that status, it is generally reserved for high-end graphics cards and is mostly used for gaming and video editing or other visually-intensive tasks.
There are currently 3 types of DP cables in use:
- DisplayPort 1.2: For monitors with a resolution up to 3840 x 2160 with 4K video at a 60 Hz refresh rate.
- DisplayPort 1.3: For 8K video at a 30 Hz refresh rate – and it works with most modern graphics cards.
- DisplayPort 1.4: For 8K video at 60 Hz, as well as HDR video. This is the newest addition to the DP family; it can run the latest games at the highest graphical settings.
DP also has the advantage of transmitting to multiple monitors from a single cable. This cuts down on the number of cords you need if you plan to daisy-chain multiple monitors
together. As such, this port is a great choice for those looking to use their new high-end monitor primarily for 4K gaming or to display and render high-quality media, including 3D modeling.
Before the introduction of the HDMI port, the VGA (video graphics array) port was the gold standard of monitor connection types and was widely used in PC hardware. However, VGA ports have been largely phased out. You’ll typically only find them on legacy devices.
VGA was first created and adopted by IBM prior to its introduction to the greater marketplace in 1987. Most older PCs have VGA ports as part of their tower setup, so the main reason to buy a monitor with a VGA port is if you want to use a converter or adapter to seamlessly plug your older PC into a newer monitor.
Unlike other monitor plug types, a VGA port consists of a 15-pin connector that features 3 rows of 5 pins. Each pin has a unique function that fits into a VGA cable. Aside from using a VGA with older PCs, many projectors also use VGA cables. So if you intend to connect your PC or monitor to a projector for screenings or use in a business or school setting, make sure your display is VGA compatible in some way.
A VGA port is also useful for playing certain older video game consoles. The SEGA DreamCast and PlayStation 2, for example, are both VGA compatible and often look their best when using this port, although they often require adapters (see some examples below).
You can find USB-C ports
on more versatile monitors, meaning those with more features and ports in general. While it is largely thought of as a replacement for a traditional USB port, you can also use it in lieu of a DP or HDMI port.
One of the great things about the USB-C cable; it’s reversible, allowing you to plug it in either way. This makes a very convenient monitor port type, especially when you plan to use it with different devices, since it provides you with the option to connect your smartphone, tablet, and more to your monitor.
In addition to providing video, the USB-C port can output audio, data, and power as well. While USB-C is still an emerging technology – its initial design was only finalized in 2014
– its incredible versatility makes it perfect for anyone looking to use only one cable type for their monitor.
The USB-C port is also a great option if you want to connect your laptop to a monitor. Let’s say you work in a home office but want to connect to a larger display. If you own a newer laptop, chances are you’ll be in luck because most of them are equipped with USB-C ports. Simply connect the plug-and-play cable between your laptop and monitor and, voila, you’ll be ready to enjoy a larger screen in moments.
HP accessories to consider
When selecting a monitor, you also need to consider certain accessories to accompany the display port options. This can help take the worry out of your choice in monitor, because you can easily convert all of the major cable types into another format with the use of an adapter.
HP USB-C to HDMI adapter
If your monitor has a USB-C port, but you want to display video in an HDMI format, you can use an HP USB-C to HDMI adapter
. This is perfect for those who want to connect their device to an external display, TV, or projector that doesn’t have USB-C capability.
HP DisplayPort to HDMI True 4K adapter
If you are using a high-end monitor that has a DP, you can also connect this to the HP DisplayPort to HDMI True 4K adapter
. This allows you to convert your DP output to HDMI, making it painless to connect to a large range of multimedia devices while maintaining 4K resolution and a 60 Hz refresh rate.
HP USB-C to multi-port hub
Or maybe you’re looking for more versatility? If so, you can't go wrong with the HP USB-C to multi-port hub
. This handy device allows you to connect anything from an external hard drive to an HDMI-compatible device directly into your USB-C port. This is ideal for a number of uses, from connecting a game console to hooking up another display.
HP docking station cable lock
When you have numerous display cables running from your PC to your monitor, you'll want to make sure they’re secure. This helps both for organizational purposes and to reduce the risk of any safety or security hazards. The best way to secure these is by using an HP docking station cable lock
. It can also help you to lock up your laptop alongside your cables, which is perfect if you often leave your device connected in a public space, such as a shared office or coworking space.
When you’re on the search for a new monitor, knowing the different port types is an important part of the equation.
At a minimum, your monitor should have an HDMI port to easily connect your monitor to your PC or laptop. But if you have specific needs, like those outlined above, you should also consider monitors with DVI, DisplayPort, or USB-C ports as well.
And if you intend to connect your new display to an older PC or another legacy device, that new monitor should also have a VGA port. If not, there are always adapters you can pick up, but a straight-up port is easier to manage.
The good news is that most modern monitors are quite versatile, and they often come with several different types of ports. This can help reduce any potential compatibility headaches while also allowing you to connect various devices to your shiny new monitor.
About the Author
Daniel Horowitz is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author and has written for publications such as USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.