Posted by: kurtsh | October 26, 2013

INFO: Quick thoughts on DisplayPort vs. HDMI & why Surface Pro includes DisplayPort

I’ve gotten this question more than once so I thought I’d jot down a quick answer:

Q: Why doesn’t Surface Pro & its Docking Station have an HDMI port?

The simple answer is that it has something better: A DisplayPort.

imageFor those that can’t get over their need for HDMI, DisplayPort has $5-$10 cabling or dongles that easily transform the port into VGA, microHDMI, fullHDMI, DVI, component, etc.  The technology also supports the encrypted path of HDMI 1.4 for playing protected content like that from BluRay.  It transmits both audio & video over a single channel exactly as HDMI does… but there are a several major big differences that give it a leg up.

DisplayPort supports:

  • DAISY CHAINING. You can connect a DisplayPort cable to your monitor then connect that monitor to another monitor then connect that one to another monitor… 4 simultaneous 1080p+5.1 channels over a single cable. Unlike HDMI which is single channel only.
  • BI-DIRECTIONAL I/O. You can connect touch screens to DisplayPort and push 1080p video to it, and have touch I/O from the display transmitted BACK to the device over the same DisplayPort connection without needing a second USB cable to loop back to the PC.

There are other benefits but these are the two big ones most people like to hear about. DisplayPort standard is not used a lot outside of Macintoshes because there’s a licensing fee involved that eats into most PCs margin, however the VESA organization that manages the IP for DisplayPort granted Microsoft the right to use DisplayPort for Surface Pro. (Terms/conditions weren’t disclosed)

Bottom line: You should be very happy that DisplayPort is on Surface Pro & the dock. It’s a much better solution than HDMI which is far less capable, but more popular because it’s cheap & does the job.


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