What is DisplayPort? Why Should Buyers Care about Manufacturer Royalty Savings?

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HDMI the Home Theatre Winner

HDMI is a deeply entrenched in Consumer Electronics, and likely to grow even further in that market. Since in can do everything DVI can and more, and PC’s are increasingly integrated into the home (specifically home theatres) HDMI is also gaining popularity on the PC front. It also has plenty of bandwidth, and not just for 1080p HDTV and beyond. The largest PC monitors generally available, which run higher resolutions at higher refresh rates and higher bits per pixel, are currently comfortable with HDMI.

Existing HDMI specifications also detail a Type B connector which would offer twice the existing HDMI bandwidth (20.4 vs 10.2Gbit/s). It hasn’t been implemented, but would be physically incompatible with the current Type A. If you are going to change connectors any way, Dell has something they want you to look at. Actually, they think it’s worth changing to even if that was the last thing on your mind.

DisplayPort: Improvement or Inconvenience?

If only hardcore enthusiasts and graphics professionals are getting near HDMI Type A’s limitations; and if Type B is waiting in the wings: what is the point of DisplayPort? After all, it is only slightly faster than HDMI A. That depends on if you are making, or selling, computer equipment.

DisplayPort’s supporters, including chipset designers (AMD,Intel) and equipment manufacturers (Dell, HP, Lenovo, Apple, and so on), have at least one obvious reason to prefer it to HDMI. HDMI costs 10 grand a year, plus 4 cents a unit, in royalties. That may not sound like a lot, but why pay money they don’t have to?

DisplayPort is free. Manufacturers don’t have to fork over royalties. But if costs are passed on to consumers any way: isn’t this cost reduction good for us too? That depends on how big the cost reduction ends up being. Adding a port costs more than the licensing fee: it has to be designed in, parts need to be made or purchased, and manufacturing time is spent installing them. The relative newness of DisplayPort electronics, alone, makes them more expensive then HDMI parts. The consumer won’t see his 4 cents anytime soon.

Why would these companies do something that increases their costs? Even if they pass the costs on to customers, won’t they sell fewer units and be less competitive? That is true, but, there is a big difference between cutting a check for royalties to another firm,and using resources you already have. It might be worth loosing a few sales if the alternative is getting rid of unused people, equipment, and space. Take into account the costs of severance, transactions, and selling into a down market; then having to pay to get everything back.

What’s in It for Me?

So DisplayPort might make economic sense for manufacturers, but what is in it for the buyer? DisplayPort would indeed seem like a pretty elaborate conspiracy to keep people at work in a bad economy if it didn’t have anything but a tiny bandwidth boost to offer. There are some features that have DisplayPort’s proponents very excited, however, and it is hard for a PC user not to develop at least mild interest. We look at them in the next article.

This post is part of the series: Next-Gen PC Cables

USB, eSATA, and FireWire are all getting makeovers on the storage side, and Dell wants you to use DisplayPort instead of DVI or HDMI. The latter’s Type-B connector could give it a huge boost though.

  1. The New Choices for External Drive Connection
  2. USB 3.0 Will Dominate Until Power Over SATA Arrives
  3. HDMI vs DisplayPort: Hard for Consumers to Get Excited about Manufacturers’ Royalty Savings
  4. Does DisplayPort Have Advantages for PC Users?