Home / Technology / VESA finalizes DisplayPort 1.4, adds 8K support, data compression, and USB-C

VESA finalizes DisplayPort 1.4, adds 8K support, data compression, and USB-C

VESA has announced its new DisplayPort 1.4 standard, and the specification is stuffed with forward-looking goodies. VESA maintains two versions of the DisplayPort standard — embedded DisplayPort (eDP), which was updated to version 1.4(a) a little more than a year ago, and DisplayPort, which was last updated in September 2014. The organization has been working on the 1.4 standard for over a year, and the update promises some significant capability improvements.

DisplayPort 1.4 is the first version of the protocol to include support for VESA’s Display Stream Compression (DSC) technology. VESA guarantees that DSC is visually lossless, while achieving up to a 3:1 compression ratio. DisplayPort 1.4 is also compatible with Intel Thunderbolt and USB Type-C interfaces, which means next-generation monitors could connect to your system with a single, tiny cable.

DSC PR drawing

Image by Anandtech

DSC debuted in the embedded display port standard first because the cable lengths are much shorter in a mobile system than in a desktop. As Anandtech explains, in order for the compression algorithm VESA uses to function, it has to know that the data stream is accurate. Corruption errors in the encoded data will wreck the decoded output in a way that users will immediately notice. That’s why DisplayPort 1.4 also adds forward error correction, to make certain the data stream is corrected and encoded properly.

The new DP 1.4 spec will support 5120×2880 (5K)@60Hz with high dynamic range, and 8K (7680×4320)@60Hz in both high dynamic range and standard modes. Gamers who prefer high refresh rates and high resolutions aren’t forgotten; DP 1.4 can also drive “deep color” 120Hz 4K panels. If you have a need for high-definition, 32-channel audio, DP 1.4 has you covered there, too.

As for when we’ll see supporting hardware in market, it could take a while. AMD will support DisplayPort 1.3 in 2016 with its new Polaris architecture, which implies an 18-month to two-year gap between standard finalization and ship dates. That’s actually an improvement over past standards — HDMI 1.0 was ratified in 2002, but the standard doesn’t appear to have been picked up on video cards until 2006. As I’ve said in the past, I don’t expect the industry to go charging after 8K panels — not when costs are high and 4K is still working its way into mass adoption. It takes years for high resolutions to become formally supported across ecosystems (4K still causes trouble in some programs and games), and higher resolution displays require more sophisticated scaling to ensure legibility. The smallest monitor I’d want to use with 4K without resorting to a scalar is probably a 32-inch panel.

DisplayPort 1.4 carries far more bandwidth than even HDMI 2.0, which tops out at 4K@60Hz. AMD and Nvidia have historically split on interfaces, with AMD aggressively positioning DisplayPort, and NV pushing HDMI. Whether that’ll change in coming generations is still unclear, but AMD will introduce both the HDMI 2.0b and HDMI 1.3 standards with Polaris when it debuts on 14nm.

One last note: It isn’t clear if the VESA AdaptiveSync standard, which AMD calls FreeSync, is mandatory in DP 1.4 or not. We know it’s part of the embedded DisplayPort 1.4 standard, but VESA didn’t mention AdaptiveSync in its 1.4 announcement.

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