The big news this week is that DisplayPort has officially ousted the aging but very handy VGA display interface.

Up until this week all the PC’s, workstations and servers we had sold or configured for our customers came with a VGA display port among other display options… but not anymore. We had shipped our first DisplayPort only workstation and we were (sad to admit) caught a little off balance in the sense that we didn’t have a compatible monitor to ship to the customer. Yes we did sort out the issue quite quickly and with little hassle, but it got me thinking and ultimately blogging about this new step in the field of IT… and it looks like a major step.

DisplayPort isn’t new in the sense that it was first approved in May 2006 by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) and started shipping in very late months of 2009. I must say that it is new enough and unknown enough that even Microsoft’s Word puts a little red line under the term “DisplayPort” (Time to add to dictionary I think). To the untrained eye it looks very similar to another interface that much of the public knows about, of course I’m referring to the HDMI interface. But more about these two standards a little later.

DisplayPort contains 20 pins and sends its data over these pins via small data packets called micro packets. It was designed this way because it allows VESA to add additional features later on in the future without the need to change the interface physically. (Think USB)
DisplayPort sends both video and audio out of the same port, so we may see the familiar I/O on the back of PC’s change even more with no audio inputs or VGA outputs.

At the end of 2009 VESA released version 1.2 of DisplayPort which is a mini interface already running on some of Apple’s products and some high end GPU’s from AMD.

The differences between DisplayPort and the widely known HDMI standard are minimal in the physical sense or the end product, but it’s the difference’s between these two standards which may determine what the back of our PC’s will look like in the future.

  •  Firstly DisplayPort is a royalty free standard. Which means as a manufacturer you can add it to your electronic device without paying the developers of the standard. HDMI on the other hand asks an annual fee of around $10,000 US dollars and between US$0.04 and US$0.15 per device which the input is attached to.
  •  DisplayPort currently is in version 1.3 and has more bandwidth than the current version of HDMI 2.0. DisplayPort can transmit 21.6 Gbit/s[46] (17.28 Gbit/s with overhead removed) as opposed to HDMI 2.0’s 18 Gbit/s[47] (14.4 Gbit/s with overhead removed).
  • DisplayPort 1.4 can also send a much higher resolution image, but this will soon change as HDMI is getting a big change in the coming months.

Besides these differences, these two standards can be found on the same machine as complimentary devices. They even have adapters that go from one to another.
It’s just slightly a new dawn for us who have looked to the often blue coloured VGA standard and felt almost comfortable by it. Not physically, but subconsciously when we thought it would be with us our whole careers. Goodbye VGA, please wipe your feet and come on in DisplayPort, we have a lot of catching up to do.