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Which Is Better, HDMI Over Thunderbolt or DisplayPort Over Thunderbolt?

When it comes to Thunderbolt (TB) docks for Macbooks, which is better? Dock with HDMI connectors or Docks with DisplayPort (DP) connectors? I read somewhere a long time ago that since Mac natively uses DisplayPort protocol internally over the Thunderbolt cables, it is better. For HDMI, the dock needs to cover DP to HDMI bits. Is that true? Is that still a valid statement?

As we try to push higher resolutions to external monitors 4K/60Hz or 5K, we push a lots of data for such resolutions. Hence, less translation might mean better display signal fidelity. As I scoured the internet, I realized that people dont seem to know the technical details around HDMI over TB vs DP over TB.
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Moro Pant

Comments: 3 Responses to “Which Is Better, HDMI Over Thunderbolt or DisplayPort Over Thunderbolt?”

    1 month ago

    The initial statement is true. Avoid HDMI when connecting your Mac to a screen unless HDMI is the only port the screen has (such as a TV or projector). Always favor DisplayPort.

    In some cases, with some screens and some settings, HDMI will work fine. But DisplayPort would work fine in those situations too. In other situations HDMI will be inferior to DisplayPort. Sometimes you won't get good resolution choices, sometimes the screen image will be inferior quality, and sometimes you'll get unwanted behaviors like it taking the screen a long time to wake up after your Mac awakes.

    So many times people have asked me about problems they are having with their external displays. When I hear they are using HDMI to connect I suggest trying DisplayPort. And so often this solves their problem.

    As for a Dock, it of course depends on what you want from a Dock. It is always best to hook the screen directly from your Mac's Thunderbolt ports to the screen's DisplayPort port (or Thunderbolt in some cases where the screen can also act as a USB hub or provide power to a MacBook). Just a simple cable, no Dock.

    Often a Dock is there to provide additional ports, like extra USB ports to connect accessories, or like HDMI so you can connect your Mac to an HDMI TV or projector (no DisplayPort option). In that case, HDMI is fine. I mean if the projector or TV only has that, then HDMI is your only choice.

    Moro Pant
    1 month ago

    Thanks. Connecting directly a monitor becomes a challenge with M1 macbook air with only two ports. Hence, a dock becomes a necessity. I would assume that the same logic of preferring DP over HDMI would work if the dock offers both choices. Or buying a dock that has DP as opposed to HDMI.

    1 month ago

    Moro: The current Mac mini has two thunderbolt ports and two USB-A ports? What else were you planning to connect? The display should be a priority, so give it one of the two Thunderbolt ports.

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