You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin: A Case for DisplayPort

planar-ultrares-450x300Many of my company’s latest display products, including architectural video walls and new 4K LCD displays, as well as a new image-processing system, utilize DisplayPort inputs. Adding to the range of digital and analog inputs available across the product line, DisplayPort has a number of advantages that are attracting equipment manufacturers, like Planar, to act.

And we’re not alone in the adoption of DisplayPort. According to the market analyst firm IDC, DisplayPort penetration will experience a compound annual growth rate of 106 percent between 2009 and 2014. DisplayPort is estimated to be on 95 percent of commercial notebook computers in 2014.

So, why is DisplayPort capturing this kind of attention? I asked some of Planar’s product and engineering team to discuss the benefits of DisplayPort.

Marques Girardelli, manager of electronic platforms, suggested a number of reasons that DisplayPort is gaining ground, at least from a technical perspective. “Locking connectors, support for dual-mode, multistream and scalable bandwidth transport all set DisplayPort apart,” he said. “The big driver for us has been its higher bandwidth.”

DisplayPort 1.2 supports up to 720 MHz, which is more than enough bandwidth to support 4K resolution at 60 Hz with 10-bit color — something previously unachievable with HDMI, as the 1.4b standard limits 4K content to 30 Hz and 8-bit.  “In the future, Planar will be able to take advantage of additional features of DisplayPort, like powering accessories and even smaller connectors.”  The Lightning connector on the iPhone 5, for instance, was made possible by DisplayPort’s architecture. Ultimately, rich media on thin devices require many of the features of DisplayPort.

But DisplayPort is not without its challenges, especially as the market is in transition.  “The downsides to DisplayPort today are easy to overcome with planning,” said Peter Lawrence, product manager for Planar Mosaic. “The cable lengths for DisplayPort are more limited than HDMI, which is why products like Mosaic allow source looping on the videowall, to limit the run length and installation complexity, and there are a growing number of DisplayPort extender options.”

Patrick Lagarrigue, electronic engineer at Planar’s Albi, France, office told me, “DisplayPort signals automatically adapt to cable lengths, which make set-up much easier than with DVI or HDMI.”

DisplayPort is a more advanced connector type, which can make it difficult to convert from HDMI or DVI. “If you are using HDMI or DVI out, you need to use an active adapter,” Lawrence explained. “We have helped many customers identify active adapters to use with their favorite digital signage players that do not yet have DisplayPort outputs.”

Ultimately, it is the positive momentum in the market that is driving further adoption. “The PC industry is adopting the standard rapidly,” said Steve Seminario, our senior director of product management.  “We are seeing it in more and more output devices and nearly every player or PC company has a roadmap to include it in the future.”  Lawrence added, “We are encouraging customers to adopt DisplayPort because using it for HDMI or DVI devices requires just a passive cable while you future-proof your computing investment. As new products using DisplayPort arrive on the market, you can enjoy the new features and bandwidth made possible with the new standard.”

How many DisplayPort connections are you making on AV projects today?

About Jennifer Davis

Jennifer Davis is Vice President of Marketing at Planar Systems and Runco International. Her work at Planar spans a wide variety of markets and technologies, including digital signage and architectural displays. Prior to joining Planar, Jennifer worked for Intel Corp. and held a senior marketing management role at a software start-up. She holds a BS in business administration and history from Warner Pacific College and an MBA from Pepperdine University.

4 Responses to “You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin: A Case for DisplayPort”

  1. Great question, David, and I could see how it would be confusing. The type of conversion you need, depends on the direction you are going. If you have a DisplayPort source (like a PC), you can passively convert it to DVI or HDMI for playback on a display device. If you have a DVI or HDMI source it requires active conversion to a DisplayPort-enabled display, if that is the preferred input of your display (at least today). As more and more PC, tablet, and player devices move to DisplayPort (to take full advantage of the additional bandwidth and other benefits), the need for active conversion is reduced.

  2. Ms. Davis – quick question for you. In the 2nd to last paragraph Mr. Lawrence notes using an active adapter with an HDMI or DVI out. But then in the last paragraph he makes mention of using D.Port “because using it for HDMI or DVI devices requires just a passive cable.” This is a little confusing and I think I must be missing something. Could you give some clarification on when an active adapter is required vs. when a passive cable can be used?

  3. Thanks for weighing in, Andrew. I agree that the topic is complex. I do think that DisplayPort will gain ground as more and more PC-based sources deploy it for its advantages. This might be a point of diversion on the generally converging paths between IT and AV. As a manufacturer of displays, we find ourselves supporting both sides of the debate. For instance, the new Planar UltraRes 4k (UHD) display features four HDMI inputs and 4 DisplayPort inputs, all capable of full 4k video at full frame rate. Sure, it takes more work for us to provide this, but it allows integrators and clients with input flexibility to display one big video or quadrants of four 1080p signals, and the flexibility to switch sources right on the panel. I see this becoming more important as adoption of new technologies and the demands on displays continue to grow.

  4. Hi Jennifer, certainly some good food for thought there on DisplayPort. I often have discussions with clients about HDMI vs DisplayPort, which is always a complicated conversation.

    While there are some obvious distinct advantages of DisplayPort over HDMI, I have to look at things from a system design and integration perspective for larger systems.

    I work as an AV/VC consultant and we get into the fine details of the design. The reality is that all the main signal distribution manufacturers have invested heavily into HDMI and HDBaseT for their infrastructure equipment. To use Extron as an example, for DisplayPort they only have a 2:1 switcher, 1:2 DA, 1 Tx/Rx pair and some adapters (that I’m aware of anyway). When designing a typical AV system, I need significantly more options.

    I don’t know what the AMX/Crestron/Extron/etc official perspectives are, however I doubt they’d be doing much R&D on the DisplayPort front until they have achieved return on their investment into HDMI/HDBaseT. There are some options with DisplayPort inputs like the Crestron DM-TX-401, however this only accepts it as an input and then transports it over the HDMI/HDBaseT infrastructure.

    I think DisplayPort is more for specialty applications and point to point rather than integration at this point in time. That’s just my thoughts and perspective on the very convoluted topic that it is!! Any other thoughts or perspectives would be welcome as I always want to know what other people think.