Does it Matter Which HDMI Port I Use?

The short answer to the question “Does it matter which HDMI port I use” is resounding yes. It does matter which HDMI port you use.

The choice of the HDMI port depends upon what device you intend to connect to and what the version of your HDMI port is.

If you have a device with multiple HDMI ports conforming to the SAME version, then it does not matter which HDM port you use. However, if you have a device with multiple HDMI ports conforming to different versions, then the choice of HDMI DOES matter.

For instance, if you have a PC with an HDMI 1.4 AND and HDM 2.0 port, but you want to connect to a 4K monitor with 60Hz refresh rate, then you would choose the HDMI 2.0 port.

Additionally, on PCs, whether you use the motherboard HDMI port or the graphics card’s HDMI port makes a world of difference in graphics processing (important for gamers).

It is ok if all this seems a bit confusing as I intend to clarify the different versions of the HDMI interface as well as talk briefly about the input and out HDM ports below – people often confuse the two.

HDMI Ports and Their Versions

A few years back things were quite easy with HDMI ports, as they were mostly uniform across input and output devices.

However, with the ever increasing specs such as 4K, 8K displays with 120Hz and beyond refresh rates, the contemporary HDMI 1.4 version is just not enough.

As such, the HDMI interface has since been improved, however, you must take note that different versions of the HDMI interface have different limitations with regards to the maximum resolution and refresh rate they can support.

HDM 1.4 can support a max of 4K resolution BUT only at 30Hz (30FPS). If you want to experience 4K @ 60Hz (which is the least recommended refresh rate), then you need an HDMI 2.0 interface.

The following table explains this in detail:

HDMI VersionMax ResolutionMax Refresh RateMax Bandwidth
(Gbit/s)
Effective Bandwidth
(Gbit/s)
HDR?Audio Technology
Supported
HDMI 1.01080p1080p @ 60 Hz4.953.96No- 8 Audio Channels
HDMI 1.1/1.21440p1440p @ 30 Hz4.953.96No- 8 Audio Channels
-Super Audio CDs
HDMI 1.3/1.44096 x 2160 (4K)120 Hz @ FHD Resolution
30 Hz @ 4k Resolution
24 Hz @ 4k Resolution
10.28.16No- 8 Audio Channels
- ARC
- Dolby TrueHD
- DTS-HD
HDMI 2.04096 x 2160 (4K)60 Hz @ 4K Resolution1814.40Yes- 32 audio channels,
- Dynamic Resolution Adaptation (DRA)
- High-Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding (HE-AAC)
HDMI 2.1Upto 10240 x 4320 (10K)Upto 120Hz @ 10K4842.67Yes- 32 audio channels
- eARC

As you can see that HDMI 2.1 is the latest version. This port can support a maximum of 10K resolution at 240Hz refresh rate.

HDMI Port
A Standard HDMI port may look the same on all devices, but it could have completely different specs owing to the fact that there are different versions of the HDMI interface.

You Cannot Have HDMI Port Version Mismatch!

It should be noted that the source (PC, Set-top Box, Blu-Ray Player etc) and Display device (TV, monitor, projects) MUST match in terms of their HDMI version.

In other words, if you have a 4k@60Hz monitor with an HDMI 2.0 input port, then you will need to have a PC with an HDMI 2.0 output port as well. 

If you connect your 4K@60Hz monitor to an HDM 1.4 port on your PC, then the specs will be reduced to that of HDMI 1.4. Meaning your monitor will run at 4K@30Hz max.

Similarly, if your 4K @ 120Hz monitor has an HDMI 2.1 port but your PC only has an HDMI 2.0 port, then the max your monitor would end up supporting is 4K @ 60Hz.

There cannot be a mismatch of the port version between the output and input. The output port (on PC, laptop, set-top box) etc must meet OR EXCEED, the requirement of the display device.

A Certain Device Can Have Multiple HDMI Ports Conforming to Different Versions

It is highly possible for a device, either source or display device, to have multiple HDMI ports but conforming to different versions.

Take for instance the ASUS Tuf Gaming VG29UQL1A monitor. 

ASUS Tuf Gaming VG28UQL1A monitor
ASUS Tuf Gaming VG28UQL1A monitor with 4 HDMI ports.

Hence, here the choice of the HDMI port will matter the most. This is a 4K monitor with a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz.

It features 4 x HDMI Ports! Quite an overkill. However, two of the HDMI ports on this monitor conform to version 2.0, whereas the rest of the two conform to HDMI version 2.1.

ASUS Tuf Gaming VG28UqL1A
ASUS Tuf Gaming VG28UQL1A Specs

As such, in order to use this monitor to its FULL POTENTIAL i.e at 4K@144Hz, you will need to connect to the HDMI 2.1 port. You will also need to connect to an HDMI 2.1 port on the source device i.e PC, laptop etc.

If you connect this monitor to the HDMI 2.0 port, then this monitor will operate at 4K@60Hz max. 

Understanding the Difference Between Input and Output HDMI Ports

You also have to take note of the fact that HDMI interface is NOT bidirectional. In other words, data travels in one way only i.e from output to input.

While both HDMI input and output ports may look the same, you cannot use them interchangeably.

For instance, you cannot use the HDMI port on your laptop as an HDMI input port for connecting your gaming console or Blu-ray player to the laptop’s screen.

As such, an HDMI port on a laptop is only for outputting the data TO the display device such as a monitor, TV or a projector.

Does it Matter Which HDMI Port I Use for 4K?

Most certainly it does.

If you took a glance at the different HDMI versions in the table above, you can point out that different versions support different specs for 4K resolution. 

While HDMI 1.2 and older ports cannot support 4K resolution, the newer and more contemporary HDMI versions i.e HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1 CAN support 4K, albeit at different refresh rates.

  • HDMI 1.4 supports 4K @ 30Hz
  • HDMI 2.0 supports 4K @ 60Hz
  • HDMI 2.1 supports 4K @ 144Hz Natively and at 240Hz with DCS

The least recommended version to have is HDMI 2.0 for 4K. This is because refresh rate and frame rate are related. 60Hz refresh rate means that the device has the potential to show 60 frames per second.

The higher the frame rate, the smoother would be the motion.

If you have a 4K monitor or TV with 60Hz native refresh rate and you connect it to a gaming console, set top box or any output device that has an HDM 1.4, then the monitor will be limited to displaying 4K @ 30Hz refresh rate (30 FPS cap).

The ideal recommended refresh rate is 60Hz for your TV and monitor and thus yes, it does matter which HDMI port you use for 4K. 

On PCs Motherboard and GPU HDMI Ports Matter

A lot of the PC motherboards come with an HDMI port built into their back I/O panel. If you plug in a dedicated graphics card, which also come with HDMI ports, then it absolutely matters which HDMI port you use.

Using the motherboard’s or the graphics card HDMI port has huge ramifications.

Does it Matter Which HDMI Port I Use
Desktop with HDMI port on motherboard I/O panel and on the dedicated graphics card.

The key points you need to know are that the motherboard’s HDMI port are powered by the weaker integrated graphics card on the CPU. These are not intended for gaming.

The HDMI port on the dedicated graphics card are powered by the much more powerful graphics card.

Hence, if you plug in your monitor to the motherboard’s HDMI port, then you will naturally get very weak performance. If you are a gamer, your frame rates will suffer naturally since motherboard’s HDMI port is being powered through the weak iGPU.

Long story short, on a desktop, if you have a dedicated graphics card installed with HDMI ports, then use its HDMI ports for plugging your monitor to.

If you do not have a dedicated graphics card at all, then you don’t need to worry about this and connect to the HDMI port on your motherboard.

Also Read: How to Use Motherboard HDMI with Graphics Card?

Take Note of the HDMI ARC Ports

Additionally, you need to take note of the fact that some modern TVs and sound systems come with a special “ARC” HDMI port. 

HDMI ARC
HDMI ARC. Source: Wikimedia

ARC stands for Audio Return Channel. The purpose of this port is to relay the sound from the attached output devices such as gaming console, set top box etc. from the TV to the dedicated sound system.

Essentially, this saves you from attaching all of your output devices to your dedicated sound system individually. With HDMI ARC, you can have your gaming console, set-top box, streaming device, all connected to to your TV and the TV will take care of relaying the stound to your sound system

HDMI ARC ports have clear label indicating as such.

As such, it is important that you understand the use of this special port. This is not your traditional HDMI input port. You cannot use this port to attach your output device to.

Also Read: How to Check HDMI Cable Version?

FAQ

Are All HDMI Ports the Same?

As stated in the article, no, all HMDI Ports are not the same.

HDMI ports can have different versions. HDMI ports can be input or output. There are special purpose HDMI ports such as HDMI ARC.

And finally, there are also different sizes of HDMI ports. Standard HDMI ports are the most common but you can also find Mini and Micro HDMI ports on smaller portable devices like cameras and Tablets.

Does it Matter Which HDMI Port I Use for Gaming?

Absolutely it does. The choice of HDMI port affects the maximum resolution you can set on your monitor and the maximum frames per second you can get from it.

If you have a high performance gaming monitor with 4K and 144Hz refresh rate, for instance, and you connect it to a mere HDMI 2.0 port on your PC, then you will be limited to a maximum of 4K @ 60Hz refresh rate.

Hence, in this situation you will need to have atleast an HDM 2.1

It all depends upon what monitor you have. If you have a FHD@144Hz monitor, then even an HDMI 1.4 port can suffice.

Does It Matter Which HDMI Port I Use on Graphics Card?

Often the HDMI ports on a dedicated graphics card have a uniform version across all of them. So in majority of the cases it does not matter which HDM port you use on your graphics card.

However, it is worthwhile to check the specifications of your GPU to verify if all the HDMI ports in fact conform to the same version. 

Also Read: How Many HDMI Ports Do I Need?

Final Words

You can see that while HDMI ports may look the same, they can be different in terms of version, performance and purpose. Hence it is always recommended to consult the specsheet of your device to understand its HDMI specs.

All in all, the answer to the question “does it matter which HDMI port I use?” is an absolute yes.

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Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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