The short and simple answer to the question “what is the best HDMI port for gaming?” is HDMI 2.1 as it can encompass most of the resolutions and frame rates that the new gen gaming PCs and gaming consoles are designed for.
However, the more comprehensive answer to this question is that it depends upon what resolution and frame rate you wish to play your games on.
For instance, if you wish to play your games on 1080p (Full HD) resolution on a 60Hz refresh rate monitor/TV – which would naturally achieve 60 frame per second max – then even an HDMI 1.4 would suffice.
On the other hand, if you whish to play your games at higher resolutions such as QHD, or 4K resolution on a higher than 60Hz refresh rate monitor or a TV such as 120Hz, 144Hz, or 240Hz refresh rate then you may need HDMI 2.0 or HDMI 2.1 interface.
In the following text I will explore the different HDMI versions and particularly talk about which HDMI port is best for gaming.
Different HDMI Interface Versions
As alluded to earlier, their are different versions for the HDMI interface. Each newer version basically increases the bandwidth it can carry.
The higher the bandwidth, the higher the resolution and frame rates the particular HDMI version can carry.
The following table summarizes the max resolution and max refresh each interface can support. However, the most important parameter here is the effective bandwidth each popular HDMI version supports.
|HDMI Version||Max Resolution||Max Refresh Rate||Max Bandwidth|
|HDMI 1.0||1080p||1080p @ 60 Hz||4.95||3.96||No||- 8 Audio Channels|
|HDMI 1.1/1.2||1440p||1440p @ 30 Hz||4.95||3.96||No||- 8 Audio Channels
-Super Audio CDs
|HDMI 1.3/1.4||4096 x 2160 (4K)||120 Hz @ FHD Resolution|
30 Hz @ 4k Resolution
24 Hz @ 4k Resolution
|10.2||8.16||No||- 8 Audio Channels
- Dolby TrueHD
|HDMI 2.0||4096 x 2160 (4K)||60 Hz @ 4K Resolution||18||14.40||Yes||- 32 audio channels,
- Dynamic Resolution Adaptation (DRA)
- High-Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding (HE-AAC)
|HDMI 2.1||Upto 10240 x 4320 (10K)||Upto 120Hz @ 10K||48||42.67||Yes||- 32 audio channels
If you consider HDMI interface to be a highway, then the effective bandwidth basically defines how much traffic the highway can support.
This is because data rate (or the traffic) your video interface specs generate depends upon three key parameters:
- Refresh Rate
- Color Bit Depth
Hence, the higher the resolution and the refresh rate the higher the data rate.
Similarly, the higher the Color Bit Depth of your monitor/TV, the higher the data rate. Color Bit Depth basically defines how many colors a display can produce.
8-bit displays are your average displays that can show about 16.7 million colors. 10-bit displays are professional displays that can produce 1 billion colors. And then you have even 12-bit displays.
To calculate how much data rate your required specs would generate I recommend using this calculator.
HDMI Ports Support by Gaming Devices
Gaming devices such as gaming consoles and PCs are basically output devices.
In order to get the best quality results, you need to make sure that both the output devices, or the source, as well as the input devices, or the display, use the same HDMI port version.
What HDMI Port Does a Gaming Graphics Card Use?
The latest dedicated graphics card easily support the newer HDMI 2.1 version.
Take for the instance the following respectable mid range ASUS RTX 3060 graphics card.
You can see that it offers 2 x HDMI 2.1 ports and hence it can support display devices with higher than 4K resolution and a refresh rate that is much higher than 60Hz.
In fact, you can also see in the specs excerpt above, that the max resolution this graphics card supports is 7680 x 4320, which is much higher than UHD/4K resolution.
What HDMI Port Does PS5 Use?
The latest gen consoles such as Sony PS5 also uses HDMI 2.1.
As such, it can support 4K resolution at 120Hz refresh rate or 8K @ 60 Hz.
Also Read: is 4GB Graphics Card Enough for Gaming?
What HDMI Port Does XBOX X and XBOX S Use?
Microsoft Xbox X and Xbox S also use the HDMI 2.1 ports. Hence, they can achieve 4K @ 120Hz or 8K @ 60Hz refresh rate.
What about the Older Gen Gaming Consoles?
The vanilla version or the first releases of both PS4 and Xbox One offer only an HDMI 1.4 port and support FHD at 60 FPS max. While there are many games that were capped at 30 FPS owing to limited capability of these older gen consoles.
The newer iterations featured newer and improved HDMI ports. PS4 Pro featured HDMI 2.0 with 4K and 60 FPS max resolution.
Xbox One X featured HDMI 2.1 and offered support for a max refresh rate of 120Hz (120 FPS), however, none of the games took advantage of this since this would be taxing on the quality of the graphics instead.
The following is a summary of HDMI ports used by the gaming PCs and consoles:
|Generation||Device||HDMI Port Version|
|Newer Gen||Newer Gen Dedicated Graphics Card||HDM 2.1|
|Older Gen||Xbox One X||HDM 2.1|
|PS4 Pro||HDMI 2.0|
|PS4 Slim||HDMI 2.0|
|Xbox One||HDMI 1.4|
Also Read: Does HDMI Carry Power?
So What is the Best HDMI Port for Gaming?
You can see from the discussion above that the best HDMI port for the current generation of graphics cards and gaming consoles is the HDMI 2.1.
In other words, your input or display devices also need to have HDMI 2.1 port in order to enjoy what the latest generation of gaming devices have to offer.
HDMI 2.1 can support the highest resolution and frame rates that the current gen gaming devices can support.
Not All HDMI Ports on a Monitor or a TV are the Same
You have to make sure that HDMI port on your monitor or on your TV also conforms to the same version as the gaming device.
For instance, if you plug a PS5 into a monitor or a TV with an HDMI 2.0 port, then you will not be able to enjoy 4K at 120 frames per second.
HDMI 2.0 caps out at 4K and 60 FPS. You will need to have at least an HDMI 2.1 to enjoy the max resolution and refresh rate supported by newer gen gaming consoles.
In addition to that, it is not necessary for all the HDMI ports on a given device to conform to the same version.
Take for instance, the specs for ASUS TUF Gaming VG28UQL1A gaming monitor:
This monitor has 4 x HDMI ports. Two of these conform to HDMI 2.0 version whereas the other two conform to the HDMI 2.1 version.
The monitor itself can support upto UHD resolution and 144Hz refresh rate. So in others words, to enjoy 4K resolution at 120Hz refresh rate (120 FPS max) on this monitor, you will need to connect your gaming device to one of the HDMI 2.1 ports to enjoy the best the PS5, Xbox X or the newer gaming PC has to offer.
Also Read: Do Monitors Have HDMI Ports?
The Choice of Cable Also Matters
You must also note that the quality of cable itself also matters and NOT just the version of the ports.
There are different quality standards for the HDMI cables. Some are designed for lower bandwidth ports such as HDMI 1.4 others are designed to support the higher bandwidth of HDMI 2.0 and 2.1.
Each HDMI cable type carries a certification for the speed it is designed for. The certification is provided by HDMI.org. These include.
- Standard: For HDMI 1.4 (FHD)
- High Speed: For HDM1 1.4 (4K @ 30 FPS)
- Premium High Speed: For HDMI 2.0
- Ultra High Speed: For HDMI 2.1
Hence, if your video interface is not working on the desired resolution or refresh rate, then the cable itself could be the issue.
For gaming, when connecting newer gen gaming consoles or dedicated graphics cards to the HDMI 2.1 ports on monitors or TVs, I recommend you use the Ultra High Speed cables.
The higher quality cables do not necessarily cost a lot. As long as they have the required certification, they are good to go. You can find a good Ultra High Speed HDMI cable for even just $10.
Can You Use HDMI 2.0 with PS5 or XBox X?
Can you plug PS5, XBox X or any newer gaming device to a display device with an HDMI 2.0?
Yes, you can.
However, the port on the display device will act as a bottleneck. The max specs HDMI 2.0 supports is 4K @ 60Hz. This is lower than what the newer gen gaming consoles can offer.
For instance, newer gen consoles can support 4K @ 120Hz. Plugging these into an HDMI 2.0 port will limit them to 4K @ 60Hz.
Also Read: Can HDMI Support 3440×1440 Resolution?
So we have already established that the HDMI 2.1 is the best HDMI port for gaming as far as the version is concerned.
However, in the end it all depends upon your desired resolution and refresh rate. In addition to that, you also need to have a gaming rig that is capable of pushing very high refresh rates.
Refresh Rate vs Frames Per Second
People often confuse the two. Just because an HDMI port can support 120Hz refresh rate at 4K resolution and just because your monitor has a 4K display with 120Hz refresh rate DOES NOT mean that it will display 120 frames per second from the get go.
You need to have a gaming hardware powerful enough to push the desired amount of frames that the monitor or the HDMI port is capable of supporting.
Think of the refresh rate supported by the monitor/TV and HDMI version as analogous to the size of a water pipeline and think of the your gaming hardware or the graphics card as analogous to a water pump pushing the water into the pipeline.
Just because a water pipeline is large enough to carry a huge volume of water (refresh rate), does not mean it will always be full. The amount of water flowing through it in reality (frames per second) depends upon your pump (gaming hardware).
Also Read: Does HDMI Support 240Hz Refresh Rate?