Ultimate port comparison table: HDMI 2.1 vs Displayport 2 vs Thunderbolt 3, 4 vs USB-type-C & USB 4

USB, Thunderbolt, Displayport, HDMI… Each port has its advantages, limitations and certain (in)compatibilities. Even though EVERYONE struggles with the immense complexity of distinguishing these ‘standards’ properly, I couldn’t find any site with a proper comparison table.

So, -at best effort- I went to work. Now, before I present my ultimate comparison table, there’s a small disclaimer: I am not 100% sure if all the information is correct, as some official websites contradict each-other or some information could not be found.

VersionConnectorFile transferVideo-outAudio ChannelseGPUMax Bandwidth (gbit/s)HDRPower DeliveryConnector
Thunderbolt4USB Type-CYesYes32 (?)Yes40YesOptional/varies – Up to 100w
Update: 250w with USB-C Release 2.1
USB Type-C
3USB Type-CYesYes32 (?)Yes40YesOptional/varies – Up to 100w
Update: 250w with USB-C Release 2.1
USB Type-C
USB4USB Type-CYesYes32 (?)Yes20 or 40YesOptional/varies – Up to 100w
Update: 250w with USB-C Release 2.1
USB Type-C
Type-CUSB Type-CYesOptional*Optional*No10Opt*Optional/varies – Up to 100w
Update: 250w with USB-C Release 2.1
USB Type-C
3.2 Gen 2 (Superspeed)USB Type-AYesSoftware (Displaylink**)Software (Displaylink**)No10NoOptional/variesUSB Type A (Classic)
3.2 Gen 1 (Superspeed)USB Type-AYesSoftware (Displaylink**)Software (Displaylink**)No5NoOptional/variesUSB Type A (Classic)
Displayport2.0DisplayportNoYes32No80 (of which 77.4 for media)YesNoDisplayPort
1.4(a)DisplayportNoYes32No32.4 (of which 25.92 for media)YesNoDisplayPort
1.3DisplayportNoYes8No32.4 (of which 25.92 for media)NoNoDisplayPort
1.2(a)DisplayportNoYes8No21.6 (of which 17,28 for media)NoNoDisplayPort
*Optional with ‘HDMI-Alt’ or MHL (or software-based with Displaylink: ** This is not entirely recommended, as the image quality can be compressed and be experienced as laggy) DisplayLink also has a significant “Virtual display” overhead on your CPU and lacks certain acceleration. You’ll also need to install specific drivers first, and these aren’t exactly known for their stability. So I would not recommend using a DisplayLink monitor/system, unless there is absolutely no alternative.

Which resolutions are supported with my port?

This is a tricky one. Do you need a single monitor? Dual monitors? Do you require HDR? is 30Hz okay? Or do you need 120 or even 144Hz?

The best way to have an idea of what’s possible is to fill in your desired resolution and bit-depth in this calculator. You can then compare the required bandwidth with the bandwidth of the port you’re willing to use. But keep in mind this calculator is limited to video signal only and does not include audio signal or any additional data you’d want to send through the cable.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 are logo certification programs from Intel that cost manufacturers time and money. So, while a USB 4 fitted computer could work with 40 Gbps devices and/or even those labeled as Thunderbolt, it may not be listed as Thunderbolt if it doesn’t go through certification.
  • Thunderbolt 3 and 4 devices are always compatible with USB-C devices, but NOT necessarily vice-versa. This means you can have USB-C ports which won’t work with Thunderbolt 3 or 4 devices, even if they have the same connector!
  • USB 4 devices are required to support at least 20 Gbps. They will often support 40 Gbps if they use a shorter 0.8 meter Gen 3 cable.
  • Is there a D-symbol (DisplayPort) next your USB-C port? This usually means you can use this port to transfer a DisplayPort video signal and connect a monitor.
  • Warning: Cables matter! Always make sure you have the correct type of cable. Also the length of your HDMI or USB-C / Thunderbolt cable can have an impact on throughput! So if you need to bridge a longer distance, don’t cheap-out on the quality of a cable and doublecheck if all requirements are met at said length. This is the reason why most USB-C/Thunderbolt docks have such tiny cables.

I hope my comparison table helped you out! Feel free to leave a comment or make a small donation to keep me going.

If you should see any mistake or would like to add anything I missed, please let me know!

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