Computer monitors that support HDMI 2.1, the latest HDMI
standard, are beginning to trickle into online retailers. They sell
at extremely high prices (when they're available at all). Even the
most affordable HDMI 2.1 monitors, like the Gigabyte Aorus FI32U
and Acer Nitro XV282K KV, are priced near
The high price of HDMI 2.1 implies it's important, but the truth
is more nuanced. HDMI 2.1 brings new features to the table, but
they're relevant only to people with specific needs. Making matters
even more complicated, the HDMI 2.0 spec has been retired. All of
its features are now considered a subset of HDMI 2.1, the only
label acceptable for use going forward, and you could end up with a
display that conforms to earlier specs despite being branded as
HDMI 2.1. You're going to have to read those spec sheets
This guide focuses on displays that actually support the full list of HDMI 2.1 features. Here's who
should, or shouldn't, buy an HDMI 2.1 monitor.
What is HDMI 2.1?
HDMI has become the world's video interface for consumer
electronics. You likely recognize it even if you don't know what
HDMI stands for (that's High-Definition Multimedia Interface, by
First introduced in 2002, HDMI's original standard has received
a number of updates to enable higher resolutions and refresh rates,
among other things.
The chart above, which can also be found in our guide to HDMI 2.1, lists the
improvements found in HDMI's latest revision.
It's a significant update on paper, but much of it doesn't apply
to monitors. Features like Dynamic HDR metadata and enhanced audio
return channel (eARC) target home theater enthusiasts.
Other features, like Quick Frame Transport (QFT) and Display Stream Compression (DSC) may be used by
monitors but were already available over DisplayPort, or adaptive
sync standards like AMD FreeSync and G-Sync.
For monitors, HDMI 2.1 is mostly about one specific upgrade:
Variable Refresh Rate (VRR).
Console gamers need HDMI
VRR, which can vary a display's refresh rate to match the output
frame rate of a device, is also available to monitors over
DisplayPort. It's the entire point of AMD's FreeSync and Nvidia's
G-Sync. VRR is important to a PC monitor not because of what it can
do, but what it can connect to.
Game consoles don't support DisplayPort, so HDMI 2.1's VRR is
the only way to dynamically sync the video output from a
PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S with the refresh rate of your
monitor. HDMI 2.1 also has the bandwidth to handle 4K resolution at
120Hz, which (usually) is not possible with HDMI 2.0.
Because of this, HDMI 2.1 is the only way to enjoy the full
performance potential of the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5.
Monitors that cap out at HDMI 2.0 will function, of course, but a
4K monitor will have its video output capped at 60Hz, or 60 frames
That's a big deal. It cuts the potential framerate of games in
half. Most new, big-budget games will not hit 120 fps, but older
titles that have received an update can. A great example is
Halo: Master Chief Collection. An HDMI 2.1 monitor paired
with an Xbox Series X can play the original Halo trilogy, plus
Halo Reach and Halo ODST, at up to 120 frames per
PC Gamers? Not so much.
HDMI 2.1 is a big upgrade for console gamers. If you're a PC
gamer, however, HDMI 2.1 will not impress.
The new standard's major features are already available to
computer monitors connected through DisplayPort. VRR is the most
obvious example. Nvidia G-Sync was first introduced all the way
back in 2013, and AMD responded with FreeSync in 2015. PC gamers
have enjoyed the smooth gameplay provided by adaptive sync for
HDMI 2.1's improved resolution and refresh rate also fail to
move the needle. DisplayPort added Display Stream Compression with
2016's DisplayPort 1.4 update, which made 4K high-refresh monitors
possible. DisplayPort 2.0, the most current standard, can
technically handle up to 4K/240Hz, though no monitor or video card
sold today can take advantage of this.
You can imagine DisplayPort dancing around HDMI shouting, anything you can do, I can do better! The only
advantage HDMI 2.1 offers to PC gamers is one extra video port that
can now be used for high refresh gaming.
Do I need
HDMI 2.1 for my home or office monitor?
Everything discussed so far is focused on gaming, and for good
reason. HDMI 2.1 is all but irrelevant for everything else.
There are edge cases where HDMI 2.1 might be helpful. HDMI 2.1
can handle a 5K or 8K display at up to 120Hz (using DSC). HDMI 2.0
could only handle these displays at lower refresh rates or with a
reduction in image quality.
DisplayPort already supports these resolutions, however, so HDMI
2.1 once again follows in its footsteps. Most people who own a 5K
or 8K monitor will connect it via DisplayPort.
If you use your monitor for word processing, web browser, and
light gaming, you don't need to worry about HDMI 2.1 at all. The
prior HDMI standard, HDMI 2.0, supports 4K at 60Hz. That's the
highest resolution and refresh rate you'll find on a monitor
designed for home office or commercial office use.
Do I need HDMI 2.1
to be future-proof?
HDMI 2.1 is only relevant to console gamers right now. But what
about next year, or five years from now? Should you buy an HDMI 2.1
monitor to prepare for tomorrow's cutting-edge hardware?
The answer is a clear nope! DisplayPort once again steals HDMI's
thunder. It can already handle all the important improvements in
HDMI 2.1 so, aside from console gaming, there's no reason to seek
out HDMI 2.1 specifically.
monitor shoppers can skip HDMI 2.1 (but it's coming for
You might be surprised to learn how narrow HDMI 2.1's appeal
truly is. It has received plenty of hype over the past two years,
most of which comes from the world of big-screen televisions.
HDTVs, unlike monitors, rarely support DisplayPort, so the
improvements available in HDMI 2.1 are a big deal.
It's a different story for monitors. DisplayPort can already
handle the most relevant upgrades, so the new HDMI standard is only
important when connecting devices that don't support DisplayPort,
such as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X game consoles.
HDMI 2.1 will come to every monitor eventually, of course. New
standards eventually become old standards, and HDMI 2.1 will be no
Until then, the takeaway is simple. Monitor shoppers who only
plan to use a monitor with a PC can safely ignore HDMI 2.1.