Here’s Why All Gaming Laptops Should Have HDMI 2.1

HDMI 2.1 caused a sensation at CES 2021. It’s strange to say something about a port, but it can have a bigger impact on PC gaming than any flashy new gaming laptop or even a graphics card.

This could also help break the barrier that has existed between PC and console games since the beginning. Here’s why HDMI 2.1 could finally unite gaming – and why all gaming PCs should support it in the future.

Tear down walls

When it came to gaming, there was always a gap: consoles are for the living room and TVs, PCs are for desks and monitors. They have evolved separately and developed different technologies to meet their specific needs. In recent years this has become particularly important when it comes to ports.

PCs have gradually moved away from HDMI. You can still find HDMI 2.0 in laptops and desktop graphics cards, but most desktop gamers currently prefer the fast refresh rates that DisplayPort offers. All gaming monitors have it, as do desktop graphics cards. With DisplayPort 1.4, PCs could run 4K at 120 Hz. This is something that only high-end PCs have been able to take advantage of recently. DisplayPort also supports key synchronization technologies such as G-Sync or FreeSync to simplify gameplay.

In the console world, HDMI is still king. The main reason is that older consoles couldn’t take advantage of these resolutions and update rates anyway. But the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are changing all that. They are more like PCs than any other console before, and by using HDMI 2.1 they support 4K 120Hz just like DisplayPort.

We have reached a point of convergence. With the advent of HDMI 2.1, using DisplayPort over HDMI may not be of much benefit. This offers an incredible opportunity to add value to laptops and PC games as a whole.

Gaming laptops must support HDMI 2.1

At CES 2021, only one gaming laptop announced support for HDMI 2.1, the Alienware m15 R4. That might not sound like promising, but all technological developments start small, especially when it comes to changes in standards.

This is especially true since gaming laptops can only be played in 4K for the first time with the latest graphics upgrade to the Nvidia RTX 30 series. Manufacturers are only just starting to add 4K 120 Hz screens to laptops like the Asus ROG Zephryus Duo 15 SE.

Imagine for a moment that you had one of these powerful new HDMI 2.1 gaming laptops. You use it for work during the day and then you can freely switch between the game monitor in your office and the TV in your living room. Your wireless keyboard and mouse automatically connect at your desk, and when you go to the couch, so do your controllers. This would make the portability of gaming laptops so important, especially in a world where you still can’t buy the latest consoles or desktop graphics cards.

Of course, we still have a long way to go before HDMI 2.1 is fully adopted by the PC community. Not only is it currently available on the Alienware m15 R4, but it is only applied to selected monitors. It’s also not even a standard feature on all televisions.

In the meantime, VESA will certainly bring its own technology into the future with DisplayPort 2.0, which could once again increase bandwidth to keep HDMI one step ahead.

However, there’s a much better chance that PCs will adapt to HDMI 2.1 than TVs and consoles that move to DisplayPort or USB-C. It’s the only port that is already present on almost every device that we need it on. With that, HDMI 2.1 is the only hope of unifying high-end games across the many different platforms on which it currently exists.

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