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HDMI vs. USB-C: Full Comparison and Key Differences

hdmi vs. usb-c

HDMI vs. USB-C: Full Comparison and Key Differences

HDMI vs. USB-C: which is the better standard? The introduction of USB 3.0 and the advent of the Type-C connector brought quite a few improvements to the computer-oriented standard. Most notably the addition of power delivery and allowing for displays made the Type-C connector a popular choice for laptops and other portable devices.

HDMI, on the other hand, is a far older standard. Its introduction coincides directly with the rise of high-definition media in the home. It provides a tidy and simple solution to providing the necessary bandwidth not only for high-resolution video but also for high-quality sound operating in various configurations. Which of these standards is better when it comes to video?

HDMI vs. USB-C: Side-by-Side Comparison

HDMIUSB-C
Maximum Throughput48Gbps20Gbps
Power DeliveryNoYes
Data TransferOnly for video and audio data streamsVideo, audio, network, and file transfers are all possible depending on the attached peripheral
CompatibilityFound on all modern televisions, some laptops, and a majority of GPUs on the marketPrimarily found on portable devices, but growing in popularity across other devices
Maximum Resolution8K4K
Maximum Refresh Rate120Hz240Hz
PurposeAllowing for a universal standard for the transmission of audio and video to specified interfacesJack-of-all-trades, a universal connector of sorts for modern computing

As you can see, the capabilities between both standards have some similarities as well as differences. USB-C is a more capable port but has less throughput.

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  • Backward compatible with previous HDMI versions (not for 8K).
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  • Package includes one 10 ft cable with a thickness of 0.24 inches
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03/10/2024 06:17 am GMT

HDMI vs. USB-C: What’s the Difference?

When looking at both HDMI and USB-C, it is important to understand that the former is solely intended for multimedia use. You can use USB-C for a variety of different functions, which greatly increases its overall versatility.

Capabilities

hdmi vs. usb-c
HDMI is widespread across video devices like televisions and monitors.

When it comes to capabilities and the diversity of its core functions, USB-C is the clear winner. It can be used for just about every function you can fathom for a computer. Smartphones have begun using it as the primary interface for connecting to a computer or charging. Most modern laptops you’ll find also come with the port as one of the standard options.

However, one of the best uses of USB-C comes in the form of DisplayPort. While the ports may appear entirely different, USB-C allows for the latest DisplayPort protocol to be used. HDMI on the other hand is a purpose-built connector and standard for handling video and audio streams.

It lacks more robust functionality but allows for resolutions of up to 8K at 60Hz. The latest HDMI 2.1 also allows for uncompressed audio, thanks to the larger bandwidth available. You’re not likely to find a TV with a USB-C port at this time, but HDMI is going to be widespread through just about any major manufacturer.

Throughput

The latest HDMI 2.1 standard has increased the available bandwidth for the standard significantly. It allows for lossless audio in a 7.1-channel configuration as well as supporting 8K resolution at a 60Hz refresh rate. This is a significant improvement and a way for HDMI to continue to innovate and stay relevant as the growing demand is created for bigger and better TVs.

In comparison, USB-C doesn’t have nearly as much available bandwidth. However, that same bandwidth can be used for more than just video. It can power audio devices, transfer data from external storage, and so forth. So while USB-C might have less than half of the available throughput of HDMI 2.1, it can be used for more than just video.

This versatility for the port itself has led to a far greater amount of accessories and peripherals taking advantage of the flexibility. HDMI is always going to just be a video standard, like the S-Video and Component cables of yesteryear it has replaced. USB-C is likely the future of computing, a universal port that fits and does just about everything.

Compatibility

hdmi vs. usb-c
USB-C is backward compatible with older protocols, much like any other USB port.

HDMI is fully backward compatible with older revisions of the standard. All this means is that you can hook up an HDMI 1.0 Blu-Ray player to a 2.1 TV and enjoy the higher resolution. It only supports the highest standard if both devices are on it. You will find HDMI across a wide variety of devices. Many business-grade laptops utilize it for connecting to external displays.

You will also find it on soundbars, surround sound receivers, televisions, and graphics cards among others. While DisplayPort might be the better medium for computer screens, there is no getting around the universal appeal of HDMI. It provides a tidy and easy solution across a wide variety of displays and audio solutions for computing and home theater needs.

USB-C is a newer standard, one that isn’t fully universal across computing just yet. However, the fact remains that USB-C is becoming more and more prevalent across devices. You’ll find ports on most modern laptops like the ones offered by Lenovo and Apple. It also shows up fairly frequently in gaming consoles, like the Nintendo Switch.

Like older USB standards, the latest version of USB-C is compatible with older devices. Much like HDMI, it only supports the newest standard if both devices are operating on the same protocol.

Power Delivery

When it comes to power delivery, there isn’t a contest between the two. HDMI has no support for providing power to external devices. You’ll see this in home theater setups where the likes of receivers and soundbars still have their power supplies when running through the eARC port.

HDMI isn’t designed to be a catch-all port for modern computing and functions as you might expect. USB-C on the other hand, has a few tricks up its sleeve beyond just the DisplayPort functionality. Power delivery isn’t enough to power the likes of a high-powered desktop PC.

However, USB-C allows for enough power to charge a laptop or tablet, as has been seen with the last few generations of Apple hardware. Power delivery works as you’d expect, but greatly cuts down on the chargers you need to carry around when working on the go.

HDCP Compliance

This is less of a point of comparison and more just a note for both. HDCP is a form of encryption used by licensed media on streaming services and physical media alike. You need a device with HDCP compliance to play any of these data streams, which is something built into HDMI natively. HDMI has supported the protection scheme as long as it has been around.

USB-C over DisplayPort does have HDCP support as well. You aren’t likely to run a USB-C monitor in your home theater. However, many users are watching streaming services on their computers. It is hard to imagine a modern society where work-at-home individuals don’t have reruns of hit shows running as background noise.

That said, HDCP compliance is prevalent in both of these connectors. It isn’t so much a matter of which to choose, but where you feel most comfortable viewing things.

Wide Compatibility
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03/10/2024 06:21 am GMT

HDMI vs. USB-C: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • HDMI has no data transfer capabilities.
  • HDMI has a higher maximum resolution compared to USB-C.
  • USB-C uses DisplayPort to transmit audio and video data.
  • USB-C is a fantastic connector for just about all portable peripherals on the market right now.
  • USB-C is compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and 4, but can’t take advantage of the advanced capabilities.

HDMI vs. USB-C: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Choose?

So, which of these connectors is the winner? Honestly, it isn’t a clear-cut answer. If you’re looking for components to complement your home theater setup, then HDMI seems like a natural choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking to kit out a MacBook Pro, USB-C is the natural choice. It isn’t so much a battle of capabilities with these connectors. Instead, it is more about what you need out of a device.

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    • 4K HDMI Cable supporting 60Hz video, 2K, and 1080P.
    • Quality build with 30WG copper wire and gold-plated connectors.
    • Backward compatible with previous HDMI versions (not for 8K).
    • Compatible with various devices like PS5, Xbox, laptops, and more.
    • Package includes one 10 ft cable with a thickness of 0.24 inches
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    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/10/2024 06:17 am GMT
  2. Amazon Basics USB-C to USB-C 2.0 Fast Charging Cable
    $10.35
    • Reversible design
    • Up to 480Mbps data transfer speed
    • Certified by USB-IF to be compliant with USB 2.0
    • Ideal for syncing data and music
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    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/10/2024 06:21 am GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you run HDMI on USB-C devices?

You certainly can, there are adapters for sale that allow you to connect an HDMI display to a USB-C port.

Does HDMI allow for data transfer?

No, there is zero capability for handling traditional file transfers.

Does HDMI support higher refresh rates?

Yes, you can find HDMI displays with up to 120Hz refresh rates.

Are USB-C displays actually HDMI?

No, they are technically DisplayPort.

Is USB-C faster than SATA?

For file transfers, yes. You’ll have greater speeds using an external USB-C SSD than you would with a SATA equivalent.

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