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Any port in a storm: the display tech battle

HDMI. DisplayPort. UDI. Three rivals, only one winner. Which will it be?

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Feature Take a look at the back of a typical HDTV, and you'll almost certainly see at the very least one or more Scart connectors; a handful of RCA jacks to feed in stereo audio, composite video and component video; and at least one High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port...

You might even see a VGA or DVI connector to allow the telly to be hooked up to a PC. In the computer world, we seem to have it easy with these two: VGA for old, analogue displays and DVI for digital connections. DVI was introduced just over eight years ago as VGA's successor, but it has yet to finish it off, despite supporting analog signals as well as digital.

Then there's LVDS, often overlooked because it's hidden away in modern laptops, connecting the LCD to the graphics engine.

What's needed, manufacturers decided, is a single, universal connector to replace all these. In the TV world, that's what HDMI was designed to be: a digital successor to the many different, incompatible analogue connectors that would replace them with a single, compact, cheap and consumer-friendly plug.

UDI logo

DisplayPort logo

HDMI logo
The contenders...

Computers could do with something similar, not only to finally rid them of vestigal analogue connections but also to move to a more user-friendly connector than the bulky screwed-in DVI. It could also be used for both internal displays and external screens. What the PC world needs, in short, is something not so very different from HDMI.

HDMI, however, was designed for HDTV, and computer monitors and graphics cards can now deliver resolutions well in excess of that. But the convergence of these two worlds means more people nowadays want to connect PCs to TVs.

The upshot: three emerging standards are competing for the space on the back of desktops and notebooks used to host the link out to other picture-showing devices: HDMI, Unified Display Interface (UDI) and DisplayPort.

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