Traditionally, most displays have had a relatively low refresh rate, compared to the high refresh rate displays that it’s possible to get now. Most people have only ever used LCD monitors that run at 60hz at most.
However, times are changing, and monitors with much higher refresh rates are not only readily available, but are becoming a commonplace choice for many consumers – especially those consumers interested in gaming!
High refresh rates are perfect for gaming, as the higher the refresh rate, the smoother gaming experience you can have.
So, if you’re in the market for a new monitor – or are looking to see if you can squeeze the most out of your existing one – you might be wondering if it’s possible to have your display working at high refresh rates, without replacing your other hardware – i.e. you GPU with its HDMI ports, and of course, your HDMI cables!
Well, we’ve gathered all of the relevant information for you in this quick and handy article. SO, if the question of whether you can run a 144hz signal over regular old HDMI is on your mind, then this article is for you!
What Is HDMI?
HDMI is a proprietary standard for video transmission that’s been in use for much of the past 2 decades. It stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface.
First developed in 2002, it went on to be the de facto standard for connecting monitors and televisions to practically anything that will output a video signal – from computers and games consoles, to set-top boxes, DVRS, and DVD/BluRay players.
Although in that time it has since been superseded by even more advanced technologies (such as DisplayPort), HDMI is still extremely widely used, and is far from being obsolete.
However, as it’s no longer the new kid on the block, it’s a reasonable question to ask – do you need to upgrade from HDMI?
Well, generally speaking – if things are working fine for you, then of course not! There’s no need to spend time and money just for the sake of it, and if you’re happy with the performance of your equipment, then save your money for later on down the road.
However, it’s possible that you won’t be able to squeeze the absolute most out of your equipment if it’s all connected on HDMI, if you’re looking to access higher refresh rates.
HDMI has been revised over the years, and has become more powerful, with greater available bandwidth for sending video signals at higher and higher esolutions, and of course, much higher refresh rates!
What Is Refresh Rate?
Simply put, the refresh rate of a monitor or tv is the amount of times that it can change what’s being displayed. It’s measured in hertz (Hz), which tells us how many times this change happens per second.
For instance, a refresh rate of 60 hz means that the monitor will change what’s being displayed 60 times per second.
60 times per second certainly sounds like a lot – and indeed, it actually is.
Films, for example, are typically only shot at 24fps, which is something that we’ve all got used to over the decades – in fact, viewers often complain when some content (the movie The Hobbit springs to mind) is created at higher rates than 24 frames (or fields) per second, as it doesn’t fit in with the cinematic aesthetic that we’ve collectively grown used to.
Many monitors are now being made to take advantage of higher refresh rates than 60hz, however, due to how big of a leap in quality it can be for games.
Games typically will generate as many frames as possible per second, while still maintaining the same actual game speed. To someone playing a game, the difference between 30hz and 60hz is huge, and immediately noticeable – and for many gamers, 60hz is now a bare minimum standard.
ANything lower than that is simply unacceptable – things look more stuttery, motion looks worse overall, and controls are less responsive too! At 60hz, things look a lot smoother, and games generally “feel” better to play.
And, increasing beyond that, we’re in the realm of high refresh rate monitors, with 144hz being the standard – although 165hz monitors are fairly commonplace, and it’s not unheard of to see monitors that can run over 300hz too. Of course, to display things at these ridiculous framerates takes a lot of beef from your computer.
After all, a game running at 60hz needs to generate twice the amount of images per second as one running at 30hz. At 300hz, the game needs to generate 10 times the amount of images per second!
Can I Run A 144hz Display Over HDMI?
With that in mind, you may be wondering whether it’s possible at all to reach higher refresh rates with HDMI-based equipment.
Well, while it’s usually preferable to use a connector like DisplayPort if it’s available, as it has supported high refresh rates and resolutions since its inception, there’s still a use case for HDMI!
Essentially, the issue comes down to available bandwidth. There are currently 5 (broad) version numbers of HDMI, each newer one offering an increase on available bandwidth from the previous.
If you’re still running things that are from the very earliest version of HDMI, 1.1, then not one part of the equipment will be equipped to run at 144hz – in fact, you’ll be limited to 60hz refresh rate at most.
Furthermore, you’ll only be able to use resolutions of 1080p or lower.
Skipping over the revisions to the standard, we don’t reach a HDMI version that can handle 144hz signals until version 1.3b. Any cable that meets or exceeds this version will be able to feed a 144hz display running at 1080p resolution.
However, the only way to be sure that your HDMI equipment and cables will all be able to feed a high resolution, high refresh rate display, at all modern resolutions, is to ensure that your equipment meets the HDMI 2.1 spec, and that you’re using an HDMI 2.1 compatible cable too.
This will let you run a 4k display (3840*2160 pixels, which gives it approximately 4 times the pixels of a 1080p display!) at 144hz with ease, and in fact even has the potential to run higher resolution displays – although, at the moment that’s a moot point, as displays that break the 4k barrier are rare and expensive, as is hardware that can push such a display to its limit.
A games console doesn’t come near requiring that amount of display bandwidth – and a PC that can will cost an arm and a leg!
So, you can run 144hz signals over HDMI – but definitely not if you’re using equipment and cables from the very early days of HDMI. HDMI 2.1, the modern standard, can certainly do it – so if it works for you, then great.
However, if DisplayPort is an option, it’s probably best to choose it every time!