Just how long do DisplayPort cables last? It’s a question that anyone buying this premium video and audio transmission cable has asked at some point. Is it worth buying an expensive, high-quality DisplayPort cable to make it last longer, or will the technology advance so fast that there’s little point? With DisplayPort 2.1 now becoming more widely available, is it worth buying now to future-proof your cabling?
If you want to make the most of the new, higher bandwidth transmission modes you certainly will, but how long can you expect such cables to last?
Answering that sort of question isn’t easy, as it depends on a number of factors, but know that the best DisplayPort cables will last the longest. Let’s take a look at how long DisplayPort cables last, and what might affect their longevity the most.
A Brief Overview of DisplayPort
DisplayPort cables are one of the most popular cable types for video and audio transmission on desktop PCs. They connect a computer or other source device to a display, typically a PC monitor, and support a wide range of resolutions and refresh rates. That includes modest resolutions and refresh rates like 480p and 720p, as well as 30Hz and 60Hz. The latest versions can support ultra high definition resolutions like 4K and 8K and high refresh rates like 240Hz at higher resolutions, or even up to 900Hz for 1080p.
The DisplayPort connector has a unique, asymmetrical shape, that can only be plugged in one way. It features 20 pins in both its full-size, and miniature version. In recent years the underlying DisplayPort protocol technology has been used by USB-C connections to handle video and audio transmission. This is now available in new generations of USB-C connections, like USB4, as well as Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4.
DisplayPort is often considered a competitor of HDMI, but while both connector options do feature on most desktop monitors – especially gaming monitors which focus on high resolutions and refresh rates – both cables have their niches. HDMI is more prevalent in living room electronics, like TVs, gaming consoles, A/V systems, and Blu-ray players. DisplayPort, on the other hand, is more prevalent in desktop computers, with most high-end graphics cards featuring multiple DisplayPort connectors, alongside a single HDMI port.
There have been a number of DisplayPort generations since its inception, with DisplayPort 1.4 being the most popular at the time of writing. However, DisplayPort 2.1 debuted with AMD’s RX 7000-series graphics cards at the end of 2022, and new, DisplayPort 2.1 displays are set to launch throughout 2023. In the years to come, DisplayPort 2.1 is likely to become the dominant DisplayPort standard.
This is a big deal, as DisplayPort 2.1 raises the bar for performance and features considerably over DisplayPort 1.4. With a total bandwidth of up to 80 Gbps, and a functional data rate of 77.37 Gbps, DisplayPort 2.1 can support 4K resolution at up to 240Hz, and even 8K resolution at up to 85Hz.
Factors Affecting the Lifespan of DisplayPort Cables
DisplayPort durability isn’t typically one of the major features of a cable, but it’s something you can definitely infer from the quality of the cable you’re buying. DisplayPort cables that are made to a high standard have tightly wrapped internal wires, foil, and braided shielding, a gold-plated connector that helps combat corrosion over time, and a molded strain relief boot.
None of those features make a DisplayPort cable indestructible, but DisplayPort durability is much improved when they’re there.
Cheap cables can be damaged by overuse, such as plugging and unplugging them multiple times. This can lead to the port or cable wearing down, making for a less secure connection. That can lead to the cable falling out, resulting in display flickering, or a lack of connection altogether. Even a loose cable can be problematic there, as it only takes a small knock to lose connection altogether.
Overly zealous plugging in of a DisplayPort cable can also lead to damaging the internal pins, which would potentially make it non-functional if a connection cannot be made at all.
Bending and tying the cable too tightly can also result in damage to the internal wiring. This is particularly problematic with longer cables, which are more prone to being wound up for cable management or storage purposes. Braiding and solid construction of the cable can help prevent this, but it’s still a factor with even some of the best DisplayPort cables.
Longer DisplayPort cables have a higher chance of failure, too, because it takes less interference to cause an issue with the signal the cable is transmitting. By the nature of being longer, the signal is weaker by the time it reaches its intended destination. Where shorter cables, with a stronger signal, might be able to handle a little interference from a damaged portion of the cable, longer runs may not be so lucky.
The environment in which the cable operates or is stored matters, too. Overly humid environments, or particularly high temperatures, could lead to damage to the outer protective layer of the cabling, resulting in interference to the internal wiring in turn. It would have to be a particularly intense environment for that to happen, however, since high-quality DisplayPort cables are typically rated for between -30 degrees and 85 degrees Celsius.
If a DisplayPort cable is handled with care and not used in environments that stretch its rated specifications to the limit, there’s no reason to think that a DisplayPort cable can’t last for many years.
Signs of Wear and Tear on DisplayPort Cables
How long does a DisplayPort cable last? Until you start to see problems.
Although the only real ways that a DisplayPort cable can go bad, are physical problems, you might see the signs of wear and tear appear on your monitor before you see it on the cable itself.
If your DisplayPort cable has a problem with the connection, such as the header wearing down, or one of the internal pins being bent out of shape, you might start to get an inconsistent picture. That could result in flickering, as the image tries to materialize, or in visual artifacts in the video itself.
If you’re playing something with audio, you might have problems with stuttering or hitching in the audio, where the audio will just disappear altogether.
In the worst case, you’ll find that the cable simply can’t establish a connection, and your monitor will simply display No connection or the equivalent error message for your particular brand of monitor.
In any of these instances, there are a few ways you can confirm that there’s a problem with your DisplayPort cable. The first is to physically examine the cable itself. Is the outer jacket torn anywhere, exposing internal wires? Is the header loose or has it come free from the main body of the cable? You might also consider the color of the cable’s outer jacket. If it has faded due to sun exposure, that might mean that the jacket has also weakened, and could be more prone to cracking or tearing, which could expose the internal wires to electromagnetic interference if further damaged.
Check the wires on the DisplayPort connector at each end, and see if any of them are bent or broken. You could also check to see if the metallic portions of the header have worn down over repeated usage. Take a close look at the boot that protects the cable’s connection to its DisplayPort header, too, as that can come loose if improperly handled, causing the wires to become exposed to the environment, leading to potentially further damage or interference.
If the cable looks fine, test it out on another display and, if possible, another source device too, such as another desktop PC, or laptop. That way you can rule out a problem with either the display or source device, too.
How Long Do DisplayPort Cables Last?
DisplayPort cables aren’t typically sold with an explicit shelf life. Indeed, the way they are used, handled, and stored makes just as much a difference to how long DisplayPort cables can last, as the cable quality itself. Build quality is still a major factor, but if you buy a cable and store it in a dark, dry environment it will still work just as well as if it were new, years later. A cable that is plugged and unplugged multiple times a day, every day, isn’t going to fare so well.
In more likely scenarios, however, where a DisplayPort cable is bought, plugged in, and typically left for months or years before being unplugged and plugged in somewhere else, there’s no reason that a DisplayPort cable can’t work just as well years after its purchase. If you treat it well, don’t wind it up too tightly, don’t plug and unplug it too vigorously without due care, and don’t otherwise bend, break, or tear the cable itself, then it should work just as well years later.
Cable Matters DisplayPort cables come with at least a one-year warranty, and there are some products that offer lifetime warranties. With every cable, however, Cable Matters offers lifetime support, so if you suspect that your DisplayPort cable’s durability is failing, you can always get in touch for some advice.