What cables do you need for your 8K monitor?

What cables do you need for your 8K monitor?

8K is the next great resolution standard on TVs and monitors for professionals, media lovers, and gamers alike. It may take a few years to become as ubiquitous as 4K or 1080p, but it's coming and that means sooner or later you're going to be enjoying the beauty of a near life-like picture on an 8K screen. But you can only make the most of that new monitor on your 8K-ready PC or console if you have the right cable for the job.

DisplayPort 8K monitors

Whether you're buying an 8K monitor for general use, or want an 8K gaming monitor, you're almost certainly best using a DisplayPort 1.4 cable. This cable standard is widely available now, is long proven, and comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, lengths, and adapters. It has all the bandwidth you need for an 8K monitor – it supports up to 8K resolution at 30Hz as standard, or up to 60Hz with HDR using Display Stream Compression (DSC) – and all high-end graphics cards support it.

Currently, one of the most popular 8K monitor options is the Dell UltraSharp UP3218K. It is the first widely available 8K monitor and features a 32-inch, native 8K IPS panel with gorgeous colors, and a great brightness of 400 nits. It doesn't support DSC, but with twin DisplayPort 1.4 connectors and Tile Display technology, you can leverage two DisplayPort cables to run the display at up to its natively supported 60Hz.

DisplayPort 1.4 does support higher refresh rates, but only at lower resolutions.

While the 6ms response time and 60Hz refresh rate of the Dell display aren't stellar for a gaming monitor, this is as good as it gets for now. As 8K becomes a more popular resolution and higher-end graphics cards make the resolution more playable on mainstream hardware, expect to see a lot more of these sorts of displays becoming available in the months and years to come.

For the biggest monitors, you'll want to sit at a distance. Keep your PC close by using an active DisplayPort cable to run across the room without inhibiting the signal.

HDMI 8K monitors

At the time of writing, there are no dedicated 8K monitors, nor any 8K gaming monitors that support HDMI 2.1 connections. That doesn't mean you can't get an 8K display, though. 8K TVs are becoming a real phenomenon with some of the largest, most detailed displays ever created now sporting the new resolution standard.

To make this resolution possible, 8K TVs need to leverage the latest of HDMI technologies. The Samsung Q900 sports four HDMI 2.1 connectors. It's more than just a new port though, it's a new cable standard. It's far more capable than HDMI 2.0, offering support for far more bandwidth than even DisplayPort 1.4. The HDMI 2.1 standard opens the door for 8K resolutions at 30Hz without any compression, or up to 120Hz with DSC in play.

There is an HDMI 2.1 gaming monitor available for pre-order, but for now HDMI 2.1 is reserved for 8K TVs like the LG Signature Z9, which features an OLED panel with full support for 8K resolution, HDR10 Pro technology, and various clever upscaling features. It also has four HDMI ports, which take full advantage of the best HDMI 2.1 cables for a great looking 8K picture.

The next-generation of gaming consoles from Microsoft and Sony – the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, respectively – will make HDMI 2.1 far more popular, though. These new game consoles will debut in the 2020 holiday season, and look set to sport HDMI 2.1 connections as standard. They have also both been revealed to support 8K resolution. While that is unlikely to mean 8K gaming – 8K content will likely be the focus, it will mean that the HDMI 2.1 port and its associated cables become a viable solution to support 8K resolution.

That means 8K monitors and TVs will become far more supported, and therefore far more available, and affordable.

Considering these two systems will employ a next-generation AMD RDNA2 graphics chip at their core, that likely means that the desktop version of that GPU generation – set to debut towards the end of 2020– will likely support HDMI 2.1 too. There's even a possibility of support for next-generation DisplayPort 2.0 too.

Be prepared

So, what cables do you need for your 8K monitor? That's a simple question to answer today, when there is only one mainstream 8K monitor: a quality, DisplayPort 1.4 cable from a reputable seller, like Cable Matters.

If you're planning to use a next-generation games console on a future 8K gaming monitor or TV, then a quality HDMI 2.1 cable is your best bet. If you plan to upgrade to an 8K gaming monitor and next-generation graphics card for 8K gaming on your desktop PC, then HDMI 2.1 will likely be an option, but it's possible you'll have the option of DisplayPort 2.0 too.

When 8K-capable laptops appear a little while later, there will also be the option of USB-C connections. But don't worry about that limiting your 8K monitor options. For that, there are excellent USB-C to DisplayPort adapters.

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