There is reason to believe AMD might support the updated DisplayPort 2.0 specification with its next-generation graphics cards based on RDNA 3. If that comes to pass, it could pave the way for uncompressed 8K gaming in HDR, though we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves.
What's at play here are half a dozen new patches to AMD's open source unified graphics driver for Linux (AMDGPU). The latest patches (opens in new tab) (via Phoronix (opens in new tab)) come from AMD, and they add support for the DisplayPort 2.0 protocol.
The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) actually announced the DisplayPort 2.0 specification a little over two years ago, and then followed that up last year by adding an Alternate Mode (or Alt Mode) standard to the mix to provide "seamless interoperability with the new USB4 specifications published by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF)."
Alt Mode essentially enables all of the features of DisplayPort 2.0 through a USB Type-C connector, to split the bandwidth between video and data, if desired. And it is the bandwidth gain that is a big deal here.
DisplayPort 2.0 can deliver a maximum payload of up to 77.37 gigabits per second across four lanes (up to 19.34Gbps per lane), versus 48Gbps for HDMI 2.1 (opens in new tab). Without introducing compression, that's enough to feed up to a 10K resolution display at 60Hz, or an 8K display at 60Hz with full-color 30 bpp 4:4:4 HDR.
Introducing what's called Display Stream Compression (DSC) enables even higher resolutions and refresh rate combos—there's enough bandwidth to drive a 16K display (15360x8460) at 60Hz, also with full-color 30 bpp 4:4:4 HDR.
Both the monitor and graphics card need to support DisplayPort 2.0 in order to tap into all this bandwidth. At present, neither exist in the consumer space. It looks like that could change next year, though.
Back in January, VESA told our friends at Tom's Hardware (opens in new tab) that the pandemic delayed the timeline for getting DisplayPort 2.0 products into the wild.
"What's kind of created a delay is the Covid-19 situation," explained Craig Wiley, a representative for VESA. "What normally happens is that companies get together and test hardware among themselves to check out interoperability between a PC and a display. As a matter of fact, VESA has test events we call PlugTests, typically two or three a year. But we had none in 2020. This has caused a delay in debugging and developing."
At the time, Wiley said he expects DisplayPort 2.0 products would arrive sometime in the second half of this year. If that is the case, it almost definitely means we are looking at DisplayPort 2.0 monitors arriving first (opens in new tab), since we're not aware of any major GPU launches scheduled for this year.
Looking ahead, AMD's next-gen GPUs could support DisplayPort 2.0, and we wouldn't be surprised if Nvidia embraced the standard next year as well. Of course, the other side of the equation is delivering enough GPU horsepower to drive ultra-high resolution gaming.
We've only recently gotten to the point where comfortably gaming at 4K is feasible, though it still requires high-end hardware and/or upsampling routines like Nvidia's DLSS 2.0 and AMD's FidelityFX Super Resolution (Intel will also implement some kind of supersampling technique with its upcoming Alchemist GPUs).
So while DisplayPort 2.0 will provide another path to 8K gaming, it remains to be seen if next year's GPUs will actually be up to the task.