What’s the Difference Between Passive and Active DisplayPort Adapters?

April 14, 2016 Tripp Lite

If you’re sending DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort signals from a computer or other video source device to a VGA, DVI or HDMI monitor, you’ll need an adapter. The type of DisplayPort adapter you need, passive or active, depends on the type of signal you’re converting to, how many monitors you’re using, and whether your video source supports dual-mode DisplayPort (DP++) output.

Passive DisplayPort Adapters

If your video source supports dual-mode DisplayPort (DP++), you can use a passive adapter to convert DisplayPort signals to single-link DVI or HDMI. The DP++ video source performs the conversion instead of the adapter. Source devices that support dual-mode DisplayPort are usually marked with the DP++ logo. Keep in mind that some graphics cards cannot support DP++ output on the maximum number of monitors. If you’re connecting to multiple monitors, you might need an active adapter.

active displayport adapter

Active DisplayPort Adapters

An active DisplayPort adapter converts both single-mode and dual-mode output, so your connected video source doesn ’t have to support DP++. The adapter performs the conversion from DisplayPort to VGA, DVI or HDMI instead of the source device. Active adapters are ideal for use with graphics cards, such as AMD Eyefinity, that do not output dual-mode signals.

Connecting to Multiple Monitors

If you’re planning to connect your DisplayPort video source to multiple VGA, DVI or HDMI monitors, you’ll probably need an active adapter or splitter, regardless of whether your video source supports DP++. This is because some graphics cards cannot support DP++ output on the maximum number of monitors. Most likely you ’ll also need an active adapter if you’re using multiple DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort connections. Device capabilities vary, so check with the graphics card manufacturer for the type of adapter that’s best for your application.

DisplayPort Multi-Stream Transport (MST) hubs are also an option for greater functionality when connecting a DisplayPort video source to multiple monitors. To take full advantage of MST features, like creating a video wall, your graphics card should support DisplayPort 1.2 standards.

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