September 21, 2007
| by Rebecca Day
No, HDMI doesn’t stand for Hard to Distinguish Multiple Iterations, although that’s how it has shaken out. The High-Definition Multimedia Interface is one of the more confusing and misunderstood features of HDTVs.
HDMI is the highest quality connection available for audio and video products, and it can support features including “Full HD” 1080p resolution and Dolby TrueHD that other connectors cannot. Moreover, HDMI is single-cable digital connector that sends audio and video signals, replacing eight or more audio and video cables.
The problem? HDMI comes in various versions—1.1, 1.2 and 1.3a—and you’re not guaranteed compatibility even within the same version. (All versions of HDMI, however, support 1080p resolution.)
Sony doesn’t even give a version of HDMI for its products, because a version of HDMI doesn’t tell consumers anything about the features the product packs inside. Instead, the company focuses on the features HDMI enables.
“HDMI 1.3 is not a minimum standard,” says Scott Ramirez, vice president of marketing at Toshiba America of Hitachi. “It’s a list of options, and when most people talk about 1.3, as far as video enhancements are concerned they’re talking about features like lip sync and Deep Color,” features for a future when content is available that can take advantage of those improved capabilities. “You don’t have to have anything in order to say you have 1.3, so it’s a little misleading to say you have it,” Ramirez says. All of Toshiba’s HDMI 1.3 sets have auto lip synch, which is just one of the options of 1.3. “People are throwing around 1.3 without asking what it means,” he says. “I can say everything is 1.3, but some models have Deep Color, and some don’t.”
For its part, Hitachi has elected to go with HDMI 1.2 for this year’s models, according to Bill Whalen, director of product development, since many of the options of 1.3 relate to features that won’t be in the market for a while. “You need both sides for HDMI to make sense,” he says, “but the content that can take advantage of 1.3 isn’t there. To go beyond 1.2 is just not practical in the marketplace today.”