HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) has been connecting our TVs Blu-ray Disc players, media streamers, soundbars, and other entertainment gear for some time. The cable and connectors have been doing a good job, delivering us clear, engaging audio and video for a top-notch entertainment experience. But as is the case with all things technology related, there’s always room for improvement and always another better, faster, higher performing iteration right around the corner.
HDMI is no exception. Recently, the HDMI Forum, Inc. announced that it has improved upon the HDMI 2.0 specification that’s found on lots of equipment today with the development of a 2.1 version of HDMI. The upcoming release of Version 2.1 of the HDMI Specification not only handles 4K resolution at a 60Hz refresh rate needed for High Dynamic Range (HDR), but goes well beyond that bandwidth need. Its bandwidth handling jumps from 18Gbps found in HDMI 2.0 to 48Gbps, and will be able to carry resolutions up to 10K and frame rates at 120Hz (also 8K at 60Hz and 4K at 120Hz).
The new HDMI 2.1 Spec, which expected to be ready for manufacturers to implement into A/V products and cables in late spring, is basically creates a bigger pipe that is able to handle bigger resolutions and faster frame rates.
Another noteworthy enhancement HDMI 2.1 brings is the support of Dynamic HDR, not just plain old HDR. Dynamic HDR means that metadata can be passed for HDR content on a scene-by scene or even frame-by-frame basis instead of how the current version handles it on a per program basis. In other words, in regular HDR, or HDR10, the metadata is used to improve the picture quality of a program as whole; in Dynamic HDR, the metadata is used continuously, scene by scene, to improve the picture.
“We have no clear understanding of when products will be out. Many of the HDMI Forum members have an early look at the spec so they may be working on products already.”
— Chris Pasqualino, HDMI Forum Chairman
All of this sounds amazing, but don’t let this future benefits stall your plans to buy a new TV until HDMI 2.1 versions come out in 2018 (at least that’s the plan). Know that it will be years before we will see 8K or 10K content for HDMI 2.1 to even use. It took seemingly forever for 4K content to become available even after 4K TV and HDMI 2.0 had hit the marketplace. HDMI 2.1 will likely follow a similar path: TVs and other gear might be equipped with HDMI 2.1 connectors, and HDMI 2.1 cable might be available next year, but there won’t be any content to take advantage of the bigger bandwidth.
Still, it never hurts to know where home entertainment is headed. “This new release of the specification offers a broad range of advanced features for enhancing the consumer entertainment experience, as well as providing robust solutions to the commercial A/V sector,” says Robert Blanchard of Sony Electronics, president of the HDMI Forum.
Also know that HDMI 2.1 connectors and cables will look exactly like HDMI 2.0 cables and connectors and that the spec is backwards compatible. This means that you can connect any player that’s based on HDMI 2.0 to a TVs that’s HDMI 2.1.
Great Features of HDMI 2.1 in a nutshell:
- Higher Video Resolutions support a range of higher resolutions and faster refresh rates including 8K60Hz and 4K120Hz for immersive viewing and smooth fast-action detail.
- Dynamic HDR ensures every moment of a video is displayed at its ideal values for depth, detail, brightness, contrast, and wider color gamuts—on a scene-by-scene or even a frame-by-frame basis.
- 48G cables enable up to 48Gbps bandwidth for uncompressed HDMI 2.1 feature support including 8K video with HDR. The cable is backwards compatible with earlier versions of the HDMI Specification and can be used with existing HDMI devices.
- eARC supports the most advanced audio formats such as object-based audio, and enables advanced audio signal control capabilities including device auto-detect.
- Game Mode VRR features variable refresh rate, which enables a 3D graphics processor to display the image at the moment it is rendered for more fluid and better detailed gameplay, and for reducing or eliminating lag, stutter, and frame tearing.
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