When you think of HDMI cables, you probably imagine the cables used to connect your cable box, television, streaming devices, and gaming systems. But HDMI isn’t just a cable, it’s also a standard that determines which types of signals can be transmitted between devices.
On Jan. 4, the HDMI Forum announced the launch of HDMI 2.1, the latest HDMI version, which will have a number of improvements to its capabilities.
As HDMI 2.1 cables hit the market, what should we expect to see?
- One of the biggest differences is that these new HDMI high-speed cables will support a higher resolution. Highspeed HDMI cables previously only reached 4K resolution — which is still pretty high — but these new cables function at 8K resolution at 60 Hz, and an unprecedented 10K at 48 gigabits per second. However, these cables are backwards compatible with 4K devices at 120 Hz.
- While resolution doesn’t always translate to better picture quality, there’s one thing for certain: newer televisions have a far superior high dynamic range (HDR). HDMI 2.1 is compatible with HDR, which controls brightness, contrast, and color of the image depending on scene, or even frame.
- These new HDMI high-speed cables also come with improved audio capabilities. The audio return channel makes setting up soundbars or A/V receivers much simpler. The latest version, called eARD, keeps functionality essentially the same but is now compatible with systems like Dolby Vision and DTS:X.
- While most of these features are geared toward those who own a home theater or advanced entertainment center, HDMI 2.1 also has improved gaming compatibilities. Game Mode VRR refreshes seamlessly, reducing delays in motion as well as saving, and prevents tearing. For gamers, the best part may be the shorter input lag, meaning that the controls are more precise.
These new specifications will be made available to all HDMI 2.0 adopters when the version is officially released in the second quarter of 2017.
As far as adoption goes, it is up to product manufacturers to decide whether they will revamp their devices. Apple, for example, has disregarded new technology adoption in the past. The tech giant still uses USB 2.0 in place of USB 3 versions. In Apple’s case, using 12 watt iPad chargers in place of 5-watt chargers are a more economical way to get a faster charge than upgrading cables.
As far as the new HDMI version, it is unclear how Apple and other manufacturers will respond.