The Latest on the New HDMI Standard: HDMI 2.1

By John Purvey

To support higher video resolution and refresh rates and real-time, interactive technology such as virtual reality, the HDMI Forum continues to update HDMI specifications.

First announced in late 2017, the newest HDMI standard for video cables and connections – HDMI 2.1 – is faster than its predecessors, and ready to support dynamic high dynamic range video (enhancing a video’s depth, detail, brightness, contrast and color). An HDMI 2.1 connection can handle 4K video at up to 120 fps (frames per second), which helps create a more realistic-looking image.

Nearly tripling the bandwidth of HDMI 2.0, which was released in 2013, HDMI 2.1 transmits video and audio signals between devices at a maximum transmission speed of 48Gbps (as compared to 18Gbps with HDMI 2.0). New video outputs for HDMI 2.1 will include 4K video at 120 Hz and 8K video at 60 Hz.

Based on bandwidth capabilities, HDMI 2.1 can technically carry up to 10K resolution from a source to a screen, but 10K hasn’t yet been defined beyond approximately 10,000 horizontal pixels, and isn’t a standard format yet.

Smooth, seamless motion and transitions will be possible through the enhanced refresh-rate features of HDMI 2.1, such as:

  • Variable refresh rate (VRR) to reduce lag, stutter and frame tearing
  • Quick media switching (QMS) to eliminate a delay that results in a blank screen before displaying content
  • Quick frame transport (QFT) to decrease latency for smoothness and no lag
  • Auto low latency mode (ALLM), which automatically sets the ideal latency for smooth, lag-free and uninterrupted content

Unlike previous HDMI standards, HDMI 2.1 will require new HDMI cables (Ultra High Speed HDMI Cables) to take advantage of the higher resolutions and frame rates. Connectors will stay the same.

The cables will be backward compatible, and able to function with HDMI gear that operates according to previous standards. But it will take time for HDMI 2.1 to become mainstream – it was created for formats and resolutions (such as 120 fps content for 4K TVs or 60 fps content for 8K TVs) that won’t be widespread for years.

What Each HDMI Standard is Known For

To see how far HDMI has come since its inception in 2002, we compiled a brief list of the most prominent HDMI standards and what they introduced to the industry:

    • HDMI 1.0: First version of HDMI with a maximum bandwidth of 4.95Gbps
    • HDMI 1.1: Added support for DVD audio
    • HDMI 1.2: Added support for one-bit audio format
    • HDMI 1.3: Maximum bandwidth of 10.2Gbps to support high-definition displays
    • HDMI 1.4: 4K resolution at up to 30 fps with a maximum bandwidth of 10.2Gbps
    • HDMI 2.0: Enabled momentum of 4K video with resolution of up to 60 fps and a maximum bandwidth of 18Gbps

Although you don’t need to rush out and invest in new HDMI cables just yet, it’s important to track what’s changing in the world of HDMI standards so you know what to expect in the future.

If you have any questions about HDMI 2.1, or how it may impact you, contact Belden. We’re happy to answer your questions or help find solutions to support the technology you use.

This message was reprinted with permission from Belden and originally appeared here.