For most homeowners, HDMI cables are an afterthought in the AV setup. Although your current cables that attach your Blu-ray to your television, soundbar, or projector operate perfectly, they may soon become obsolete as HDMI 2.1 becomes more widespread. The next TV, gaming console, or media streamer you purchase may require the new HDMI cable standard, which allows for higher bandwidth, frame rates, and resolution. Here is Origin Hi-Fi's guide to help you understand the different features of HDMI 2.0 and 2.1.
How does HDMI 2.0 operate?
HDMI 2.0 dates from 2013, and it can pass 4K content at 60fps (frames per second), with a maximum bandwidth of 18Gbps (gigabits per second). It is utilized mainly by video games that track several moving parts all at once, such as flying bullets or speeding cars. In comparison, most films are 24fps and TV programs are 30fps. Less than two years later, HDMI 2.0a was launched to support HDR (High Dynamic Range) video, which balances the contrast levels between the brightest whites and darkest blacks. Just a year later, another update brought HDMI 2.0b with support for the HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) HDR format. HLG can combine dynamic and high dynamic range images into a single video signal that can play on any TV. HDMI 2.0b has been considered the highest consumer standard; until now.
How does HDMI 2.1 operate?
HDMI 2.1 can handle 10K content at 120fps! The massively increased number of pixels requires correspondingly higher bandwidth. HDMI 2.1 cables can handle up to 48Gbps and can support Dynamic HDR at 4K/120fps and 8K/60fps.
Game consoles and virtual reality headsets benefit from HDMI 2.1's VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and QFT (Quick Frame Transport), which lets a TV adjust its refresh rate in real-time to the frame rate output by the gaming system and speed up the transmission of each frame from source to screen, eliminating the "lag" that sometimes happens, especially in live gameplay.
Should I invest in a new television?
Depending on the product, you may not need to. Some TVs have compatible hardware that can run the updates, but if you want to unlock the top speeds and features of HDMI 2.1, you will need a new television. LG has supported the 2.1 standard on all its OLEDs and NanoCell TVs since 2019. Most of its TV sets, like the 2021 C1 OLED, have four HDMI 2.1 sockets. Sony has one of the only HDMI 2.1 sources currently in existence, the PlayStation 5, and launched the first HDMI 2.1 TV models in 2020. The Sony A90J is considered one of the best on the market right now. However, their models don’t support VRR out of the box, but consumers are anxiously awaiting the expected firmware updates.
It’s worth asking yourself if you should use HDMI 2.1 now or wait a year or two when there are more compatible options. If you’d like to join the 2.1 train now, we suggest the 2020 LG CX, one of the most affordable options, which comes equipped with four HDMI 2.1 sockets.
Should I purchase new cables?
HDMI 2.1 cables are necessary to enjoy the full capabilities of HDMI 2.1 sockets. Thankfully, the PS5 and Xbox Series X come with appropriate cables, so you'll be ready to rock if you purchase one of these gaming consoles. Many cables claim to support the HDMI 2.1 bandwidth of 48Gbps, but we recommend getting a certified cable so you know you're getting your money's worth. Furthermore, all HDMI 2.1 cables are backward-compatible, so you can purchase one now even if you don't have an HDMI 2.1 source or TV.
Which HDMI 2.1 sources are available now?
The PS5 and Xbox Series X are the primary sources currently available, and several next-gen consoles will be able to output signals in 4K/120fps. Both of these systems offer games that utilize high frame rates, which brings players to the center of fast-paced action. Furthermore, the Xbox currently supports VRR, and the PS5 is expected to receive it soon in a firmware update. For PC gamers, there are quite a few HDMI 2.1 graphics cards already on the market.
Are HDMI 2.1 AV receivers and soundbars available?
Now that you know you want your HDMI 2.1 signal to travel from source to screen, this means any in-between devices need to be capable of handling HDMI 2.1 signals. Denon’s Audio Video Receivers, like the AVR-X2700H, have at least one HDMI 2.1 input and output. If you’d like a soundbar instead, LG’s SP11RA is ready to handle audio that matches up with the quality visuals that HDMI 2.1 provides.
HDMI 2.1 standards are ready to handle the highest video quality currently available, and it’s a good idea to obtain cables that keep up. If you have questions about the difference between HDMI 2.0 and 2.1, or about any of the products mentioned above, give our team of experts at Origin Hi-Fi a call today to begin!