HDMI cable latest version 2.1V supports up to the highest quality 8K
What is HDMI 2.1 and what are its benefits?
In short, HDMI 2.1 is the latest version of HDMI that distinguishes itself with its ability to transmit an impressive bandwidth of 48 Gigabits per second (GigaBits) in the cable. This is a huge improvement over previous cables 2.0, which carried 18 Gbps. In general, bandwidth determines the maximum amount of data a signal in a cable can transmit. The higher the resolution and frame rate, the more data is needed. If you're playing PS4 Pro or Xbox One X in 4K, you're using a 2.0 cable that can support up to 4K resolution at 60 fps with steady HDR. HDMI 2.1 is capable of 4K at 120 fps or 8K at 60 fps. It also supports dynamic lighting in HDR frame by frame, BT.2020 color gamma and 16 bits per color. In clearer terms, this means that HDMI 2.1 is able to support wide color gamut TVs, making your picture look more vibrant, crisp, and clear than ever before. It includes HDMI 2.1, which tells the TV you're playing a video game and instantly switches to a Game Mode setting with low latency. HDMI 2.1 also has VRR, a built-in variable refresh rate that keeps the screen's refresh rate consistent with the supported device's frame rate, so everything you see moving on the screen is preserved smoothly. The new consoles will support VRR between 30 and 120.
Higher bandwidth, more pixels
HDMI 2.1 is the next step forward for the standard, adding support for an uncompressed 8K signal at 60 frames per second in 12-bit color. It achieves this with a data transfer rate of 48 Gbps. Using Display Stream Compression (DSC), HDMI 2.1 can push a 10K signal at 120 frames per second in 12 bits.
Some HDMI 2.1 implementations use ports that only reach about 40 Gbps. That's enough to handle a 4K signal at 120 fps in 10-bit color, and it's also enough to take full advantage of 10-bit panels on consumer-grade TVs.
High-end PC gamers tempted by NVIDIA's new 30 Series cards will be pleased to know that the company has confirmed 10-bit support going forward. This means that it doesn't matter if your TV lacks the full 48Gbps spec.
Currently, HDMI 2.1 is mostly aimed at gamers who are jumping on the next generation console or graphics card train. Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 both support 4K resolution at 120 frames per second. This will require the implementation of the HDMI 2.1 standard.
If your TV does not support HDMI 2.1, you will have to make do with a 4K signal that works at 60 frames per second (!) only. The majority of titles for the last console generation ran at 30fps, so it remains to be seen how much that spoils the deals.
HDMI 2.1 is very new, and NVIDIA only has three new 30-series cards in the pipeline that support the standard. Earlier RTX 2000 and GTX 1000 series cards are not compatible with HDMI 2.1. Many TV manufacturers, including Sony, haven't included HDMI 2.1 in their high-end displays.
We expect the HDMI 2.1 standard to actually take off in 2021. However, it will be a few years before we see widespread adoption in budget offerings.
Dynamic HDR support
With so much bandwidth available, there is more space for raw data as well. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and it enables a wider range of colors in content such as movies and games. Older HDR standards, such as HDR10, only support static metadata. However, the newer HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats allow dynamic metadata on a per-scene or frame-by-frame basis.
Dynamic HDR gives the TV more information about what to do with the signal it is receiving. Instead of reading a single set of instructions for an entire movie, the TV's dynamic metadata gives constant updates on how the on-screen image is tweaked so it looks its best.
While every HDR-supporting TV supports HDR10 with static metadata, dynamic HDR is another beast altogether. The most supported format is Dolby Vision. Preferred by device manufacturers including LG, Sony, Panasonic, and Philips. Samsung does everything on the less popular HDR10+, which just so happens to be an open format (Dolby Vision, as its name suggests, is proprietary).
It's important to note that you don't need an HDMI 2.1 device to view HDR10+ and Dolby Vision - at least not at the current 4K resolution. If your TV supports it, it will stream Dolby Vision content from Netflix just fine.
Going forward, the HDMI 2.1 standard ensures plenty of bandwidth is available for both high-resolution metadata and signals at high frame rates.
Variable refresh rate (VRR)
The TV refresh rate is the number of times the panel refreshes per second. This is measured in Hertz, which is closely related to frame rate. When the two are out of sync, you get an effect called "screen tearing". This is caused by the screen trying to display more than one frame at a time when the console or PC is not ready.
If you adjust the screen refresh rate to match the frame rate of your console or PC, you can effectively get rid of screen tearing without any performance penalties. Companies like NVIDIA and AMD have their own ways of dealing with screen tearing, known as G-Sync and FreeSync, respectively.
However, the HDMI 2.1 standard also has its own standalone solution, called the HDMI Variable Refresh Rate (VRR). Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox Series X will support this feature, and the PlayStation 5 will support as well, as it will require HDMI 2.1 to render 4K at 120Hz.
For the best possible next-generation console experience, HDMI VRR is a must. If you're a fan of PC games, it's unlikely that NVIDIA and AMD will abandon their existing technologies in favor of HDMI VRR. This means that you will still need to match your graphics card to your monitor.
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)
Another feature for next-generation console gamers is Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). Most TVs now include all kinds of additional processing to smooth out motion, improve picture quality, and even increase sound clarity. While some of this is appreciated when watching TV and movies, for gamers, it does provide (lag) latency.
This is Game Mode - you can switch to it whenever you want the fastest response times possible from your TV. This is especially useful for games that require quick and accurate reflexes. The only problem is that many TVs require that Game Mode be turned on and off manually.
ALLM removes the need to do this. When your HDMI 2.1 compatible TV understands that you are using a supported controller, ALLM will disable any additional processing that may cause a lag. You don't have to do anything at all to enable it - it is compatible with the HDMI standard.
Microsoft confirmed ALLM support for Xbox Series X, Sony
Quick Frame Transfer (QFT)
t is another gamer-oriented feature that works in tandem with ALLM to deliver a more responsive gaming experience. The feature prioritizes video frames in an effort to keep the latency as low as possible.
If you want to take advantage of this feature, also make sure that any intermediate devices, such as the surround sound receiver, are compatible. This will ensure that all your devices work together to deliver a smooth and responsive experience. If you're directing your console through a receiver that's only rated for HDMI 2.0, you won't benefit from QFT, even if your TV and console support it.
Quick media switching (QMS)
Have you ever noticed that your screen turns black shortly before watching a video or trailer? This is because the screen adjusts its refresh rate to suit the content you are about to watch. Since different content uses different frame rates, your screen must be synchronized with it, hence the short dimming.
Sometimes, this can cause the first few seconds of the video to be missed. However, some content providers delay playback to account for the change. Assuming the resolution of everything you watch stays the same, Quick Media Switching (QMS) removes blurring caused by refresh rate changes.
This allows you to watch content at different frame rates in succession, without blackout. The feature uses HDMI VRR to seamlessly transition from one refresh rate to another.
Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC)
C stands for audio return channel. Allows you to send audio via HDMI to your speakers or surround receiver without an additional optical audio cable. Whether you're watching Netflix, playing a game on a console, or watching Blu-ray, ARC ensures audio is delivered to the correct output.
Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) is part of the HDMI 2.1 standard. The additional bandwidth available in HDMI 2.1 allows eARC to carry uncompressed 5.1 and 7.1 audio and high bitrate or object-based audio up to 192kHz at 24-bit resolution. It does this with an audio bandwidth of 37Mbps, compared to less than 1Mbps over regular ARC.
If you want to transmit a Dolby Atmos signal via HDMI, you will need an eARC. There are also some other improvements, such as a proper lip sync patch as standard, better device detection, and a dedicated data channel for eARC.