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HomeTechHDMI 2.1: What you need to know

HDMI 2.1: What you need to know

Despite the fact that the cable seems to be the identical, fashionable HDMI connections are vastly extra succesful than after they first arrived over 20 years in the past. The newest model, referred to as 2.1b, is simply a small replace, however 2.1 usually is a giant take care of plenty of efficiency enhancements and new options. The usual is present in one of the best new TVs, together with latest fashions from LG, Samsung, Sony, TCL, Vizio and extra. HDMI 2.1 can also be on each of the next-generation sport consoles, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Collection X. In actual fact, to get essentially the most out of these
 you will need a TV that helps not less than some HDMI 2.1 options.

That does not imply you want HDMI 2.1, nonetheless. For most individuals the additional options aren’t a adequate purpose to purchase a higher-end TV. In case you’re on a price range, these new consoles will play completely nicely (and nonetheless look spectacular) on a TV that lacks HDMI 2.1. Many midrange and higher-end units assist the brand new connectivity customary, although, so it is worthwhile to grasp what it means if you’re trying to buy quickly.


Brett Pearce/CNET

The brief model is HDMI 2.1 permits for larger resolutions, larger body charges and much more bandwidth. The connector itself is not altering, nonetheless, so new HDMI 2.1 gear might be backward-compatible together with your present cables and tools. However if you wish to benefit from all the pieces 2.1 has to supply, you will want some choose upgrades and probably new cables, too. This is what it’s essential to know.

Learn extra: Finest HDMI cables on your new 4K and HDR TV


Inputs with HDMI 2.1 options, just like the one on this Samsung TV, primarily cater to avid gamers proper now.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The actually brief model

Do not like studying (a lot)? Listed below are the highlights:

  • The bodily connectors and cables look the identical as at the moment’s HDMI.
  • Improved bandwidth from 18 gigabits per second (HDMI 2.0) to 48Gbps (HDMI 2.1).
  • Can carry resolutions as much as 10K, body charges as much as 120 frames per second.
  • New cables are required for larger resolutions and/or body charges.
  • Many new TVs have not less than one HDMI 2.1 enter.
  • The principle sources that may benefit from 2.1 proper now are the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Collection X, in addition to high-end graphics playing cards.

The elevated decision and body price potentialities are a futurist’s dream:

  • 4K50/60
  • 4K100/120
  • 5K50/60
  • 5K100/120
  • 8K50/60
  • 8K100/120
  • 10K50/60
  • 10K100/120

It’s best to have the ability to get 4K/60, and a fundamental 8K/30, with present cables, however the remainder will want an Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cable. Extra on these new cables under.

On the colour entrance, 2.1 helps BT.2020 and 16 bits per shade. This is identical as HDMI 2.0a/b, and is what makes huge shade gamut doable.


Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

These are simply the highlights, although. Learn on for the small print.

All in regards to the bandwidth

If you enhance the decision of a TV sign, the quantity of information of that sign goes up. A 3,820×2,160-pixel 4K Extremely HD sign despatched over HDMI is roughly 4 instances the quantity of information as an HD 1,920×1,080 sign. In case you consider cables as pipes, you want an even bigger pipe to transmit a 4K sign than a 1080p one. The identical is true if you happen to enhance the body price. You want an even bigger pipe to transmit a 60fps picture versus, say, a 24fps picture of the identical decision. Extra pictures per second means extra information.

Although most present HDMI cables can deal with practically all of at the moment’s content material, the TV business by no means sits nonetheless. We’re already seeing TVs which can be able to larger body charges, plus larger decision TVs, like these with 8K. Don’t fret, they’re not going to be frequent anytime quickly. Even method additional down the street, perhaps we’ll see 10K TVs.

That is predominantly what HDMI 2.1 is for: larger resolutions and body charges that are not essential for most individuals proper now.

Nicely, until you are a gamer. PCs and high-end
rigs, plus the PS5 and Xbox Collection X, are the one sources at present that may output 4K at greater than 60fps. Whereas there are a handful of films or TV reveals with larger body charges, you will not discover these variations on Netflix or Vudu. 

Although we’re seeing a handful of 8K TVs, precise 8K content material is nearly nonexistent. That is largely as a result of 8K sources are additionally principally nonexistent. Your common
Apple TV
can do 4K, and that is it. 

So so far as the extra potential bandwidth of HDMI 2.1, relating to decision and body charges, just a few TVs can take any benefit of it, after which solely with gaming consoles and PCs. There’s extra to HDMI 2.1 than simply bandwidth, nonetheless.

New options

Whereas the brand new resolutions and body charges get all of the headline buzz, there are another enhancements that might be extra helpful for most individuals.

Dynamic HDR is an amusing identify for a giant enchancment. Excessive dynamic vary is our favourite picture-quality enchancment since high-definition itself, and proper now the most typical HDR format is HDR10. It makes use of one thing referred to as metadata to inform the TV deal with a chunk of HDR content material. Within the present model of HDR10, that metadata is utilized as soon as and as soon as solely, on a per-program foundation. As in, you get One Set of Information to Rule Them All.

Dynamic HDR can range how every scene and even every body seems to be, not simply this system as an entire, to raised go well with that scene (or body). Here’s a video that reveals some examples (however keep in mind, chances are you’ll be viewing it on a non-HDR display screen). Principally, a darkish scene with vivid highlights (campfire at night time) would benefit from HDR in another way than a vivid scene with darkish areas (somebody below a pier on a seaside at midday). If these scenes had been in a single film, static HDR would deal with these the identical, whereas Dynamic HDR would let every scene look its finest. HDMI 2.1 allows Dynamic HDR, however it additionally must be current within the content material to work. 

Dolby Imaginative and prescient and HDR10+ already use dynamic metadata and may go over current HDMI connections. This facet of HDMI 2.1 ensures this might be doable going ahead with no proprietary format (HDR10 has no licensing charges). 


Bear in mind, if you happen to’re viewing an SDR picture on an SDR show, that is for illustration functions solely. The concept of Dynamic HDR is for every scene to have the ability to benefit from HDR to look its finest. Present Static HDR can solely have one set “look” for the complete film or present.

HDMI Discussion board

eARC is the subsequent evolution of Audio Return Channel, which permits easier connections between AV units like TVs, video gamers and sound techniques. eARC has assist for “essentially the most superior audio codecs corresponding to object-based audio, and allows superior audio sign management capabilities together with system auto-detect.”

Principally this implies Dolby Atmos over ARC at full decision, which you at present cannot do. Nonetheless, your present cables in all probability can. If, sooner or later, you purchase an HDMI 2.1-compatible TV and an HDMI 2.1-compatible
sound bar
, your present Excessive Pace cables ought to have the ability to transmit eARC. Audio would not require the bandwidth that video does.


HDMI Discussion board

Sport Mode VRR is a probably attention-grabbing characteristic for avid gamers. It permits for “variable refresh price, which allows a 3D graphics processor to show the picture for the time being it’s rendered for extra fluid and higher detailed gameplay, and for decreasing or eliminating lag, stutter and body tearing.” In different phrases, there might be much less of a buffer for frames whereas the video card creates the picture so you will not have to decide on between picture artifacts and enter lag, ideally decreasing each. If this sounds acquainted, it is as a result of it is just like Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync, each solely obtainable over DisplayPort. We wrote extra about this characteristic in How HDMI 2.1 makes big-screen 4K PC gaming much more superior.

Sport Mode VRR can even work over present cables (between two items of two.1-compatible gear), although if you happen to’re attempting to push greater-than-4K60 video, you will want an Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cable. 

Talking of which…

New cable


A visible illustration of how rather more bandwidth the upcoming 48G cables can deal with. 18 Gbps is loads for practically all present content material.

HDMI Discussion board

For the primary time shortly, there’s a new cable. It seems to be… nicely, it seems to be the identical because the previous cable. There is not any new connector; that stays the identical. These cables had been initially referred to as “48G” since they are going to have 48Gbps bandwidth, although now they’re formally referred to as Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cables. These have roughly 2.6 instances the 18Gbps bandwidth that the better-made HDMI cables have now. These cables are backward appropriate, so that they’ll work with all of your different HDMI gear (at no matter velocity that gear operates).


HDMI Licensing Administrator

You in all probability needn’t purchase Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cables proper now. Even with 4K TVs practically all of your gear ought to work advantageous together with your present cables. There are, nonetheless, necessary exceptions. The largest is with the brand new gaming consoles, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Collection X. These are able to 4K resolutions at 120 frames per second. That is nearly actually going to require a brand new cable. We’ll speak extra about these consoles under, however the brief model is, if you’d like 4K120 and you’ve got a brand new TV that may deal with that decision (older TVs nearly universally cannot), try Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cables.

In case you’re having points getting a 4K supply to work together with your present TV, particularly with HDR, it is doable new cables will repair that. So if you happen to’re available in the market, try Extremely Excessive Pace cables. They seem to be a bit extra “future-proof” and at this level aren’t that rather more costly than different HDMI cables (not less than, within the ~6-foot size most individuals purchase). 

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Collection X


Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

You possibly can join the PS5 and Xbox Collection X to any TV you possibly can join a PS4 and
Xbox One X
to. You do not want a brand new TV. You in all probability do not want new cables both. Undoubtedly not you probably have a 1080p TV. When you have a 4K TV and need to play these new consoles in 4K, your present cables will in all probability work. You may know fairly shortly: In case you join the console and the TV says it is a 4K sign, you are good to go. 

There are, nonetheless, exceptions that relate to HDMI 2.1. Each new consoles are able to 4K as much as 120 frames per second. Some new TVs can deal with this larger body price. Virtually no older TVs can, even these referred to as “120Hz.” The TV will want HDMI 2.1 to let the console run in all this excessive frame-rate glory. Your present HDMI cables in all probability will not have the ability to deal with 4K120. You may have to spend just a bit additional on Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI variations.

One closing necessary reminder: you probably have a receiver or soundbar in your system, and the sport console is related to that, it too must be HDMI 2.1 in an effort to go 4K120. A sequence is simply as sturdy as its weakest hyperlink, so to talk. So in case your console is 2.1, your TV is 2.1, however your receiver is 2.0, you will solely get resolutions and options doable with HDMI 2.0. 

See Ultra High Speed HDMI Cables at Amazon

Fast Media Switching (QMS) and Fastened Fee Hyperlink (FRL)

A diagram of how Quick Media Switching will work showing a variety of different TV frames.

Fast Media Switching (QMS) will assist make watching content material of various body charges somewhat smoother of an expertise. In case you’ve ever had your TV go darkish for a number of moments when switching between reveals or out of a menu, this might assist.


With the most recent HDMI 2.1b rollout it is value discussing some extra new options and phrases. First is Quick Media Switching, or QMS, which looks like one thing TVs ought to simply “do” and never want a brand new characteristic and abbreviation. It is pretty self-explanatory, in that it permits your TV to extra shortly swap between content material of various body charges. Any TV that helps VRR (see above) ought to have the ability to assist QMS. That is particularly about body charges, not resolutions, but when your TV goes clean for a second between the menu of a streaming service and the present you need to watch (for instance), this could forestall that. 

Each the supply and the show will have to be QMS-compatible, however theoretically this may very well be added through a firmware replace to newer units (most probably these able to VRR).

Whereas a bit “within the weeds” so to talk, it is value placing “Fastened Fee Hyperlink” in your radar. FRL is what lets HDMI 2.1 handle ultra-high resolutions and frame rates and is a brand new method to encode information for transmission throughout an HDMI cable. All HDMI connections up up to now use TMDS, or Transition-minimized differential signaling. For an outline about how that works, you possibly can step again in time to my very first CNET article or try this more numbers-heavy explanation.

You possibly can consider the HDMI connection like a freeway. TMDS has a number of freeway lanes of buses which can be full of information. Every bus has a tiny portion of the general picture. Moreover, there is a separate lane that is only for a site visitors cop who helps ensure that the buses arriving on the vacation spot (the TV) have the identical information inside as that they had after they left. FRL has two huge adjustments. First, it repurposes the “site visitors cop” lane to additionally transmit information, if wanted. It additionally makes use of bigger, extra environment friendly buses. That is an oversimplification, however the level is that it will permit the upper resolutions and body charges initially promised with HDMI 2.1. 

To benefit from FRL, each a supply and a show will have to be appropriate. Nonetheless, all units that can have FRL-compatibility will nonetheless assist TMDS. So it is not one thing it’s essential to fear about till you are a brand new 8K supply on your new 8K TV, for instance. Which is to say, it will be some time. The great factor is, as a result of FR is simply repurposing current channels, new cables aren’t wanted.

Do it’s essential to improve?

In all probability not. At the least, not but. Proper now the one frequent supply that may actually benefit from what 2.1 has to supply are the PS5 or Xbox Collection X. If you really want 4K120 in your gaming life, then it is also value in search of a TV that may benefit from that.

In case you’re shopping for an 8K TV for some purpose, it is value contemplating getting Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cables, too. Not as a result of there’s something that requires that bandwidth now, the consoles however, however it could actually’t damage for a little bit of future-proofing. 

So do not rush out and purchase Extremely Excessive Pace cables until you are certain you want them. However if you happen to want new cables anyway, get Extremely Excessive Pace as they’re going to provide a bit extra future-proofing than different cables. 

One final thing to bear in mind: Not all TVs that declare HDMI 2.1 compatibility are literally able to all the pieces we have mentioned. In actual fact, most aren’t. A TV with a 4K120 enter may also have eARC, however not essentially on the identical enter. A TV may need eARC, however not have any excessive body price or excessive decision inputs. It is complicated, to say the least. Finest to do your homework on what fashions have what capabilities earlier than you set your coronary heart on one thing particular. In some circumstances producers can add 2.1 options to already-sold TVs, however do not rely on this. It is pretty uncommon and in some circumstances not doable due to {hardware} limitations.

Word: This text was first revealed in 2017 however is up to date repeatedly with new information.

In addition to overlaying TV and different show tech, Geoff does photograph excursions of cool museums and areas all over the world, together with nuclear submarines, huge plane carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and extra. 

You possibly can comply with his exploits on Instagram and YouTube about his 10,000 mile street journey. He additionally has written a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, together with a sequel.

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