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HDMI 2.1: What it’s good to know

Despite the fact that the cable seems the identical, fashionable HDMI connections are vastly extra succesful than after they first arrived over 20 years in the past. The newest model, known as 2.1b, is just a small replace, however 2.1 normally is an enormous take care of numerous efficiency enhancements and new options. The usual is present in one of the best new TVs, together with current 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 Sequence X. In truth, to get probably the most out of these
 you may need a TV that helps no less than some HDMI 2.1 options.

That does not imply you want HDMI 2.1, nonetheless. For most individuals the additional options are usually not a ok motive to purchase a higher-end TV. In the event you’re on a funds, these new consoles will play completely effectively (and nonetheless look spectacular) on a TV that lacks HDMI 2.1. Many midrange and higher-end units assist the brand new connectivity commonplace, although, so it is worthwhile to grasp what it means in case you are seeking to buy quickly.


Brett Pearce/CNET

The quick model is HDMI 2.1 permits for greater resolutions, greater body charges and much more bandwidth. The connector itself is not altering, nonetheless, so new HDMI 2.1 gear will probably be backward-compatible along with your present cables and tools. However if you wish to make the most of every part 2.1 has to supply, you may want some choose upgrades and doubtlessly new cables, too. Here is what it’s good to know.

Learn extra: Greatest HDMI cables in your new 4K and HDR TV


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

The actually quick model

Don’t love studying (a lot)? Listed here are the highlights:

  • The bodily connectors and cables look the identical as right this 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 greater resolutions and/or body charges.
  • Many new TVs have no less than one HDMI 2.1 enter.
  • The primary sources that may make the most of 2.1 proper now are the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Sequence X, in addition to high-end graphics playing cards.

The elevated decision and body charge prospects are a futurist’s dream:

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

You must be capable to get 4K/60, and a primary 8K/30, with present cables, however the remaining will want an Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cable. Extra on these new cables beneath.

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


Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

These are simply the highlights, although. Learn on for the main points.

All in regards to the bandwidth

Once you improve 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 occasions the quantity of information as an HD 1,920×1,080 sign. In the event you consider cables as pipes, you want a much bigger pipe to transmit a 4K sign than a 1080p one. The identical is true when you improve the body charge. You want a much bigger pipe to transmit a 60fps picture versus, say, a 24fps picture of the identical decision. Extra photos per second means extra knowledge.

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

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

Properly, until you are a gamer. PCs and high-end
rigs, plus the PS5 and Xbox Sequence 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 greater 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, with regards 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 will probably be extra helpful for most individuals.

Dynamic HDR is an amusing title for an enormous 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 known as metadata to inform the TV how you can 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 differ how every scene and even every body seems, not simply this system as an entire, to raised swimsuit that scene (or body). Here is a video that reveals some examples (however bear in mind, chances are you’ll be viewing it on a non-HDR display screen). Mainly, a darkish scene with vibrant highlights (campfire at evening) would make the most of HDR otherwise than a vibrant scene with darkish areas (somebody below a pier on a seashore at midday). If these scenes have been in a single film, static HDR would deal with these the identical, whereas Dynamic HDR would let every scene look its greatest. HDMI 2.1 permits Dynamic HDR, nevertheless it additionally must be current within the content material to work. 

Dolby Imaginative and prescient and HDR10+ already use dynamic metadata and may move over current HDMI connections. This side of HDMI 2.1 ensures this will probably be doable going ahead and not using a proprietary format (HDR10 has no licensing charges). 


Keep in mind, when you’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 make the most of HDR to look its greatest. 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 “probably the most superior audio codecs similar to object-based audio, and permits superior audio sign management capabilities together with system auto-detect.”

Mainly this implies Dolby Atmos over ARC at full decision, which you at present cannot do. Nonetheless, your present cables most likely 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 be capable to transmit eARC. Audio would not require the bandwidth that video does.


HDMI Discussion board

Sport Mode VRR is a doubtlessly fascinating characteristic for players. It permits for “variable refresh charge, which permits a 3D graphics processor to show the picture in the meanwhile it’s rendered for extra fluid and higher detailed gameplay, and for lowering or eliminating lag, stutter and body tearing.” In different phrases, there will probably 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 lowering each. If this sounds acquainted, it is as a result of it is much like Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync, each solely out there 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 will even work over present cables (between two items of two.1-compatible gear), although when you’re attempting to push greater-than-4K60 video, you may want an Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cable. 

Talking of which…

New cable


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

HDMI Discussion board

For the primary time shortly, there’s a new cable. It seems… effectively, it seems the identical because the outdated cable. There is no new connector; that stays the identical. These cables have been initially known as “48G” since they’ll have 48Gbps bandwidth, although now they’re formally known as Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cables. These have roughly 2.6 occasions the 18Gbps bandwidth that the better-made HDMI cables have now. These cables are backward appropriate, in order that they’ll work with all of your different HDMI gear (at no matter velocity that gear operates).


HDMI Licensing Administrator

You most likely needn’t purchase Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cables proper now. Even with 4K TVs practically all of your gear ought to work effective along with your present cables. There are, nonetheless, essential exceptions. The most important is with the brand new gaming consoles, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Sequence X. These are able to 4K resolutions at 120 frames per second. That is virtually actually going to require a brand new cable. We’ll speak extra about these consoles beneath, however the quick model is, if you would like 4K120 and you’ve got a brand new TV that may deal with that decision (older TVs virtually universally cannot), take a look at Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI cables.

In the event you’re having points getting a 4K supply to work along with your present TV, particularly with HDR, it is doable new cables will repair that. So when you’re out there, take a look at 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 (no less than, within the ~6-foot size most individuals purchase). 

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Sequence X


Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

You may join the PS5 and Xbox Sequence X to any TV you might join a PS4 and
Xbox One X
to. You do not want a brand new TV. You most likely do not want new cables both. Undoubtedly not when you’ve got a 1080p TV. If in case you have a 4K TV and wish to play these new consoles in 4K, your present cables will most likely work. You will know fairly rapidly: In the event 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 greater body charge. Virtually no older TVs can, even these known 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 most likely will not be capable to deal with 4K120. You will have to spend just a bit further on Extremely Excessive Pace HDMI variations.

One ultimate essential reminder: when you’ve got a receiver or soundbar in your system, and the sport console is linked to that, it too needs to be HDMI 2.1 as a way to move 4K120. A sequence is just 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 may solely get resolutions and options doable with HDMI 2.0. 

See Extremely Excessive Pace 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 a bit of smoother of an expertise. In the event 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 newest HDMI 2.1b rollout it is value discussing some extra new options and phrases. First is Fast 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 rapidly change between content material of various body charges. Any TV that helps VRR (see above) ought to be capable 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 wish to watch (for instance), this could stop that. 

Each the supply and the show will have to be QMS-compatible, however theoretically this might be added by way of a firmware replace to newer units (most definitely 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 deal with ultra-high resolutions and body charges and is a brand new approach to encode knowledge 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 may step again in time to my very first CNET article or take a look at this extra numbers-heavy clarification.

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

To make the most of FRL, each a supply and a show will have to be appropriate. Nonetheless, all units that may have FRL-compatibility will nonetheless assist TMDS. So it isn’t one thing it’s good to fear about till you are a brand new 8K supply in 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 good to improve?

Most likely not. At the least, not but. Proper now the one frequent supply that may actually make the most of what 2.1 has to supply are the PS5 or Xbox Sequence X. If you actually need 4K120 in your gaming life, then it is also value searching for a TV that may make the most of that.

In the event you’re shopping for an 8K TV for some motive, 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 might’t damage for a little bit of future-proofing. 

So do not rush out and purchase Extremely Excessive Pace cables until you are positive you want them. However when you 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 remember: Not all TVs that declare HDMI 2.1 compatibility are literally able to every part we have mentioned. In truth, most aren’t. A TV with a 4K120 enter may additionally have eARC, however not essentially on the identical enter. A TV might need eARC, however not have any excessive body charge or excessive decision inputs. It is complicated, to say the least. Greatest to do your homework on what fashions have what capabilities earlier than you set your coronary heart on one thing particular. In some instances producers can add 2.1 options to already-sold TVs, however do not rely on this. It is pretty uncommon and in some instances not doable due to {hardware} limitations.

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

In addition to masking TV and different show tech, Geoff does picture excursions of cool museums and areas world wide, together with nuclear submarines, large plane carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and extra. 

You may observe 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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