What is an HDMI 2.1 Cable? Do I Need One?
The short answer is… not yet. However, if you’ve already purchased a 4K (or 8K) TV or are an avid gamer this cable can help squeeze the maximum benefits out of your device. We’ll give you a rundown on the cord you probably already own, specs on HDMI 2 .0 and 2.1 cables, and when you should go ahead and purchase a new cable.
The Cable That’s Already Connected to Your Screen.
The cable you probably have is an HDMI 2.0, first released in 2013. Here’s the good news: it’ll be able to handle your needs for the foreseeable future.
HDMI stands for high definition multimedia interface. The cable transmits uncompressed video data as well as compressed and uncompressed audio data. This cable is your display controller to your TV (or projector, etc.) or speaker.
An HDMI 2.0 has a max bandwidth of 180 G/bits, meaning it can handle 4K video @60 Hz with 24 bit/px for color depth. So, if you have already updated your HDTV to a 4K TV your current cable is perfectly capable of handling high quality content. An HDMI 2.0 cable also has dual video streams, 3D formatting and capacity (for you gamers out there), a 21:9 aspect ratio, and synchronized video and audio. Speaking of audio, the HDMI 2.0 cable has 4 audio streams and 32 channels (up to 1536 kHz). Plenty of power to connect and synchronize you A/V system.
HDMI 2.1, New and Improved Capabilities (That the Average Buyer Can Wait On)
One of the most refreshing aspects of this the simplest: even though an HDMI 2.1 cable has different capabilities, the connectivity is the same. Also, an HDMI 2.1 cable is backwards compatible, so if you want to pop in an old DVD the cable will translate the data accordingly.
What structurally changed between the 2.0 and 2.1 generation is the redesign of the cable itself to operate traffic in a more efficient way. Beyond the cable being able to handle more traffic, it seamlessly routes traffic from different devices. So, an HDMI 2.1 cable will be needed to maximize the fancy specs of an TV with higher processing capabilities and needs (think 4/8K and UHD TVs.
The specs mentioned above refers to an array of both audio and visual capabilities. For example, the cable can handle higher frame rates and ultra high-speed band width (48 Gbtz) and the higher associated Hz. The cable can also manage HDR in a different way, either being able to specify visuals frame by frame, and those that include dynamic HDR can determine differences in scenes or frames versus the needs of just an individual program. Another clever visual trick is auto low latency mode, when the quality of visuals is automatically selected based on content (think: you don’t need as much power and info for Peppa Pig as you do for Deadpool).
If you’ve got a need for speed an HDMI 2.0 cable has a high variable refresh rate to reduce lag, and quick frame transport sends frames quickly when bandwidth can support it, and in turn it will turn off between pictures to improve efficiency. Higher quick media switching between videos and streaming means you’re not staring at a blank screen while your TV toggles between your selection.
Finally, for you audiophiles out there the inclusion of eARC enhances audio capabilities. An HDMI 2.1 cable creates simple connections with audio, and doesn’t require the use of bandwidth. So, there’s no reduction of quality and your set up will be much simpler when connecting your TV to receiver or a sound bar.
The Difference, Untangled
If you’re perfectly happy with your current TV set up or your looking to upgrade to a 4K TV, you can wait to purchase the newest HDMI cable. 4K content is on the rise, but 8K and 10K are a ways off. If you need the newest TV or are an avid gamer looking to elevate your experience, go ahead and purchase the cord. And, when the time comes, refer back to the specs mentioned above that you care about the most, to ensure your new HDMI 2.1 cable is delivering just want you need.