Technology continually evolves, especially when it comes to household items. When TVs were first invented, they displayed pictures in black and white and offered only several channels. Today, many TVs feature Wi-Fi connectivity and can operate similarly to a computer. They can display high-quality audio and video, stream movies, play games, and allow you to surf the Web.
If you have a high-definition TV set in your household, then you probably use the HDMI port to connect your devices – like video game systems, Blu-ray players, and laptops – to view shows and images in the best picture quality possible. Most likely, you use HDMI specification 1.4 for this purpose.
If you’re still using HDMI 1.4, you’re in need of an upgrade. HDMI 2.0 is now available to enhance the video and audio experience for in-home consumer use. If you have a home theater or simply want to experience the best quality of video and audio when playing TV shows and movies, then HDMI 2.0 can offer the ultimate viewing and listening experience. You’ll feel like you’re in a movie theater, except you won’t have to pay $10 for popcorn.
When comparing HDMI 1.4 to 2.0, you’ll notice various changes – but, for the better. With specification 1.4, you could expect to get 4,096 x 2,160 pixel resolution at a rate of up to 24 frames per second. But, with TVs getting more and more advanced, the HDMI world had trouble keeping up.
For example, you may now see Ultra HD 4K TVs everywhere. These TVs have higher resolutions and frame rates than TVs that were manufactured just several years ago. In an effort to keep up with the times, HDMI 2.0 was born.
One of the big features that sets HDMI 2.0 apart from earlier versions is that it allows you to transmit high dynamic range (HDR) video. Why is this important? Because, with standard TVs, the contrast – the difference between the brightness and darkness – is very narrow and the details are quite limited.
HDR fixes this by enhancing the signal and widening the contrast so you get more colors. As a result, you’re able to see more details, especially in sunny and darker shots. You are better able to see very dark and very bright objects together on the same screen without major issues.
You can also view 4K resolutions (2160 pixels) at up to 60 frames per second. This clarity is four times greater than HDMI 1.4’s rate of 1080 pixels at 60 frames per second. This allows you to view the highest resolution possible on your Ultra 4K TVs and 3D TVs. HDMI 2.0 also supports 4K at 24, 25, 30, and 50 frames per second, in 8, 10, 12, and 16-bit color modes.
What does this mean in terms of color? You’ll get as many as 16.7 million colors in 8-bit mode. In 12-bit mode, expect a whopping 68.7 billion colors. These rates – known as deep color – make going from HDMI 1.4 to 2.0 a data-heavy task.
Even if you don’t have a 3D TV, you can still benefit from higher frame rates on 2D content such as certain video games (like those played on a PC) and home movies. However, since most movies are shot at 24 frames per second, you won’t see much difference – if any – when viewing this type of content.
The same holds true if you’re a hardcore gamer. Most video gaming systems – even PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – will unlikely be able to deliver their games in 4K mode. Even a gaming PC won’t be able to keep up, so switching to HDMI 2.0 won’t improve your gaming experience at all.
Another key feature is the increased bandwidth. HDMI 2.0 increases bandwidth up to 18 Gbps, which amounts to 2,250 MB per second. Data is displayed from the source to the TV at higher speeds. This allows high-resolution TVs to display higher frame rates as well as increased resolution for data coming from lower-resolution sources. With dual video streams, HDMI 2.0 allows you to display two HD shows or games on the same screen at the same time. Do you want to watch a movie, while your husband wants to play video games? You can do both, and get high-quality resolution.
If your focus is not only on video quality but the sound as well, you’ll love what HDMI 2.0 has to offer. With as many as 32 multi-dimensional audio channels, you can truly immerse yourself in the sound. You get four times as many digital audio channels compared to the 1.4 version, which offers only eight channels. As a result, you’ll get a “3-D” quality to every sound on your TV shows or movies, like being in a theater.
Speaking of audio, you’ll get the highest fidelity possible. If you want clear sound without distortion and other noises that distract from the listening experience, HDMI 2.0 offers 1536 kHz audio sample frequency.
The HDMI 2.0 upgrade means a better Consumer Electronics Control. Through HDMI, a device can send signals to another – like what a remote control does. You can control up to 15 devices without having to purchase a universal remote. However, the manufacturers of devices you’re going to control need to put this standard in place in order for it to work. Many people aren’t aware of this capability, and it’s useless if your TV or Blu-ray player doesn’t support it.
Many HDMI users put off upgrading because they don’t want to have to change out the cables. The good news is that if you upgrade from HDMI 1.4 to 2.0, there’s no need for new cables. That’s because 2.0 simply changes out the hardware and nothing more. The cables are not affected at all, so even though you may see 4K HDMI cables advertised everywhere, don’t feel pressured to purchase them.
In fact, according to HDMI.org, “HDMI 2.0b does not define new cables or new connectors. Current High-Speed cables (Category 2 cables) are capable of carrying the increased bandwidth.” So, if you were worried about having to change out the cables or connectors, worry no more. With HDMI 2.0, you can upgrade with ease.
However, that’s not to say that nobody will have issues. There are always exceptions to the rule. If you notice issues with the picture quality, it’s possible that the cable could be to blame. If that’s the case, you may want to upgrade to an HDMI 2.0 cable – but spend your money wisely. You’ll see cables available at various prices. What’s the difference between a $20 cable and one that sells for $100? Nothing. You won’t get better picture quality by spending five times as much for the same exact thing, so don’t be fooled.
When upgrading to HDMI 2.0, you may experience some issues with video streaming. With more frames per second, you’ll have to download more data. While that won’t be a problem as far as HDMI is concerned, it may wreak havoc on your Internet connection – even if you have broadband or DSL. So, there may be some concerns as to whether or not your connection can keep up with the pace.
In addition, HDMI 2.0 is backward compatible with earlier HDMI versions. However, if you’ve never had HDMI set up in your home, you can’t simply start with the latest and greatest version. HDMI 2.0 is built upon earlier versions, so you’ll need to start out with some version – likely 1.4 – before upgrading.
How to Upgrade
The jury’s still out on how you will be able to upgrade to HDMI 2.0. According to Sony, its Ultra HD TVs can be upgraded through a download that upgrades the firmware. However, that method is not universal. Each manufacturer has a different method for obtaining the upgrade.
There are no provisions in place but expect to upgrade either your hardware or firmware or, potentially, both. With so many new and enhanced features in place, it will be a major conversion. This is especially true since bandwidth and other specifications are based on the chips inside the HDMI hardware, and those chips can only do so much before upgrades are needed in order to enhance performance.
Newer models may already have HDMI 2.0 in place, while older models may require additional hardware or other workarounds in order to get you up and running. In any case, check with the manufacturer of your TV to see what needs to be done to make sure your device is compatible with HDMI 2.0. If you use a DVD or Blu-ray player with your TV, you’ll want to make sure it’s current as well, so you can take advantage of all the features the HDMI upgrade will offer.
HDMI Specification 2.1
In the second quarter of 2017, HDMI 2.1 will be released to those who currently use HDMI 2.0. HDMI 2.1 offers many advanced features, such as higher refresh rates and video resolutions – ideal for fast-action movie scenes and video games. You’ll also get Dynamic HDR, which ensures that every frame offers detail, color, depth, brightness, and contrast at ideal levels.
Since HDMI 2.0 doesn’t offer a lot for gamers, the 2.1 version is making up for that with a feature called Game Mode VRR. This feature offers a variable refresh rate, which means better gameplay. A 3D graphics processor eliminates stutters, lags, and other frame issues that can impact the video game experience.
As with the HDMI 2.0, the 2.1 version is also backward compatible with older versions. However, a new cable will be required if you choose to display high video resolutions, such as 4K at 120 frames per second or 8K at 60 frames per second. The 48G cable is recommended due to the higher bandwidth required.
Again, the ability to upgrade and the procedure for upgrading will be dependent on the manufacturer. If you have concerns, contact the manufacturer of your TV.
Should You Upgrade to HDMI 2.0?
If you’re a casual TV watcher, an HDMI upgrade will be no big deal to you. But if you live and breathe viewing the latest TV shows and movies on your Ultra 4K TV connected to your state-of-the-art home theater surround sound system, then you’ll definitely want to upgrade to HDMI 2.0 as soon as it becomes available. The enhanced features will offer an experience that will make you feel like you’re part of the movie or show.
As consumers, we tend to push our devices to their limits, and home entertainment systems are no exception. If you’ve ever wanted to take advantage of everything that technology has to offer in a consumer’s home environment, HDMI allows you to do that. From enhanced audio and video to dual streams and more colors, your high-tech home will be squeezing everything it can out of your Internet connection.