What Is HDMI 2.1?

HDMI is one of the essential aspects in the world of high-definition entertainment, and without the HDMI specification, it is pretty impossible to achieve it. The last significant improvement that came in the HDMI lineup is through HDMI 2.0, 2.0a, and 2.0b.

The industry was looking for a new HDMI enhancement that could support not only higher resolution and frame rate but also modern features. Modern technologies have come up with many advanced entertainment features that were lacking in modern TVs and monitors.

To meet this demand, the HDMI forum introduced HDMI 2.1, which was not only able to support 8K TVs playing at 60Hz refresh rate but also many adventure features. This new specification is gradually becoming popular in the market, and many TVs, monitors, A/V receivers, and gaming systems are featuring them.

Even though HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 are different and the port is entirely identical. Since it is relatively new in the industry, many users are facing confusion as to what to expect and what it can do. To clear the air of confusion surrounding HDMI 2.1, we created this guide for HDMI 2.1.

HDMI 2.1

HDMI 2.0 was a great hit, but it simply was unable to cut in as modern displays required more. To fill the gap, the HDMI forum introduced HDMI 2.1, which came as a major upgrade and delivered all the requirements that modern entertainment and displays needed.

It came up with major improvements, which included 4K at 120Hz, which ensured immersive viewing and smooth detailing. But the major attraction was its ability to play at 8K 60Hz.

Due to the support for 8K 60Hz, it enabled top manufacturers to come up with 8K TVs and monitors that are paving a new way about how we experience entertainment. The newest generation video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft have already introduced HDMI 2.1 in their devices, as they are able to render video games at 4K 120Hz.

Not only that, HDMI 2.1 was able to support resolutions up to 10K, which is the future. Notably, it increased the bandwidth up to 48 Gbps, nearly tripling what the previous HDMI specification had on offer.

Like the previous HDMI standard, this newer specification is also backward compatible with previous standards. The backward compatibility made sure that HDMI 2.1 would work with any display that has old HDMI standards.

What’s more? It came with support for various dynamic and static HDR formats that took the detailing to a whole new height. The additional HDR formats, like Dynamic HDR metadata, made sure the maximum and minimum luminance can be changed according to the visual output.

HDMI 2.1 also came with support for HDR 10+ and Technicolor Dynamic HDR formats. HDMI 2.1 also made sure you get the best audio experience, and that is why it inherited not only old audio features but also eARC.

New Features That Define The HDMI 2.1

HDMI 2.1 came as a significant improvement after HDMI 2.0, and it arrived with many new features that will help you have the best visual experience. Let’s check out those features;

Higher Resolution and Higher Refresh Rate

HDMI 2.1 made sure you can get the resolution up to 10K, which wasn’t possible with previous standards. Moreover, it introduced 4K 120Hz and 8K Hz, and it allowed the introduction of a high range of 4K and 8K displays in the market.

Dynamic HDR Support

The introduction of Dynamic HDR support took the visual detailing and color depth to a whole new level.

It enhances the visuals in the frame-by-frame mechanism and makes sure every visual is at its ideal color depth, contrast, and brightness. HDR10+ and Technicolor Dynamic HDR also add to the top-notch detailing and color realism and give you defined output.

Enhanced Audio Return Channel

Besides having ARC, HDMI 2.1 also got eARC which is Enhanced Audio Return Channel. eARC made sure you get the best audio quality possible by negating any audio compression and allowing movement of full-resolution audio signals.

Enhanced Clarity Through VRR

HDMI 2.1 made a major improvement in clarity by introducing Variable Refresh Rate or VRR. It negated screen tearing and stuttering by catering to variable frame rates of modern PC and console games. VRR syncs with the image output from the device with the screen to avoid any frame drop or stuttering.

Auto Low Latency Mode

Auto Low Latency Mode or ALLM is a specialized gaming feature that comes with HDMI 2.1, and it automatically enables Game Mode on your TV or monitor. It not only allows gamers to react in real-time in multiplayer games but also helps in reducing input lag.

Quick Media Switching

Previously, when we selected content, the TV created a blank screen for a few seconds to resynchronize the source. But HDMI 2.1 eliminated that blank screen issue by introducing Quick Media Switching or QMS. It smoothly switches from one content to another with different frame rates.

Quick Frame Transport

QFT or Quick Frame Transport is an innovative feature in HDMI 2.1 that allows the quick transport of frames from a source to a display.

The frames are sent at a high frame rate without requiring the support of display rate or GPU speed, and it ensures negligible lag in fps games. Virtual Reality systems benefit a lot through QFT because they reduce the time and ensure real-time interaction.

The arrival of Display Stream Compression

Among many new innovative features, HDMI 2.1 also introduced VESA Display Stream Compression 1.2a, which enables specific displays to go beyond the standard resolution and color bit. With DSC, you can raise up to 8K 60Hz RGB or 8K 120Hz.

Which HDMI Cable Supports HDMI 2.1?

To utilize the full feature of HDMI 2.1, you will have to use the Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable that offers maximum bandwidth support of 48 Gbps. The Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable comes with a specialized certification label and is sold by top brands.

In general, these cables have a golden connector on both ends and get an overall length of 6.5 ft. However, these cables can offer a maximum resolution of 8K at 60Hz as opposed to HDMI 2.1’s maximum resolution of 10K.

These have a very low EMI mission which considers many modern users. Since these cables are backward compatible, you can utilize them with other existing HDMI devices. While buying these cables, you should check the authenticity by scanning the QR code and specifications given on the body.

How Do I Tell Whether My TV Supports HDMI 2.1?

If you bought your TV a few months or a year ago, then there is a high probability that your TV will have HDMI 2.1. However, if it isn’t, then it must come with HDMI 2.0 or HDMI 1.4. It is pretty tricky to visually check the version of the HDMI because most TV manufacturers don’t mention the connector standard they use.

Since all the HDMI connectors look the same, it becomes impossible to identify which HDMI standard has been added. You will have to look for your TV’s feature list on the brand’s website and find out whether you have HDMI 2.1 or not.

If you have bought from any online e-commerce site, you can also check the device’s specifications from that site. Another easy way to find out is by checking out your TV’s manual.

Will Your TV Get Obsolete?

Without a doubt, it won’t get obsolete. There is no chance of obsolescence if your TV comes with 4K UHD resolution and HDR support. You can still enjoy most movies, TV shows, and games at their highest resolution with excellent color and sound output.

The arrival of HDMI 2.1 in the industry has made a significant breakthrough as it has enhanced resolution and bought many advanced features. But still, it is far from becoming a norm in most TVs and monitors as 4K 120Hz and 8K 60Hz have yet to become mainstream. Only a handful of TVs and monitors offer such high resolution and high refresh, and all of them come with an expensive price tag.

Moreover, the industry lacks content that can actually take the benefit of HDMI 2.1 resolution and feature support. Thus 4K 60Hz resolution still serves as a convenient choice for most common consumers as HDMI 2.1 can take around 3-5 years to go mainstream.

What Are The Downsides Of Changing To HDMI 2.1?

HDMI 2.1 has brought many significant improvements by enhancing the resolution support and bringing advanced technologies. But HDMI 2.1 is far from getting mainstream as modern consumer technologies lack the way to utilize HDMI 2.1 fully.

Many modern displays that come with HDMI 2.1 doesn’t guarantee you will get a fully featured HDMI 2.1-supported display. There are some TVs from Sony and Toshiba that come with HDMI 2.1 and eARC support, but they don’t carry many other features like VRR or QFT.

The same thing is applicable to some selected monitors that don’t offer all the features of HDMI 2.1. Basically, not all HDMI 2.1-supported displays are created equal, so you won’t be able to utilize all the features entirely. This is a big downside of HDMI 2.1 for now, but soon, when it gets popular, these factors will get eliminated.

Can You Upgrade Your TV or Monitor to HDMI 2.1 Through Firmware?

Theoretically, it might seem possible to upgrade your old TV or Monitor’s HDMI standard to HDMI 2.1, but practically it is not possible. There are many high-end chips that allow upgradation through firmware upgrades, but these chips or processors are super expensive.

Importantly, these chips are unavailable at the consumer level, so your TV or monitor will require a hardware upgrade to utilize HDMI 2.1. Moreover, you can’t just install an HDMI 2.1 in your old TV or monitor as the motherboard or mainframe is not designed to work with it. So there is no chance that you can upgrade your TV or monitor to HDMI 2.1.

Now it boils down to the last question;

Should You Upgrade To HDMI 2.1?

If you are looking for an upgrade on a long-term basis and you want to have the best visual experience possible, then upgrading to HDMI 2.1 is totally worth it. If you want to explore 8K 60Hz visuals, then you should get a TV with at least one HDMI 2.1.

As a gamer, primarily as a multiplayer gamer, you can highly utilize HDMI 2.1 port because it comes with many advanced features that reduce all input lag. Although movies and other content supporting 4K 120Hz or 8K 60Hz is quite a handful, if you think about the future perspective, it will definitely be worth it.

However, such high resolution and modern features come at a price, as most of the TV and monitors offering fully-featured HDMI 2.1 are highly expensive. Since consumer brands are still yet to fully utilize all the aspects of HDMI 2.1, it will take a long time for HDMI 2.1 to become mainstream. So if you are in no rush to get the best of the best, then you should stick to your old TV and wait for HDMI 2.1 to get more popular and familiar.

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