When you buy a tv, in the technical sheet it tells you its resolution, if it offers HD, FullD, 4K or 8K quality, how many HDMI inputs it has, etc. But with the HDMI cables It is not so simple. You’d know differentiate two cables HDMI at a glance? The controversy goes back a long way. And with the announcement of HDMI 2.1a, the most recent version of this digital video standard, beyond solving the problem, you will still not know what type of cable you are using.
HDMI 2.1a will be presented at CES 2022 (Consumer Electronics Show), one of the world’s largest consumer electronics events. The good news is that, like any upgrade, HDMI 2.1a is a revision of its previous version, 2.1, with improvements and new features. The bad news is that it will be very difficult for you to know if you have a cable with that version in your hands. A problem that comes from afar.
But let’s go in parts. Do youWhat does it consist of the HDMI standard? What better does HDMI 2.1a give us and what controversy is that that makes practically impossible to differentiate Two HDMI cables except what the manufacturer or the vendor on duty tells you?
HDMI is the acronym for High Definition Multimedia Interface, High Definition Multimedia Interface. It was released around 2003 and since then, current televisions and devices are connected to each other using this type of connectors and cables. To understand us. HDMI cables are the industry standard to replace RCA connectors and scart connectors.
If you have a television less than 20 years old, a Blu-Ray player, an external DTT tuner or an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 2 video game console or more recent models, you will already be familiar with HDMI cables. Thanks to them, today we enjoy HD content from devices such as consoles, players or tuners connected to our television.
As is often the case with standards, HDMI is controlled by an international consortium that brings together the largest electronics manufacturers. In this case, it is the HDMI Forum, in which more than 1,700 companies are represented. And during all these years, from this consortium they have been emerging HDMI standard updates.
First it was HDMI 1.0. Then came 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.0 and 2.1, which is the most recent. It went on the market at the end of November 2017, and it is the one that, in principle, you should find if you buy HDMI cables. However, in the market for televisions, devices and cables, several of these versions coexist. And one of the problems is that it is not easy to know which version of HDMI is the one they integrate ports and cables.
The novelty is that the HDMI Forum will introduce HDMI 2.1a at CES 2022. The umpteenth version of its standard of ports and cables to transmit audio and video, control devices and other functions that you may already use in your home. That and the possibility of watching content in UHD or 4K on your television. Or even 8K, if you are a early adopter and your pocket allows it.
For starters, HDMI 2.1a it’s a revision of standard 2.1. Hence there is no change in numbering. As a main novelty, except for last minute surprises, there is the functionality called SBTM, acronym for Source-Based Tone Mapping. And what does it consist of? Basically it is an improvement focused on the HDR technology, one of the pillars for the enjoyment of content in UHD or 4K.
Specifically, SBTM introduces the source-based tone mapping, literal translation of its acronym in English. What this means is that HDR tone mapping is done, in part, at the source of the content, be it a player or a decoder. The other part continues to be carried out, as before, by the HDR-compatible television or monitor itself. To specify. Does not substitute Dolby Vision neither HDR10. Facilitates its use.
Technically it sounds good. But for the user, how does it benefit you? In theory, the introduction of SBTM will make it easier to enjoy HDR compatible content, since you will not have to configure that option on your TV manually. The tone mapping will be practically automatic.
Another advantage of the HDMI 2.1a standard is that you don’t need to switch TVs or devices. Devices will receive this support through firmware updates. Although they are not obliged to do so. Manufacturers will be able to incorporate support for this standard if they want. And on the other hand, you will need an HDMI 2.1a cable to enjoy the new functionality. And this is where we return to the eternal problem.
Although I did not want to get too long when I spoke of the HDMI standard, it is convenient to specify the issue of versions a bit more. The HDMI standard has changed a lot since its version 1.0 and the current 2.1. For starters, the resolution. With HDMI 1.0 you could stream 1080p content. It is not until the HDMI 1.4 version that 4K or 2160p support is added. And that at 24 or 30 frames per second. With HDMI 2.0 it increases to 60 frames per second. And with HDMI 2.1, support for 8K and 10K is added. And the frame rate per second is increased to 120. There are also other changes and improvements in the audio and in the speed of the data transfer.
All this does not seem like a problem at first glance. The problem starts in 2012. The HDMI Forum, the consortium of companies interested in maintaining the HDMI standard, agrees that no one will mention the HDMI version of the cables and ports. They will only report on the functions they support. That is the reason why it is practically impossible for us distinguish a wire HDMI 1.4 out of one 2.0 or 2.1.
Normally, HDMI cables indicate their performance. For example, HDMI 4K or HDMI 8K. They also usually indicate the bandwidth. For example, 4K @ 120Hz or 4K @ 60Hz. Some sellers bypass this ban and they say what version of HDMI they are selling you. We can find cables that appear with the name HDMI 2.0 high speed. A little relief for the buyer. But once purchased, to differentiate them you have to look at what the cable indicates. Here are the indications according to the official website of the standard.
- Standard HDMI Cable / Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet (HDMI 1.2)
- High Speed HDMI Cable / High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet (HDMI 1.4)
- Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable (HDMI 2.0 Y 2.1)
You can check it if you go to any physical or online store. Let’s say you want to buy a television. In the data sheet it will tell you that it is compatible with 4K, with HDR, which version of HDR, etc. At most, it will tell you how many HDMI inputs does it have. But forget about knowing if they are 1.4 or 2.0 inputs. The problem is greater with the wiring. Its appearance is identical and only differs by the indications included in the cable or by the information in the technical data sheet. But even with that information, for the buyer it is a headache, whether or not you are familiar with the subject.