Just when you thought it was safe to call your system future-proof, the HDMI Forum has turned the tables (yet again) and announced a new iteration of its HDMI Specification. Version 2.1 was officially unveiled earlier this month at CES 2017, with promises of support for data intense performance capabilities.
“This new release of the specification offers a broad range of advanced features for enhancing the consumer entertainment experience, as well as providing robust solutions to the commercial A/V sector,” says Robert Blanchard of Sony Electronics, president of the HDMI Forum.
The new specification brings Dynamic HDR, eARC, Game Mode variable refresh rate, 8K video at 60fps, and 4K at 120 fps, along with a bandwidth of 48 Gbps. That last parameter is well over double what the current HDMI 2.0 specification delivers (18 Gbps) and will require a new HDMI 2.1 cable. Yup, you read that correctly: once HDMI 2.1 takes hold, your old HDMI cables will slowly be rendered useless. The good news is that HDMI 2.1 (along with the new cable) are backwards compatible with the HDMI 1.4 and 2.0 specifications. As for your soon to be old HDMI 2.0x equipment, some of it might be upgradeable to HDMI 2.1 via a firmware upgrade. More than likely, though, the increased data requirements will require you to shop for new gear. Frustrating, yes…but exciting at the same time.
One of the more interesting new features is Dynamic HDR. This technology allows high dynamic range information to be delivered to a display on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis; HDR performance will actively change (depth, detail, brightness, contrast, color) for an optimal picture at all times. The addition of eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) means the most advanced audio codecs (Dolby Atmos and DTS:X) can be transmitted from a television back to an AVR/processor using the same HDMI cable that delivers video and audio. While this is possible with the current HDMI 2.0 standard, audio return is limited to less data intensive codecs.
The journey from HDMI 1.4 to HDMI 2.0 was certainly bumpy and frustrating for both consumers and manufacturers, alike, and it appears rough roads are approaching quickly. For those of you that purchased new TVs and AVRs in the last year, they are (unfortunately) well on their way to being outdated. Keep in mind, however, the HDMI 2.1 specification will take years to fully implement and there's no guarantee that manufacturers will immediately implement all of HDMI 2.1's capabilities in the short term.
The HDMI Forum says 2.1 won’t be released to manufacturers until sometime during Q2 2017. That means we'll likely have to wait until 2018 to see HDMI 2.1 gear hit store shelves.
Image Credit: HDMI Forum