HDMI 2.1

The HDMI Forum (the group in charge of developing HDMI) has released a new version of the standard. Don’t let the point update fool you — HDMI 2.1 is a huge leap over HDMI 2.0, even if some of its advantages will take years to bring to market. In fact, HDMI 2.1 looks to pack every kind of visual improvement anyone could ask for. That’s a bold claim to make, so let’s break it down.

HDMI 2.1 enables and drives virtually every major improvement in display technology that we’ve discussed in the past five years. Dynamic range, DolbyVision HDR? You’ve got it. You want 8K video @ 60fps? No problem. Lower latency? It’s baked into the standard. FreeSync support (in concept, if not in name)? It’s there, too.

The one caveat to all this is that it’s going to be awhile before we see HDMI 2.1 hardware in market. With the standard out today, we’re probably 12-18 months from support in hardware, though Nvidia might pick it up faster. It depends on how well the specification release matches their own GPU release schedule. Sometimes AMD or NV leads with a GPU that supports a new standard in fairly short order, but sometimes it takes longer.

Even once HDMI 2.1 has been adopted in hardware, it’ll be quite some time before we see a dedicated content path for it. Studios and broadcast TV are still busy shifting to 4K. HDR support in broadcast and movies is coming along, but 4K and HDR are still major forward-looking features that aren’t integrated into many products today. 8K and 10K video, or content at the 60-120Hz that HDMI 2.1 can push, isn’t going to appear for quite some time unless you work in the AV business.

Wow, 10K! and I am still on 4K or 1920 with pro-color calibrate monitors. That’s 100 times more pixels than many current monitors on the markets, dudes! ;-)

Either way, HDMI 2.1 is a huge leap above previous standards. It shouldn’t put you off buying a 4K TV near-term, since we know the standard’s actual adoption is almost certainly at least a year away. But it’ll make a nice feature when you finally upgrade. If you are an AV nerd you can read more information on hdmi forum.