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Everything you need to know about HDMI 2.0

The HDMI Forum's announcement last September of version 2.0 has left consumers (and Pro-AV veterans alike) wondering what's next for them in A/V technology. What is HDMI 2.0? How will it handle current video content and devices? And how long until they become obsolete? 

Tossed together at almost the same time as the new HDMI standard, was the rollout of 4K/Ultra-HD televisions and displays. Though there are over two dozen Ultra HD/4K displays available on the market, there are only a select few TVs and projectors that are fully compatible with HDMI 2.0.

For system designs that are now in the works, this leaves us questioning - do Ultra-HD display manufacturers have a planned path for HDMI 2.0 upgradeability? A display with an HDMI 1.4 connection simply cannot support the future's high-bandwidth resolutions and frame rates. To remedy this issue, some companies are claiming they'll be able to provide a firmware upgrade to bring 1.4 products in the field up to 2.0. However, there is still much to prove and many factors to consider.

HDMI 2.0 has amazing potential, and the specs undoubtedly promise a new wave of technological advancements. The catch? There are very few devices on the market that support it. What good are the flashing lights of tomorrow-land when there is no way to get there? 

What is HDMI 2.0? 

According to the HDMI Forum, HDMI 2.0, which is backwards compatible with earlier versions of the HDMI specifications, significantly increases bandwidth up to 18Gbps and adds key enhancements to support continuing market requirements for enhancing the consumer video and audio experience.

HDMI Specification Comparison

 

HDMI Version  1.0  1.1  1.2  1.3  1.4   2.0
Date Initially Released  12/9/02  5/20/04  8/22/05  6/22/06  6/5/09  9/4/13 
Maximum Resolution 1600x1200  
p60
1600x1200  
p60 
1600x1200  
p60 
2048x1536  
p75
4096x2160  
p24
4096x2160  
p60 
Maximum Bandwidth (Gbps)  4.95 4.95 4.95 10.2 10.2 18
Maximum LPCM Audio Channels   8 Channels 8 Channels 8 Channels 8 Channels 8 Channels 32 Channels
Maximum Audio Sampling Rate 768kHz 768kHz 768kHz 768kHz 768kHz 1536kHz

 

 

1. No new HDMI cables or A/V receivers are required?

The HDMI Forum boldly states that version 2.0 does not define new cables or new connectors, and current High Speed (category 2) cables are capable of carrying the increased bandwidth.

However, what they fail to mention is the possibility of increased cable lengths that may be required to transmit 2.0 content. One of the most important factors in transmitting digital content is the signal's bandwidth which is supported by the speed of the cable.

What is bandwidth? Imagine you are building a plumbing system. Higher bandwidth means that bigger piping will be necessary in order transport more water. More water means more data will reach the end at one time, which translates into a sharper image, billions of colors, and crisp audio. HDMI bandwidth is measured in Gigabits Per Second (Gbps) with higher numbers meaning more data can stream across the cable at one time. The current version 1.4 has a bandwidth of 10.2 Gbps for audio, video, Ethernet, and 3D support. Version 2.0 can handle twice the size at 20 Gbps. 

While connecting the cable is typically a simple task, finding the right one may be a bit more complex. HDMI cables may all look similar to one another, but their specifications vary widely. It’s important to research the length of cable that will work with existing equipment, and the types and number of devices that are connected to the network.

2. Dual Video Stream

HDMI 2.0 supports dual video streams. It means that two full HD shows can be streamed on the same screen at the same time. How? The current HDMI 1.4 specification can support 4K resolutions at 24 frames per second, while HDMI 2.0 delivers same resolution at the double the speed of 60 frames per second. This higher frame rate is what makes dual video streaming a possibility.

There is also support for a 21:9 aspect ratio, which, well, what does this really mean for us anyway? 

HDMI Specifications

 

HDMI Version                 1.0                            1.1                              1.2                                 1.3                                  1.4                             2.0                  
CEC X X X X X X
DVD-Audio X X X X X
SACD X X X X
Deep Color X X X
Wider Color Gamut  X X X
Dolby TrueHD X  X X
DTS-HD Master Audio   X X X
Auto-Lip-Sync X X X
Mini Connector X X X
3D over HDMI  X X
4K over HDMI X X
Micro Connector X X
Automotive Connector   X X
HDMI Ethernet Channel    X X
Audio Return Channel  X X
4K@50/60 X
CEC Extension X
Dual-View X
Multi-Stream Audio X
21:9 Aspect Ratio X
Dynamic AutoLip-Sync  X

What's in it for Pro-AV?

It doesn't expeced many HDMI 2.0 products in 2014. 

The spec comes first, and then the chip makers design and build chips. Once these chips can be sourced in volume, display and other A/V device manufacturers will build these chips into their products. In the Pro-AV market, and especially in matrix router development, the adoption of HDMI 2.0 will be the last stage in progress. 

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