HDMI 2.1 and 8K TVs: What will Change in 2019?

Many people are wondering whether they need to upgrade with the introduction of the HDMI 2.1. The new format was announced in last November and comes with added features and upgrades over the current HDMI 2.0. But that doesn't mean you need to scramble for new HDMI 2.1 cables right now!

With 8K TVs already available in the market there are several questions around HDMI 2.1- how does it work, what are differences and do you need to buy a new TV?

We will answer your queries right here and tell you everything you need to know about HDMI 2.1 and 8K TVs

The Differences between HDMI 2.1 and HDMI 2.0

HDMI 2.0 was the last upgrade made to replace HDMI 1.4 that came out in 2013. HDMI 2.0 supports 4K Ultra High Def (UHD) content and can play videos at 60 fps. Two updates, HDMI 2.0a and 2.0b, added the support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) but didn't require new cables.

HDMI 2.1 is made to support high bandwidth and increases the maximum signal strength from 18 Gbps (HDMI 2.0) to 48 Gbps. You can play videos with 10K resolution and achieve frame rates of 120 fps.

But you will hardly find any content that fits those numbers. Only games can reach 120 fps, but that is possible only at low resolutions. So it will be a while before TVs are solely made for HDMI 2.1.

The other perks of HDMI 2.1 include:

Dynamic HDR

Dynamic HDR enables scenes to look their best by judging the content of the frames. HDR statically treats the scenes while Dynamic HDR considers frame-by-frame video elements to adjust the picture on the screen.

Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC)

eARC is the next-gen audio format which supports high-definition audio formats like object-based audio. Dolby Atoms can play out at full resolution which is not possible in HDMI 2.0.

Game Mode VRR

The feature is geared at gamers and supports variable refresh rate which allows GPUs to present images instantly as they are rendered. As a result, there is less lagging and buffer for frames.

Quick Media Switching (QMS)

Creates a smooth transition when frame rates and resolutions change.

Do You need New Cables for HDMI 2.1?

HDMI 2.1 introduces a new cable known as ultra high-speed cables. Originally they were called 48 Gbps cables, but now the name has been changed officially. You will only need to purchase an HDMI 2.1 cable if you want to take advantage of the higher frame rates and resolutions.

The other features like Dynamic HDR, eARC and QMS are available over the standard HDMI 2.0 cables. But for one thing, the connectors are still the same as HDMI 2.0.

Can You Firmware Upgrade to HDMI 2.1?

The feat is only possible in theory. You can only upgrade an HDMI 2.0 device if it comes with a premium chip which can be firmware upgraded. But they are so expensive that manufacturers seldom use them.

So most probably your 4K TV or Blu-ray player doesn't come with such a premium chip.

So for ordinary folks, there's no way to upgrade to HDMI 2.1. The only way you can enjoy HDMI 2.1 features is to connect an HDMI 2.1 device to a TV that supports HDMI 2.1.

Unfortunately, the support for HDMI 2.1 can mean different things. That means you need to be really careful when you shop for 8K TVs and devices that support HDMI 2.1.

Are all HDMI 2.1 TVs the Same?

TV manufacturers can just install HDMI 2.1 ports in their TVs and advertise them as HDMI 2.1 TVs even when they don't support higher frame rates and resolutions. The sad part is, you can call your TV 'HDMI 2.1 ready' even if it supports some features of the new format.

The brands are expected to disclose what features they have on their TV and those that are missing. So don't expect a TV set that supports all HDMI 2.1 features in coming years. Adoption will take some time, and it will probably come down in a trickling manner.

Some people may not mind owning a TV with limited HDMI 2.1 features. You are not going to get any content that comes at 120 fps as movies and videos are shot at around 24 to 30 fps in the current time. It will take some time before HDMI 2.1 ready TVs hit the market and we have to see how the marketing plays out. Just remember one thing- it always pays to be cautious!

That being said, do you need an 8K TV that supports HDMI 2.1?

Do I need to Buy an 8K TV?

Probably not! It's too early to make a jump from the 4K UHD TV to 8K Full Ultra High Def (FUHD) TV, so your current TV is not obsolete. Some folks don't even need a 4K TV going by their home setup and preferences.

You also have to take a look at the content scenario. We have just started making 4K content and are still in the early stages. 8K content is by far less and rare- you can only find a few movies and a handful of Youtube videos in 8K format.

On top of that, 8K TVs are not budget-friendly. You have to spend humongous amounts for large screen TVs that are not suitable for your living room. Your blu-ray player of Xbox will also not support 8K content for the moment.

Only home theater fanatics and hardcore gamers can think of switching to 8K TVs. But still, they will have to wait until the console manufacturers can support full-range HDMI 2.1 content.

So stick with your TV for the time being!


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