As Fast As Possible
In addition to the standard HDMI 2.0 capabilities, HDMI 2.1 adds native support for the variable refresh rate technology, dynamic HDR, up to 10K screen resolution, 4K at 120Hz, and many more features. Products such as certain monitors and TVs with the new HDMI 2.1 port are expected as soon as 2019.
On December 2017, HDMI Forum revealed final specifications for HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) version 2.1 which include higher refresh rates and resolutions as well as support for many useful features such as dynamic HDR (High Dynamic Range), eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel), and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) technology, among other things.
HDMI 2.1 Supported Resolutions & Refresh Rates
HDMI 2.1 brings support for screen resolutions up to stellar 10K at 120Hz, that’s 10240×4320 pixels! Apart from that, PC gamers will be pleased with the native 120Hz at 4K support.
For 8k at 60Hz and onwards, you will need the new Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable with up to 48Gbps. Both the new cable as well as the HDMI 2.1 port will be backward compatible with their previous models.
For everything over 8K at 60Hz, HDMI 2.1 will be using DSC (Display Stream Compression) 1.2 with 4:2:0 chroma sampling
HDMI 2.1 Features
Other features of HDMI 2.1 include the support for dynamic HDR which implements its metadata with optimal brightness, contrast, color, and other settings on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis for a more immersive viewing experience, unlike the static HDR which offers the same metadata for all scenes of the video.
Furthermore, Quick Frame Support (QFS) and Auto Low Latency Mode make the lowest latency performance possible and ensure a seamless viewing experience with responsive gameplay.
With the Quick Media Switching (QMS), black screens that take place when toggling between media sources will be shorter while the enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) provides full support as well as easier control over audio devices and advanced audio formats.
Here’s a list of all the supported features HDMI 2.1 offers in comparison to the previous versions.
What does this mean for gamers?
What’s most interesting for gamers, besides the 4K at 120Hz support, is the native support for variable refresh rate technology such as AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-SYNC which synchronizes the frame rate between a GPU and the display for a smoother gameplay experience without screen tearing and stuttering.
We have yet to see how the display manufacturers plan to use this feature and whether or not we can expect to see the variable refresh rate technology work with compatible GPUs no matter the display, i.e. NVIDIA GeForce cards with FreeSync gaming monitors and vice versa.
HDMI 2.1 testing has already taken place, so we can likely expect products with the new HDMI 2.1 ports in 2019. You can find more detailed information on the official HDMI press release.
Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time on writing for DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.