What is HDMI 2.1?
We look at how HDMI 2.1 can supercharge your gaming or movie nights!
16 Dec 2020
So, first thing’s first- what is HDMI? HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. And that is pretty much what it does- HDMI cables and ports allow high definition video and sound to be transferred from an output to an input device. So if you want to stream a show on your laptop and watch it on your TV, you just plug an HDMI cable into both and you’re ready to go.
But, not all HDMI cables are created equal. What your HDMI cable can do will depend on its bandwidth and what version it is.
What is HDMI 2.1?
2.1 is the latest HDMI version, announced back in late 2017. And there’s a pretty big difference between HDMI 2.0 and 2.1. For a long time though, HDMI 2.1 simply wasn’t available to the average joe. Now things have changed though, and it’s easy to get yourself a new HDMI 2.1 monitor or TV.
But what does HDMI 2.1 actually do? Here’s our top three:
Higher resolution and refresh rates
4K and 8K picture is now way more commonplace than it used to be. With 4K resolution you get 4x the pixels of High Definition, and 8K is another 4x that! That makes for a super clear picture with crisp and stunning detail. So where does HDMI 2.1 come into this?
Well, with HDMI 2.1 you can watch 8K at 60fps and 4K at 120fps. This is really its standout feature. It means that if you’re watching something with a really high resolution, not only will the picture be crisp, it’ll also be smooth too. And it’s a big difference between HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1 too, since 2.0 could only handle 4K at 60fps.
That makes an HDMI 2.1 gaming monitor or TV perfect for gamers. You can play your games in all the glorious cinematic detail the developers intended. And you don’t have any stop-start motion to take your head out the game. It’s a win-win!
Game mode VRR (Variable Refresh Rate)
This handy tech means your TV or monitor can switch up the refresh rate depending on the input it’s getting. So when the action gets going onscreen the picture won’t be struggling to keep up. A 3D graphics processor can do it all in real time, rendering and displaying each image.
This is obviously, once again, awesome for gamers. There’s no lag or stuttering between cut scenes and button-mashingly hectic combat sequences. Just you, your game and a seriously immersive experience.
Have you heard of HDR? High Dynamic Range has really upped picture quality since it came on the scene. To put it simply, HDR makes colours more vivid and blacks even more black. The end result? A realistic picture with way more depth.
With HDMI 2.1, Dynamic HDR is possible. This is HDR but on a more intelligent, finely tuned level. Each frame is adjusted so you get exactly the right brightness, contrast and colour. Your favourite films will never have looked so good.
Do I need an HDMI 2.1 cable or any other kit to use it?
The short answer’s yes. The output device you’re using, like a laptop or console will need an HDMI 2.1 port. And the input device, your TV or monitor, will need one too. Plus, you’ll need the actual HDMI 2.1 new cable as well.
So, if you have an Xbox Series X|S or PS5 and want to play games in 4K at 120fps, you’ll need a TV that can support it too. It’s still fairly new tech, so if you want to know what TVs have HDMI 2.1, you’ll need to check the connectivity section of their spec points carefully. A good bet is LG, as all of their OLED TVs last year had the right ports- like this LG OLED55CX6LA 55" Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR OLED TV with Google Assistant & Amazon Alexa.
If it’s a gaming monitor with HDMI 2.1 you’re looking for- bad news. There currently aren’t any monitors supporting HDMI 2.1 yet. But, on the upside, several have been recently announced. So keep your eyes peeled for them!
And when it comes to the cable, look for something that either mentions HDMI 2.1 or that says it has a bandwidth of up to 48 Gbps. Take this Sandstrom Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable, it’ll handle 8K at 60 fps no problem!