Earlier this week, the HDMI Forum unveiled the next version of its HDMI standard at the IFA trade show in Berlin. HDMI 2.0, as it is called, will bring us 4K video at higher frame rates than previously possible.
Arriving just in time for the wide rollout of a new generation of Ultra HDTVs, it adds a few key capabilities to the connection standard. With a bandwidth capacity of up to 18Gbps, it has enough room to carry 3,840 x 2,160 resolution video at up to 60fps. It also has support for up to 32 audio channels, “dynamic auto lipsync” and additional CEC extensions. The connector itself is unchanged, which is good for backwards compatibility but may disappoint anyone hoping for something sturdier to support all of those suddenly-popular dongles. The cables won’t change either, as the group claims current high-speed Category 2 wires can handle the increased bandwidth. Some companies have suggested upgrade paths for their UHDTVs already on the market — hopefully we’ll find out more about those plans this week at IFA 2013.
Here are some bullet points for the HDMI 2.0:
It is all about 4k. The most important thing about HDMI 2.0 is that it has more bandwidth to facilitate 4k video. Existing HDMI 1.4 technology can only send video signals to your TV at up to 10 gigabits per second. HDMI 2.0 ups that to 20 gigabits, which makes it possible to show 2160p 4k video with frame rates of up to 60 frames per second, whereas the existing HDMI 1.4 could only transmit 4k with up to 30 frames per second.
Superior Audio Quality. In addition to fluid 4k, HDMI 2.0-compliant devices will also transmit up to 32 audio channels, so you can go crazy with surround sound that puts 7.1 surround sound to shame. HDMI 2.0 also supports up to 1536kHz audio sample frequency, which sounds equally ridiculous, but more importantly, it adds the capability to better sync audio to what’s happening on your TV.
You should not worry about it for at least another year. The release of the specs is not the same as the release of any devices that actually use HDMI 2.0. “high-end TV products” that support HDMI 2.0 are to hit stores this winter and spring, and more affordable products to show up in fall and winter of 2014.
You can keep those cables. HDMI 2.0 is backwards-compatible with previous versions, and also uses the same cables and connectors. So while you may spend a few thousand dollars on a 4K TV, you at least won’t have to buy all new cables.
It will make remote controls more powerful. One of the cool things about HDMI has been CEC, the control capability that amongst other things makes it possible for a Chromecast device to turn on a TV. However, the implementation of many CEC features was voluntary for consumer electronics manufacturers. With HDMI 2.0, this changes, and things like remote control pass-through, system audio control and standby have to be implemented as part of CEC as well. In other words: You’re going to need fewer remote controls to get more stuff done.
It may lead to some cool new innovations. One of the new features of HDMI 2.0 is the capability to deliver two video streams to the same screen, or even stream one split-view signal to multiple screens. Watching two things at the same time may again not sound like something that any sane person might want to do, but there are a bunch of scenarios where this could actually make sense. One would be the combination of video game or even movie content with an ambient video signal that transforms your living room – think Microsoft Research’s IllumiRoom demo, but as a standard feature for all your Netflix streams to make you feel like you’re inside of a movie.
The other possibility are new types of displays, like the giant video wall in your living room that could simultaneously display a live TV feed and a wallpaper-like background, or even a second-screen-like experience on the big screen, telling you about the things you’re watching while you’re watching them.