HDMI 2.1 vs HDMI 2.0: Full Comparison


HDMI 2.1 vs HDMI 2.0: Full Comparison

Key Points

  • Most current in-home devices use HDMI 2.0 cables, but the next generation will require HDMI 2.1.
  • HDMI 2.1 almost triples the bandwidth speed from 18Gbps to 48Gbps.
  • The HDMI 2.1 connector will work with HDMI 2.0 ports, but the cables will not improve the performance of older devices.
  • Gamers are the first group that will see the benefits of HDMI 2.1 with smoother animation and reduced lag.

High-definition technology has been the standard in televisions and other screens since the early 2000s. Engineers developed that High-Definition Multimedia Interface to accommodate increased data needs. HDMI cables could carry information at lightning speeds to provide a clear picture on the screens of the time. The first generation of HDMI could transport about 5Gbps.

Improvements in digital technology demanded a higher data capability. In 2013, HDMI 2.0 increased the bandwidth to 18Gbps for improved picture quality on larger screens. The latest generation of HDMI cable technology is HDMI 2.1, which has a 48Gbps bandwidth speed.

Many users will wonder if it is time to upgrade their equipment. Understanding the similarities and differences between HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 will help you weigh the pros and cons of investing in new cables.

HDMI 2.1 vs. HDMI 2.0: Side-by-Side Comparison

HDMI 2.1HDMI 2.0
Bandwidth speed:48Gbps18Gbps
Max resolution:10K4K
Refresh rate:8K at 60 Hz4K at 60Hz
Variable refresh rate:YesNo
High dynamic range:DynamicStatic
Low-latency mode:AutomaticNone
Marketing label:Ultra-high-speedPremium high-speed

What Is HDMI 2.0?

HDMI 2.0 cables have the ability to transport data quickly from one device to another.

©iStock.com/Ihor Hrelyuk

The ability to transport data quickly from one device to another is critical in multimedia applications. Picture quality and lag times are heavily affected by the connection between a game platform and the screen. If the cable cannot adequately transfer data, it will disrupt the view with blurriness and distracting visual imperfections like screen tearing.

HDMI 2.0 cables premiered in 2013 to support improved technology. Consumers wanted larger television screens with HD capability. Advances in gaming platforms also increased the need for faster data transfer. In the new HDMI technology, the available bandwidth speed increased to 18Gbps.

Most devices that are currently in homes will work with an HDMI 2.0 cable. It can easily handle a screen resolution of up to 4,000 pixels. Current gaming systems will also work with HDMI 2.0, but some of the latest platforms have features that will only work with a faster cable.

What Is HDMI 2.1?

HDMI cable
HDMI 2.1 has a faster bandwidth speed than HDMI 2.0.

©iStock.com/Lazaros Papandreou

The connector for an HDMI cable looks the same as older versions, but that is where the similarities end. The new cable has a 48Gbps bandwidth speed to enable the next generation of multimedia devices. For televisions and gaming systems designed for 2.1 technology, this cable offers better picture quality and a faster framerate. HDMI 2.1 exceeds the needs of most current devices because it anticipates the requirements of the next generation.

HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 both have a high dynamic range feature that improves picture quality by increasing available light and color ranges. However, 2.1 has dynamic HDR while 2.0 has static HDR. In the dynamic feature, the system does a more frequent check for the ideal range leading to better contrast and a clearer picture.

2.1 has several differences from older versions. It enables a faster frame rate that will make a big difference for gaming platforms. The onscreen movement will be smoother, allowing for more accurate targeting. Its variable refresh rate capability automatically matches the refresh rate to the frame rate, minimizing screen tearing. HDMI 2.1 also has an auto-low latency feature that sets the system to the ideal latency level to prevent lag.

HDMI 2.1 vs. HDMI 2.0: Which Is Better?

The pros and cons of updating your cable revolve around the type of devices involved. Although the connector is the same, attaching an HDMI 2.1 cable to an HDMI 2.0-enabled device will not bring extra benefits. Attributes like picture quality and framerate will not change.

Gamers are the first consumers to see the benefits of an upgrade to HDMI 2.1. Game platforms that work with the new technology will minimize lag by matching the refresh rate to the framerate and automatically adjusting the latency mode.

However, if you plan to replace your HD devices, you may want to consider purchasing new cables. Manufacturers have already introduced televisions with an 8K resolution that require advanced technology. Additionally, gamers will need the extra bandwidth speed to remain competitive.

HDMI 2.1 vs HDMI 2.0: Full Comparison FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is HDMI?

HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is proprietary hardware which can be used for transmitting video or audio data from one device to another. It was originally created as a replacement for analog video technology. HDMI technology was designed to accommodate increased data needs and to be able to carry and transfer information between devices at fast speeds.

How fast is HDMI?

Initially, HDMI could transfer data at 5Gbps. However, by the time HDMI 2.0 was released the bandwidth had increased to 18Gbps. The newest form of HDMI – HDMI 2.1 is even faster though, with a bandwidth of 48Gbps.

Does HDMI 2.1 make a big difference?

For most devices currently on the market, HDMI 2.1 does not make a big difference. Devices designed for a 2.0 connection will not see improvements. However, the extra features and 48Gbps bandwidth speed will make a huge difference in the performance and picture quality of the next generation of screens and gaming platforms.

Which is better: HDMI 2.1 or HDMI 2.0?

HDMI 2.1 has several differences that make it the better product, especially for new devices. This cable allows faster data flow, minimizes lag times and optimizes the framerate for smooth performance. However, just attaching an HDMI 2.1 cable to an HDMI 2.0-enabled device will not bring extra benefits. Instead, you may want to consider purchasing new cables if you plan on replacing your HD devices.

Which is faster: HDMI 2.1 or HDMI 2.0?

People often compare bandwidth speed to water flow in a pipe. A wider pipe allows a greater volume. Although there are similarities in appearance, HDMI 2.1 with a 48Gbps rate is much faster than HDMI 2.0 with an 18Gbps capacity.

Does HDMI 2.1 improve picture quality?

HDMI 2.1 will improve picture quality in devices designed to work with its advanced connection capabilities. The higher bandwidth will allow it to provide high picture quality in devices with 8K and 10K resolutions. Features like the dynamic HDR will also give images a more natural appearance.

Can you use an HDMI 2.1 cable on an HDMI 2.0 port?

The connector on an HDMI 2.1 cable is backward compatible and will work with an HDMI 2.0 port. It will allow data to flow, but it will not improve the performance of the device. However, looking at the pros and cons, if you need a new HDMI cable, it will be best to upgrade to 2.1 as you consider your data needs in the future.

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