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New HDMI 2.1 Specification Transmits 48Gbps to Handle 8K60Hz with HDR, 4K120Hz

HDMI Forum has unveiled the new backwards-compatible HDMI 2.1 specification that will transmit up to 48Gbps bandwidth to support not only 4K @ 60Hz with HDR, plus 8K @60Hz and 4K @ 120Hz.

Jason Knott · January 4, 2017

It looks like HDMI has met the challenge. The HDMI Forum, Inc. announced the upcoming release of Version 2.1 of the HDMI Specification,which not only handles 4K resolution at a 60Hz refresh rate needed for High Dynamic Range (HDR), but goes well beyond that bandwidth need.

This latest HDMI Specification supports a range of Higher Video Resolutions and refresh rates including 8K60 and 4K120, Dynamic HDR, and increased bandwidth with a new 48G cable.   

“We have no clear understanding of when products will be out.  Many of the HDMI Forum members have an early look at the spec so they may be working on products already.”

— Chris Pasqualino, HDMI Forum Chairman

Version 2.1 of the HDMI Specification is backward compatible with earlier versions of the specification, and was developed by the HDMI Forum’s Technical Working Group whose members represent some of the world’s leading manufacturers of consumer electronics, personal computers, mobile devices, cables and components.

“This new release of the specification offers a broad range of advanced features for enhancing the consumer entertainment experience, as well as providing robust solutions to the commercial A/V sector,” says Robert Blanchard of Sony Electronics, president of the HDMI Forum. 

“This is part of the HDMI Forum’s continuing mission to develop specifications for the HDMI eco-system that meet the growing demand for compelling, high-performance and exciting features.”

Speaking exclusively with CE Pro, HDMI Forum Chairman Chris Pasqualino notes, “We have been working hard to get this ‘bad boy’ released. We have identified the five marquee features of the new spec.”

Those are:

What HDMI 2.1 Means for Integrators

The new specification, which is formally being announced at CES 2017, will be available to all HDMI 2.0 Adopters and they will be notified when it is released early in Q2 2017.

“We have no clear understanding of when products will be out.  Many of the HDMI Forum members have an early look at the spec so they may be working on products already,” says Pasqualino. “There will be a requirement for active cables after a certain length. I do not expect to see significant growth in the footprint of the cable. Connectors will be the same.”

Resolutions and refresh rates supported by the new HDMI 2.1 spec.

A compliance test is being developed. It is underway now but it will take about months to write it, says Pasqualino. Prior to the release of the compliance test, it will be up to the individual companies themselves to test their equipment to the spec. 
Rob Tobias, HDMI Licensing Administrator president, tells CE Pro that integrators can expect to see 8K prototypes from every TV manufacturer at CES 2017. He notes that there is not a strong push for 8K right now, except in Japan because that country wants to broadcast the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 8K. Tobias says the main focus among manufacturers is 4K and dynamic HDR and the higher frame rates in 4K, but he says he expects to see a push for 5K coming from the PC manufacturers. 5K is an even higher monitor resolution suited for gaming.

“There will be a requirement for active cables after a certain length. I do not expect to see significant growth in the footprint of the cable. Connectors will be the same.”

— Chris Pasqualino, HDMI Forum Chairman

For integrators and their clients, every piece of equipment in the ecosystem must be 2.1 for the customer to receive full 4K with HDR or 8K,a ccording to Pasqualino. “There is some margin in the system and the reliability will be good. There will be a short early adopter phase before we see a very quick ramp up to a stable ecosystem,” he adds.
Tobias adds, “How an individual piece of equipment will meet the 2.1 standard will depend on the manufacturer and the features. Some manufacturers may be able to achieve 2.1 compliance with just a firmware upgrade; others will require new hardware,” he says.  

Does 48G Cable Even Exist?

So while the parameters are set for HDMI 2.1 to handle 48Gbps, are there cables that even exist that can handle that bandwidth?

According to Pasqualino, there are some HDMI Forum members who are currently running lab tests to validate that 48G speed. 

“The compliance testing will check the speed when it is completed,” he says. 

The HDMI Forum currently has a membership of 83 companies, and is actively inviting more companies to apply for membership and help shape the future of HDMI technology. There is also a focus to encourage more companies to participate as the global presence of HDMI-enabled products and solutions continues to grow.

“It is strategically important to take an active role in the development and innovation of technology which is central to global consumer entertainment and impacts the overall user experience. It is very important for our customers to enjoy video services on their PC’s, mobile, and consumer electronics devices,” says Joseph Frank technical manager of video devices at Comcast Cable. “That’s why Comcast Cable joined, and I strongly encourage others to contact the HDMI Forum to find out about membership details.”

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