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February 16, 2021
48Gbit/s: That’s the incredible amount of data that the latest-gen Ultra High Speed HDMI 2.1 cables can transfer – a staggering 167% faster than previous generation High Speed cables that can only manage 18Gbit/s. This enormous bandwidth is made possible thanks to high-purity copper conductors, high-density tinned copper braided shielding, and ultra-low manufacturing tolerances – with all the cables undergoing rigorous independent testing. But what’s the benefit?
With their insane bit rates, ‘Ultra’ High Speed HDMI cables are the first generation that can actually carry 4K video at a fluid 120Hz and bring pin-sharp 8K content to giant displays. Theoretically, they can even support 10K at an eye-popping resolution of 10,240 × 4,320 pixels – it’s just there aren’t any displays available yet capable of handling that.
And alongside delivering sharper and more detailed picture quality, the latest HDMI universal A/V interface standard ushers in a host of additional improvements for home cinema and gaming – including new functions such as Dynamic HDR, VRR, and eARC. But what do all these acronyms stand for?
HDR stands for ‘High Dynamic Range’.Dynamic HDR therefore stands for ‘Dynamic High Dynamic Range’. Sounds odd, right? But it’s looks that count – and the result is awesome! Its forerunner, HDR, significantly expanded the contrast ratios of video images, i.e. brightness differences, which is also referred to as the ‘dynamic range’. This causes brightly illuminated areas of the image, such as a glaring spotlight in the dark of night, to stand out more strongly. However, the additional image information required for this is static in HDR films, i.e. identical for the entire length of a film.
The HDMI 2.1 Specification’s Dynamic HDR solution handles strong variations in brightness much better, adjusting the contrast information on a scene-by-scene or even on a frame-by-frame basis to ensure every moment of a video is displayed at its ideal value. This makes scenes appear clearer, more atmospheric, and more natural – especially dark ones.
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) is more likely to appeal to gamers than home cinema fans. It lets your video game console, PC, or any other device put the connected TV in low-latency mode – better known as gaming mode – automatically. Your TV will then switch off a range of functions that are designed to optimise picture quality, but which delay the picture from getting from the source to the display by several precious milliseconds.
This latency between you performing an action (pressing a button on your controller) and seeing this on the display (the gameplay) is known as the dreaded phenomenon of input lag. It ruins the gaming experience and can also spell game over a whole lot sooner in fast-paced online matches. While you can turn on gaming mode manually by rummaging through your TV’s menu, HDMI 2.1 and ALLM does all this automatically with the latest consoles such as the Xbox Series S/X or PlayStation 5.
Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) synchronises the refresh rate of your TV or monitor with the output signal of your gaming PC or video game console. Conventional TVs or monitors display frames at a fixed rate of typically 60Hz – which means 60 frames per second. But the speed at which video and computer games output frames varies constantly depending on the gaming action. If nothing much is going on in the virtual world, the GPU can fire off frames faster; but as soon as a gang of fifty opponents pops up on the scene at the same time, the GPU has a whole lot more computing to do. This taxes it, so it becomes slower – and it lowers the frame rate to cope. This causes the output frame rate to drift out of sync with the display’s 60Hz refresh rate. If it drifts too far, frames are dropped, the picture judders, and frames tear.
You can now say goodbye to all of that with the new HDMI standard’s VRR technology. It dynamically matches your monitors refresh rate with your GPU’s frame rate, delivering a smoother gaming experience.
Even previous HDMI versions could supply video and audio information to the display, whereby you could then route the audio to a Hi-Fi system or soundbar via a separate cable. HDMI 2.1 now advances the previous Audio Return Channel (ARC) technology with the introduction of Enhanced Audio Return Technology (eARC). This new technology takes sound quality to an even higher level, with support for 32 audio channels, 7.1 surround sound, and the latest audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS:X. Simply put: Films never sounded so good in your home cinema.
First off, all your kit – from the video source to the monitor – needs to be compatible to enjoy the many functions offered by the latest HDMI specification. PC graphics cards, such as the Radeon RX 6000 and GeForce RTX 3000 series, are already equipped for the latest generation standard as are the latest video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X. You’ll also need to have an HDMI 2.1 monitor or TV hooked up to the other end of the cable.
Be aware, though, that you’ll need to run a software update on your equipment to enjoy some of the cutting-edge functions offered by this new standard; indeed, there’s still no firm date in sight as to when the latest-gen consoles will eventually output 8K video. Digital video and audio content will also need to be tweaked to make the most of all the new features – after all, an old Full HD video won’t look any sharper on the latest 8K TV. Aside from all this, there’s something else you’ll need to get...
You’ll also need a new HDMI cable to connect all your kit together so everything works to the same spec. But how can you be certain that a cable meets these high standards? Just because you see an ‘HDMI 2.1’ label on the packaging doesn’t guarantee that the cable is actually up to the job of offering the bandwidth and signal quality that is demanded to enjoy all the new A/V possibilities.
What you need to go for are those new, superior-quality ‘Ultra’ High Speed cables. You may also see them go by their category name of ‘48G’ for the enormous bandwidth they support. The Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable trademark and associated logo can only be carried by cables whose particular manufacturer can prove that the cables passed stringent independent testing to verify that they tick every box in terms of the HDMI 2.1 Specification’s standards. Only then can you be certain that you’ll be able to enjoy watching and listening to all that stunning 8K video and DTS:X audio output by your expensive new kit.
Unsure if a cable is actually an ‘Ultra’ High Speed cable even though it has the logo on it? The good news is that you can check it yourself – and it’s really easy to do. Simply get the free HDMI Cable Certification app for your Android or iOS device then use it to scan the QR code on the label to verify the cable’s certificate. You can then be absolutely sure that the cable is legit.
KabelDirekt is one of the first manufacturers to sell officially licensed cables certified as being ‘Ultra’ High Speed. The HDMI 2.1-compatible copper cables with black & blue and black & silver connectors come in a range of lengths and have been on sale since the start of January 2021. Now there’s nothing to hold you back from enjoying an enhanced home cinema or gaming experience that’ll blow you away.
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