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What is HDMI 2.1, and why do I need it?

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Nowadays, HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is the most important connection method between sources such as Blu-ray players, gaming consoles or media players, and displays like TVs or projectors. This fully digital standard overhauled the popular SCART or other analogue connections quickly, starting in the early 2000s. It transports high definition video and immersive audio as well as various control signals. Moreover, it ensures that the content is copy protected. Today, everybody who has a flat TV, a modern game console, a pay-TV set-top-box or a streaming device like FireTV or AppleTV, is using an HDMI connection between all devices. An AV receiver like the Denon AVR-X2700H, is a kind of HDMI switching device, repeater device or hub, since it collects audio and video signals from all connected devices, and resends data, mostly the video, to the display. It is a vital part of a home cinema dream.

 

Why a new version of HDMI?

Each version of the standard published by the HDMI Organisation defines different functions which may be supported by a compliant product. The development in audio and video technology is very fast, and as new functions simply require more digital data, the transmission technology needs to adapt. That’s why, in January 2017, the HDMI Organisation announced a new standard called HDMI 2.1 which includes enhancements for better video, better audio but also for better user experience and better gaming. The enhancements cover so many areas that it should take until mid of 2020 for the first AV Receivers like the Denon AVC-X4700H to be launched with all the key features of the new HDMI version.

The former HDMI 2.0b standard defined a lot of amazing things like 4K picture (also known as Ultra HD), HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Dolby Vision for better video, as well as up to 32 channels of audio and immersive audio formats even sent from the TV back to the AV Receiver by ARC (Audio Return Channel) which is very handy running media player apps like Netflix on the TV. Speaking tech: A total of 18 Gbit/s was defined as video transmission bandwidth that required good cables and the use of new cable technologies for long lengths to transmit these high resolution and more vivid and colourful video signals without any interruption.

 

How HDMI 2.1 changes your viewing experience

Now, new video technologies like Dynamic HDR, HDR10+ and 8K are just around the corner. The 8K resolution has four times as many pixels as today’s 4K picture. In addition, the new standard defines higher frame rates of 120 frames per second (this means 120 single images per second) which provides a smoother and sharper motion for sports and gaming. Such resolution and framerate require a higher amount of data (up to more than 40Gbit/s) to be sent between the HDMI devices, which is simply not possible within former HDMI versions. That is why a new standard supporting higher bandwidths had to be introduced.

Moreover, gamers really value features like a Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Quick Frame Transport (QFT), to avoid lag, tearing and stuttering when they play games. Until recently this was only a dream for gamers since HDMI 2.0 did not define these functionalities.

Now, with key features as specified in HDMI 2.1 launching first in Denon AV Receivers in early summer 2020, everything will finally be possible. And even if 8K TVs and playback devices are currently rare and ultra-expensive, a new Denon AVR enables you to design the most advanced 4K home theatre and gaming system today, with 8K specifications on tap for when you are ready to upgrade.