HDMI 2.0 vs 2.1: the Differences You Must Know

hdmi 2.0 vs 2.1

What is the difference between HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1? These tags shall be frequently seen on some electronic devices, audio-visual peripherals, and HDMI cables. This article tries to explain what is HDMI 2.0 and 2.1, how they are applied differently, and what to take notice of when you are choosing one of them.

HDMI 2.1 and 8K

4K is now commonplace for viewers. The audio-visual industry is moving forward to make 8K a future mainstream, which means both streaming devices and video displays are striving to prepare themselves with a greater capacity. The same stress goes to the data transmission industry.

The bandwidth needed for the data transmission grows at an exponential rate from 1080p, 4K to 8K data. An HDMI cable that carries this audio-visual data from one end to another must be more efficient to transmit a greater load of data at the same time. HDMI 2.1 is able to carry a larger number of bytes (48Gb) per second than HDMI 2.0 and deals with more features such as eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) that HDMI 2.0 can not.

Due to the limit of copper cables and the nature of data transmission, HDMI signals will wear out as it travels over a long distance. The distance for higher quality data (for example 8K) transmission would be even shorter. A standard 8K HDMI cable goes a maximum length of just 3 meters. This may bring the need for fiber-optic HDMI cables or HDMI extenders to get the signals to go further.

What’s HDMI 2.0 vs 2.1?

HDMI 2.0 has a bandwidth capacity of 18 Gbps (gigabits per second). HDMI 2.1 takes the number up to 48 Gbps, which means that HDMI 2.1 does not have to compress that much of the data and preserve a better data quality during the transmission process. 

To build a well-functioning audio-visual setup, you need a video player (often PCs, Blue-rays, and TV boxes), a video display (often LED screens, monitors, and projectors), and cables & devices to connect them up.

HDMI 2.0 (or 2.1) are used in all these machines and cables to ensure they work together perfectly and the AV experience goes smooth under the setup. Except for the speed of transmission, different versions of HDMI standards will support varied functions (they decide what your AV devices and together the setup could realize).

hdmi 2.0 vs 2.1

For example, an HDMI 2.1-standard home theater setup – an AVR system, 4K TV, and wiring construction (HDMI extenders and cabling) that are eARC-supportive with HDMI 2.1, can play TV‘s sound through your multi-channel speakers instead of the crappy sound bar. You can always enjoy uncompressed 7.1 high Bitrate sound on your home theater’s couch.

*Note: Even though HDMI 2.1 supports an array of new features, the device manufacturer will decide what features to be incorporated and what is not. Check the spec. to make sure if the feature you need is supported before buying any HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 devices.

You may be interested: What Are HDMI ARC and eARC?

HDMI 2.1 Applications

HDMI 2.1 now is applied in gaming consoles like Xbox Series X and PS5 and some high-class AVRs and TVs. However, there is not much 8K content available for streaming and HDMI 2.1 is more likely to be used for [email protected] (compared to HDMI 2.0 [email protected] ) gaming pictures or entertainment videos.

What’s the difference between 60hz and 120hz? This number is about the refresh rate, which means the number of images per second on the screen that form the motion. Most movies are filmed at 24 frames per second and as the number goes higher, it may reduce blur and make the pictures look more like it’s alive.

HDMI 2.1 is able to carry [email protected] video data and with the higher bandwidth to deliver vivid motions, vibrant colors, and extraordinary audio. They are more popular among gamers and movie lovers. A good HDMI 2.1 setup brings you the ultimate entertainment experience.

Which Cable Shall I Choose? HDMI 2.0 or 2.1?

HDMI 2.1 is backward compatible with HDMI 2.0. In terms of the functionalities, buying an HDMI 2.1 is a good choice to have enough capacity for data transmission, enjoy ultimate entertainment (if you already get a 4k/8k TV and video player), and also future-proof the 8K needs.

While some people may be more practical and only buy what they need right now. Then you shall think about how you are using the cable.

Is it for common connectivity with a normal PC and 4K/HD TV or you are looking to build up an immersive gaming room/home theater with eARC function, a vivid screen with good colors, and extraordinary sound effects? HDMI 2.0 would be enough for the former and HDMI 2.1 is a must for the latter.

However, if you are transmitting high-quality [email protected] or even 8K HDMI data with an HDMI 2.1 cable, you may find it hard to get a copper HDMI cable of more than 30 ft. That’s because of the limit of copper for data transmission.

Get a fiber-optic 8K HDMI cable if the distance between your devices exceeds the limit of 30ft. And there are more versatile extension solutions if you want to extend not only HDMI signals but also IR, audio, and USB signals (such as this KVM extender model) for an ultimate setup over distances.

And carefully choose your extension solutions. You may be interested in the article Do HDMI Extenders Reduce Quality?

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