In the excitement of setting up a new audio/visual system, HDMI cables are often the last thing on anyone’s mind. You probably already own cables for your Blu-ray, soundbar, television, or other media that work smoothly, but they’ll soon be outdated as HDMI 2.1 cable standards are taking over the tech world. It’s likely your next media streamer, TV, or gaming console will need this new HDMI cable standard, providing higher bandwidth, frame rate, and resolution. Lucky for you, our team at Xssentials has created a guide to HDMI 2.1 cable standards.

How does HDMI 2.0 function?

When HDMI 2.0 entered the scene in 2013, it was praised for processing 4K content at 60fps (frames per second). This changed the way video games were displayed, so multiple moving parts like flying bullets and speeding cars reacted in real-time. In comparison, films are usually 24fps, and TV series run at 30fps. Several years later, HDMI 2.0a emerged to support HDR (High Dynamic Range), blending bright whites and dark blacks onscreen. HDMI 2.0b was later launched to support the Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) HDR format, which combined dynamic and high dynamic range images into a single video signal for all TVs. HDMI 2.0 has been considered the highest consumer standard; until now.

What are the new features of HDMI 2.1?

With the capacity to handle 10K content at 120fps, HDMI 2.1 more than doubles the performance of HDMI 2.0. The newest standard also processes up to 48Gbps bandwidth, Dynamic HDR, and High Frame Rate (HFR) for 4K, 8K, and 10K at up to 120Hz, granting users a crisper image. HDMI 2.1’s Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) capability smooths jerky motion in video games, while Quick Frame Transport (QFT), helps TV components live a longer life by allowing them to power down more frequently.

Should I purchase a new television?

Although a few TVs can unlock some of these features through firmware updates, you’ll likely need to invest in a new TV to unlock the full potential of these exciting innovations. Certain manufacturers, such as LG’s OLED and NanoCell range, have supported HDMI 2.1 capabilities for a few years already. Considering there is still a lack of sources that require HDMI 2.1, it may be in your best interest to wait a while until more affordable products hit the market.

Should I buy new cables?

To appreciate the whole capability of HDMI 2.1, matching cables are a necessity. Currently, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X both come with HDMI 2.1, so you’re already prepped if you own or plan to get one of these gaming consoles. Watch out for frauds on the market; certain manufacturers claim their cables support the HDMI 2.1 bandwidth of 48Gbps, but the real deals have clear certification. The best part about HDMI 2.1 cables? They’re backward-compatible, so they’ll still operate perfectly with all of your 2.0 sources and screens.

Which HDMI 2.1 sources can I get now?

Currently, the most well-known HDMI 2.1 sources available are the PS5 and Xbox Series X, both of which output signals in 4K/120fps. They throw players into the center of hair-raising action with featured games using high frame rates. The newest installment of Xbox supports VRR capabilities, and we anticipate the next generations of consoles will follow suit. PS5 players are still waiting on a firmware update, but PC gamers are already enjoying a variety of HDMI 2.1 graphics cards.

Are HDMI 2.1 AV receivers and soundbars available?

If gaming isn’t your go-to form of entertainment, and you favor watching a show or listening to music, it’s essential that every device process 2.1 signals. For instance, Yamaha’s RX-V6A AV receiver has seven HDMI 2.1 inputs and one 2.1 output. Particular soundbar models from LG are also equipped to process audio that pairs with the first-rate visuals of HDMI 2.1.

If you’re looking for superior quality, HDMI 2.1 standards are the best available, so it’s time to consider investing in cables that properly handle them. If you have questions about the different options between HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 sources and devices or are looking for the best brand recommendations, give our team a call at Xssentials today!