High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) Facts

Check out what you need to know about HDMI from version 1.0 to 2.1.

HDMI Male Connector - Close-Up
HDMI Male Connector - Close-Up. Getty Images - AlesVeluscek - Collection: E+

HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. HDMI is the acknowledged connection standard used for transferring video and audio digitally from a source to a video display device or other compatible components.

HDMI also includes provisions for basic control of multiple HDMI connected devices (CEC), as well as the incorporation of HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Copy Protection), which allows content providers to prevent their content from being illegally copied.

Devices that may incorporate HDMI connectivity include:

  • HD and Ultra HD TVs, video and PC monitors, and video projectors
  • Home Theater Receivers, Home-Theater-in-a-box Systems, and Soundbars
  • Upscaling DVD, Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray Players
  • Media Streamers and Network Media Players
  • HD Cable and Satellite Boxes
  • DVD Recorders and DVD Recorder/VCR combos (for playback only - you cannot use HDMI with a recording source).
  • Smartphones (in combination with MHL).
  • Digital Cameras and Camcorders

It's All About The Versions

There are several versions of HDMI that have been implemented over the years. In each case, the physical connector is the same, but capabilities have evolved. Depending on when you purchased an HDMI-enabled component, determines what HDMI version your device may have. Each successive version of HDMI is backward compatible with previous versions, you just won't be able to access the all the features of the newer version(s).

Below is a listing of all the relevant HDMI versions in use listed from current to previous. However, it is important to note that not all home theater components touted as being compliant with a specific version of HDMI will automatically provide all those features. Each manufacturer can pick-and-choose what features from their selected HDMI version they want to incorporate into their products.

HDMI 2.1

In January 2017, the development of HDMI Version 2.1 was announced but wasn't made available for licensing and implementation until November 2017. Products incorporating HDMI 2.1 will be available beginning sometime in 2018.

HDMI 2.1 supports the following capabilities:

  • Video Resolution and Frame Rate Support: 4K 50/60 (fps), 4K 100/120, 5K 50/60, 5K 100/120, 8K 50/60, 8K 100/120, 10K 50/60, 10K 100/120.
  • Color Support: Wide Color Gamut (BT2020), at 10, 12, and 16 Bits.
  • Expanded HDR Support:  While Dolby Vision, HDR10, and Hybrid Log Gamma are already compatible with HDMI 2.0a/b, HDMI 2.1 will support any forthcoming HDR formats that may not be supported by HDMI ver 2.0a/b.
  • Audio Support: Just as HDMI 2.0 and 2.0a, all surround formats in use are compatible.
  • Gaming Support: VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) is supported. This enables a 3D graphics processor to display the image at the moment it is rendered - allowing for more fluid and better-detailed gameplay, including reduction or elimination of lag, stutter, and frame tearing.
  • Cable Support: 48Gps - in order to access the full capabilities of HDMI ver 2.1 enabled devices, an HDMI cable that supports a 48Gps transfer rate is required.

HDMI 2.0b

Introduced in March 2016, HDMI 2.0b extends HDR support to the Hybrid Log Gamma format, which is intended to be used in forthcoming 4K Ultra HD TV broadcasting platforms, such as ATSC 3.0.

HDMI 2.0a

Introduced in April 2015, HDMI 2.0a supports the following:

Adds support for HDR (High Dynamic Range) technologies, such as HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

What this means for consumers is that 4K Ultra HD TVs that incorporate HDR technology are capable of displaying a much wider range of brightness and contrast (which also makes colors look more realistic) than the average 4K Ultra HD TV.

To take advantage of HDR, content has to be encoded with the necessary HDR metadata. This metadata, if coming from an external source, has to be transferred to the TV via a compatible HDMI connection. HDR encoded content is available via the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc format and select streaming providers.

HDMI 2.0

Introduced in September 2013, HDMI 2.0 provides the following:

  • Expands the 4K (2160p) resolution compatibility of HDMI 1.4/1.4a to accept either 50Hz or 60Hz frame rates (maximum 18 Gbps transfer rate with 8-bit color).
  • Can accept up to 32 simultaneous channels of audio that can support more-immersive surround formats, such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro 3D Audio
  • Capability to send two independent video streams for viewing on the same screen.
  • Capability to send up to four separate audio streams to multiple listeners.
  • Support for the native 21:9 (2.35:1) aspect ratio.
  • Dynamic Synchronization of video and audio streams.
  • Expansion of HDMI-CEC capabilities.
  • Enhancement of HDCP copy-protection referred to as HDCP 2.2.

HDMI 1.4

Introduced in May 2009, HDMI version 1.4 supports the following:

  • HDMI Ethernet Channel: This adds internet and home network connectivity to HDMI. In other words, both Ethernet and HDMI functions are available within a single cable connection.
  •  Audio Return Channel: This may be the most practical application of HDMI 1.4. What this feature provides is a single HDMI connection between a TV and a home theater receiver that can not only pass audio/video signals from the receiver to the TV but also pass audio originating from the TV's tuner to the receiver. In other words, when listening to audio accessed by the TV's tuner, you don't need a separate audio connection going from the TV to the home theater receiver.
  • 3D Over HDMI: HDMI 1.4 is designed to accommodate 3D Blu-ray Disc standards, with the capacity of passing two simultaneous 1080p signals using one connection. NOTE: An update (HDMI 1.4a) also incorporates additional support for 3D formats that may be used in TV Broadcasts, Cable, and Satellite feeds.
  • 4Kx2K Resolution Support: HDMI 1.4 can accommodate 4K resolution at a 30hz frame rate.
  • Expanded Color Support For Digital Cameras: This allows better color reproduction when displaying digital still photos from HDMI-connected Digital Still Cameras.
  • Micro HDMI Connector: Although an HDMI mini-connector was introduced in ver 1.3, as devices continue to get smaller, a "Micro HDMI" was introduced for use in even smaller devices, such as smartphones, The micro-connector supports up to 1080p resolution.
  • Automotive Connection System: With the increase of in-car digital audio/video devices, HDMI 1.4 can handle the more demanding vibration, heat, and noise that may affect the quality of audio and video reproduction.

HDMI 1.3/HDMI 1.3a

Introduced in June 2006, HDMI 1.3 supports the following:

  • Expanded Bandwidth and Transfer Speed: To coincide with the introduction of Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD, version 1.3 added wider color support and faster data support (up to 10.2Gbps).
  • Expanded Resolution Support is provided for resolutions above 1080p but below 4K.
  • Expanded Audio Support: To further support Blu-ray and HD-DVD on the audio side, ver 1.3 implements the ability to accommodate the Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound audio formats.
  • Lip Synch: Addition of automatic lip-synch to compensate the effects of audio and video processing time between video displays and video/audio components.
  • Mini-Connector: Introduction of a new mini-connector to better accommodate compact source devices, such as digital camcorders and cameras.

HDMI 1.3a added minor tweaks to ver 1.3 and was introduced in November 2006.

HDMI 1.2

Introduced in August 2005, HDMI 1.2 incorporates the ability to transfer SACD audio signals in digital form from a compatible player to a receiver.

HDMI 1.1

Introduced in May 2004, HDMI 1.1 provides the ability to transfer not only video and two-channel audio over a single cable, but also added the ability to transfer Dolby Digital, DTS, and DVD-Audio surround signals, as well up to 7.1 channels of PCM audio.

HDMI 1.0

Introduced in December of 2002, HDMI 1.0 started off by supporting the ability to transfer a digital video signal (standard or high-definition) with a two-channel audio signal over a single cable, such as between an HDMI-equipped DVD player and TV or video projector.

HDMI Cables

When shopping for HDMI cables, there are seven product categories available:

  • HDMI Standard
  • HDMI Standard with Ethernet
  • HDMI Standard Automotive
  • HDMI High Speed
  • HDMI High Speed with Ethernet
  • Premium HDMI High Speed with Ethernet
  • Ultra Premium HDMI High Speed (Forthcoming for 8K applications)

For details on each category, refer to the Official "Finding The Right Cable" Page at HDMI.org.

Some packaging, at the discretion of the manufacturer, may contain added notations for specific data transfer rates (10Gbps or 18Gbps), HDR, and/or wide color gamut compatibility.

The Bottom Line

HDMI is the default audio/video connection standard that is continually being updated to meet evolving video and audio formats.

If you have components that feature older HDMI versions, you won't be able to access features from subsequent versions, but you will still be able to use your older HDMI components with newer components, you just won't have access to the newly added features (depending on what the manufacturer actually incorporates into a specific product).

In other words, don't raise your arms in the air in frustration, fall into the depths of despair, or start planning a garage sale in order to get rid of your old HDMI equipment - if your components continue to work the way you want them too, you are OK - the choice to upgrade is up to you.

HDMI is also compatible with the older DVI connection interface via a connection adapter. However, keep in mind that DVI only transfers video signals, if you require audio, you will have to make an additional connection that purpose.

Although HDMI has gone a long way to standardize audio and video connectivity and reducing cable clutter, it does have its limitations and issues, which are further explored in our companion articles: