HDMI marches on

May 3rd, 2010 in .News & Events
Suds McSoapdish
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HDMI has been around since 2003, and began to be noticed in earnest by consumers circa 2006 for its higher resolutions and convenient combination of video and audio on one cable. The entrance into the market of HD-DVD and Blu-ray expedited the process by which HDMI became the mainstay connection standard for high definition devices, and by 2008 most desktops and notebook PCs also featured HDMI outs.

The consortium responsible for the standard has issued several revisions, although all are technically HDMI version 1. The latest iteration was in mid last year, with practical implementation effective late 2009 and early this year. It’s known as HDMI 1.4, and picks up where the several HDMI 1.3 sub-versions left off.

Why you should know this

Because HDMI 1.4 has the most notable and important additions to the video connection standard since it became commonplace, and also because many new PCs have moved on to this version in pursuit of its unique abilities. HDMI 1.4 is tailored to push forward several innovations, and it’s also more of a data transfer standard than previous revisions.

Let’s take a look at some highlights.

Built-in Ethernet

Yes, your HDMI cable is now also a wired internet connection, with integrated Ethernet fiber that can carry up to 100Mbps bi-directionally. Whether this will serve to eliminate the need for a standalone Ethernet port remains to be seen, but is as of now unlikely – the main purpose behind this addition is to enable easy, basic online functionality in non-PC devices like TVs and Blu-ray players.

Audio return channel

Designers have added a new audio pathway into 1.4 cables, making it OK to use only HDMI to connect with a sound device that can’t upstream audio via HDMI by default. This may not be super useful for everyone, but it does save one more cable for those with such setups. 


Support for 3D

While previous HDMI versions could carry 3D, this new one has specific acceleration built-in to make most available 3D stereoscopic video run smoother and faster at 1080p. Should be very handy in eliminating artifacts, blur and lag. 

Higher resolution

Probably the most important change is the added bandwidth, which opens up resolutions up to 4096X2160, or “2160p”. Much higher than the current norm of 1920X1080.

The extra connectivity afforded by HDMI 1.4 is also useful because enabled devices can apply it towards pre-set image types that react to the usage habits of consumers, for example gaming, movies, TV and PC. The HDMI consortium is calling this “real time signaling”. 

New ports

HDMI 1.4 adds better support for smaller versions of the standard – namely the mini HDMI and new micro HDMI connectors. This should expand the range of devices using the standard, probably bringing it to smartphones and other mobiles. 

Makers of PC hardware are expected to make the full switch to HDMI 1.4 by the end of the current quarter, with many devices already incorporating it for its 3D capabilities and higher bandwidth.

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