Beginner’s guide to HDMI: Features, Specs, speeds and release dates

With  over 4 billion HDMI devices  been sold, chances are that your consumer electronic in your office or home supports HDMI standard. HDMI short for High-Definition Multimedia Interface is  a video/audio standard for transferring uncompressed audio and video data for consumer electronics. HDMI is so popular it’s everywhere and on almost everything, from your laptop, to smart TV, to projector, decoder, digital camera, camcorder, desktop among others.

HDMI standard was first released in 2003 with an alliance of some of top electronics companies including Hitachi, Panasonic, Philips, Silicon Image, Sony, Thomson, RCA and Toshiba and enjoys support from some of top movie production houses such as Fox, Universal, Warner Bros. and Disney.

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HDMI is not only used to transfer uncompressed audio/video data to compatible video displays such as your Smart TV or PC Monitor, but it is also be used to remotely control other devices and share internet between devices.

HDMI-CEC: One remote to rule them all

HDMI-CEC where CEC means Consumer Electronics Control is an HDMI feature which allows you to remotely control a CEC-compliant device via remote control. Let’s say you have a Blu-Ray or DVD-Player or even a decoder connected to your TV via HDMI. You can control playback on the DVD player using your Smart TV’s remote instead of using the DVD’s remote and vice-versa. This is really important because it helps you organize your living room with just one remote that controls everything.

HDMI Ethernet Channel: Share internet between devices

If you want to share internet between connected devices, HDMI can help you do that too using  a feature called HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC).  For instance let’s say you have a Playstation 4 or even Xbox One connected to your smart TV which in-turn is connected to the home WiFi. If your PS4 needs to make some online updates, instead of hooking it up to the WiFi, it could simply use your Smart TV’s internet connection to get online. HEC provides a data link as fast as 100Mbits/s which is fast enough to pull those updates.

HDMI-ARC: Connect your TV to an A/V receiver or speaker

Short for Audio Return Channel (ARC), HDMI-ARC is the audio link that sends audio out of your Smart TV to say a loud speaker. Before  HDMI-ARC, you needed to have a separate way of connecting your smart TV to a loudspeaker for instance using an optical TOSLink or coax cable.  But now you can do that by connecting the TV and your speaker or an A/V receiver via the HDMI-ARC port of your TV. This comes in handy if for instance you are playing Youtube or Netflix from your Smart TV and wish to have better sound output from an auxiliary speaker than what your in-built TV speakers can provide.

High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP)

Because most of the video/audio content you watch on your TV is copyrighted, there has to be a way of protecting this content from pirates. This is exactly what HDCP is for.

HDCP stands for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection. The purpose of HDCP is to protect digital copyrighted content as it travels from a device to your TV, generally through HDMI or DVI connections. HDCP is required by streaming services such as Netflix, Youtube,  Amazon, Hulu, HBO etc to stream content from a device connected to your TV.

HDMI Connector Types 

There are  five different HDMI connector types including Type A, B, C, D, and E.   Type E is designed for automotive applications while Type B is a A 29-pin version of the HDMI connector, which has never been used. For ordinary users, Type A, C and D are the connectors you are most likely going to bump into.

HDMI connector plugs (male): Type D (Micro), Type C (Mini), and Type A. ~ Wikipedia

  • Type A (standard): 13.9 mm × 4.45 mm, 19 pins used in HDTVs, Smart TVs, laptops, set-top-boxes, projectors, Blu-Ray, DVD players.
  • Type C (Mini): 10.42 mm × 2.42 mm with Same 19-pin configuration intended for portable devices such as Cameras, camcorders.
  • Type D(Micro): Measures 6.85 mm × 1.8 mm and looks like micro-USB connector and used in portable devices such as smartphones.

HDMI Cables

HDMI cables can be  confusing at best. And cable vendors are out there to eat your lunch money with marketing buzzwords that have nothing to do with the standard specifications. So be on the lookout. Most HDMI cables are about 1.3m long although you can find those that are 5m+ long for special applications.

BlueRigger HDMI Cables

Generally there are about five different types of HDMI cables. It’s important to know which one is best for your particular use case and which one works with your devices. The cable you use must match with the kind of hdmi standard (later on that) your device(s) support. The HDMI cables depend on data speeds, resolution and various other features, therefore be sure to get the right cable which include the following;

  • Standard HDMI Cable – up to 1080i and 720p
  • Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet
  • Standard Automotive HDMI Cable
  • High Speed HDMI Cable – 1080p, 4K 30 Hz, 3D and deep color
  • High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet

HDMI Versions and release dates

HDMI specification/version has radically evolved over its 14 years lifetime so far. HDMI 1.0 was first released on December 9, 2002 with transfer speeds of 4.95 Gbit/s. Back then before HD and Full HD video standards were out, hdmi 1.0 seemed to be very fast.

HDMI 1.2 released in 2005 brought HDMI type A connectors for PC sources and added Consumer Electronic Control (CEC) support but nothing much changed in terms of bandwidth upgraded until HDMI 1.3 . Released last year, it clocked at 10.2 Gbits/s speeds and allowed deep color and output of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio streams for external decoding by AV receivers.

HDMI 1.4 which came in 2009 was a major upgrade as it introduced Audio Return Channel(ARC), HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC), a new Micro HDMI Connector, expanded set of color spaces, 3D formats and  2K 3840×2160 (Ultra HD)  and 4K 4096×2160 resolutions.

HDMI 2.0 also known as HDMI UHD arrived in 2013 with increased speeds of up to 18 Gbit/s perfect to carry 4K high resolution videos. It also added support for allowing multiple users on the same screen, High Dynamic Range (HDR) video, improved 3D and additional CEC features.  HDMI 2.1 released in 2017 increased speeds to 48 Gbits/s, higher refresh rates, higher resolutions of 4K, 5K, 8K and 10K.

HDMI Specification, release date, speeds and supported resolution
HDMI 1.0HDMI 1.3HDMI 1.4HDMI 2.0HDMI 2.1
Release dateDecember 9, 2002June 22, 2006May 28, 2009September 4, 2013January 4, 2017
Speeds(Gbits/s)4.9510.210.21848
Resolution1920×1200p/60 Hz2560×1600p/60 Hz3840×2160p/30 Hz
4096×2160p/24 Hz
4096×2160p/60 Hz4K, 5K, 8K, 10K/120 Hz

HDMI is evolving as audio and video formats and resolutions change. It’s important that you take note of the HDMI specification that is supported by your device before purchasing the corresponding cable.

Image: kindleontv.com