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HDMI 2.1: On which televisions is it and do you need it?

HDMI 2.1
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The introduction of the HDMI 2.1 specifications has been in the past for more than a year. Yet it appears that many new televisions still use HDMI 2.0. A question that we regularly hear is: why not HDMI 2.1? But do you really need that today?

HDMI 2.1 in a nutshell

With the announcement of HDMI 2.1 the emphasis was mainly on the higher bandwidth of the new version. This rises from 18 Gbps (HDMI2.0) to 48 Gbps (HDMI2.1). Those higher bandwidths are necessary for future resolutions (8K and higher) and frame rates (100fps and higher). The figure below shows which resolutions become possible with HDMI 2.1. Any resolution / fps combo where you find standard, High Speed, or Premium in the “Speed” column can still be done with HDMI 2.0. If it says Ultra in the “Speed” column, it means that you need an HDMI 2.1 connection. Full HD / 120 fps is not in the table, but you can also realize that with HDMI 2.0. But for 4K / 120fps you need HDMI 2.1.

In addition, HDMI 2.1 brings a number of new features, such as dynamic metadata for HDR, VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), ALLM (Auto Low Latency mode), eARC ( Enhanced ARC) QFT (Quick Frame Transport), QMS (Quick Media Switching) and DSC (Display Stream Compression).

HDMI 2.1 – Confusing?

Unfortunately, the HDMI 2.1 designation is not really clear. Manufacturers are free to implement a number of features, and only offer as much bandwidth as they deem necessary and still use the HDMI 2.1 designation. That means that you, as a consumer, have to keep a close eye on things if you want certain features. So it is not enough to look at the HDMI version.

With this in mind, which features are really important?

QFT, QMS and DSC

These three features are currently not found on any model. That can of course change in the future, who knows that some things can still be added via firmware.

QFT (Quick Frame Transport): lowers the display lag. This feature will only be important for gamers.

QMS (Quick Media Switching): eliminates the annoying black screen the moment you change frame rate. For example, you look at trailers and some are in 24fps, others in 50fps or 60fps. With every switch, the HDMI connection must adjust its video mode and this results in a temporary black screen. The transition is seamless with QMS.

DSC (Display Stream Compression): This is a lossless compression technique that will only be required for extremely high resolution / framrate combinations. In the table above you can see which they are (marked with Ultra # in red).

More bandwidth in general

As can be seen from the table at the start of this article, the extra bandwidth of HDMI 2.1 is mainly required in the following scenarios:

  • 4K / 120fps
  • Everything with 8K (let's not take into account 5K, that's not the usual resolution for televisions)

The extra bandwidth of HDMI 2.1 is therefore really a necessity at 8K models so that you are ready for any 8K sources. Although we have to say that they are not really on the doorstep. For 4K TVs, this extra bandwidth is only relevant for HFR sources. Today, only PC gamers use a very powerful GPU. The Xbox One supports HFR but only in 1080p or 1440p. It is of course possible that new generations of consoles support 4K HFR.

HDMI 2.1 48Gbps HDMI 2.0 18Gbps
LG W9, E9, C9, B9, SM990, SM980, SM90 SM860, SM850
Panasonic GZ2000, GZ1500, GZ1000, GZ950, GX940, GX800
Philips OLED854, OLED804, 9104, 8804, 7504, 7304, 6814, 6704, 6504
Sony Samsung Q950, Q900 (2018), Q90, Q85 Q80, Q70, Q60, RU8000, RU7400, RU7300, RU7100

HFR: High Frame Rate

High Frame Rates are discussed in this article . Specifically, this is not an HDMI 2.1 feature, but in some cases (4K HFR) there is a need for the higher bandwidth that HDMI 2.1 offers. But the presence of HDMI 2.1 does not in itself guarantee that the TV in question also supports HFR. Here too, it is therefore best to check specifically whether the model in question supports HFR or not. Full HD HFR is often referred to as 2K HFR.

Is HFR support important? For traditional content? To a limited extent. In the film industry we talk about HFR as soon as more than 24fps is used (think of the Hobbit versions at 48fps). Frame rates up to 60fps are already possible on (Ultra HD) Blu-ray, and on your TV. They are therefore not a problem. In the context of required bandwidth, we really speak of HFR with frame rates above. For example, live TV would have an interest in sports at 100 or 120fps. But that is not very likely to happen.

Gamers can offer HFR (via console or PC). Certainly for Full HD that is simple enough with the current graphics cards, but 2K HFR fits within the HDMI 2.0 bandwidth. Only from 4K HFR you need HDMI 2.1, but to do that with you already need a pretty hefty GPU to reliably send out more than 60fps.

We mainly find support for HFR at Samsung, Philips and LG.

yes, 4K / 2K yes, 2K No
LG W9, E9, C9, B9 , SM990, SM980, SM90 SM860, SM850
Panasonic GZ2000, GZ1500, GZ1000, GZ950, GX940, GX800
Philips OLED854, OLED804, 9104, 7804, 6814, 750 , 6704, 6504
Sony
Samsung Q950 * , Q900 (2018) *, Q90 *, Q85 * Q80, Q70, Q60, RU8000 RU7400, RU7300, RU7100

Dynamic metadata for HDR

The benefits of dynamic metadata over static metadata for HDR we explained earlier in our arti over HDR10 + and Dolby Vision . Whoever asks “Hey, we already have that, right?” Is right. Both Dolby Vision and HDR10 + support dynamic metadata, and both are already available even on models from previous years with HDMI 2.0.

Specifically, we currently see little importance for this feature. Those who attach importance to HDR should better investigate which HDR standards a TV supports. (HDR10 + and Dolby Vision use dynamic metadata, HDR10 static metadata, and HLG does not need metadata.)

ALLM: Auto Low Latency Mode

This feature makes it possible to switch to game mode automatically. For this, your source device must of course also support ALLM (the Xbox One, for example). As soon as you start gaming, the console switches your TV to the Game image mode, so that you have the lowest possible input lag.

ALLM is fairly universally supported, but is of course only important for gamers. Even if it is missing, you can still switch to game mode manually.

yes no
LG W9, E9, C9, B9, SM990, SM980, SM90, SM860, SM850 [19659074] Panasonic GZ2000, GZ1500, GZ1000, GZ950, GX940, GX800
Philips OLED854, OLED804, 8804, 7504, 7304, 6814, 6704, 6504 9104
Sony 19659073]
Samsung Q950, Q900 (2018), Q90, Q85, Q80, Q70, Q60, RU8000, RU7400, RU7300, RU7100

Only 2019 models unless otherwise stated. [19659002] VRR: Variable Refresh Rate

This feature comes from the PC world and is similar to, but not the same as, AMD Freesync or Nvidia GSync. With this technology, the display can synchronize its refresh rate with the source (PC or console), instead of using a fixed refresh rate (such as 50 Hz). That is of course only important for gamers, because all normal content uses 24 or 50/60 fps and that supports your TV for a long time. Why is that different for gamers?

A game console or PC creates its frames in real time, and depending on what is shown on the screen, the speed at which that happens will vary. So the TV does not get a fixed number of images per second, but one moment maybe 15 and then 55 images per second. There are two options.

Either you fix the refresh rate based on the TV, for example 50fps. The TV then wants to show a new frame every 50 e of a second, and if your source cannot provide those images, it is therefore obliged to show some frames two or even three times. This causes stuttering images.

An alternative is to allow the source to deliver images as fast as he can, but then you risk that the GPU will deliver a new image while the TV does not fully capture the previous image. has set the screen. In that case you see “tearing” a horizontal crack in the image.

The solution for all this is VRR. With VRR activated, the screen synchronizes with the source. The TV then draws a completely new image every time the source signals that one is ready. The stuttering then largely disappears (low frame rates are of course never optimal), and then tearing becomes impossible. The whole leads to a much smoother experience.

Whether VRR is compatible with AMD Freesync and / or Nvidia GSync depends on the manufacturer. For now we know that the Samsung models are compatible with Freesync, the LG models claim compatibility with Freesync and Gsync.

yes no
LG E9 , C9, B9, SM980, SM90 * W9, SM990, SM860, SM850
Panasonic GZ2000, GZ1500, GZ1000, GZ950, GX940, GX800
Philips OLED854, OLED804, OLED804, OLED804, OLED804 8804, 7504, 7304, 6814, 6704, 6504
Sony
Samsung Q950, Q900 ( 2018), Q90, Q85, Q80, Q70, Q60, RU8000 RU7400, RU7300, RU7100

* Not 86 and 75 inch
Only 2019 models unless otherwise stated.

eARC: Enhanced ARC [19659003] You could already read about eARC in our background article . We know Enhanced ARC mainly because it offers greater bandwidth and can therefore also transport lossless formats such as Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio. In addition, eARC also provides mandatory support for lip sync, but it remains to be seen how well it works.

However, the importance of eARC is less important than you may suspect. Streaming services use lossy codecs such as Dolby Digital Plus and they do fit in ARC. The only widely available source of lossless soundtracks is (Ultra HD) Blu-ray. And that is only possible via an external player. You can also connect that player directly to your AV receiver or soundbar then you don't need eARC at all. eARC is currently only important if you are in a situation where the following three things apply:

  • You have a source that is internal to the TV (built-in media player for example) or that you MUST connect to your TV (for which reason reason for this: too few HDMI connections on your soundbar, limitations in your cabling …)
  • The audio you listen to is in Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, or another audio format that does not fit within the bandwidth of ARC
  • You send the audio via eARC to an external sound solution.

The support for eARC varies. Those who require it can turn to Sony, LG and Samsung.

yes no
LG W9, E9, C9, B9, SM990, SM980 , SM90 SM860, SM850
Panasonic GZ2000, GZ1500, GZ1000, GZ950, GX940, GX800
Philips OLED854, OLED804, 9104, 8804, 7504, 6304, 6504, 6504
Sony ZG9, AG9, XG95, XG85 XF90, AG8
Samsung Q950 *, Q900 ( 2018) *, Q90 *, Q85 * Q80, Q70, Q60, RU8000, RU7400, RU7300, RU7100

* with a future firmware upgrade

Conclusion

Do you really need an HDMI 2.1 connection? On an 8K TV, yes. Even though there are no prospect of an abundance of 8K sources, on these TVs you have to demand an HDMI 2.1 connection with the full bandwidth for future sources.

However, things are different on a 4K TV. The bandwidth of HDMI 2.0 is sufficient in the large majority of cases. Only those who absolutely want 4K HFR (for the time being only a limited group of PC gamers) must demand HDMI 2.1. Your use is also very important with regard to the features. ALLM and VRR are only important for gamers. And eARC can be important, but only for people with a very specific setup.

More information

You can find more background articles about resolutions, HDMI standards and features for televisions in our home cinema information guide . [19659142]

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