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HDMI 2.0 vs 1.4: What's different?

Andrew Williams



HDMI 2.0 vs 1.4: The basics

HDMI 2.0 was announced as a standard in late 2013. It got a lot of people confused, wondering if they suddenly needed to throw away their TVs in order to get on this latest tech trend.

As far as tech advancements go, HDMI 2.0 is a pretty friendly one. It’s as much a standard of software as hardware, and cables designed for HDMI 1.4 systems will work just fine with new HDMI 2.0 devices.

What you need to make sure is that both ends of your entertainment chain – your TV and blu-ray player, for example – support the standard. It’ll mean they’re geared up for the new standards we’ll dig into shortly. Some previously HDMI 1.4 hardware needs nothing more than a firmware update.

HDMI 2.0 is a reimagining of the interchange between your bits of home entertainment gear, one that factors in the immense amount of data required to get high-quality audio and video to something like a 4K 3D-capable TV.

Give it a year or so and 1080p TVs won’t even feel current anymore. We’re already starting to see 4K sets fall under the £650. It won’t be long before the rubbish 1080p LCD TVs at Tesco are replaced by rubbish 4K ones. Exciting times ahead.

HDMI 2.0 itself isn’t really about resolution, though, but bandwidth. More bandwidth is what makes all of its new standards possible. HDMI 2.0 systems can transfer data at up to 18Gbps, up from 10.2Gbps in HDMI 1.4.

In terms we’re all more likely to get on with, 18Gbps is 2,250MB a second. For a little more context, normal Blu-rays max out at 54Mbps, or 6.75MB per second. The HDMI pipe is wider than a dual carriageway.

Here are the kinds of goodies that pipe can deliver.

HDMI 2.0 vs 1.4: 4K video at 50p and 60pLight line

HDMI 1.4 introduced the kind of bandwidth required to deliver 4K video, but HDMI 2.0 can dole out 4K video without compromise, at 50 and 60 frames per second. In HDMI 1.4, the rate of 4K was limited to 24 frames per second.

4K logo24p and 30p are perfect for watching films, but there are times when the extra speed of 50p and 60p come in handy. Gaming could make great use of 60p content, while more films are being shot at higher frame rates, giving quite a different look from that of slow old traditional cinema.

The most famous of the lot is Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, which was shot in 48 frames per second. We weren’t too keen on the look of 48p, which gave the film the look of a low-rent soap opera, but apparently it’s the future.

Should you care?

Having the scope for 50p and 60p in 4K is great news. But don’t go thinking this will be an instant revolution, unless you have a seriously hardcore gaming PC.

You need something to deliver that 4K content, and it seems unlikely that the Xbox One and PS4 – two of the most obvious sources – will actually have the power to deliver their highest-end games in 4K. They struggle to get 60fps out of many games at 1080p. We’d be lucky to see much of any 4K gaming from the consoles, let alone at high frame rates.

Video streaming hits the same wall. More frames means more data, and while HDMI has the bandwidth, our internet connections don't.

HDMI 2.0 vs 1.4: Enough bandwidth for 10-bit and 12-bit colour at 4KLight line

Just as important as the higher frame rates for Ultra HD/4K HDMI 2.0 enables, the extra bandwidth also means HDMI is able to transport 4K video at 10-bit and 12-bit colour depths. With HDMI 1.4 it was limited to 8-bit.

12-bit colourWhat’s the difference between 8-bit, 10-bit and 12-bit colour? It tells you how much information goes into each pixel's colour. 8-bit colour results in a colour palette of 16.7-million colours – it’s a figure you may have heard floating about if you’ve ever read into buying a screen of some kind.

As 12-bit colour ramps-up the specificity of the colour information that goes into rendering an image, the total number of possible colours is 68.7 billion. That exponential ramping-up of data is what makes transporting 4K 12-bit such a data-heavy task.

These higher colour bit rates are often labelled “deep color”, so if you see that term you now know what it refers to.

Should you care?

The issue with upping colour bit rates is perhaps not so much one of capabilities of hardware, but our capabilities in being able to recognise it. Changing between 256 colours and 36k colours is momentous, between 36k and 16.7 million is still a huge leap

But between 16.7 million and almost 70 billion? It’s one for people with great eyes and even better TVs. Even if a good 4K TV makes differences in colour gradations more obvious. We think higher bit depth in colour is something to savour once 4K OLED TVs are about. Because if you care that much about colour, you’re not going to be deeply impressed with 4K LCDs anyway – which are largely what’s on offer for today’s 4K buyer.

HDMI 2.0 vs 1.4: Dual video streams to the same screenLight line

Here’s a neat one: HDMI 2.0 supports the delivery of two different video streams, which can be delivered to the same screen. Exactly what will happen to those streams will depend on what the box (perhaps a TV) at the end does with them.

This improvement is really a pure bandwidth issue. 18Gbps gives a comfortable pipe for two high bit-rate 1080p streams with audio.

Should you care?

It sounds like a gimmick, but this adds a hardware standard for something we’ve seen in proprietary form before now. With a 3D TV, it opens up ‘dual view’ TV watching, where you’d use a pair of 3D glasses to deliver two completely difference streams to two people watching the same TV.

Two people could be watching different TV channels, or one could be gaming while the other watches TV. Anti-social? Sure, but the other person would probably just end up playing on their phone if forced to watch the same thing as you anyway. Samsung showed off this exact kind of scenario in action at CES 2014. We'd love to see this adopted more widely, especially as the resolution split in a 4K TV would be much less apparent than in a 1080p one.

HDMI 2.0 vs 1.4: Up to 32, 1536KHz audio channels, and Dolby AtmosLight line

Dolby atmosHDMI 2.0 makes huge updates to the often-neglected side of AV – audio. From being able to transmit just eight channels, you can now send 32.

This is what has enabled the Dolby Atmos standard to be moved over to home cinema receivers. It was once the preserve of just a few super high-end cinema sound systems, but you can now get it in your home.

Dolby Atmos is all about giving your much more accurate positional audio, making sound appear 3D for a more immersive cinema experience.

Should you care?

Does Dolby Atmos mean littering your lounge with dozens of speakers then, like an Atmos cinema? Thankfully not. Instead, Atmos receivers make use of the much more nuanced channel information provided by HDMI 2.0 and an Atmos mix, and then play with it to provide better spatial audio with a relatively conventional 5.1-7.2 style speaker setup (with additional height channels).

The quality of the audio streams has been improved too. Sample rates now go up to 1536KHz. In a full 32-channel system that means you’d get 48KHz per channel. That’s decent if not the sort of sample rate that get audio nerds drooling. 24-bit, 192KHz is where it’s at for that crowd. Of course, those sort of frequencies are perfectly possible with HDMI 2.0, just not if you want 32 channels of audio

HDMI 2.0 vs 1.4: Control all your gadgets through HDMILight line

Panasonic remoteOne of the lesser talked-about features of HDMI is its re-working of CEC, sometimes referred to as CEC 2.0. This stands for Consumer Electronics Control, and lets one device send remote control-style signals to another over HDMI.

It’s effectively a stand-in for a proper universal remote control system – something that would be handy but is yet to turn up. With HDMI 2.0 you can - in theory - control up to 15 devices with the one remote. It was around in HDMI 1.4 but now it's better.

Should you care?

Only needing one remote control and not having to splash the cash on one of those expensive Universal ones? Yes please. Opting for CEC is also more attractive – in one sense – than using a phone’s IR transmitter as a universal remote (a feature of higher-end phones) as there’s no lengthy setup involved.

However, for it to really take off, the manufacturers of the boxes we’re going to control with CEC need to embrace the standard, and help people know it exists. Or we’ll never get anywhere with it.

Is the future HDMI 2.0?Light line

HDMI is not really about rocking the boat, it’s about squeezing every last drop of connectivity out of the plugs and sockets we currently have. The last thing we need is a new, non-backwards compatible format that means we’ll all need to get new hardware. The thought of that alone is enough to make you want to sigh wearily.

This is a future-proofing update, and one most of us will only see the real benefits of a few years down the line. Are 60p 4K video and high colour depth good updates? Absolutely, but 4K distribution needs to catch up and 4K OLED TVs need to start arriving and dropping in price before they’ll become truly worthwhile.

Claiming you’re seeing all the benefits of 12-bit colour on a £750 4K LCD is like singing the praises of 24-bit FLAC files through a pair of Apple EarPods.

Next, read our best TVs round-up


August 8, 2014, 8:18 pm

Some info about HDCP 2.2 and the 4:4:4 at 60hz thing would be nice. Also I read that manufacturers can't say their gear is HDMI 2.0 compliant, because there are so many optional parts it doesn't mean anything.

Petey Poo

August 8, 2014, 9:01 pm

If HFR is the future of cinema, I'm happy to be stuck in the past.

High frame rates are fine for videogames, but in live action footage it just looks cheap and nasty. 24 fps is cinema.

mark choletti

August 10, 2014, 9:49 am

4k tv/monitors will resemble BluRay in initial market take-up -- in other words, not much interest.


August 10, 2014, 10:37 am

Great article but essential info is missing:

1) HDMI 2.0 is in fact at the moment a two-tier system, because full HDMI 2.0 chipsets are not available in large quantities. So many HDMI 2.0 4K displays (say like the Sony 500ES projector) have in fact only HDMI 1.4 chipsets with one HDMI 2.0 feature (4K 60p@420 8 bits) which allows them to claim HDMI 2.0 compatibility, but the bandwidth is the same as the HDMI 1.4 chipset, 10.8Gb/s. This is HDMI 2.0b. The full speed version, HDMI 2.0a, with 18Gb/s, is only available on a few devices at this stage.

2) Worse, the devices with HDMI 2.0a (18GB/s speed) like the Panasonic 4K UHDTV (or the new Atmos AVRs from Denon, Yamaha, out this summer/fall) have full HDMI 2.0a bandwidth BUT they don't support HDCP 2.2, which is needed to play protected 4K content like movies from an upcoming bluray 4K player or from the Sony 4K server. Onkyo has made the opposite choice for its new Atmos range, which is, like Sony, to stick to HDMI 2.0b speed with HDCP 2.2 (although only on one input and one output).

So at the moment, you have a choice between 4K devices which can play protected 4K content but have only the slow bandwidth like the Sony 500ES projector or the new Onkyo Atmos AVRs, so they won't be able to play upcoming content at full quality in higher than 24p framerates, or devices with full bandwidth like the Panasonic UHDTV or the new Denon/Yamaha Atmos AVRs which are unable to play ANY 4K protected commercial content (ie movies) due to the lack of HDCP 2.2 support.

The whole thing is a joke so you should really update your article if you do care about consumer information. Consumers should check whether the version of HDMI 2,0 implemented is 2.0a or 2.0b, AND if HDCP 2.2 is also implemented, for a modest amount of future proofing.

For more info about the different HDMI 2.0 implementations, have a look here: http://www.projectorreviews.co...

Buyers beware!

Yann Bard

August 19, 2014, 8:44 am

Would the lack of a hdmi 2.0 connection on a device ie. New Sony amp 1050 make you wait until next year's model or buy another brand (onkyo) that has 2.0 and hcp 2.2 . Same with a new TV, is it mad to buy a device still with hdmi 1.4 . I think we are stills several years from regular 4k content.

Donny Gal

December 5, 2014, 4:43 pm

I am feeling totally confused. We are looking at upgrading, and considering future proofing by going for a 55" 4k TV. Done the reading around and got it down to a samsung 7500 or a Sony X85 series. As our DVD player is not even Blu Ray was considering getting a DVD player too. The Sony expert in Currys, I know but you have to go and look at things somewhere, tried telling me that the 1 4a cables were not use at all and needs to be a "new 4k cable", around £70 each!! But would throw one in free as we were looking at a sound bar too. He gave us an offer, to be taken up at 8pm that night, which the point where we left, as I do not like being held to ransom. But these magic cables would work and uprate everything everything, even from an old DVD player. From what I am reading here he is talking from his sit upon, or am I reading it wrong?

Jason Burroughs

December 10, 2014, 2:38 pm

can you please review your use of 2.0a and 2.0b in this reply? I think you have them mixed up or used inconsistently. Thanks for the info, just want to make sure I have the facts straight.


December 10, 2014, 2:46 pm

Hi Jason, no mix up, the only incorrect thing is the way I labelled them at the time, I should have said HDMI 2.0 level A (18Gb/s) and HDMI 2.0 Level B (10Gb/s). Calling them 2.0a and 2.0b is confusing in case a revision of HDMI 2.0 is produced later. But I re-read my comment and I don't see any inconsistency. Do you have a specific question?

Jason Burroughs

December 10, 2014, 3:01 pm

you explained it, thanks. The 2.0a being a higher bandwidth than 2.0b didn't make sense to me.

My situation is that I bought a Sony Bravia XBR65X850B a couple of months ago, specifically to use a home theater computer for future 4k content on the computer. It appears as though my set only supports Level B, so I can only use 4:2:0, but still at least get 2160p60 over HDMI 2.0 (according to some people who have it working). The Sony manual says "PC Input" is limited to 1080p.


December 10, 2014, 4:26 pm

Yes sadly with HDMI 2.0 Level B the best you can get at 4K 60p is 420 8 bits. This is why PC input is limited to 1080p, as PCs tend to output 60p in 444, which HDMI 2.0 level B is utterly unable to pass through (it's really just HDMI 1.4 with one single HDMI 2.0 profile which allows 4K 60p at 420 8 bits, not even enough for UHDTV phase 1 which requires 10 bits).
You will need an HDMI 2.0 level A GPU though to generate such bandwidth, as most current GPUs are also limited to HDMI 1.4 and have simply added the 420 8 bits profile through a driver update (cf NVidia).
Unfortunately the only sources, AVRs and displays with a modicus amount of future proofing re protected 4K content are those with HDMI 2.0 level A and HDCP 2.2.

Kristian Sørensen

January 4, 2015, 9:48 am

The new X8505b series have 4 HDMI of which 2 (port 2 and 3) carry support for HDMI 2.0b and HDCP 2.2 - Just to keep people updated:-)

Deividas Zbarauskas

March 4, 2015, 6:15 pm

what refresh rate can you get via hdmi 2.0, why no mentioning of it?


May 19, 2015, 10:33 am

We still need more powerful hardware to push such hi res resolutions any ways. HDMI 2.0 will be not an issue.


September 30, 2015, 6:25 am

I think people would appreciate the higher frame rates a lot more in action-packed movies. Slower movies that are more talking or large scenes have a soap-opera like feel to them. But I have always felt that in high-movement scenes, like close-ups in a fight scene of an action film where arms are flailing, the 24 fps or 30 fps loses too much information. Higher framerates in these areas gives more detail to the scene I believe, allows you to take in more information.

James Stewart

November 11, 2015, 12:13 am

My Denon Avrx1200w is HDCP 2.2. So are all the higher end models. Why do you think that an IPod needs to be reset as well as the AVR in standby to avoid looping of Ipod and AVR. Looping = spinning or "please wait' when playing song or song has started and goes into "please wait". Do you think this has to do with usb compatability?



November 21, 2015, 4:55 am

I know this post is a year old but I'm surprised no one replied to you. Bottom line is that HDMI cables DO NOT have a version number. They are either standard or high speed. There is no such thing as an HDMI 1.4 or 2.0 cable - the HDMI version corresponds to the DEVICES you are connecting. You'll note that in the article above nowhere does Andrew mention a version number associated to a cable. If an HDMI cable is built to the high speed spec, it will work for all devices. Now you might see those version numbers on packaging or marketing materials, but all you need to worry about is standard speed vs. high speed.

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