Here’s some good news from the Land of Connectors: We’re not going to have to replace all those spendy HDMI cables we’ve been buying for the last decade when the next iteration of HDTVs enters the marketplace.
That’s because of a development called HDMI 2.0 (where HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface), which aims to resolve what could’ve been a “last-foot bottleneck” for super-fat video streams like 4K HDTV.
The concern, before 2.0 surfaced, was that yet another core device in our digital lives (the television) would need a new connector and cable. Again!
If you’re in a household with an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 5, or both older and newer iPads, or an older or newer Macbook Air, you know how irritating this is. Different generations require different cables.
On the surface, HDMI 2.0 solves one in a long chain of obstacles facing 4K/UltraHD television: Available bandwidth, at the very last juncture before images and sound reach the eyeballs and ears. Meaning the cable and connector that feeds the TV.
When native 4K content becomes available (ETA: anyone’s guess), it will be substantially bigger than the best HD you’ve yet seen. Even with the best compression on the market today (H.264), 4K weighs in at 17 Megabits per second. That’s a lot.
HDMI 2.0 expands the connectivity bandwidth to 18 Gigabits per second, and, more importantly, increases the number of frames per second (fps) to 60. That’ll be good for sports and gamers; most movies are shot at 24 frames per second, and that’s unlikely to change.
And that bandwidth can be manipulated to serve up two lower-resolution streams, on the same screen. For when you want to watch the movie and your mate wants to play Space Biff , I suppose.
But wait, there’s more! Like way-better audio. HDMI 2.0 offers 32 audio channels, up from eight.
And now let’s talk about those things that might connect over HDMI 2.0. Right now, native 4K content is pretty limited. That’s likely to persist, at least until cameras, production trucks and workflow tools catch up.
Optical disc technologies, like Blu-ray, are also among the things in the UltraHD landscape that don’t have a big enough carrying capacity, so we won’t be getting 4K content via packaged media/ DVDs anytime soon.
What about set-top boxes, gateways, and those things in the home that deliver cable channels to TVs? Alas. They’re not likely to take a software download that bumps their HDMI connector to 2.0 status, but that’s not the end of the world. Delivering 4K will almost assuredly require new boxes anyway, because they’ll need the newer form of decompression — HEVC, for High-Efficiency Video Coding (which also goes by h.265).
Regardless, any technological development that doesn’t necessitate the purchase of new connectors, wires or chargers, is OK by me.