HDMI 2.1 — for when you want to party like it’s 2025

I want to thank the dozens of helpful blog readers who pointed me to various articles about HDMI 2.1 yesterday. I figured, since the world won’t need this standard for about 10 years, I had a minute to think about what I’m going to write about it.

HDMI 2.1 is, quite plainly, overkill. At least for today.

Look at the specs. It will support 10K video which no one can even capture today. It lets you send data at 48Gbps, which is a speed that only commercial data centers can match. It supports “Dynamic HDR” which means that programs can stream at a lower bitrate when needed and still give you eye-popping colors and blacks. It will even give you 120 frames a second at 4K. That’s about 8 times more than your eye can actually deal with, but it does make things look a lot smoother (if there’s video actually produced at that rate.)

If this cable were any smarter it would make you breakfast.

If you’re the sort of person who is thinking, why would someone need a cable with that much capability, you’re right… no one does, at least right now. Still, if we’ve learned anything in the last 20 years it’s that there is a practically inexhaustible desire for bigger and bigger screens with more and more info traveling at faster and faster speeds. In the last decade, a 37″ television was considered massive and today it’s among the smallest you can buy. At the turn of the century it was considered technically impossible to deliver 1080p content yet today we get it over the internet. Speaking of internet, speeds today are about 300 times faster than they were then and we still complain.

So, it makes sense that the people who design HDMI cables are thinking ahead. After all, they want people in 2025 to be using HDMI cables and I’m sure somewhere in the back of their heads there’s a thought that HDMI could be replaced. There have been other standards that have tried to come in and replace HDMI but it has been “the choice” for over a decade. That’s a long time in the home theater world.

I personally wouldn’t worry for several years about HDMI 2.1, because unless you’re a really heavy gamer it’s going to be nearly impossible to do anything that needs it until then. At some point it’s going to start finding its way into home theater equipment, but keep in mind that it’s only been about 18 months since we started commonly seeing HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2, which are required for most 4K video devices. Really it’s just going to be another thing where you need to watch out if you buy a low-priced TV, to make sure that it’s future-proof enough that you don’t have to worry about it.

Needless to say Solid Signal will carry HDMI 2.1 cables when they’re made, but I’d expect it to be a good 6-9 months before you start seeing them