CES 2017: HDMI 2.1 announced

This could be big… eventually.

The HDMI Forum, who do nothing but develop the standards used in HDMI cables, announced HDMI 2.1, which will eventually have a use in TVs and computers. The move was coordinated with their cohorts in the DisplayPort and VESA groups, who develop standards as well but whom most of us ignore since everyone uses HDMI.

HDMI 2.1 is a revision to the HDMI 2.0 standard currently used in most 4K-capable equipment. It ups the ante to include 8K broadcasts over a single wire and the highest dynamic range possible, actually higher than most people can see.

HDMI 2.1 will probably find its way into extremely large computer monitors and digital signage first, much like 4K did. It’s hard to know if it will ever work its way down into human-sized computer monitors since it would be impossible to tell the difference between 4K and 8K in anything smaller than a 32″ monitor at 6 inches (depending on how good your eyes are.)

8K, if it ever gets wide distribution, will allow lifelike images to be displayed at wall-sized resolutions. Combine that with something like LG’s thinnest-ever monitor, also shown here at CES, and you could actually see something like the digital wallpaper we all dreamed about since we saw The Jetsons.

To use 8K, you’ll eventually need new HDMI cables since you’ll need something capable of transferring an astounding 48 gigabits per second. This is an utterly ridiculous amount of data, in fact it’s faster than any hard drive or solid state drive can retrieve information and would tax the upper limit of the SATA III standard that modern storage devices use. It’s also enough to transfer a full DVD per second, or put it this way: In 30 days’ time it could transfer THE ENTIRE AMOUNT OF DATA IN THE WORLD THAT EXISTED IN 1985. That’s just ridiculous.

But don’t fret, it will be a while before you see any reason to replace those cables. It will probably be a year before the standard is finalized, and it could be 3 or 4 years before there’s actually any hardware. Considering the paltry amount of 4K content today, who knows when there will be enough 8K content for you to worry about, and for now you can pretty much forget about streaming it. Much like 4K was when it was introduced, 8K content will take hours or even days to download before it’s watchable.

If you’re into the full specs, check out this post from the HDMI forum, and check out this blog to see if I’ve found any 8K stuff on the show floor. Details as I get them.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.