In the past several years, HDMI technologies have upgraded at lightning speeds. Better performing and faster cables are always needed to support the latest string of releases from electronics manufacturers. The overall significance of HDMI in the consumer electronics industry is staggering. As an example, when HDMI 2.0 was released, it had a direct effect on how products were being priced. Formerly, high-definition TV sets retailing at $25,000 or more had their prices slashed in half. Based off of historical trends, it is highly likely that HDMI will continue to offer cutting-edge advancements well into the future.
The Early Years: HDMI 1.0
In 2002, a group of the leading consumer electronics manufacturers, including Sony, Phillips, and Toshiba, came together to form HDMI. HDMI 1.0 became the very first all-digital interface to carry both audio and video signals. The first version was a single cable connection with a maximum bitrate of 4.9. With the flagship release, HDMI was also able to support up to eight channels of uncompressed pulse-code modulation (PCM). PCM is the most commonly used format for digital audio transmissions.
In subsequent years, HDMI released updates including versions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4. With each release, the same cables were used, but upgrades integrated to add support to more devices. HDMI 1.1 added support for audio from DVDs. HDMI 1.2’s release was geared to usher the PC market into the modern age. This version supported connectors for PCs, direct stream digital, and super audio CD content. HDMI 1.3 increased bandwidth to 10.2 Gbps, and HDMI 1.4 added Ethernet support and support for 3D video transmissions.
HDMI 2.0 and Beyond
HDMI 2.0 was a significant leap in the advancement of the technology. HDMI 2.0 came about as electronics manufacturers grew interested in creating more ultra high-definition TVs. This release supported higher frame per second rates and increased bandwidth to 18 Gbps. These cables can support resolutions up to 2160p and a maximum of 32 audio channels. There was also added the ability to support wider aspect ratios like the theatrical 21:9.
HDMI 2.0 was innovative enough that very few updates have been needed since the product’s 2013 release. In 2015, however, HDMI 2.0a was launched. The 2.0a version is geared mostly to consumers who own high-end TVs that require support for HDR. HDMI 2.0a will not only work with HDR televisions but also provide compatibility to potential 4K Blu-ray players that could be released down the road.
What the Future Holds for HDMI
The future of HDMI cables will focus on continuously supporting the latest electronics to enter the marketplace. The most obvious challenge for developers is ensuring the HDMI cables can handle high-definition TV broadcasts at quicker speeds. The latest HDMI 2.0 granted support to 4K Ultra High Definition TVs that displayed at 60 frames per second. Skeptics have voiced concerned that HDMI has too many limitations to offer support to future TV that have even higher frames per second rates. However, in the summer of 2015, Jeff Park, the HDMI senior product manager, addressed concerns directly about the future of HDMI. He insists that their company has the means to support higher frames per second, but product releases are done in a practical way. With current TVs only putting out a maximum of 60 frames per second, it does not make monetary sense to increase support for TVs that operate at a higher number of frames per second. Going forward, the company also plans to increase bandwidth and add more power to the HDMI interface.
The current version of HDMI 2.0 can still support up to 16 bits—a feature that has been standard for close to a decade after the release of HDMI 1.3. Although 16-bit is supported, there has been little need for the feature since the majority of content is still produced at 8-bit.
One of the biggest innovations that we will see in the future of HDMI technology is even more support for HDR. Late last year, high-dynamic range (HDR) TVs entered the consumer consciousness. The feature that makes HDR TVs so important is that they have the ability to expand the range of contrast and color selections that the sets can display. With HDR, the images look more natural and come the closest to mimicking reality.
Although since the release of HDMI 2.0, the changes in the technology have seemed small, they are still significant. Consumer demand for more advanced electronics will undeniably lead to the continued evolvement of the HDMI industry.
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