As we recently explored in our Resolution Confusion series, streaming ultra high definition video like 4K and 8K requires extraordinary bandwidth. So much bandwidth, in fact, that one of the best ways to future-proof a home for these bandwidth needs is to invest in structured wiring solutions, with dedicated Ethernet terminations run to a variety of locations within the home.
But what happens after you, the specialist or installer, completes a structured wiring job and walks out the door? The client begins connecting their devices to the new network, including gaming consoles and Blu-ray players. And they’re likely using the same HDMI cables they’ve been using and re-using for years and years: HDMI 1.4 as opposed to HDMI 2.0.
The problem? The old 1.4 standard is incapable of delivering the best possible video and audio that today’s clients demand. And they can take a lot of the shine off a brand new structured wiring project.
HDMI 1.4 versus HDMI 2.0
HDMI 2.0 is nothing new. It first appeared in 2013 but only recently reached its true potential. For years consumers have operated off the conventional wisdom that 2.0 is no better than 1.4 — but that’s changing with the widespread adoption of 4K video, streaming, and high-resolution audio.
In a nutshell, HDMI 2.0 is designed to handle more bandwidth than HDMI 1.4. Both can deliver 4K video, but HDMI 2.0 can transfer up to 18Gbps whereas HDMI 1.4 can only transfer up to 10.2Gbps.
That extra bandwidth allows HDMI 2.0 to deliver a few extras that might have seemed unnecessary just a few years ago. But for current content consumers — especially A/V enthusiasts — those extra goodies are seen as essential.
Higher frame rates at 4K
With HDMI 1.4 you’re limited to a frame rate of 24fps when watching 4K video. This is still the standard for most movies and TV shows, but some in the entertainment world are trying to push the industry into filming in higher frame rates.
Why? With higher frame rates, 4K video looks sharper and more vivid, especially fast-moving scenes. This is why it’s especially useful for gaming. Slower, more traditional frame rates can make scenes appear blurry and choppy.
Because of its higher bandwidth and ability to transfer more data per second, HDMI 2.0 can support 4K video at up to 60 frames per second — optimal for watching live sports or playing video games.
Deeper color palettes at 4K
As well as supporting higher frame rates, HDMI 2.0 also supports an exponentially richer color palette at 4K. Whereas HDMI 1.4 can only deliver 8-bit color, HDMI 2.0 supports 10- and 12-bit color palettes.
For A/V enthusiasts and average consumers alike, this difference is profound. With 8-bit video, you get 16.7 million possible color combinations. With 12-bit video, you get a staggering 68.7 billion color combinations.
That might seem like overkill, given that the human eye can only detect around 10 million colors, but that doesn’t account for the subtle shades within colors that our eye can detect but that 8-bit video can’t replicate.
Richer and more immersive audio
Last but not least, HDMI 2.0 supports incredibly immersive and cinema-caliber audio, an essential piece of any home theater.
At a basic level, HDMI 1.4 supports up to 8 channels of audio. This was great for the surround sound of yesteryear, where you’d have some unidirectional speakers in the front, rear, and sides.
Today, HDMI 2.0 supports immersive surround sound technology like Dolby Atmos, which handles up to 32 virtual sound channels, all delivered through a handful of omni-directional speakers placed in your living room or home theater.