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HDMI Hardware Does Have Versions, and You May Need to Upgrade
Oct 19, 2018

While there’s no such thing as an HDMI 1.4 or HDMI 2.0 cable, there is most certainly such a thing as HDMI 1.4 or 2.0 hardware. Just because the actual TV supports 4K set doesn’t mean you’re set to enjoy 4K content. Your receiver and other gear will also need to support 4K. Here’s a crash course on which HDMI versions support what:


  • Version 1.0, released in 2002: The original standard. Extremely limited. Doesn’t support 4K.


  • Version 1.1, released in 2004: Minor changes, supports DVD-Audio.


  • Version 1.2, released in 2005: Increased audio channels. 1.2a revision includes HDMI-CEC (which allows HDMI devices to control each other over the HDMI cable).


  • Version 1.3, released in 2006: First big jump in HDMI cable bandwidth, 1.3 supports up to 10.2 Gbit/s.


  • Version 1.4, released in 2009: Supports 4K video, HDMI Ethernet, Audio Return Channel (ARC), and 3D over HDMI.


  • Version 2.0, released in 2013: Increase in bandwidth to 18 Gbit/s, can now transmit enough information to playback 4K video at 60 frames per second.


  • Version 2.0a, released in 2015:  Support for High-Dynamic Range (HDR) Video.


So depending on how your living room is set up, you may or may not need other new gear to get all the features of your TV. Every component in the chain has to support the same HDMI version (or better) as the content-delivering component. This means it doesn’t matter if your Chromecast Ultra supports 4K video and your TV supports 4K video, if the Chromecast Ultra is plugged into a 2005-era HDMI 1.2 AV receiver that is feeding the video signal to your new TV. You’ll need a receiver that supports HDMI 1.4 at the least, and 2.0a if you want to also take advantage of HDR (which is arguably a bigger improvement in picture quality than 4K).


Similarly, if you have a 4K-capable TV and a 4K-capable receiver but an older non-Ultra Chromecast, then you won’t be able to watch 4K content—you need a player that supports it too.


But if your entire home setup consists of just the brand new 4K TV and 4K-capable Chromecast Ultra plugged right into the back of the TV, then you’re good to go.


Buying a new 4K-capable player and receiver is clearly a much more expensive proposition than picking up a new $5-10 HDMI cable. You’ll want to look up the specs for your old hardware, check which HDMI version it supports, and then be sure to check the specs on any new hardware you’re considering as a replacement—if you need help decoding what the port-related terminology (like HDCP 2.2, 10bit, and such) means on the back of your TV, check out our guide here.


If you do find yourself in search of a new receiver for your new 4K TV, keep this in mind while shopping: just because it’s on the shelf at a store today doesn’t mean it’s the most bleeding edge HDMI version, so be sure to check the specs on your potential purchase carefully.


When in doubt, absolutely try out your existing cables and hardware with your new TV. It doesn’t hurt to try and in a best case scenario everything works great. If it doesn’t, look for the cheapest fixes first (like ancient HDMI cables) and then move onto the more pricey upgrades like new HDMI 2.0+ components.


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