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What Is HDMI 2.1 & Why Does It Matter

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Need a quick answer? Here's the short version with more detail below. 2.1 or Ultra High Speed HDMI cables have a much higher bandwidth than 2.0 cables. With 48Gbps (gigabits per second) of bandwidth instead of 18Gbps, 2.1 cables support advanced graphic & audio output technologies. They can kick out 8K signals at 60hz or 4k at 120hz. That means everything will look and sound way better if you have the right gadgets hooked up to it. Remember - your picture & sound is only as good as your TV or input device (console/streaming device/BluRay player/etc..) allows. No HDMI cable in the world can make your 4k TV display 8k content, 2.1 cables just provide the highway for these newer technologies to work.

Why Would I Need A 2.1 Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable?

Upgrading HDMI cables can help future-proof any setup, but is most important if you have a next-gen gaming console, 8k TV, or high-end computer build. While HDMI 2.0 cables can be sufficient for streaming, cable, watching BluRay discs, etc.. The Increased bandwdith is ideal for faster refresh rates at higher qualities, which is most helpful for gaming. There are also some high-end audio technologies that require HDMI 2.1, but that's a story for another day.

If you've got your hands on a PS5 or Xbox Series X, you might have noticed that a HDMI 2.1 cable came with your system. You'll want to use 2.1 cables everywhere you plug that console in to maximize its power. Both the Xbox Series X & PS5 are capable of rendering games in 4k at 120hz. Quick vocab lesson - hz describes how fast the content on your screen can refresh aka the refresh rate. The faster this number is, the smoother your game will run. While not every game on the new ecosystem takes advantage of the full spec, you'll want an Ultra High Speed HDMI cable for those that can.

Side note - many games have a toggle for 4k vs performance mode. If you want your TV to prioritize refresh rate instead of pixel density, choose performance mode in the game settings. Your game will be smoother and is usually more immersive vs 4k mode.

Both of the next-gen consoles use an internal power supply, which means switching location is much easier than it used to be. Now you don't need to lug that external power brick around. I hated that damn brick, so the internal power supply alone is almost worth the upgrade! Anyways...if you're planning on moving the console around your house or to your friend's place, you'll want extra HDMI & power cables. Here's our power cable pick.

replacement power cable for Xbox series x or Playstation 5

Now back to HDMI. To get the most out of your new console or high-end PC build, you'll need a 2.1 cable and screen that can take advantage of the upgraded hardware. I get smoked in NHL on my big TV and choke away Warzone wins on a computer monitor so getting an extra 2.1 cable was key. One is currently behind my wall because I like to keep my setups cable-free to avoid getting thrown in the lion tamer like Scorpian did..

hide your tv cables so you don't end up like Scorps

What TVs Work With HDMI 2.1?

If you're shopping for a TV or monitor, the list of specs can get pretty confusing. Just remember, you need a 2.1 cable and an input device/screen capable of displaying the upgraded signals if you want to see the difference. As a start, look for 4k at 120hz to maximize what your new console or PC can do with a 2.1 HDMI cable. You'll notice a pretty hefty price tag for larger TVs that can do 4k/120fps. Check out the top 2021 gaming TVs here. It's pretty wild how expensive the top-tier LG/Samsung options are, even for a 55 inch.

If you've gone really crazy and are looking at 8k TVs, you'll need 2.1 cables for all inputs. Older 2.0 cables are capped at 4k, and if you've shelled out the extra dollhairs for an 8k TV, you better be getting 8k quality.

It's Friday, and while we could try to make a comprehensive list of TV technologies and 2.1 compatibilities, someone has already done that for us! Whoever wrote that blog is officially invited to my Top Gun themed birthday party. Head on over to this link and scroll down if you want an easy way to determine what your TV is capable of.

Is HDMI 2.1 Backwards Compatible?

Yes, newer HDMI cables still work with older devices. If you have a 2.1 Ultra High Speed HDMI cable, your video quality is only limited by what you connect to it. Even if your current TV can't take advantage of the 2.1 technologies, upgrading to 2.1 will future-proof your setup for that next big TV upgrade.

Some TVs have different HDMI ports like ARC or eARC. These are an advanced type of port that can trasmit audio signals from your TV to an external speaker like a soundbar. If you use an HDMI 2.1 cable to connect your speakers to the TV via the ARC port, you'll get the highest possible audio quality vs traditional audio hookups. However, these ARC ports function as normal HDMI ports if you don't need to use them for an audio device. If your TV has HDMI ARC it'll be noted right next to the input on your TV. Your TV might also give you extra info about each HDMI port and what it's capable of. Since every TV is different you'll have to grab a flashlight and go investigate.

Meets HDMI 2.1 Spec VS HDMI 2.1 Certified

Trying to pick out the right HDMI cable can confusing. With all these specs and certifications being thrown around, what should you look for? Well, HDMI is actually an organization and not just a cable type. To get certified, you have to pass a test administered by a secret cabal of HDMI's finest. Any cable that is 2.1 certified will have the below sticker with a QR code verification. If you want to get real nerdy, take a look at everything 2.1 can do here.

HDMI 2.1 Ultra high speed certified cable

Buying a cable that says it works with HDMI 2.1, but isn't certified can be a bit risky. You'll likely pay less, but there's a chance the cable can't do what you read on the product page. If you like to gamble, you can roll the dice and might not ever be able to tell the difference. In my slightly educated opinion, I'd opt to spend an extra few bucks on the HDMI certified version and not worry about it.

To put a wrap on it, if you're buying new HDMI cables, I'd recommend getting a HDMI 2.1 Ultra High Speed cable. While it'll be a little more expensive, you won't have to worry about upgrading in the near future. All that bandwidth lets the cable support emerging AV tecnologies so you can plug it in and forget about it...until 16k comes out.

Echgoear is terry wildin'

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