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 HDMI Versions Explained

Note:  All references to HDMI, and features named by HDMI are TM and copyright of their respective owners

There is much confusion in the digital world these days regarding the newest of the HDMI versions that are recently showing up in today's newer consumer audio/video products.  Consumers should not choose a cable based on its version number - but should choose it based on a specific feature that they know is supported by their equipment.  In March of 2010, HDMI LLC released specifications for version 1.4A to further add confusion to the world of HDMI and the infamous question:

- What version will work BEST for my equipment?

If you have an audio/video receiver that supports 1.3a, but your source output is a satellite receiver that is using "Standard HDMI" (as of 11/30/07, neither Dish Network nor DirectTV support or use any 1.3a features - see table below), then using a standard HDMI cable will work perfectly for you.

On the other hand, if you purchased a newer model Sony PlayStation 3 (aka PS/3) with the latest firmware update, this "output device" makes use of some specific features of HDMI 1.3a.  If you plan on using this with a TV that ALSO accepts and uses HDMI 1.3a features, then to make use of such features, you should consider purchasing an HDMI 1.3a / Category 2 certified cable.

For 99% of all consumer AV equipment on the market, a Standard HDMI 1.2a cable will provide you with a perfect picture.  For example, Microsoft's XBox 360 only makes use of 1.2a HDMI features.  HDMI 1.2a is fully supported by Blu-Ray and HD-DVD.

Today's current HDMI defacto standard is HDMI v1.3x.  All of our HDMI cables are currently made with 1.3x standards.  It is important to note that some vendors advertise their cables as "v1.3a, v1.3b, and some as v1.3c".  Each time HDMI LLC releases a new test specification, the revision letter changes.  For ALL of the version 1.3 revisions, the "a, b, and c" revisions were data-code hardware changes that had NO effect what-so-ever to HDMI cables, switches, or splitters.  Rest assured, if you are sourcing a product that is version 1.3x, you need not worry if the X is A, B, or C.

HDMI Version 1.4

In March of 2010, HDMI LLC released specifications for their newest HDMI - version 1.4A - also called "HDMI with Ethernet".  The "A" revision for this HDMI version added control codes that vendors of TVs, game consols, and other hardware manufactures should follow to meet this new minor revision change.  The actual version 1.4 specification - released in late 2009 - adds support for ethernet communications using a new type of HDMI cable.  Contrary to popular belief - this newer specification does NOT require a higher bandwidth greater than 10.2Gbits/sec (that is the current high speed requirement for version 1.3 certification).  Version 1.4 and now 1.4A is fully downward compatible with v1.3 and v1.2.  Unless your TV or AV device specifically states "requires v1.4" - there is NO reason to purchase a newer cable.

Version 1.4, has added some of the following features that will start to appear of a few select TVs and BluRay players in late 2010 and early 2011:

  • HDMI Ethernet Channel
    The HDMI 1.4 specification will add a data channel to the HDMI cable and will enable high-speed bi-directional communication. Connected devices that include this feature will be able to send and receive data via 100 Mb/sec Ethernet, making them instantly ready for any IP-based application. The HDMI Ethernet Channel will allow an Internet-enabled HDMI device to share its Internet connection with other HDMI devices without the need for a separate Ethernet cable. The new feature will also provide the connection platform to allow HDMI-enabled devices to share content between devices.
  • Audio Return Channel
    The new specification will add an Audio Return Channel that will reduce the number of cables required to deliver audio upstream for processing and playback. In cases where HDTVs are directly receiving audio and video content, this new Audio Return Channel allows the HDTV to send the audio stream to the A/V receiver over the HDMI cable, eliminating the need for an extra cable.
  • Enhanced 3D Support
    The 1.4 version of the specification will define common 3D formats and resolutions for HDMI-enabled devices. The specification will standardize the input/output portion of the home 3D system and will specify up to dual-stream 1080p resolution.
    Important Note: Existing v1.3 can also support 3D features that are being released in 2010 model TVs.  A v1.4 cable is NOT required to receive and support 3D capabilities.

  • 4K x 2K (4096 x 2160 pixel) Support
    The new specification will enable HDMI devices to support high-definition (HD) resolutions four times beyond the resolution of 1080p. Support for 4K x 2K will allow the HDMI interface to transmit content at the same resolution as many digital theaters.
  • More Color Spaces
    HDMI technology now supports color spaces designed specifically for digital still cameras. By supporting sYCC601, Adobe RGB and AdobeYCC601, HDMI-enabled display devices will be capable of reproducing more accurate life-like colors when connected to a digital still camera.
     
  • New Connector types
    The micro-connector and automotive connector types have been introduced.

When will My Cable Mart sell version HDMI v1.4 Cables?

We have already completed the engineering and design process, and have submitted manufacturing samples to Silicon Image for testing and certification.  Our HDMI cables have passed our internal tests to meet version 1.4 specifications.  However, we have elected (under HDMI LLC guidance and requests) to NOT starting selling this new version of cable until we have the ATC testing certification (as issued by Silicon Image) in our hands.  Many on-line vendors have already starting advertising and selling so-called v1.4 cables.  Some have even used the word "certified".  HDMI LLC (the licensee of the technology) has shut many of these vendors down for selling unlicensed or non-certified products.  In fact, only in late February of 2010 did Silicon Image start testing for the new v1.4 specification.  Did you know that a non-certified HDMI cable is a cable that is being sold illegally?  Ask to see your vendor's HDMI ATC testing certificate before buying.  Ours can be found at the specific product detail screen near the bottom of the screen.  We proudly state that we ONLY sell certified HDMI products.

March 2010 Update: So, to keep a long story short, we are expecting certification of our cables in mid to late April 2010.  Once certification has been obtained, we will then gear up for manufacturing to this new standard.  We hope to have actual certified product available for sale come May of 2010.  As the raw material (we use Copartner Tech Group or Pak Heng Technologies - both certified raw cable manufacturers) for an ethernet-type v1.4 cable is slight more expensive to manufacturer, such cables are expected to be priced about 7-10% higher than v1.3 cables.

Currently, there are NO consumer equipment (TVs or BluRay players) that REQUIRE a v1.4 cable.  Many newer TVs require a v1.3 CERTIFIED cable that is capable of supporting a higher bandwidth of 10.2Gbits/sec.  All our v1.3 CERTIFIED cables meet this requirement.


Will a 1.3a / Category 2 Cable work with my DVD player and TV that I don't think needs or uses this newer standard?

Absolutely!  HDMI.ORG specifically designed their products to be fully "backwards compatible".  For our 3, 6, 10, and 15 foot 28AWG (gauge) HDMI cables - the physical cables have remained identical to our previous 1.2a cables.  They were sent to HDMI for re-certification nothing more.  1.3a for the MOST part was a technology change that was implemented at the HARDWARE (ie HDTV, DVD, etc) level.  When manufacturers introduced certain features that need more bandwidth (for example), we needed to make sure our cables could accommodate these changes.  HDMI.ORG mandates certification to ensure cables meet different specifications.


HDMI 1.3a and "Category 1 or 2" - What is the difference?

Because a number of significant changes were introduced in the HDMI 1.3a specification, many longer cables (ie longer than 15ft) needed to be manufactured using heavier gauge wire (ie 24AWG, or even 22AWG) in order to meet and be certified for this specification.  Standard HDMI cables in shorter lengths (less than 15ft, for example) are typically manufactured using 28 AWG wire.

Cables are categorized based on the performance capabilities and compliance testing of the cable.
There are two categories of cable and defined by HDMI Licensing LLC

  • Category 1: tested to carry a 74.25MHz / 4.95 Gbit/sec TMDS (standard HD) signal.  These are typically HDMI 1.2a certified cables.  HDMI refers to these as "Standard HDMI Cables"
     

  • Category 2: tested to carry up to a 340MHz 10.2 Gbit/sec TMDS signal.  These are typically HDMI 1.3a certified cables.

"HDMI 1.3 defined two categories of cables: Category 1 (standard or HDTV) and Category 2 (high-speed or greater than HDTV) to reduce the confusion about which cables support which video formats. Using 28 AWG, a cable of about 5 meters (~16 ft) can be manufactured easily and inexpensively to Category 1 specifications. Higher-quality construction (24 AWG, tighter construction tolerances, etc.) can reach lengths of 12 to 15 meters (~39 to 49 ft).

- Source: Wikipedia.com

 


I need a cable that is LONGER than 25ft to be 1.3a Certified.  Which cable should I order?

As of January 2008, we are not aware of ANY manufacturer or distributor (world-wide) that is selling a 1.3a CERTIFIED cable that is LONGER than 25ft.  Currently, we carry a wide range of cables that are certified to meet 1.3a specifications from 1.5ft to 25ft - but none LONGER than 25ft.  If you have located a supplier that is stating they have a cable that is CERTIFIED 1.3a for greater than 25ft, demand to see their ATC (Authorized Testing Center) certificate for that specific product before ordering anything.

You can NOT join 2 HDMI 1.3a certified cables together to make a length LONGER than 25ft - and then have a 1.3a certified "joined" cable.  We are working closely with a number of manufacturers who are hoping to have 30ft, 35ft, and 50ft HDMI 1.3x certified cables sometime in later 2008.

One solution we offer is HDMI over CAT5E/RJ45 up to 196ft that is 1.3a CERTIFIED.  Click HERE to preview this product.
 


HDMI 1.3a Compliant vs Certified - What is the difference?

1.3a Compliant or "Compatible" Cables - All of our standard HDMI cables sold at MyCableMart.com since 2006 were certified with the 1.2a HDMI specification.  When the 1.3a specification was released by HDMI, as HDMI technology is backwards compatible, these cables are now "compatible" with 1.3a technology.  Compatible means that these cables will continue to work with any device requiring the 1.3a specification - but certain 1.3a features MIGHT not be supported.  Most 3, 6, 10, and even 15ft "compatible" cables will work and support all of the 1.3a features.  However, they have not been tested and certified by a HDMI approved testing facility.  Click here for these cables.

1.3a Certified Cables - MyCableMart.com started selling a number of lengths of HDMI cables which were CERTIFIED to meet 1.3a specifications.  Some of the more advanced features now supported by some newer consumer A/V equipment are "Deep Color", x.v.ColorTM, Dobly TrueHD BitstreamTM Capable, and DST-HD Master Audio BitstreamTM Capable.  Click here for these cables.

These specifications, or features, are shown in the table below:
 
HDMI Feature/Spec HDMI Version
1.0 1.1 1.2/1.2a 1.3a/b/c 1.4
Maximum signal bandwidth (MHz) 165 165 165 340 340
Maximum TMDS bandwidth (Gbit/s) 4.95 4.95 4.95 10.2 10.2
Maximum video bandwidth (Gbit/s) 3.96 3.96 3.96 8.16 8.16
Maximum audio bandwidth (Mbit/s) 36.86 36.86 36.86 36.86 36.86
Resolutions at 24bits per pixel 1920x1080p 1920x1080p 1920x1080p 2560x1600p 4096x2160
RGB Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
YCbCr Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
xvYCC no no no Yes Yes
Deep Color no no no Yes Yes
Maximum Color Depth (bits per pixel) 24 24 24 48* 48
Consumer Electronic Control (CEC)** Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Updated list of CEC commands*** no no no no (1.3a:Yes) Yes
Auto lip-sync no no no Yes Yes
8channel/192 kHz/24-bit audio capability Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
DVD-A support no Yes Yes Yes Yes
SACD (DSD) support **** no no Yes Yes Yes
Dolby TrueHD bitstream capable no no no Yes Yes
DTS-HD Master Audio bitstream capable no no no Yes Yes
Blu-ray/HD DVD video and audio at full resolution, such as 1080p***** Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Maximum standard HDMI (19 wire) cable length available 200ft+ 200ft+ 200ft+ 200ft+ 200ft+
Maximum Length for 10.2Gbit/sec High Speed Support CERTIFIED Not Available Not Available Not Available 25.8 feet 25.8 feet
3D Support No No No Yes Yes
Ethernet Channel Support No No No No Yes


* = 36-bit support is mandatory for Deep Color compatible CE devices with 48-bit support being optional.
** = CEC has been in the HDMI specification since version 1.0 but has only begun to be used in CE products with HDMI version 1.3.
*** = Large number of additions and clarifications for CEC commands. One addition is CEC command allowing for volume control of an AV receiver.
**** = Playback of SACD may be possible for older revisions if the signal source (such as the Oppo 970) converts to LPCM. For those receivers that have only PCM DAC converters and not DSD, this means that no additional resolution loss occurs.
***** = Even for audio bitstream formats that a given HDMI revision can not transport, it may still be possible to decode the bitstream in the player and transmit the audio as LPCM. For HD DVD, this is always the case, for Blu-ray, this may be the case for newer profile 1.1 players (as these will feature audio decoders anyway), while older profile 1.0 players may or may not support non-mandatory audio codecs even if HDMI 1.3 is used.

Which cable do I need?

Check the above table.  If you have a transmitting device (such as a DVD Player, Cable Box, Satellite Box, Game Receiver) and a receiving device (such as an HD LCD TV, or Plasma TV) that BOTH indicate that are supporting one or more features in the "1.3/1.3a/1.3b" column, then you should consider purchasing a 1.3a CERTIFIED cable.

If your equipment does NOT specifically state that it supports one of these newer advanced features, then you can be 100% safe purchasing a 1.3a COMPATIBLE HDMI cable (also called a STANDARD HDMI cable).

If your device specifically states that is requires ETHERNET SUPPORT or v1.4, then you will need a version 1.4 cable.  Otherwise a v1.3 cable will work for ALL functionality that HDMI supports.
 


Reference Sources:
Wikipedia.com -
High-Definition Multimedia Interface
Wikepedia.com - PlayStation 3
Wikepedia.com - XBox 360
HDMI Licensing LLC - HDMI 1.3 Specification