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What is the difference between HDMI 1.4 2.0 and 2.1?

7th January 2021



HDMI cable

HDMI we've all heard of them, we've all probably got them at home whether that's in our TV, PC's or Consoles. But do we actually know what they are or what they do?

We know decoding jargon to better understand cables probably isn't your idea of fun, so we've done it for you! In this article we break down the differences between HDMI 1.4, 2.0 and 2.1, with all the must-know information explained in a way that's simple to understand!

What is a HDMI?

HDMI (or High Definition Multimedia Interface) is the most popular HD signal interface for transmitting both high definition audio and video over a single cable.

Over the years, HDMI Cables have continually developed as we've seen the 1.4 gradually replaced with the 2.0 and now with the HDMI 2.1. The newer wires support more bandwidth (capacity to transmit data from one point to another), and this determines how much data it can send and receive at one time. For higher resolutions and framerates, more data is needed, therefore more bandwidth is needed. So to sum that up nicely; the more recent versions of the HDMI can offer you sharper visuals and smoother gameplay via greater bandwidth…simple right?

Before we can get into the differences, we've decided to clarify some key terms below (if you already know them, clever you and feel free to skip this bit):

Gbps - This is a measurement of how many Gigabits of data can run through the system in a second.

HDMI cable showing gbps

1080p - Also known as Full HD, this means there are 1920 pixels displayed across the screen horizontally and 1080 vertically.

4K - This has 3,840 horizontal pixels and 2160 vertical pixels …this is around 4 times that of Full HD.

8K - This gives a resolution of 7680 by 4320… that's four times that of 4K and 16 times that of full HD!

What does more pixels mean for me? The more pixels the screen has, the higher resolution it has and a higher resolution will allow the screen to display more detail as you can see below.

Difference between HD, 4K and 8K

Hz - In screen refresh terms, this is the number of frames per second, meaning how many times the screen can switch from one picture to another in a second. For example 60Hz = 60 frames per second. The higher the FPS the smoother your viewing experience will be. 

Difference between 60fps and 120fps


Now we've got over the introductory information, we can get into the different types and, more importantly, how they can benefit you!

Which HDMI do I need?

HDMI 1.4

Bandwidth = 10.2 Gbps

Can run at 1080p at 60Hz or 4k at 30Hz

What this means: The HDMI 1.4 is what you'll find on older gen consoles and tech such as the Xbox one, PS4 and HD TV. It will allow you to display a resolution of 1080p at 60 frames per second which gives you relatively clear visuals (especially on smaller monitors) and a pretty standard framerate. This will allow you to watch movies comfortably but you can't expect outstanding visual quality and realism. For gamers this will allow you to play games in good quality and enjoy casual gaming, but you may struggle in faced-paced or competitive games as there can often be blur and stuttering. This can sometimes put you at a competitive disadvantage as more FPS allows for smoother aiming, tracking and rendering. The HDMI 1.4 can run 4k at 30 Hz but it is generally considered that 30Hz is not ideal for movie streaming and certainly not enough for gaming as it will be super choppy.

HDMI 2.0

Bandwidth = 18 Gbps

Can run at 1080p 240Hz or 4k at 60Hz

What this means: The HDMI 2.0 is what you will find on consoles such as the PS4 Pro and most 4K Tv's. It will allow you to watch 4K material at a comfortable 60Hz, this means visuals that appear both crisp and realistic with fluid motion. In terms of gaming, this will support 1080p games at 240 Hz which means super smooth and accurate visuals. This can give you the competitive edge in a range of fast paces games including shooter and multiplayer games. It also supports 4K gaming which is becoming increasingly popular due to the new generations consoles 4K ability, this means you will be able to play the latest 4K titles however you will only be able to play them at 60Hz.

In terms of audio, the HDMI 2.0 can transmit both Dolby digital and DTS audio, which give better sound quality and support surround sound. The HDMI 2.0 also gives more vibrant and sharp images due to its static HDR capabilities. As you can see in the image below the difference HDR makes.

Difference between 4k and 4kHDR


HDMI 2.1 (also known as ultra-high speed)

Bandwidth = 48 Gbps

Can run at 4k at 120Hz or 8k at 60Hz

What this means: HDMI 2.1 is what you'll find on new Tv's and monitors. You will also find it on the new gen consoles PS5 and Xbox series X as it will allow games to run at 120fps, something that PC gamers have been enjoying for some time and console gamers can now enjoy too! It's ability to support 4K at 120Hz means both crystal clear visuals as well as flawless movement, and it's becoming increasingly popular as more 4K films and 120Hz games are being released. The HDMI 2.1 also supports 8K and whilst there isn't much 8K content on the market yet, this is almost certainly the direction we will be heading in. So having a HDMI 2.1 port on your TV/Monitor really gives it a futureproof element as the hardware is all set up for you to enjoy new 8K content as it becomes available.

If you're a gamer that's interested in enjoying games to their full capabilities, or you want an advantage in games such as COD then you should consider a display with HDMI 2.1. This HDMI also supports VRR (variable refresh rate) G-sync and Freesync, which keep displays refresh rate in line with the devices frame rate, allowing you to enjoy flawless gaming that is free of tearing and stuttering

HDMI 2.1 supports dynamic HDR which gives an optimal display as it can change the black level and peak brightness dynamically depending on the scene. On top of that it supports 16 bits of colour so supports a TV with a wide colour gamut, allowing you to see the full range of colours, shades and tones made available. When it comes to audio, HDMI 2.1 supports the latest technology such as DTS-X and Dolby Atmos which will allow you to get the most out of your surround sound system.

Should I be using devices with HDMI 2.1?

The improvements to colour, clarity and smoothness that come with the HDMI 2.1 are benefits that most of us will be able to enjoy, whether it's gamers, tech lovers or movie fanatics. However, as HDMI 2.1 is relatively new, it is only available on new gen consoles as well as recent TV's and monitors. So if you already have a set up that you are happy with, we are not saying you should buy a brand new TV/Monitor for the sole reason of supporting HDMI 2.1 (please do not do this). BUT for those looking to upgrade their gaming, maybe you brought the new gen consoles and are looking at buying a new TV, or maybe you're looking to upgrade your TV to a bigger and more modern one, then you should definitely consider HDMI 2.1 when making the decision between models. This is because buying a TV/Monitor with HDMI 2.1 not only future-proofs your purchase, it allows you to enjoy movies and gaming at their optimum settings.

*Please note that whilst different standards of HDMI allow for higher performance, the final refresh rate/resolution is limited to the capabilities of the TV/Monitor and other components. 

We hope this blog has helped you better understand the difference between HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1. Please feel free to explore our Box Blog for more posts or check out our YouTube Channel where we post similar video content!

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