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Why do I need a HDMI 2.1 Gaming Monitor?

12th January 2021


Gaming set up

Most of us are familiar with the trusty HDMI as many of our consoles, monitors and TV's will be fitted with one, from the Xbox 360 with HDMI 1.4, to the PS4 Pro with HDMI 2.0.

As the wave of next-gen consoles come fitted with HDMI 2.1 and more 4K games are being released, HDMI 2.1 is looking more important than ever. But this leaves many of us wondering...do I need to upgrade my gaming monitor to take full advantage of these new features? 

In this article, we will introduce you to a few key terms before we explain what HDMI 2.1 is and how a HDMI 2.1 monitor can help take your gaming to the next level. 

HDMI 2.1 cable

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.

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.

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 what HDMI 2.1 is and how it can benefit you! 

What is the difference between HDMI 2.0 and 2.1? 

If you've got a PS4 Pro, 4K TV or recently released monitor, the chances are you've got a HDMI 2.0. The HDMI 2.0 supports a bandwidth of 18Gbps, so it can run games at 1080p 240Hz or 4K 60Hz. This means when it comes to resolution or smoothness you are presented with a trade-off, as you have to choose between smooth gameplay with 1080p resolution or sharp detail but at a jittery 60Hz. 

With the range of 4K games being released and the increase in popularity for 4K, it seems impossible to be happy with the definition of Full HD. However, playing at 60Hz is less than ideal for most gamers as it can leave you with stuttering and choppy frames. This is where the advantages of the HDMI 2.1 come in, as thanks to this new standard you can have it all!

4K monitor

How can HDMI 2.1 improve gaming?

The HDMI 2.1 can support a bandwidth of 48Gbps...that's more than double that of it's predecessor! This means it can support 4K at a wonderful 120Hz...so you can enjoy both crystal clear visuals and buttery-smooth motion. The capabilities of HDMI 2.1 to allow gaming at 4K 120Hz is creating a shift in the industry, the new-gen consoles (PS5 and Xbox series X) have adopted this standard. In line with this, software developers are following suit and creating games that also support 4K 120hz.

This means that without a HDMI 2.1 monitor or TV, you can't enjoy these modern titles on your new-gen consoles to their full capabilities. Equally, with a monitor that's fitted with HDMI 2.1, you can enjoy new content as it comes out in high resolution with fluid gameplay. This can even give you the competitive edge on faced-paced games such as shooter and multiplayer as the higher resolution means you can see more details and FPS means reduced blur and stutter, allowing you to shoot with precision.

Not only can the HDMI 2.1 support 4K at 120Hz, it can also support 8K at 60Hz! Whilst we understand that 60Hz isn't ideal for fast-paced gaming, it is perfect for streaming movies at an impeccable resolution. Currently, there is limited 8K content available, but it is predicted to become a mainstream consumer display resolution around 2023. This means that by having a monitor that supports 8K resolution with acceptable frame rates, you are also future-proofing your purchase for when 8K becomes the new standard for media streaming!

HDMI 2.1 can further enhance your gaming by reducing the dreaded lag with it's Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). Its extra bandwidth allows it to provide a signal to the display each time a game or movie is selected, this means the display can make the appropriate changes to the system to give you the optimum experience, whether you're gaming or watching movies. In addition to this, it supports VRR (variable refresh rate) G-sync and Freesync, which keep displays refresh rate in line with the devices frame rate, so you can enjoy flawless gaming that is free of tearing and stuttering. 

Freesync on monitor

Should I upgrade my monitor? 

If you're interested in enjoying games to their full capabilities, or you want an advantage in fast-paced games, then you should consider a display with HDMI 2.1 as it can really elevate your gaming experience. It also means you can enjoy new 4K 120Hz titles and updates such as a Call of Duty Cold War and Star Wars Squadrons. 

With that being said, there are hardly any HDMI 2.1 monitors on the market just yet, which seems odd considering the release of the new-gen consoles and subsequent games/updates. This leaves HDMI 2.1 monitors comparable to unicorns; whilst it would be great to have one, they are pretty impossible to come by. As disappointing as this is, it leaves lots of scope for exciting new releases to come this year, so we will be keeping an eye out on the latest monitor releases for 2021! 

We hope you have found this article helpful. Please feel free to explore our Box Blog for more posts or check out our YouTube Channel where we post similar video content! 

At Box.co.uk we stock a range of Gaming monitors, monitors, consoles and gaming accessories so check out our website to see the full range! 

**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.

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