HDMI 2.1 is the latest upgrade to the HDMI Specification. This roundup reviews the new features of HDMI 2.1 and the available options if you want to upgrade to a new HDMI 2.1 monitor.

HDMI 2.1, introduced in 2017, is finally making its way to the market, with a few products already available for consumers. LG and Samsung are the early adopters of HDMI 2.1, while the next-gen consoles Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will both feature the latest HDMI specification.

Here is what you should know when you’re looking to buy a new HDMI 2.1 monitor.

More Bandwidth, Higher Resolution

HDMI 2.1 adds more bandwidth to the current 2.0 specification. HDMI will now support 48Gbps, which is higher than DisplayPort 1.4 and Thunderbolt 3.

HDMI 2.1 increases the bandwidth to 48Gbps, capable of handling 4K at 120Hz (4K60 4:4:4 HDR), 8K60 with 4:4:4, and resolutions up to 10K120Hz.

Due to the limitations of HDMI 2.0 bandwidth, you can only get native 4K at 60Hz. HDMI 2.1 increases the refresh rate to 120Hz and up 8K60Hz resolution with no compression. HDMI 2.1 monitors will now support native 4K120Hz resolution with 10-bit color depth and 4:4:4 chroma over HDMI, improving visual fidelity significantly.

A higher refresh rate means smooth and fluid gameplay. Besides, only monitors with HDMI 2.1 can get the best of the next-gen gaming consoles. The new HDMI specification is a winning choice for both gamers and professionals looking for the best performance possible.

Here is a detailed comparison of the latest HDMI 2.1 specification and other video connectivity protocols, including DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3.

ProtocolBandwidthMaximum Display Uncompressed (4:4:4, 8-bit)Maximum with Display Stream Compression (4:4:4, 10-bit)
USB-C10Gbps4K (3840x2160) @ 60HzN/A*
HDMI 2.018Gbps4K (3840x2160) @ 60HzN/A
DisplayPort 1.432.4Gbps5K (5120x2800) @ 60Hz8K (7680×4320) 60Hz
Thunderbolt 340Gbps5K (5120x2800) @ 60HzN/A*
HDMI 2.148Gbps5K (5120x2800) @ 60Hz10K (10240×4320) @ 60Hz
DisplayPort 2.0*80Gbps10K (10240x4320) @ 60Hz16K (15360×8460) @ 60Hz
The raw performance and throughput on USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 depend on the DisplayPort standard used.

DisplayPort 2.0 Specification was announced, but it is not yet in the market.

HDMI 2.1 and Gaming

Besides the higher refresh rates, another exciting feature for gamers is the support for Variable Refresh Rate (VRR). Like FreeSync and G-Sync, the HDMI group comes with its own VESA Adaptive-Sync protocol to eliminate tearing and stuttering.

The best part is that you don’t need a monitor that supports FreeSync or G-Sync to enable VRR. Having an HDMI 2.1 GPU and monitor will allow you to enjoy VRR for smooth gameplay without the visual artifacts such as screen tearing.

We don’t know much about how manufacturers are going to implement VRR, but the prospect seems promising. HDMI 2.1 monitors can still support G-Sync or FreeSync, depending on the manufacturer.

The Best HDMI 2.1 Monitors

There are currently no HDMI 2.1 monitors in the market, but Eve Spectrum and ASUS confirmed support for HDMI 2.1 in their new monitors, expected in the market later this year. Here is everything you need to know about the Eve Spectrum monitor and the new ASUS Republic of Gamers monitors.

Here are the specs and features at a glance:

1. Eve Spectrum – First HDMI 2.1 Monitor

Eve Spectrum is a crowd-developed monitor and the first to feature HDMI 2.1 connectivity. Designed by multiple gamers, coders, and designers, this monitor is one solution for gaming and productivity.

Eve Spectrum features LG 27-inch IPS panel, HDR with up to 750-nits brightness, and a wide P3 color gamut. Impressive specs for designers and developers. The monitor will be available in two resolutions; QHD 1440p and 4K.

The monitor has a 240Hz refresh rate on the QHD panel and up to 144Hz with 4K resolution. And with 1ms response time, the EVE Spectrum monitor turns out to be an impressive gaming monitor on paper.

However, this monitor is still on production and hasn’t started shipping yet. More information on the performance will come later.

Eve Spectrum has the following ports: two HDMI 2.1, DisplayPort 1.4, USB-C (with DP 1.4, 10Gbps, and 100W PD), three USB-A, USB Type-B, and headphone output jack.

When all the specs come to pass, the EVE Spectrum will be the best monitor for gaming and productivity. It’s the best panel for professional creatives and programmers looking for color accuracy.

But the essential feature is the gaming potential: 240Hz at 1440p and 4K144Hz is an attractive choice for gamers. HDMI 2.1 will enable you to drive 4K at 120Hz without compression for fast and crystal-clear gameplay.

2. ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) HDMI 2.1 Monitors (27, 32, and 43-inch)

ASUS announced new gaming monitors from their Republic of Gamers lineup with support for HDMI 2.1, becoming the world’s first HDMI 2.1 certified monitors. Brian Shih, Vice President of Logo & HW Validation Consulting at Allion Labs, affirmed that the ROG monitors passed all the compatibility and validation tests, and will be compatible with all HDMI 2.1 sources and devices. ASUS joins Eve Spectrum as the only monitor manufacturers to support the newest HDMI 2.1 Specification.

In a press release by VideoCardz, the new gaming monitors will fully-support HDMI 2.1 with 48Gbps bandwidth, compared to other early devices that cap the bandwidth at 40Gbps. ASUS didn’t specify the availability and release date yet. We anticipate sometime later in the holidays, in time with the next generation consoles, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.

The monitors’ confirmed specs include full 48Gbps bandwidth to drive 4K120, Auto Low Latency Mode to enable low latency picture mode in the monitor automatically, and variable refresh rate.

With next-gen consoles ready for 4K gaming with refresh rates up to 120Hz, having a monitor to take advantage of the new advancements is a massive win for power gamers and enthusiasts. Unlike Eve Spectrum, ASUS has been in the game for quite a long time, and its ROG lineup is among the best in the market. We have already seen masterpieces from the Republic of Gamers, including higher refresh rate displays up to 360Hz. We expect the new HDMI 2.1 monitors to raise the gaming experience a notch higher.

ASUS will offer the HDMI 2.1 monitors in three sizes, 27-inch, 32-inch, and 43 inches. The naming and individual specs of each model will come later. While the announcement appeals most to console gaming, PC gamers will be in for a treat if Nvidia decides to support HDMI 2.1 in their next-gen GPUs.

Things to Consider in HDMI 2.1 Monitors

New HDMI Cables

If you want to enjoy 4k at 120 or 8K, you need to upgrade your cables, specifically to the Ultra-High-Speed HDMI cables. These cables support the HDMI 2.1 specification with a bandwidth of 48Gbps. You can push higher resolution up to 10K and leverage all the features of the latest specification.

HDMI 2.1 Specification Explained

HDMI 2.1 is the latest HDMI specification update to the current 2.0 and supports uncompressed 8K at 60Hz, and resolutions up to 10K. HDMI 2.1 supports other features, including Dynamic HDR, increased 48Gbps bandwidth, eARC, and enhanced gaming and media experience.

So, how does HDMI 2.1 affect you as an average user?

We’ve already seen several consumer devices hitting the market in early 2020, and many being announced. The main question is whether to upgrade to the new HDMI 2.1 or wait for it to become mainstream.

Here is everything you need to know about HDMI 2.1 and all the answers you need to make an informed decision.

What Will HDMI 2.1 Change

The major hype of HDMI 2.1 is the uncompressed 8K60 and 4K120, but there are many more features that this new specification brings to the table. Most of these features are optional, so it’s entirely on the manufacturers to choose which features to implement.

These are the features you get when you buy an HDMI 2.1 monitor:

Increased Bandwidth

HDMI 2.1 increases the bandwidth capacity to 48Gbps. That’s more than double the current HDMI 2.0 bandwidth. With 48Gbps, HDMI 2.1 can carry uncompressed 4K resolution at 120Hz, 8K60, and up to 10K resolution.

We’re looking at refresh rates up to 120Hz of uncompressed 4K, and resolutions up to 10K for immersive viewing and smooth transitions.

With the current HDMI cables supporting up to 18Gbps bandwidth, you’ll need to buy new HDMI 2.1-compliant cables.

When purchasing new HDMI cables, you need to be careful about the marketing gimmicks and terms used by different brands. There is no 2.0 or HDMI 2.1 cable.

There are only three types of HDMI cables. The current ones are High Speed that supports up to 10Gbps, Premium High Speed, supporting 18Gbps, and the new cables from the HDMI 2.1 standard: Ultra High Speed HDMI Cables capable of 48Gbps bandwidth.

Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC)

You’ve probably already heard of HDMI ARC in most of the latest TVs and soundbars. Audio Return Channel (ARC) allows you to get audio from a TV to a soundbar or AV receiver through a single HDMI cable.

However, ARC has some limitations. For instance, it does not support advanced file formats like DTS:X, Dolby TrueHD, etc. Due to the limited bandwidth, ARC strips the core 5.1 data stream and reduces it to stereo. In simple terms, you can’t get the best sound quality or multi-directional surround like you would in a movie theater.

eARC, on the other hand, supports high-bitrate audio, uncompressed 5.1 and 7.1, 32-channel uncompressed audio, and advanced audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio. It’s an advancement over ARC that lets you experience movie theater-quality sound at your home’s comfort.

Dynamic HDR

HDMI 2.1 will support Dynamic HDR. Dynamic HDR allows the content source to adjust the HDR data of each scene or frame, providing a more immersive and realistic experience.

We’ve already seen this with Dolby Vision, but the problem is that it is a proprietary technology. Companies need to pay license fees, and also everything from content, source, and TV need to support Dolby Vision.

HDMI 2.1 supporting dynamic HDR allows for interoperability and compatibility with different HDR versions such as HDR10, which requires no license fees.

Variable Refresh Rate (VRR)

VRR syncs the frame rate of the source device, like gaming console, to the display’s refresh rate to eliminates lag, stutter, and frame tearing for a smooth and fluid gaming experience.

With VRR, the source device pushes frames at the fastest speed possible, and thanks to Quick Frame Transport (QFT), the display renders the frames in no time. In case of low frame rates per second, the screen can adjust its refresh rate accordingly to prevent displaying the same frame more than once.

But wait, we’ve heard this before.

It’s Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync. But now you don’t need a monitor or TV that supports either technology. If you have an HDMI 2.1 graphics card and display, you can enjoy VRR for smooth gameplay, just like with G-Sync and FreeSync.

Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)

ALLM automatically selects the ideal latency settings for uninterrupted viewing. Your TV will automatically switch to Game Mode when you start playing games.

Quick Media Switching (QMS)

QMS Eliminates the delay that causes your screen to blackout when switching between video modes or sources. Do you notice the blank, black screen when you switch from console to Netflix? Well, it’s now gone forever.

Best HDMI 2.1 Monitors Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What monitors have HDMI 2.1?

Currently, there are no monitors in the market that support HDMI 2.1. However, ASUS and a crowd-funded Eve Spectrum announced support for HDMI 2.1 in their new monitors expected to enter the market in the holidays.

Are there HDMI 2.1 content sources in the market?

The next-generation Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 gaming consoles are the only confirmed sources for HDMI 2.1 content. Both gaming consoles will start shipping later this year, with both having showcased their power and game titles.

To take advantage of these new consoles, ensure to prepare yourself with an HDMI 2.1 monitor or TV.

Is HDMI 2.1 backward compatible?

Yes. HDMI 2.1 is backward compatible with the last-gen specifications. You will be able to connect last-gen gaming consoles to a new HDMI 2.1 monitor, and it will work just fine. On the other hand, older HDMI monitors will still wok with the latest gaming consoles with HDMI 2.1.

What will VRR over HDMI 2.1 mean for G-Sync and FreeSync?

In addition to HDMI VRR, HDMI 2.1 displays will still support G-Sync and FreeSync, but it’s up to the manufacturer to decide which VESA Adaptive-Sync technology to include. Therefore, expect to see HDMI 2.1 monitors that support G-Sync, FreeSync, or even both.

How to tell if a monitor supports HDMI 2.1

The best way is to check the manufacturer’s product page. There is no way to identify the HDMI version just by looking at its port. All HDMI ports have the same physical connector.

What is the difference between HDMI 2.0 and 2.1?

HDMI 2.0 has a bandwidth of 18Gbps, while the new specification increases the bandwidth to 48Gbps. HDMI 2.1 can support 8K 60K and up to 10K, which guarantees beautiful and crystal-clear images.

What video resolution does HDMI 2.1 support?

HDMI 2.1 supports 4K120Hz, 8K60Hz, and up to 10K120Hz with Display Stream Compression.

Learn more about the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.

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