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 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.
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.
|Protocol||Bandwidth||Maximum Display Uncompressed (4:4:4, 8-bit)||Maximum with Display Stream Compression (4:4:4, 10-bit)|
|USB-C||10Gbps||4K (3840x2160) @ 60Hz||N/A*|
|HDMI 2.0||18Gbps||4K (3840x2160) @ 60Hz||N/A|
|DisplayPort 1.4||32.4Gbps||5K (5120x2800) @ 60Hz||8K (7680×4320) 60Hz|
|Thunderbolt 3||40Gbps||5K (5120x2800) @ 60Hz||N/A*|
|HDMI 2.1||48Gbps||5K (5120x2800) @ 60Hz||10K (10240×4320) @ 60Hz|
|DisplayPort 2.0*||80Gbps||10K (10240x4320) @ 60Hz||16K (15360×8460) @ 60Hz|
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 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. 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.
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.
2. Acer Nitro XV282K KV – 28 Inch 4K 144Hz Monitor with HDMI 2.1
Acer announced its first HDMI 2.1 monitor at CES 2021. The Acer Nitro XV282K KV is a 28-inch 4k gaming monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate and two HDMI 2.1 ports. Acer says the monitor “comes with HDMI 2.1 and a cable for hassle-free support for the latest gaming consoles at 4K UHD 120 Hz with VRR”.
The Acer XV282K KV comes with a clean design featuring thin bezels and a fully ergonomic stand. You can tilt, swivel, pivot, or height-adjust the monitor to find the sweet spot for gaming. While the V282K KV is marketed as a gaming monitor, there are no RGB lighting or weird patterns, so you can easily use it in an office. Besides, the monitor features a USB-C port with 65W Power Delivery, making it easy to connect your work computer. The monitor supports 100×100 mm VESA mounts for even better office ergonomics.
The display is a 28-inch screen with 4K (3840×2160) resolution running on an IPS panel. It’s very crisp and sharp at 28 inches and has excellent viewing angles. Color reproduction is equally impressive. This monitor covers 90% DCI-P3, producing over a billion colors perfect for photographers and creative pros. The addition of Acer HDR 400 is great for HDR gaming and watching movies, although DisplayHDR 1000 would have been a better option for the price.
Apart from 4k120 on the latest gaming consoles, the monitor supports 144Hz at 4k with Display Stream Compression (DSC). It also features FreeSync Premium (which includes LFC) with a 48-144Hz range for smooth and tear-free gaming. LFC kicks in when the frame rates drop below 48fps to prevent screen stuttering. eSports and competitive gamers will appreciate the 1ms response time (GtG).DSC allows for 4K passthrough at 144Hz refresh rate with HDR, but it requires at least an RTX 20 series or RX 5700 series GPU.
The ports included in this monitor include two HDMI 2.1 inputs, a single DisplayPort 1.4 with DSC, a USB-C port with 65W PD charging, four USB Type-A 3.0 ports, and USB Type-B upstream, and a headphone output. The USB-C port is excellent for users looking to add a new monitor to their home office that’s great for both gaming and work.The Acer Nitro XV282K KV is slated to launch in May 2021.
3. Eve Spectrum – Comunity-Driven HDMI 2.1 monitorRelated: Eve Devices sent us an early sample of the Eve Spectrum, but the HDMI 2.1 is not yet functional. You can check out our full review and first look of the early Eve Spectrum here.
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 an 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 a 1ms response time, the Eve Spectrum monitor turns out to be an impressive gaming monitor on paper.
The QHD Spectrum also known as Model 2, is the only HDMI 2.1, 1440p, Freesync monitor announced at this moment.However, this monitor is still in 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/If all the specs come to pass, the Eve Spectrum will be a good 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.
4. ViewSonic Elite XG320U – 32-Inch HDMI 2.1 Gaming Monitor
ViewSonic Elite XG320U is another announced gaming monitor with HDMI 2.1. We know ViewSonic for their budget gaming and productivity monitors, but they have since introduced some good premium options in the market for content creation and gaming. Their latest Elite XG320U is targeted to console and enthusiast PC gamers.
The XG320U is a 32-inch gaming monitor with a native 4K resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, and HDMI 2.1. ViewSonic has not provided much information about the monitor yet, but we know a few things so far. The monitor will support VESA DisplayHDR 600, with 600 nits peak brightness, and 99% AdobeRGB color coverage, so it will have excellent color reproduction. You can do some gaming and content creation on this monitor, but we still don’t know which panel type it will use.
For gaming, the Elite XG320U supports FreeSync Premium Pro (which includes FreeSync HDR and Low Framerate Compensation) and 1ms (MPRT) response time for motion blur reduction. With HDMI 2.1, you get up to 120 frames per second on the latest graphics cards and gaming consoles. It’s an excellent monitor for gaming, especially for enthusiasts who demand speed and responsiveness on modern AAA titles.
The Elite XG320U will be available in Q1 of this year, according to ViewSonic. Other features include a 3-side borderless design, integrated dual speakers, RGB lighting, and built-in headphone hook and mouse bungee.
5. Philips Momentum 328M1R – HDMI 2.1 Monitor for Console Gaming
Philips Momentum 328M1R, initially set for May 2020 release, was delayed to include HDMI 2.1 connectivity. Philips wanted to make the monitor ready for the next-gen gaming consoles launched late last year. It’s part of the momentum series, which is aimed at console gaming, making the 328M1R an even better option for the PS5 and Xbox Series.
The monitor features a 31.5-inch VA flat panel display with a 4K UHD (3840×2160) resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. Onboard it supports VESA DisplayHDR 600, 10-bit color depth, and a wide color gamut (at least 90% DCI-P3). It’s a great monitor with high color fidelity that allows you to enjoy games with realistic visuals and game worlds.
Philips 328M1R combines HDMI 2.1 with other impressive gaming features to deliver the best gaming experience from your console. The monitor supports VRR, 1ms (MPRT) response time, and 4ms input lag. You also get Philips ambiglow for more gaming immersion.
In terms of design, the 328M1R will come with a fully adjustable stand, dual 5W built-in speakers, and three HDMI 2.1 ports (not confirmed yet). The original announced model in 2019 had three HDMI 2.0 ports, a single DisplayPort 1.4, four USB 3.0 ports, and a headphone jack. We expect Philips the retain the same configuration with the HDMI 2.0 ports now upgraded to HDMI 2.1.
Philips Momentum 328M1R availability is also slated for the first quarter of 2021. It seems like we’re going to see some amazing HDMI 2.1 monitors in a few months.
Choosing the Best HDMI 2.1 Monitor – Our Buying Guide
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:
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.
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.