Do You Need HDMI 2.1 for Blu-Rays?
When HDMI comes out with a new standard, it usually raises a lot of questions. The most important of which is, “Who is this for?” New HDMI standards usually include lots of new features that manufacturers of TVs and other AV electronics are quick to highlight that they support with their products. But many features are only usable in certain situations. With HDMI 2.1 now all the rage, the question becomes, “Do you need it?” Do you need HDMI 2.1 in your system to play Blu-rays or other types of content?
HDMI 2.1 adds a ton of features like support for VRR and ALLM. It also allows for higher frame rates and more bandwidth (meaning more data can be sent through the cable). None of these HDMI 2.1 improvements are needed for Blu-rays or even Ultra HD Blu-rays.
Most movies (with a few exceptions) are shot at 24 frames per second. There are a few out there (the Hobbit movies and a couple of others) that were shot in “high frame rate.” What constitutes “high?” Sixty frames per second. HDMI has supported this frame rate for just about ever so that isn’t a problem.
Who Needs HDMI 2.1
In a word: Gamers. Specifically high-end PC or latest console gamers. The latest consoles (Xbox Series X/S and PS5) plus very powerful PCs can put out incredible frame rates. If you are looking to be on the cutting edge of gaming, you’ll need HDMI 2.1 as it supports 4k/120Hz or 8k/60Hz video (and others).
What About HDR and 4K
HDR or High Dynamic Range is the improved color we’ve been so excited about around here. Again, if you are using Blu-rays or Ultra HD Blu-rays, HDMI 2.1 is still not needed. HDR increases the amount of bandwidth you need (something that HDMI 2.1 increases) but HDMI 2.0 had enough bandwidth for HDR already.
4K resolution is in the same boat. While streaming services and Ultra HD Blu-rays can put out 4k images, the extra bandwidth provided by HDMI 2.1 is not needed. If you haven’t been having an issue with your image, there is no reason to upgrade.
Future-Proofing Your System
You’ve found a great Black Friday deal on a receiver or a display and you’ve decided to upgrade. That’s great! But should you worry about HDMI 2.1? If you are not a gamer…then no. The only exception would be if you are buying an HDMI cable. The newest Ultra High-Speed Certified HDMI cables support the increased bandwidth and features of the 2.1 standard. While you might not need anything that HDMI 2.1 offers now for Blu-rays and streaming, you may need that bandwidth for later standards. This is especially true if you are installing an HDMI in your wall. Get the best one you can. You don’t want to have to rerun that cable later if you don’t have to.