Today, HDMI or High Definition Multimedia Interface is the most commonly used standard for transferring high resolution, uncompressed audio and video data.
HDMI first appeared on the market in 2002. Developed to improve the convenience and functionality of carrying HDTV signals, HDMI became pretty much the standard by 2008.
Today HDMI provides trusty high-quality audio-video signal transfer through a single wire and is used everywhere. Every one of us uses at least one HDMI cable every day. It runs our TVs, game consoles, good-old DVD players, projectors, and many more devices.
Naturally, in its history of about 20 years, HDMI received several revisions.
- HDMI 1.0 - released in 2002, providing up to 1080p digital video resolution, Dolby Digital, DTS, and 7.1 channel uncompressed PCM audio support.
- HDMI 1.1 - released 2004, adding DVD audio support
- HDMI 1.2, 1.2a - released 2005, adding SACD audio support and HDMI-CEC
- HDMI 1.3 - released 2006, adding deep color and up to 10.2Gbps transfer speed, Blu-ray disc and HD DVD sport, between 1080p and 4K resolutions support, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound support, and automatic lip-sync.
- HDMI 1.4, 1.4a, 1.4b - released 2009, 2010, and 2011 respectively, adding Audio return channel, 3D ethernet channel, and 30Hz 4K resolution.
- HDMI 2.0 - released 2013, adding 50 and 60Hz 4K resolution, 18 Gbps transfer rate with 8-bit color, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro 3D Audio support, two independent video streams viewing support, 21:9 ratio support, dynamic video, and audio stream synchronization, HDMI-CEC feature extension, and upgraded HDCP support.
- HDMI 2.0a - released 2015, adding HDR support.
- HDMI 2.0b - released 2016, adding Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) format HDR support
- HDMI 2.1 - released 2017, adding up to 120Hz and up to 10K resolution, 10, 12, and 16 bits BT2020 wide color gamut support, Enhanced Audio Return Channel, VRR gaming support, and up to 48Gbps bandwidth.
HDMI Cable Types
There are 4 main HDMI cable types, and some have their own options. This leaves us with the following list.
- Standard HDMI cable - this is what we perceive as a basic HDMI cable. It supports HDTV resolutions up to 720p and 1080p and up to 5Gbps capacity.
- Standard Automotive HDMI Cable - this is the standard HDMI used in cars. It has the same specs as the Standard cable with additional shielding. It is mainly used to connect portable or DVD players and other devices to in-car video displays.
- High-Speed HDMI Cable provides the 1080p 30Hz 4K resolution, 3D, and Deep Color support. Transfers with up to 10Gbps speed.
- High-Speed Automotive HDMI Cable - the high-speed cable for in-car use has the same specs, plus additional shielding.
- Premium High-Speed HDMI Cable - this type transfers 4K UltraHD resolutions, including HDR, 4K/60 Hz, and expanded color range, supports 18Gbps bandwidth.
- Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable - this type adds to the previous one’s capabilities support of 8K HDR video, 48Gbps transfer speed, and decreased EMI sensibility, which prevents the signal from being distracted by wireless devices around.
- HDMI Cables with Built-in Ethernet - all the abovementioned cable types have an additional HDMI Ethernet Channel.
HDMI Connector Types
It’s not only the cable types that can be different in HDMI connectivity but also the connectors themselves. There are five types of HDMI connectors all in all:
- Type A - you know, the standard or regular HDMI connector. This is the connector we’re most used to. This type is used for connecting stuff like TVs, screens, DVD players, consoles, etc.
Type B - you’ve hardly ever seen one of these, as they never really got used. It was launched in 2002 to carry dual-link DVD-I video. Still, being larger than the standard, and with the launch of HDMI 1.3, it got dumped out even before getting used.
- Type C - Also called mini-HDMI, this is just what the second name suggests: the smaller version of the standard HDMI connector. It has some differences, of course, being optimized for a considerably smaller size. It is widely available on smaller devices that need a good video transfer, like DSLR cameras and such.
- Type D - sized similarly to the micro-USB connector, this one is often called Micro-HDMI. It was introduced with the HDMI 1.4 and was meant for audio-video connectivity in small, portable devices, such as mobile phones. Not really a thing today, when everything’s going through a USB-C.
- Type E - this one is made specifically for the Automotive HDMI cables. It features a shell for protection and a locking tab to secure it in place.
There are three types of HDMI cables that I want to list separately, as incorporating them into the main list would make it too long:
- Passive HDMI cable - this is the most widespread HDMI cable, any of the types at the beginning of this post, with any of the connectors. This is the standard bi-directional cable connected to the device on one end and the TV, display, or other. The point is they provide a stable signal for lengths of up to 15 feet.
- Active (Amplified) HDMI cable - these are used to connect devices that are further than 15 feet apart. If you want to connect a screen on one end of the house to your laptop on the other, you will need to spend energy to keep the signal stable. This is done by incorporating an amplification circuitry into the cable. It uses either one of the heads or an additional USB power plug.
- Optical HDMI Cable - this one refers to the cable material, in this case, optic fiber, rather than the cable type. Optic fiber cables transfer the signal, making them relatively thin and keeping the signal stable for longer lengths than the traditional cords.
What’s important when choosing an HDMI cable?
- Make sure you get the right connector type, or else you will need an adapter dongle.
- Measure the length you need and purchase the cable accordingly. You don’t need a cable that’s longer than your space, as the signal stability might go down unnecessarily. And I guess it’s pretty obvious why you don’t want your cable to be too short.
- The most expensive doesn’t mean the best, as usual. Just have a look around and find what best fits your taste.
With the USB-C advancement as the standard connection, the HDMI cables might one day go out of use, although not anytime soon. The standard has to develop a lot to reach the quality standards the modern HDMI cables provide. So, for the foreseeable future, the HDMI cables are not going anywhere, staying the standard for gaming and streaming at least.
So, this is it. The main things you need or want to know about HDMI cables and connectors to make an educated choice.