HDMI 2.0 can be labelled as HDMI 2.1 with no enhancements

HDMI 2.1 cables
(Image credit: Cable Matters)

HDMI cables are a staple for almost all households these days. They’ve been commonplace as a convenient and quality way to transfer both video and audio from a device with a single cable. Long gone are the days of matching various colour coded cables, now HDMI is king, with its shadow government DisplayPort still truly running things in the background.

But being an industry standard also means that everyone is looking to make a quick buck out of them. Brands have been making all kinds of claims, hoping to turn their HDMI ports from old news to the latest hot thing. And to be fair, they aren’t all created equal. We have a guide to help, if you’re in need of a new HDMI, but it’s always been a difficult field to navigate. Now that HDMI 2.1 is out, it’s about to get even more difficult. 

HDMI 2.1 is the new version of HDMI that has gamers pretty excited. Cables with the power to carry a 4k signal at 120Hz, with high quality sound from consoles or PCs straight to the television sound great. But it turns out we will definitely need to be writing guides for these as the certification for HDMI 2.1 is incredibly murky.

TFT Central smelled something fishy after seeing a Chinese made display boasting HDMI 2.1 ports but with a pretty strong caveat. A note at the bottom of the listing revealed the following when translated.

Screen queens

(Image credit: Future)

Best gaming monitor: pixel-perfect panels for your PC
Best high refresh rate monitor: screaming quick screens
Best 4K monitor for gaming: when only high-res will do
Best 4K TV for gaming: big-screen 4K PC gaming

“Due to the subdivision of HDMI certification standards, HDMI 2.1 is divided into TMDS (the bandwidth is equivalent to the original HDMI 2.0 and FRL protocols). The HDMI 2.1 interface of this product supports the TMDS protocol, the maximum supported resolution is 1920×1080, and the maximum refresh rate is 240Hz.”

TFT Central then contacted the HDMI Licensing Administrator HDMI.org for further clarification on HDMI 2.1 and whether or not this device can actually claim to support it. The reply from HDMI.org contained this list of points. 

"HDMI 2.0 no longer exists, and devices should not claim compliance to v2.0 as it is not referenced any more

The features of HDMI 2.0 are now a sub-set of 2.1

All the new capabilities and features associated with HDMI 2.1 are optional (this includes FRL, the higher bandwidths, VRR, ALLM and everything else)

If a device claims compliance to 2.1 then they need to also state which features the device supports so there is 'no confusion'"

So essentially all HDMI 2.0 ports are now able to be called HDMI 2.1 and technically be the best kind of correct. This means they don’t have to have any enhanced capabilities, and even old ports made long before HDMI 2.1 was available could still technically be considered HDMI 2.1 by these rules. This is going to be terrible for consumers trying to purchase new HDMI 2.1 products moving forward.

As always, we will try to keep you updated on what’s worth spending your money on and what’s not, but please do read any packaging very carefully before committing your cash.

Hope Corrigan
Hardware Writer

Hope’s been writing about games for about a decade, starting out way back when on the Australian Nintendo fan site Vooks.net. Since then, she’s talked far too much about games and tech for publications such as Techlife, Byteside, IGN, and GameSpot. Of course there’s also here at PC Gamer, where she gets to indulge her inner hardware nerd with news and reviews. You can usually find Hope fawning over some art, tech, or likely a wonderful combination of them both and where relevant she’ll share them with you here. When she’s not writing about the amazing creations of others, she’s working on what she hopes will one day be her own. You can find her fictional chill out ambient far future sci-fi radio show/album/listening experience podcast right here. No, she’s not kidding.