HDMI 2.1 released: 10K resolution, dynamic HDR, and FreeSync-like game smoothing

HDMI 2.1 adds support for 10K resolution, dynamic HDR metadata, variable refresh rates, and more.

Credit: Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The next generation of HDMI is here, and it holds some major benefits for PC gamers and media buffs alike. The HDMI 2.1 standard, released Tuesday by the HDMI Forum after being announced at CES, supports higher resolutions, new HDR features, and game-smoothing variable refresh rates, among other features.

HDMI 2.1 delivers massively more bandwidth than HDMI 2.0—a whopping 48Gb/s compared to the 18Gb/s achieved by today’s technology. That allows HDMI 2.1 to hit much higher resolutions and refresh rates.

bandwidthcomparison HDMI Forum

The new spec supports 8K and even 10K resolutions, but those are better thought of as future-proofing or targeted towards commercial applications. Modern gamers will appreciate the introduction of 4K/120Hz display support, though. Today’s 4K monitors are limited to 60Hz and the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and Titan XP graphics cards can already max those out in modern games. But 120Hz-plus displays are already coming in the first quarter of 2018 in the form of glorious G-Sync HDR monitors by Asus and Acer, and Nvidia’s next generation of graphics cards—hopefully due sooner than later—will presumably have the power to drive such demanding displays.

HDMI also formalizes support for variable refresh rates. Variable refresh rates are the secret sauce behind Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync displays, synchronizing the refresh rate of your monitor to your graphics card for buttery-smooth tearing- and stutter-free gameplay. AMD already has its FreeSync technology working over HDMI in some monitors but HDMI 2.1 bakes VRR into the standard—a welcome change as VRR has largely been limited to DisplayPort connections, and those aren’t often found in budget displays. HDMI is practically universal.

hdmi version HDMI Forum

HDMI 2.1 also introduces Quick Frame Transport, which “reduces latency for smoother no-lag gaming, and real-time interactive virtual reality.” Smoother gaming seems to be a big push for the new standard.

[ Further reading: HDR TV: Everything you need to know before you shop for a new 4K television ]

Videos also get a boost, mostly due to dynamic HDR, which allows a video to send high-dynamic range metadata to your HDR television scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame basis, rather than simply at the start of a video. That creates a better-tuned, more vibrant image throughout. Dolby HDR currently supports dynamic metadata, and it’s being (slowly) added to the rival HDR10 format. Quick Media Switching aims to end jarring black screens when videos switch, and eARC lets HDMI’s audio return channel handle lossless audio.

dynamic hdr HDMI Forum

You’ll need a new high-bandwidth HDMI 2.1 cable to support the fresh features, but fear not: Those cables are also backwards-compatible with existing HDMI implementations. Don’t expect to see these on the streets in the near future, though, as the HDMI Forum says the HDMI 2.1 Compliance Test Specification will be published in stages between the first and third quarters of 2018.  

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?