FlatpanelsHD met with the HDMI Forum who told us that HDMI 2.1 certification starts this year and that some of the features of HDMI 2.1 can be added via firmware updates.
HDMI 2.1 features
HDMI 2.1 supports 8K and 10K resolution, dynamic metadata for HDR, increased bandwidth for audio (eARC), and much more. There will be 8K displays that offer the full package but some of these features can also be implemented separately in current or new TVs.
VRR, QMS and eARC can be added via firmware
When FlatpanelsHD met HDMI Forum’s CEO Rob Tobias and Marketing Director Brad Bramy at CES 2018, the team highlighted VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), QMS (Quick Media Switching) and eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) as examples of features that can be added via a firmware update.
VRR is short for variable refresh rate and is essentially FreeSync for TVs. QMS allows a TVs to switch between different video frame rates without delay or black screens. eARC offers increased bandwidth via the HDMI’s audio return channel for support of lossless audio formats, including Dolby Atmos.
The HDMI Forum cannot speak on manufacturers’ behalf as it is only concerned with the specification and certification but the organization did say that only products with a flexible HDMI structure can be firmware updated. It is up to the manufacturer of the TV, AVR, or video player to decide on whether it will make an update available.
The organization added that if a product implements some of the features of HDMI 2.1, it can be sold as a HDMI 2.1 compatible product. However, the manufacturer must specify which features of HDMI 2.1 are supported.
Xbox One X was mentioned as an example. Microsoft has promised to bring VRR support to its game console via a future firmware update. The console has yet to be certified for HDMI 2.1, the HDMI Forum said. Marantz has also announced that it will bring eARC to some of its receivers.
Certification starts in 2018
The first phase of HDMI 2.1 certification starts in the second quarter, with full certification expected to begin in the third or fourth quarter of the year. Products with the official stamp of approval can be launched following successful certification.
During its press conference, the HDMI Forum said that HDMI 2.1 was delayed due to technical input from its many members.
Manufacturers can launch HDMI 2.1 enabled products before full certification has been carried out but these are not guaranteed to work 100% according to specification. You may recall that the first 48Gbps HDMI cable was made available late last year. It has not (yet) been certified.