You have just purchased a 4K Ultra HD HDR projector, an OLED or QLED4K Ultra HD TV, as well as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player with HDMI 2.0 ports and you don’t want to wait to enjoy the richness of 4K Ultra HD pictures in HDR, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.
Are your HDMI cables capable of transferring all the data required for this level of image quality at a sufficient bitrate? Do they meet the requirements of these devices?
HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1 standards
Since the creation of the HDMI interface, HDMI standards (such as the HDMI 2.0 standard and the very recent HDMI 2.1 standard) are used to differentiate the abilities of HDMI controllers, which are the interfaces that send and receive digital data streams at the input and output of different devices.
- HDMI 1.4 standard: 4K Ultra HD compatible (3840 x 2160 pixels) at 24, 25 and 30 fps, and 3D compatible. Maximum bitrate of 10.2 Gbps.
- HDMI 2.0 standard: 4K Ultra HD compatible (3840 x 2160 pixels) at 24, 25, 30 and 60 fps, HDR compatible (HDR10, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision). Extended color spaces such as BT.2020 are supported, along with chroma subsampling up to 4:4:4. Maximum bitrate of 18 Gbps.
Therefore, HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1 standards only apply to the connectors on LED TVs and both OLED and QLED4K Ultra HD TVs, projectors and 4K Ultra HD projectors, 4K UHD A/V receivers, Blu-ray players and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players as well as other 4K Ultra HD compatible sources or streamers. They don’t apply to HDMI cables, even though the marketing claim “HDMI 2.0 compatible” is frequently added to their packaging.
HDMI cable certification
This is another norm issued by the HDMI Forum that classifies HDMI cables according to the maximum data rate they allow, and therefore the maximum image quality they can transfer.
There are four categories of HDMI cables:
- Standard HDMI cables are compatible with 720p and 1080i resolutions used to transfer TNT HD programs.
- High Speed HDMI cables are compatible with HD 1080p and 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels at 24, 25 and 30 fps) resolutions, 3D and Deep Color.
- Premium High Speed HDMI cables are compatible with HD 1080p and 4K UHD resolutions up to the maximum bitrate (60 fps as well as 24, 25 and 30 fps). They also ensure compatibility with HDR video content (HDR10, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision), extended color spaces such as BT.2020 and chroma subsampling up to 4:4:4.
- Ultra High Speed HDMI cables conform to the requirements of the HDMI 2.1 standard and ensure the transmission of video streams in 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels), 8K60 UHD (7680 x 4320 pixels at 60 fps) and 4K120 (120 fps) non-compressed resolutions with HDR, as well as the 10K120 compressed resolution, with a certified bandwidth of 48 Gbps. All HDR standards are supported, along with extended color spaces such as BT.2020 and chroma subsampling up to 4:4:4.
HDMI and 4K HDR cables: summary
All you need is a High Speed HDMI cable (10.2 Gbps bitrate) to enjoy the current 4K Ultra HD content (3840 x 2160 pixels at 24, 25 and 30 fps) found on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, provided that each link connected by this cable has controllers that meet the HDMI 1.4 or HDMI 2.0 standard.
However, the length of the HDMI cable is important to take into account. From 5 to 8 meters, a decrease in bandwidth can be noticed, generating artefacts and/or signal loss. For lengths over 10 meters, it is highly recommended to use an optical HDMI cable like the NorStone Jura HDMI-Optic or an HDMI signal repeater/amplifier such as the NorStone HDMI Repeater 3D.
HDMI cables recommended for 4K content (24, 25, and 30 fps, without HDR):
A Premium High Speed HDMI cable (18 Gbps bandwidth) is highly recommended to ensure optimal transmission of 4K Ultra HD content in HDR (HDR10, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision) with devices featuring controllers that conform to the HDMI 2.0 standard or higher (to support different HDR formats).
HDMI cables recommended for 4K content (24, 25, 30 and 60 fps with HDR):
HDMI cables recommended for 8K and 4K content (24, 25, 30, 60 and 120 fps with HDR):
A 48 Gbps HDMI cable is highly recommended to ensure optimal transmission of Ultra HD 8K and 4K 120 fps HDR content (HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision), with devices equipped with controllers that are HDMI 2.1 or higher (for compatibility with the various HDR formats and 120 fps)
Even if brands such as Audioquest, QED, NorStone and Real Cable do not disclose any information about compatibility with the HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1 standards, they have all been providing High Speed HDMI cables entirely compatible with the 4K Ultra High Definition images on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs (3840 x 2160 pixels at 24, 25, and 30 fps) for many years.
If you own a High Speed HDMI cable, you may use it to connect a 4K Blu-ray player or a 4K Ultra HD network media player to an OLED or QLED 4K UHD TV or a 4K projector and enjoy an excellent picture quality.