HDMI 2.0 Spec Adds 4K and 21:9 Aspect Ratio Video, More Audio Channels

By Michael Heiss September 4,2013

It’s been in the works for a long time, but there is finally have an official announcement of the HDMI 2.0 specification.
In advance of a press conference scheduled for September 6 at the IFA 2013 trade show in Berlin, HDMI Forum Inc. has released the initial details of the spec. Version 2.0 is the first iteration of the spec developed by the 88-member HDMI Forum organization’s Technical Working Group.

As expected, the new specification will accommodate the demands of 4K video (2160p) at frame rates up to 60Hz, which is a major improvement over the current standard’s limit of 4K/24p. To deliver this data-intensive signal package, the new spec increases bandwidth from 9Gbps to 18Gbps.

While the main consumer focus is likely to be on the ability to handle the high resolution/high frame rate video, the new standard has other new video attributes such as support for 21:9 aspect ratio program material and simultaneous delivery of dual video streams to multiple users on the same display screen.

Audio is not ignored in the new spec with support for up to 32 discrete audio channels for immersive formats, perhaps anticipating the requirements of some of the new options for cinema sound beyond the conventional 5.1 and 7.1. At the high end of the audio world, the new HDMI specification also provides support for audio sampling frequencies up to 1536 kHz

Gluing it all together there is dynamic synchronization of video and audio streams to improve and automate lip sync as well as extensions to the Consumer Electronic Control (CEC) specs to provide expanded command and control of HDMI equipped products.

Despite the improvements, the new specification is backward compatible and it does not define new cables or connectors. According to the information released by the Forum current High Speed (Category 2) cables are capable of carrying the increased bandwidth.

At this time it is premature to hazard a guess as to when the first products compliant with the new spec will be available. However, since the Compliance Test Specification (CTS) for the new format won’t be available until the end of 2013, it is highly unlikely that HDMI 2.0 products will be seen before CES.

Timing aside, this long awaited announcement fits another piece into the jigsaw puzzle required for 4K/UHDTV to become a widespread format with native 4K content being able to move from source to display at high frame rates. Expect to see more news about the new specification later this week from IFA and then at the end of September at CEDIA EXPO in Denver.

Sherman Oaks, CA-based editorial contributor Michael Heiss is a respected technology consultant and CEDIA Fellow. Follow him on Twitter @captnvid


  • avatar

    Michael I recevied this from Sony today: ETA Oct 4th 2013 XBR-65X850A & XBR-55X850A New HDMI 2.0 supported for next 4K video formats. 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) An Internet firmware update to support HDMI® 2.0 to accommodate 4K/60p (59.94/60Hz) video content will be available end of 2013. Requires that the TV is connected to the internet to receive the update. Pat Johnson, UltraMedia, Inc.

  • avatar

    Thanks, Pat. The availability of a firmware update for the 55" and 65" sets was announced by Sony after the report above was written. They clearly must have some unique circuit designs as even the HDMI folks are saying that "1.4 to 2.0" is NOT something that can be done with a software/firmware update. However, Sony has done this before when they were able to update the early PS3 "Fat" units from 1.3 to 1.4 so that 3D could be accommodated. Interesting news, indeed!

  • avatar

    Since version 1.3 the HDMI spec was up to 10.2 Gbps, not the 9 Gbps mentioned in the article. Panasonic has also announced UHD panels to become available in Oct 2013 that support HDMI 2.0, so Sony is not the only one that found a solution for supporting version 2.0 on their UHDTVs without even having 2.0 chips in the market yet. I own Sony's 4K projector and Sony's PR declared that it would be sw upgreadable to support 2.0.

  • avatar

    The original chips did 9Gbps, but you are correct on 10.2 for more recent solutions. Panasonic did, indeed, announce the sets at IFA with 2.0 compliance, but without the CTS it's hard to see how they can get full approval. Sony has also said that they will do a firmware update on their current 4K flat panel and PTV models, but again, the CTS is key. Given the high data speed with will be almost impossible for products not designed from the start to be upgraded to do that. The Sony and Panasonic models presumably had that as a design goal. As HDMI Founders and Forum members they would also have some inside info and leverage with suppliers due to their size and market influence. Add in to this the "Evolution Module" that Samsung has said will bring HDMI 2.0 to their 4K products. The transition will be interesting, to be sure! Thanks for your comment and correction.

  • avatar

    The Sony 4K projector upgrade will be hardware.

  • avatar

    Apparently no one has considered that, for any given cable, the losses at twice the data rate will more than double ... further decreasing noise margins, which are already woefully small, at the HDMI input. This will lead to even more "unexplained" dropouts and re-synchronization problems due to normal ground noise (which no amount of shielding can cure). - Bill Whitlock, president & chief engineer, Jensen Transformers, and Life Fellow of the AES ... and grounding and interfacing expert

  • avatar

    Increased color space?

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