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Ultra High Speed HDMI® Cable Certification Program — Why It Matters

We’ve been hearing about the much anticipated HDMI 2.1 specification since CES in January 2017, and as of September the Ultra High Speed HDMI® Cable Certification Program has officially begun. So, what does this mean, and why does it matter? It matters a lot, and here’s why.

In a nutshell, there are currently cables incorrectly identified as “HDMI 2.1” in the market, but they haven’t been tested or certified through HDMI Forum Authorized Test Centers. The HDMI Forum comprises almost 80 members representing a wide breadth of industries and sectors worldwide, and it drives the development of the latest specification. You’ll recognize most of the company names. The HDMI Forum Working Groups are tasked with developing the marketing requirements and technical specifications for the next generation HDMI interface. HDMI Forum members developed the compliance test spec for the Ultra High Speed HDMI® Cable Certification Program, so you can be sure it’s thorough. 

The HDMI 2.1 specification was released November 2017 and is very specific and highly technical. If you purchase an HDMI cable from the HDMI 2.1 specification and it uses the official Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable name and label, that is the only way to guarantee you’re getting what you paid for: If it doesn’t display the official Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable Label, it is simply not certified to meet the HDMI 2.1 specification. And who doesn’t want to make sure their purchase is truly capable of a full 48 Gbps bandwidth, end-to-end, uncompressed 8K@60 and 4K@120, and so much more?

To learn more, I sat down with David Glen, President of the HDMI Forum.

“Comprehensive certification including lifetime verification and authentication was an optional feature for previous HDMI cable types,” said Glen. “There certainly are good cables on the market, but there are also some not-so-good cables that are selling widely in the marketplace, and we want to ensure compliance and consistent quality.” 

The Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable Certification Program states that certification is mandatory to call a product Ultra High Speed. “This ensures that all the cables that get to market with the certification label will get to the 48Gbps, will have low EMI, will support all the other features of the HDMI 2.1 spec, and of course  all the features of earlier specifications,” said Glen. One of the priorities was ensuring low EMI to reduce the possibility of interference with wireless networks, streaming media players, Bluetooth devices and mobile phones.

“In the past, there was some confusion among consumers about what were the better cables and what were the not-so-good cables,” added Glen. The Premium HDMI® Cable Certification Program for the HDMI 2.0 specification set up by HDMI Licensing Administrator (HDMI LA) to ensure full 18Gbps bandwidth is an optional program. “With the Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable, it’s a mandatory program for all cables claiming to be ‘Ultra High Speed,’” said Glen. 

The Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable Certification Program process is not a one-and-done deal. “We have ongoing verification of compliance that happens after certification,” said Glen. “A program will sample cables  from retailers and commercial distributors.” A sampling of cables will be taken from different markets and different areas of the world to ensure compliance. “Those will be run through the tests again to make sure they still meet the electrical and electromagnetic signal quality requirements, labeling requirements and so forth,” added Glen. 

The following are requirements for the Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable Certification Program: 

  1. All Ultra High Speed HDMI Cables must be tested and certified in compliance with the HDMI 2.1 Compliance Test Specification (CTS) for Category 3 cables.
  2. Cables will be tested and certified only at HDMI Forum Authorized Test Centers (Forum ATC).
  3. Every length of cable must be tested and certified.
  4. All certified Ultra High Speed HDMI Cables must be registered with the HDMI LA verification and authentication program.
  5. All Ultra High Speed HDMI Cables will display an Ultra High Speed HDMI Certification Label on each package. 
  6. Continuing product lifetime verification

The Currency of the Label

Once a cable is verified as certified under the Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable Certification Program, the official Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable Label must be properly affixed to the package with exacting detail. Why is this so important?

This isn’t a mass produced label. Using a proprietary smart phone app with two-level commercial scanning technology combines QR and hologram scanning.  Each label is associated with the following information, which is maintained as confidential by HDMI LA: 

  • HDMI Adopter cable manufacturer.
  • HDMI Forum Certificate of Confirmation number ID and supporting test results.
  • Compliance audit testing results.

Consumers will be able to verify:

  • Cable length. 
  • Brand manufacturer/reseller and their specific model numbers.

Authentication and verification scanning are utilized across seven points of the supply chain: factory, packaging, port of export, port of import, distribution, reseller, and consumer. 

As an integrator, you can scan the label to assure you have a HDMI 2.1 compliant cable. Some of your clients might also be interested to know that you are purchasing only the highest performing product for their installation. Even if they don’t yet have HDMI 2.1 displays or devices, buying HDMI 2.1 cables is a good way to future-proof. 

Get Ready to Support Your Customers this Holiday Buying Season

Many of your customers are early adopters and will be purchasing the latest and greatest during the upcoming holiday season. 

The perfect storm for gamers is about to be unleashed. Microsoft has announced that the Xbox Series X and Series S are scheduled to be released on November 10, and Sony has confirmed that the PS5 release date is November 12.

Already there are HDMI 2.1-enabled 4K and 8K displays available, many with HDMI gaming features such as VRR and ALLM, with more expected by the end of November. Gamers can now have more immersive experiences, with displays two or three times the size of a computer monitor. 

And yes, the only way to take advantage of ALL the HDMI 2.1 features including 8K@60, 4K@120, Variable Refresh Rate and many more features is to connect the HDMI 2.1 gaming console to the HDMI 2.1 display with an Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable sporting the Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable Label—also available this holiday season. 

It’s going to be a 2.1 holiday season. 


HDMI 2.1 Features–In Brief

8K@60 and 4K@120: End-to-end, uncompressed 8K/4K resolutions and faster refresh rates including 8K60Hz and 4K120Hz with a single upgraded cable for seamless integration with the HDMI ecosystem. 

Dynamic HDR: Ensures every moment of a video is displayed at its ideal values for depth, detail, brightness, contrast, and wider color gamuts—on a scene-by-scene or even a frame-by-frame basis. 

Ultra High Speed HDMI® Cable: The cable’s increased bandwidth capability supports up to 48G for uncompressed HDMI 2.1 feature support. Identified by the Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable branding label that is mandatory for each package, this is the only cable that complies with the stringent specifications designed to ensure support for all HDMI 2.1 features.

Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC): Simplifies connectivity and provides greater ease of use for multiple components discovery and audio optimization. It supports the latest high-bitrate audio formats up to 192kHz, 24-bit, and uncompressed 5.1 and 7.1, and 32-channel uncompressed audio, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

Variable Refresh Rate (VRR): Reduces or eliminates lag, judder and frame tearing for more fluid and better detailed gameplay. VRR enables a gaming source such as a console or computer to deliver video frames as fast as it can, which in many cases is slower than the normal static refresh rate.

Fixed Rate Link (FRL): A signaling technology supported by HDMI 2.1 is necessary to achieve the higher uncompressed resolutions such as those above 4K60 as well as the ultra high speed bandwidths up to 48Gbps. It’s also required for some compressed video transport, which in turn enables operation at lower data rates like 4K60 and ultra-high pixel rate video such as 10Kp120.

Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM): Allows the ideal latency setting to automatically be set, allowing for smooth, lag-free and uninterrupted viewing and interactivity.

Quick Media Switching (QMS): Eliminates the delay in movies and video that can result in blank screens before content is displayed.

Quick Frame Transport (QFT): Reduces latency for smoother no-lag gaming, and real-time interactive virtual reality.

The terms HDMI, HDMI High-Definition Multimedia Interface, Premium HDMI Cable Certification Program, Ultra High Speed HDMI, Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable Certification Program, and the Ultra High Speed HDMI Certification Label, the Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable Logo and HDMI Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing Administrator, Inc.