HDMI Showdown: Making Sense of HDMI 1.4 vs 2.0 and Why Upgrading Matters

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As televisions and home theatre equipment advance to support incredibly clear 4K high dynamic range (HDR) video and immersive surround sound, the unsung hero making these cutting-edge features possible is HDMI connectivity.

However, with various HDMI versions available since its inception over 15 years ago, confusion remains around what versions your cables and ports should use to unlock the latest display capabilities.

If terms like HDMI 1.4, 2.0 and bandwidth give you a headache when shopping for new A/V gear, this comprehensive guide aims to make sense of it all in plain language. We’ll be specifically exploring the critical differences between HDMI versions 1.4 and 2.0—and why stepping up to 2.0 offers very real and visible improvements.

Demystifying HDMI 1.4 and 2.0

First, let’s clarify what exactly HDMI 1.4 and 2.0 refer to. Introduced in 2009 and 2013 respectively, they represent milestone upgrades to the HDMI specification—the protocols and features supported when connecting media devices.

HDMI 1.4 suffices for basic 1080p resolution at 60 fps, while theoretically supporting 4K video at a choppy 30 fps max.

HDMI 2.0 builds substantially on those capabilities to deliver buttery smooth 4K 60 fps, richer high dynamic range color, pristine multi-channel audio and more.

In a nutshell, 2.0 provides the muscle necessary to exploit cutting-edge display technology, while 1.4 now feels dated for premium gear. Our detailed comparison below elaborates on why.

HDMI cable comparison

HDMI 2.0 Provides Far Smoother Motion

One major area where the capabilities of HDMI 1.4 bottlenecks modern displays is maximum refresh rate at 4K resolution, spec‘d at just 30 fps. This results in very choppy motion and high input lag.

HDMI 2.0 lifts that limitation tremendously, allowing buttery 60 fps 4K gameplay and video. The impact of doubling refresh rate manifests in far superior clarity of fast motion like sports and action films, along with tighter interactive response when gaming.

Comparing 30 fps vs 60 fps side-by-side reveals a world of difference in smoothness. Once accustomed to 60 fps, 30 fps feels slide-show like. For videophiles and gamers especially, HDMI 2.0‘s headroom for higher frame rates translates to much more immersive experiences.

SpecificationHDMI 1.4HDMI 2.0
Max 4K Resolution @ 60 fpsNoYes

Simply put, buttery smooth 4K visuals demand HDMI 2.0.

More Than Double the Raw Data Throughput

In order to support those extremely high video resolutions and frame rates discussed above, another key upgrade HDMI 2.0 introduces is doubling maximum bandwidth—the rate high definition data travels through the cable.

HDMI 1.4 taps out at 10.2 Gbps throughput, while version 2.0 nearly doubles this to 18 Gbps. Effectively, this expands the size of the garden hose to enable much richer, denser video and audio signals to flow through.

What does such a broad pipeline enable that 1.4 cannot?

  • Lossless 4K 60 fps video with HDR color data
  • High bitrate 7.1 channel audio like Dolby TrueHD
  • Deep color support for over a billion shades

Without the extra bandwidth overhead, HDMI 1.4 forces compromises like 4:2:0 chroma subsampling and compressed audio.

Version 2.0 removes constraints to losslessly transmit content as the source intended for truly cinematic, high-fidelity experiences.

SpecificationHDMI 1.4HDMI 2.0
Max Data Throughput (Bandwidth)10.2 Gbps18 Gbps

Billions More Colors Means More Pop and Realism

Have you noticed how modern films and videogames display such rich, vibrant colors that the real world seems dull and lifeless by comparison? This hyper-realism relies on expanding the color range far beyond what HDMI 1.4 can reproduce.

By supporting color depths up to 48-bit and over a billion distinct shades, HDMI 2.0 provides the necessary pipeline for much more accurate, nuanced gradients between hues.

The result? Footage mastered with expanded color gamuts used in today‘s digital cinema and HDR content finally shines through without compromises, as originally intended. Green grass gleams brighter, sunset oranges dazzle more dramatically and colors jump off the screen with greater pop.

By comparison, HDMI 1.4‘s 24-bit depth caps out around 16 million colors, resulting in flatter, banding and more dithering in vibrant footage.

Plainly said, HDMI 2.0 opens your display‘s window to a vastly wider color palette, heightening realism.

Color gamut comparison
Color gamuts compared: HDMI 2.0 supports far richer, wider ranges like Rec. 2020 for more realistic depth and pop

Enhanced Audio Fidelity and Features

Thus far, we‘ve focused on HDMI 2.0‘s video bonuses, but it also introduces meaningful audio enhancements over version 1.4:

  • 32 channels to support configurations like 11.1 surround sound (1.4 maxes at 8 channels)
  • Lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master pass-through
  • Dynamic switching between audio sources
  • Advanced reformatting of signal (resampling, remixing surround sound channels) without loss

This means complex, layered audio from Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms finally shines through in full fidelity glory.

Where HDMI 1.4 chokes attempting to cram high bitrate signals through narrow pipes, 2.0 gives sonic headroom to every delicate aural detail without compromises.

Cinephiles and audiophiles alike reap sensory rewards upgrading to HDMI cables and devices meeting 2.0 specifications.

Cable and Port Considerations

HDMI cable categories indicating maximum capabilities

To harness everything HDMI 2.0 makes possible, you‘ll want cables and ports rated for at least 18 Gbps speeds. Look for keywords like Premium High Speed HDMI, Category 2 or plainly HDMI 2.0 compliant. Models including Ethernet are also recommended.

That said, to fully leverage 2.0 end-to-end, both your media source AND display device must include HDMI 2.0 inputs/outputs. A new Blu-Ray player won‘t drive 4K HDR at 60 fps through an older TV‘s 1.4 ports.

Always match HDMI versions across the signal chain. Cables themselves are backwards compatible, but displays and GPUs ultimately decide supported resolutions.

To Summarize: Why Upgrading Matters

  • After comparing key areas where HDMI 2.0 clearly outpaces predecessor 1.4, we can summarize significant real-world benefits:

Superior Motion Clarity: Eliminating 4K 30 fps limits unlocks buttery smoothness for sports, video and gaming

Hyper-Realistic Colors: Over a billion more shades heighten realism thanks to wider color gamuts

Crisper Sound Quality: 32 channels of lossless audio heightens detail across surround configurations

Future-Proofing: Support for upcoming 8K/10K resolutions down the road

Considering HDMI 2.0‘s full backward compatibility with 1.4 gear, upgrading offers very tangible improvements in clarity, realism and immersion well worth the investment—especially crucial to videophiles and gamers.

Unless you only need basic 1080p capability, equipping your home theatre and gaming rig with certified HDMI 2.0 cables and ports guarantees fully unleashing their potential. Your senses will thank you!

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