It doesn’t seem like HDMI 2.1 was introduced long ago, forcing new PS5 and Xbox Series X gamers to update their cables to get a full 120fps refresh rate while gaming. Well, at CES 2022, a new version of HDMI will be unveiled, bringing with it a major feature of HDR.
According to The edge, HDMI 2.1a will be unveiled at CES 2022. This new standard is more of an update than a complete overhaul. HDMI 2.1a will bring source-based tone mapping, or SBTM.
What is HDMI 2.1a and source-based tone mapping?
Source-based tone mapping in HDMI 2.1a is a new HDR feature that allows the original content source (such as a PC, 4K Blu Ray player, or console) to optimize tones before sending a video signal to a monitor or one of the best televisions. Of course, the displays will also be able to do their own internal tone mapping.
What this means is that users will not need to calibrate the displays for HDR content. The source can take care of all the optimization of the tone mapping and bring it to the screen. This could be especially useful when switching from one screen to another as it will not require the user to go in and fiddle with the screen settings.
The HDMI Forum said set-top boxes, game companies and TV manufacturers may add HDMI 2.1a support through a firmware update “depending on your design.” For major TV manufacturers such as Sony, LG, and Samsung, there is a possibility that some older top-of-the-line equipment will be upgraded to HDMI 2.1a via software. All of these companies have a history of sending firmware updates to add additional features.
Can I buy an HDMI 2.1a TV?
As for buying an HDMI 2.1a cable or compatible TV, you still can’t. The new feature is yet to be fully released. But it looks like SBTM will be optional for TV makers, meaning consumers will need to read the specs carefully before purchasing a 2022 TV.
Based on the rules of the HDMI license manager, a port may be labeled HDMI 2.1a, but it may not be SBTM compliant. Heck, by the rules, TV manufacturers might label an HDMI 2.1 port when it’s actually still an HDMI 2.0 port in terms of features. This is because a cheap 4K TV might not even support 8K video at 120fps, which means you wouldn’t need to add all those fancy 2.1 features.
According to The Verge, the HDMI Forum states that companies should clearly state what features their TVs support.
According to an explainer of TFT CentralWhile manufacturers have been differentiating between HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 ports on TVs, per the rules, manufacturers could label each port 2.1 and not get into trouble.
While it is understandable why the HDMI Forum has taken such a flexible approach to HDMI 2.1 labeling, it may ultimately end up being too confusing for most consumers. Generally, the product with a higher number should equal a better set of overall characteristics. The iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 is a clear example of this. But if consumers have to search their TV’s specification sheets to see if an HDMI 2.1a port supports all 2.1a SBTM functions, the purpose is defeated.
Still, we expect to hear more about HDMI 2.1a from TV makers at CES 2022 early next year. In the meantime, check out all the top TV trends for 2022 and the most anticipated Netflix shows for 2022.