Right off the bat, HDCP and HDMI serve different functions.
HDCP is a copy protection code, while HDMI is a signal transmitter via cable. The numbers beside both terms represent which version each is currently in.
But while different from each other, HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.1 can work seamlessly together when playing audio and video content.
Sounds confusing? Don’t worry. We’ll walk you through each term.
What is HDCP?
HDCP stands for High-Bandwidth Copy Protection. From the name itself, it’s a piracy protection protocol originally developed by Intel and is meant to protect digital content from being recorded at its highest quality.
If you’re a casual tech person, you don’t normally concern yourself with HDCP as much as HDMI unless you’re dealing with a specific playback issue.
For example, let’s say you rented a couple of shows on Apple TV. You hook up your Apple TV to your Macbook—usually with an HDMI cable—so you can watch it…only to be met with an HDCP error.
So what does this mean?
Digital content such as movies, video games, or TV shows is encrypted with HDCP. For you to play protected content, your HDCP components (in this case, your Apple TV and Mac) will need to perform a ‘handshake’ which we will discuss shortly.
How Does HDCP work?
HDCP is embedded into most devices nowadays. These devices are classified into three categories: source, sink, and repeater.
The source is where your entertainment will originate. It houses the content to be displayed. Examples include Blu-ray players, DVD players, or set-top boxes.
The repeater accepts the signal and enhances it. Examples include your home entertainment soundbar or AV receiver.
The sink displays the final output. Examples include your television or digital projector.
In each device is an issued license and an HDCP transmitter and/or receiver. Once these devices are connected via cable (like HDMI, DisplayPort, or DVI), a signal will travel through each of these devices, checking if your source, sink, and repeater are all HDMI-compliant.
This process is commonly termed a ‘handshake.’
Versions of HDCP
There are two main versions of HDCP: version 1.x and 2.x—with the ‘x’ being the sub-versions. Both have different encryptions, making them incompatible with one another.
The new versions, namely HDCP 2.2 and 2.3, are compatible with HDMI.
Copy protection had to follow suit with the rise of (thanks to HDMI) 4K video quality—enter HDCP 2.2. It’s designed specifically for safeguarding 4K content. And with digital piracy on a steady rise, it’s more important for an even more advanced protection protocol to follow.
HDCP 2.2 has very strong encryption compared to its predecessors.
What is HDMI?
HDMI, or High-Definition Multimedia Interface, connects audio and visual devices. You can find it on televisions, gaming consoles, computers, and many other audio and visual devices.
Chances are, the television or computer you own right now both support HDMI. It’s been the gold standard for transmitting A/V content for decades, and each version of it is defined by what features it offers.
For example, HDMI 2.0 is capable of streaming 4K videos at 60Hz, while HDMI 2.1 has the full capacity for streaming 10K at 120Hz.
Let’s face it. We don’t usually pay much attention to HDMI until it stops functioning. After all, wireless is becoming the norm.
Nevertheless, HDMI gives us ultra-pristine visual quality and has been a huge gamechanger for viewing media.
How does HDMI work?
HDMI comes in ports or cables. Ports are where you plug your HDMI cables into. There are different types of HDMI ports and cables.
The defining feature of HDMI is its ability to send uncompressed data from one device to another. This happens through TDMS, or transition-minimized differential signaling, which basically prevents data degradation even when it’s being passed down to a cable from one device to another.
In other words, HDMI’s design is to prevent compression. In addition, it also passes down HDCP licenses. This protects the digital content being passed down from being pirated.
Versions of HDMI
The first version, HDMI 1.0, came in the early 2000s. Back then, it was already capable of playing 1080p at 60Hz.
Now, we’re down to the latest version, which came out last 2017, HDMI 2.1.
Here’s a breakdown of the specs of HDMI 2.1:
- HDR (high dynamic range) on a frame-by-frame basis
- Supports 10k at 120Hz at a maximum
- Supports Dynamic HDR at 4K 120Hz and 8K 60Hz
- 48Gbps data transfer speed
- Supports Dolby Vision and HDR10+
- Supports eARC
To make use of HDMI 2.1’s full potential, you would have to upgrade your television and HDMI cables.
HDCP 2.2 & HDMI 2.1
Putting two and two together simply means that they are the latest version of each other. Today, most modern audio and visual devices come with both HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.1.
The connecting factor between HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.1 is the 4K resolution that has become the norm in most televisions. Hence, a greater need to protect high-quality digital content through the HDCP protocol.
You might notice some HDMI ports labeled ‘HDMI (HDCP 2.2)’.
This simply means that the HDMI port is HDCP 2.2-compliant. In other words, when you plug an HDMI cable in that specific port, you’ll be able to play HDCP 2.2 encrypted content (provided your other connected device is HDCP 2.2-compliant as well.
HDCP and HDMI get mixed up often, but to clear the air, they are two completely different entities that work in conjunction with one another.
Again, HDCP prevents audio and video piracy, while HDMI is a connector for audio and video devices.
Both come in many versions, but HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.1 are relatively new additions to the market.
HDMI 2.1 boasts a whopping 10K maximum resolution and can support dynamic HDR on a frame-by-frame basis. Frankly, the market still has to catch up to make use of HDMI 2.1’s full potential.
Nevertheless, piracy isn’t going away soon. And with the steady rise of high picture quality, piracy protection is needed more, which is why HDCP 2.2 is often paired with HDMI 2.1.