Released on September 4, 2013, HDMI 2.0 superseded HDMI 1.4. 2.0 brought several changes to the fore — for instance, supporting specific frame rates that weren’t feasible with HDMI 1.4.
While the 1.4 standard was capable of doing 4K content at up to 30fps, the 2.0 standard supports 4K up to 60fps. It also does 2D content with higher frame rates than before and 3D rendering at full resolution 4K.
There are quite a few other upgrades that HDMI 2.0 brings. But since that is not the focus here, let’s talk about how forward and backward compatible the version is.
In other words, “How compatible is HDMI with 1.4?”. Also, since 2.0 is no longer the latest HDMI standard, it’s imperative to know how well does HDMI 2.0 pair with 2.1. Does it lend to the capabilities of the newest standard or stifles performance instead?
In this article, we’ll discuss them all and more in detail. If you are astonished by the advanced capabilities of HDMI 2.1 and are considering upgrading your setup to experience the latest standard, you may want to read this before taking the plunge.
- Can HDMI 2.0, 2.1 Cables Connect to HDMI 1.4 Ports?
- Will HDMI 2.0 Cables Work with HDMI 2.1 Ports?
- Is HDMI 2.0 Backwards Compatible?
Can HDMI 2.0, 2.1 Cables Connect to HDMI 1.4 Ports?
HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 cables can undoubtedly connect to HDMI 1.4 ports since the physical design of HDMI ports and cables are identical across generations. And HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 are no exceptions.
Because HDMI cables look pretty identical from the outside, manufacturers label their HDMI 2.1, 2.0, and 1.4 cables to help users differentiate the different cords from each other. That helps to not inadvertently use the wrong cable if different versions are lying around in your space.
If the question is whether an HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 cable will work with or transmit digital information through an HDMI 1.4 port, the answer is a “yes”.
The setback, however, would be bogged-down performance or staging limited to the capabilities of the older-gen port. In other words, the latest-gen cables will not deliver the performance they claimed, as the 1.4 port would pose as a hindrance.
HDMI 2.1 supports 8K at 60fps or 4K at 120Hz. To experience the same, you’ll also need input and output devices with the v2.1 port. And, of course, the source content must be 8K too.
If you use HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 cables with v1.4 ports, you’ll be limited to HDMI 1.4’s video capabilities—i.e., 4K at a maximum 30Hz refresh rate. The highest refresh rate HDMI 1.4 does is 60Hz at 2K or 1080p.
HDMI 2.0 also provides significant improvements on the audio front compared to 1.4.
For example, the version enables transmitting 32 audio channels, four times the capability of HDMI 1.4’s 8-channel uncompressed digital audio provision.
Not to mention, HDMI 2.1 only significantly improves upon what 2.0 has to offer.
Is the HDMI 2.1 Cable Different?
As mentioned above, HDMI 2.1 cables are not radically different from other HDMI cords. The ports and the number of pins are the same.
However, HDMI 2.1 cables are intrinsically distinct.
And to communicate that distinction to the user, they are marketed as “ultra-high speed” cords. HDMI 2.0’s marketing materials would usually refer to the cable as “high-speed”.
The descriptions denote the bandwidth capabilities of the two standards: 18Gbps and 48Gbps for HDMI 2.0 and 2.1, respectively. (More on that below)
Will HDMI 2.0 Cables Work with HDMI 2.1 Ports?
Again, like the compatibility between HDMI 2.0 and prior HDMI standards, HDMI 2.0 cables would work with HDMI 2.1 ports just fine.
However, as you might have guessed by now, the performance will be limited to HDMI 2.0’s capabilities. Even if the connected devices in the chain support HDMI 2.1, the HDMI 2.0 cable will pull them down to its maximum potential.
HDMI 2.0 can do up to 18Gbps of data transfer, which is a significant jump from HDMI 1.4’s 10.2Gbps bandwidth cap.
HDMI 2.1, on the other hand, is an even bigger leap, capable of transmitting digital data at the maximum 48Gbps speed.
The additional bandwidth not just means 4K or 8K video output at a greater frame rate but also enhanced color depths (up to 16 bits). The greater the color depth in bits, the more information goes into each pixel color.
In other words, visuals would look discernibly vibrant on an HDTV part of an all-around HDMI 2.1 entertainment setup.
Is HDMI 2.0 Backwards Compatible?
HDMI 2.0 is backward compatible. It would work with an HDMI 1.4 or an even older generation port and can use the same cables as before.
However, 1.4 will limit the output to its capabilities, or 2.0 will not transfer its feature set to the output device that sports a previous-gen port.
Expect to experience some functionality niggles, such as lag and sub-par video and audio reproduction.
1. Can HDMI 1.4 be upgraded to 2.0 with a software update?
No, it’s not possible to turn an HDMI 1.4 port to 2.0 with a firmware update since it’s a hardware-based change. HDMI ports sport board circuitry that you cannot easily alter.
A software program may have been used to upgrade hardware in the past. But even then, the existing hardware should have untapped capabilities to facilitate the transformation.
HDMI 1.4 has no unleashed functions that a software program could utilize to upgrade it to the 2.0 standard. For the upgrade to occur, the graphics card must be updated, alongside some pathway changes and soldering on the motherboard.
Experts can tinker with the hardware, but it’s still not recommended to go that path.
2. Are there third-party accessories that can convert HDMI 1.4 to HDMI 2.0?
HDMI converters help link a DisplayPort with an HDMI port. USB to HDMI is also possible through such dongles.
HDMI to HDMI adapters also negate the need to contact the HDMI port on your TV, monitor directly, or another device, bringing down the likelihood of wear or helping maintain the main port’s sanctity.
But unfortunately, there are no HDMI peripherals that can upgrade HDMI 1.4 to HDMI 2.0 or 2.1. That’s probably because the advancements in features and functions between the different HDMI standards are so significant, a mini adapter or dongle may not be able to bundle them all in their petite packages.
With each new HDMI version, older standards lose a bit of their sheen. HDMI 1.0 is no more relevant, which explains why it’s not part of the above discussion. 1.4 is now considered the bare minimum standard.
When newer HDMI generations are released in the future, HDMI 1.4 will experience the same fate as v1.0, and version 2.0 could serve as the starting point.
Until that happens (which would at least take a few years), you may use your HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 cables and ports with v1.4 connectors and cords with no trouble.
There are likely to be pushbacks, as mentioned earlier. Still, those won’t be major enough to bring your existing HDMI 1.4 setup to a halt or force you into buying newer equipment and tools/accessories.
Catherine Tramell has been covering technology as a freelance writer for over a decade. She has been writing for Pointer Clicker for over a year, further expanding her expertise as a tech columnist. Catherine likes spending time with her family and friends and her pastimes are reading books and news articles.