There are so many HDMI versions out there now that it’s becoming quite the headache in the gaming market. Are you one of the lucky ones to get a hold of a PS5 or Xbox Series X? Or are you deciding which console to buy still? Or are you upgrading your screen to fit your shiny new console? If so, what do you look for? The common topic with all of those questions is which HDMI version do you need to get the best out of your shiny new gear.
I’m not going to lie and say I’m an expert, and I’m positive that I have made mistakes in the past when giving out information on HDMI cables on this channel before, so I’m going to put my hands up and apologise for that – things like “you need HDMI 2.1 to go with your PS5” which isn’t strictly true, you can use older versions. Also, information on which version goes with what monitor, or which version is capable enough for which product. Let’s just get it all out in the open and correct my wrongdoings and start fresh. This YouTube business is still relatively new to me, so I want to make amends by making this video. Let me tell you now, it’s a bit of a minefield, so grab yourself a drink, sit down, take notes if you want to, and let’s go through the world of HDMI cables.
So let’s start with the basics, the versions of HDMI cables available on the market right now to consumers. And yes, in between each version like 1.2, 1.2a, 1.3, there are models like 1.3b1 but these aren’t always necessary, and these in-between versions define testing parameters of certain products, but don’t actually offer anything advantageous. So with that in mind, let’s start with HDMI 1.2.
Developed in 2005, the HDMI 1.2 cable was really the first HDMI cable to move towards the PC market, as VESA DisplayPort was becoming more common. Version 1.2 added a few things like Direct Stream Digital which is linked to 8 channel audio, and the ability to use low-voltage sources through PCI Express video cards. It also introduced YCbCr colours too. It was also capable of transmitting enough data to handle 1080p gaming at 60Hz which was more than capable at the time for your games consoles, which I believe was PS3 era, which didn’t output true 1080p gaming anyway. This is key to gaming data, and one that people watching this video I’m guessing are the most interested in.
When HDMI 1.3 came along, it again added new features to the cable, most notably the 1080p resolution at 144Hz. HDMI 1.3 also added DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD sound capability too for improved audio and can hit up to 16-bit colour resolution per channel. When HDMI 1.4 came along it gave us a maximum 4K image quality at up to 30Hz refresh rates. This does include 2K in that or 1440p as it’s more commonly known. HDMI version 1.4 also added Ethernet capabilities to enable an Internet sharing connection, 3D video which no one ever used and an important one… audio return channel, or ARC as you may know it which enables your TV to carry audio to a soundbar or audio device without the need for a secondary optical or RCA cable. It was also the time Micro HDMI was introduced, like the cable I’m using on my Sony A7RII to plug into my external monitor to make this video.
HDMI 2.0 is where it really gets interesting. This is where “high-framerate” gaming started to appear. And with it brought a 1080p resolution up to 240Hz and 4K qualities at up to 60Hz. This is also where ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratios came into play, and if you’ve got an ultrawide monitor, chances are it should have an HDMI 2.0 on the back. And this is really where we are today. There is one more version though, and that’s HDMI 2.1 and this type of cable can carry enough data to give you a 1080p image at 240Hz again, but the best feature? You get a full 4K image at 144Hz or 8K image at 30Hz, although 2.1 is able to hit a maximum 4K 240Hz if you’re using Direct Stream Compression, which we’re not going to go into, because that’ll make this longer than it needs to be right now.
So, with that in all in mind – and sorry if you’re having trouble keeping up, told you to grab a pen and paper right – which HDMI version is right for you? Well, what are you using it for?
On this channel, and I know it’s a very small channel right now, we get a lot of comments on our monitor review videos asking if “a monitor will work on their PS5”, or “will this monitor give me 144Hz on my PS5” or any variation of those two statements. So let’s break this down.
If you’re lucky enough to own a PS5 or even Xbox Series X, then you can, in theory, use an HDMI 2.1 cable and receive a 4K image at 120Hz (as this currently is the max refresh rate the consoles can handle) and a 1080p image at 120Hz. You could also use an HDMI 2.0 and receive a 1080p image at up to 120Hz or if you wanted 4K, you’ll have to drop your refresh rates down to 60Hz. This is all great. This means you don’t have to buy the latest and greatest product to get the best refresh rates on the market. You could buy a monitor with an HDMI 2.0 port and get cool, smooth 120Hz gaming. Winner.
However, even though your PS5 or Xbox Series X is capable of hitting 120Hz refresh rates, and your monitor says 144Hz capabilities, regardless of cables used or ports available, you are at the mercy of game developers. As an example, right now on the PS5, there are only a small handful of games that are available at 120fps. Plus, there are games on this list which will feature a “Performance” mode, which generally means it will drop the resolution down from 4K to something smaller, probably 1080p so you can get the smoothness that is desired. Developers in some cases have also said that there is support coming for the higher refresh rates, like with Miles Morales for example.
When Miles Morales was first released, it featured two different display modes, a performance mode, and fidelity mode. The performance mode features 60 fps gaming at a lower resolution to get that smoother feeling when swinging through New York City. Its fidelity mode offered 4K capabilities at 30fps. So, even though you may have a brand spanking new 120Hz TV (in which there are like three models on the market) or a brand new 144Hz monitor, you are still at the mercy of game developers. Insomniac Games have recently released a new patch, to give people using performance mode ray-tracing rather than screen-space reflections, and yes it does look great, to say the least, but it’s still only running at 60 frames-per-second, which is way under par for the PS5’s capabilities. Black Ops Cold War has been found to fall into the same boat. Turn on performance mode of your PS5, and resolution can drop to as low as 1800p to hit that 120Hz refresh rate.
With all this said, I can only really speak for the now. Of course, we are at the very start of a new generation of gaming, and things are no doubt going to get much, much better as the years go on. I just wanted to address the comments on our videos in as detailed a way as possible, without going into huge amounts of information on data rates or other sciences behind the HDMI cable. Also notice that I’ve focussed on consoles here and not PC. The same things definitely apply to PC gamers, but the advantage we have is that we have access to DisplayPort, which carries a lot more data through the cables, therefore offering superior resolutions at higher refresh rates. It’s the console crowd that is seemingly struggling with this newfound way of gaming. And it’s exciting. I’m super pumped that console players can now experience what PC gamers have for years, and even me, with a decent RTX 2070 in my machine, I’m still using a 1080p monitor, purely because of the frame rate I can achieve. I love me some smooth motion in my gaming, and it definitely helps with multiplayer matches for sure. The most important question though to all of this is… what is most important to you? High resolutions, or high framerates. Answer these questions, do your research on the type of monitor you want to buy and find out whether it fits the answers to those questions you leave on our videos. Will an HDMI 2.0 monitor work with a PS5? Of course, but how well you want it to work is up to you, and the game developers of course that only give us 60fps gaming.