Anyone who's recently purchased a new television, Blu-ray player or other home entertainment device is familiar with the High Definition Multimedia Interface, or HDMI. This cable system helps transfer digital video signals from a source (Blu-ray player, etc.) without requiring a conversion to analogue. In other words, it passes along high-definition video and audio with the greatest clarity possible.
HDMI versions have undergone a number of changes since the standard was first introduced in late 2002. Since then, every successive version has added new features and capabilities that help enhance the home entertainment experience. HDMI 1.4 is the latest versions available and while it maintains some similarities with older HDMI standards, it comes with its own set of all-new features.
The biggest difference between HDMI 1.3 and 1.4 is the increase in single-link resolution. HDMI 1.4 increases the resolution specs from 2560x1600 pixels to 4096x2160 pixels. This feature will become increasingly important when the new Ultra HD Televisions become affordable for the mainstream consumer. HDMI 1.4 also comes with an audio return channel, a feature that wasn't available on older versions. Having a built-in audio return channel helps cut the need for an extra dedicated cable for carrying audio data to an A/V receiver. An example use of this feature is the ability to send back an audio signal from your television broadcast to your surround sound speakers via the HDMI cable alone.
HDMI Ethernet channel support is another major difference between the 1.3 and 1.4 cables, one that countless people with online-capable home entertainment devices will notice. The 1.4 spec feature high-speed bi-directional networking within the HDMI link, eliminating the need for separate Ethernet cables. Home entertainment users can combine their HDMI and Ethernet connections with a one-cable solution that provides less clutter.
Another benefit of HDMI 1.4 is that it provides complete support for 3D. The earlier standard only supported 3D in 1080i resolution. The 1.4 standard finally allows for true 3D gaming and 3D home theatre, providing support for 3D up to a 1080p resolution. Full 3D video support requires use of the High Speed HDMI cable, with or without Ethernet channel support.
In addition to cables with HDMI Ethernet channel support, the 1.4 standard also brings a new cable developed for use in automobiles. This new cable has with the automotive environment in mind, delivering true HD video to in-car displays while resisting temperature extremes and vibration that could cause ordinary HDMI cables to fail. The new standard also introduces the micro connector, developed for smart phones, digital cameras and other portable devices. The micro connector is about the size of a Micro USB connector, providing a smaller form factor than the current mini connector while providing full HDMI support.
HDMI 1.4 is backwards-compatible with older standards. However, the benefits of the 1.4 standard aren't realised unless a television, Blu-ray player or display supports it. Unfortunately, many of the new features offered in HDMI 1.4 require a new HDMI chipset; older devices from version 1.3 and below cannot be upgraded to use these features via firmware.
The new HDMI 1.4 standard has several important differences from earlier standards, but it preserves a large measure of backward compatibility. This allows home theatre equipment buyers to gradually upgrade their cables and other equipment at their own pace