The HDMI Forum on Wednesday announced key specifications of the HDMI 2.1 standard, which will be published in the second quarter. The new standard will increase link bandwidth to 48 Gbps and will enable support for up to 10K resolutions without compression, new color spaces with up to 16 bits per component, dynamic HDR, variable refresh rates for gaming applications as well as new audio formats
The most important feature that the HDMI 2.1 specification brings is massively increased bandwidth over predecessors. That additional bandwidth (48 Gbps over 18 Gbps, a bit more than what a USB-C cable is rated for) will enable longer-term evolution of displays and TVs, but will require the industry to adopt the new 48G cable, which will keep using the existing connectors (Type A, C and D) and will retain backwards compatibility with existing equipment (which probably means 8b/10b encoding and effective bandwidth of around 38 Gbps). The standard-length 48G cables (up to two meters) will use copper wires, but it remains to be seen what happens to long cables. It is noteworthy that while some of the new features that the HDMI 2.1 spec brings to the table require the new cable, others do not. As a result, some of the new features might be supported on some devices, whereas others might be not.
The increased bandwidth of HDMI 2.1's 48G cables will enable support of new UHD resolutions, including 4Kp120, 8Kp100/120, 10Kp100/120, and increased frame rates. It is no less important that increased bandwidth will enable support of the latest and upcoming color spaces, such as BT.2020 (Rec. 2020) with 10, 12, or even more advanced with 16 bits per color component and without compression. HDMI Forum does not say it explicitly, but the version 2.1 of their standard will also likely support the BT.2100 (Rec. 2100), which has a number of important enhancements to the BT.2020 when it comes to HDR. While HDMI 2.0 already supports BT.2020 and HDMI 2.0b adds support for HDR10 (through support for Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG)), it only can transmit 10 and 12 bits per sample at 4Kp60 resolution. To support HDR at 8K, one will need HDMI 2.1.
10K resolution (5760p)? 16-bit color [wikipedia.org] (281,474,976,710,656 shades of grey)? It's necessary!