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On the Circuit

Sep 24, 2013 3:15 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart

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As we go to press, the HDMI Forum used the platform of IFA Berlin to release the HDMI 2.0 specification. This is the first specification from the non-profit forum. Previous releases came from HDMI Licensing, LLC, which will be the licensing agent for the 2.0 spec, according to Sony’s Robert Blanchard, president of the HDMI Forum.

The new specification reflects the burgeoning interest in 4K. It reportedly supports bandwidth increase (up to 18Gbps) to support 4K at 50fps and 60fps (2160p). Reportedly it will support 32 audio channels and up to 1536kHz sampling frequency, as well as dynamic auto lip-sync and extensions to CEC for single point control. It also supports the so-called “marriage saver” feature that allows multiple users to use the same screen (up to two video streams and four audio). No new cables/connectors. The complete specification is available on the HDMI Adopter Extranet.

Sony’s Blanchard said this took HDMI “to the next level by expanding audio and video features for consumer electronics applications.” He expressly said “consumer.” That focus likely explains why the specification does not require new cables/connectors (or even locks on the old ones) and why there was no mention of improving HDCP key exchanges since that’s not a pain point for consumers.

For me, the biggest disappointment is that the maximum data rate doesn’t seem to support 10- and 12-bit color for 4K. (Or more than 60 frames.) The specification is by design not aimed at the high-end of our world. It doesn’t mean AV pros won’t continue to use it. But HDMI 2.0 is not going to take commercial AV by storm. It just keeps HDMI on the list of options as 4K unfolds.

While the HDMI Forum isn't actively pushing HDMI into commercial AV, the HDBaseT Alliance most definitely wants to push its commercial-oriented specification into the home. A key feature of the new HDBaseT 2.0 is even called HomePlay (based on HDBaseT 5 Play, which is the Alliance’s way of describing video/audio/Ethernet/control/power over a single cable). The consumer press mostly focused on how HDBaseT delivers longer runs than HDMI which was already true of 1.0. Most importantly, while HDBaseT 1.0 defined point-to-point transmission, 2.0 defines point-to-multi-point connectivity for control and distribution. It addresses networking, switching, and control point capabilities (and adds USB 2.0).

Like the HDMI Forum, the HDBaseT Alliance has said little about the professional role of the new spec. The HDBaseT Alliance refers to commercial AV only to lend credibility to HDBaseT for the home. (Now you can have what the pros use!) Nevertheless, both new specifications will expand the options for manufacturers to simplify products and make new interfaces, and for integrators to do a little more with one cable. I’d like to know more about where PoE fits in. Next time.

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