Are you considering buying a 4K Ultra HD Television? Here’s a tip: There are 3 technologies that any UHDTV must incorporate to display forthcoming 4K content. If your new set lacks any of these, you’ll at best be able to view 4K at a lower resolution or frame rate. The worst case scenario? You won’t be able to view it at all. Learn the details after the break.
The three features that are vital for viewing forthcoming 4K content from Netflix, Blu-ray, Satellite/Cable and elsewhere are HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 and HEVC.
HDMI 2.0 is the latest version of the High-definition Multimedia Interface. Version 2.0 is backward-compatible with all previous HDMI versions. According to the HDMI organization, 2.0 supports up to 60 fps (frames-per-second) content at 3840 x 2160 resolution. On the audio side, it permits up to 32 channels, 1536-kHz sampling and up to simultaneous streams for multiple users. Other features include simultaneous delivery of dual video streams on the same display; support for 21:9 aspect ratio content and displays; dynamic synchronization of video and audio streams; and expanded command and control.
While UHD content shot at 60 fps doesn’t exist yet (a few PC games excepted), that format is expected to be used for future UHD sports content. However, if your set isn’t HDMI 2.0-capable, you will be limited to viewing UHD at a maximum of 30 fps. Content recorded on film, a medium with sufficient resolution to be converted to UHD, will remain at 24 fps, though it’s anticipated that movies shot with Ultra HD cameras will eventually migrate to 60 fps.
HDCP 2.2 (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) is the latest version of the encryption/decryption scheme used by HDMI to prevent copying of audio/video content as it travels from a source through additional devices (an A/V receiver, for example). At present, there is no content containing HDCP 2.2 encryption, though we expect that next-generation 4K Blu-ray discs and players will use it.
While we have yet to get our hands on any HDCP 2.2-equipped gear, we anticipate that some compatibility issues might arise when routing a HDCP 2.2 source like Blu-ray through an HDMI 1.4 or earlier A/V receiver or video switcher.
HEVC stands for High Efficiency Video Coding (also known as H.265). HEVC is said to be about twice as efficient as MPEG-4 coding, which in turn means a higher compression ratio for more manageable streaming of native 4K content. Netflix has already announced that it will provide HEVC-compressed 4K programming to subscribers starting this spring. But here’s the catch: UHDTVs that lack HEVC decoding won’t be able to display 4K content using the set’s built-in app, and will instead require an external HEVC-capable media receiver.
3/22/14 Note: An LG spokesperson informed hdguru via email that its 2013 LA9650 and LA9700 series US models contain HEVC decoding.
Danger in the Past
Looking over the UHDTVs that came out in 2013, only Panasonic’s TC-L65WT600 shipped with HDMI 2.0 inputs, while Sony provided an HDMI 2.0 upgrade for its sets either via a new circuit board or an Internet-delivered firmware upgrade. There aren’t any 2013 UHDTVs we’re aware of that can be upgraded internally to support either HDCP 2.2 or HEVC, though Samsung promises such an upgrade via its 2014 OneConnect, an external box that will also feature HDMI 2.0 connections. Pricing and availability for the 2014 OneConnect is expected to be announced later this week at a Samsung press event.
For 2014, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio are all expected to feature HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 and HEVC in their respective UHDTVs. We are still waiting to hear if the lower-tier brands like TCL, Seiki and Hisense will provide these crucial features when their new 4K models are released. We’ll be sure to post an update once we learn more.
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