HDMI 2.1 Features In 2019 Samsung, LG TVs Clarified
As Samsung and LG move closer to delivering 2019 4K and 8K Ultra HD TVs to retail, executives said most of their best TV series will support the new HDMI 2.1 specification.
To make a complicated situation a little more comprehensible, both companies recently clarified which of the top new HDMI 2.1 specification features their various 4K and 8K QLED, OLED, NanoCell and LED-LCD TVs will support.
We provide below a list of planned HDMI 2.1 features supported in each company’s 2019 step-up 4K and 8K Ultra HDTV model lines.
Although most models will technically support the new and advanced HDMI 2.1 standard, as with all previous versions of HDMI before it, support for each of the various features and capabilities outlined in HDMI 2.1 is up to the device manufacturer to include or omit. Thus, not all products will support all of the various features outlined in version 2.1.
For the past several years, HDMI 2.1 has been one of the most sought-after features in advanced televisions and source components. For good reason, savvy product shoppers have been waiting for this interface to ensure the televisions they purchase will be forward compatible with new external source devices that might be introduced in the months and years ahead.
Thus far, it’s taken a while for testing protocols and procedures to be setup and performed in order to certify products claiming HDMI 2.1 compliance meet the necessary qualifications. Until that certification is issued a product will not officially support the features. However, testing and certification is expected to be established soon, and certain HDMI 2.1 features should start to appear sometime in the second half of the year.
But having anticipated and designed those features to be supported in their televisions this year, manufacturers including LG, Samsung, Sony and others have announced planned HDMI 2.1 support in certain products coming to market shortly.
Among the benefits supported by HDMI 2.1 will be more robust picture and sound quality of 4K and 8K Ultra HD signals delivered over the HDMI 2.1 digital connector by external source devices, like next-generation cable and satellite TV boxes, external streaming media players, network attached storage devices, etc.
We’ve previously reported on the many new features and capabilities the HDMI 2.1 specification will bring to home theaters, topped off by up to 48 Gbps ultra high-speed bandwidth suitable for advanced high-frame rate (HFR) video in the latest high-resolution levels.
Similarly, HDMI 2.1 will support more robust high resolution video game play with dynamic high dynamic range (HDR), low input lag to the television, instant and automatic game mode optimization between the game console and television and clearer images with minimal tearing (via support for variable refresh rates).
Perhaps most importantly to home theater enthusiasts, the HDMI 2.1 spec supports the much anticipated enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) feature, but not all devices with HDMI 2.1 connectors will.
2019 Samsung and LG TV Supported HDMI 2.1 Features By Model Series:
High Frame Rate Video
High Frame Rate (HFR) capability will allow high resolution video signals at higher than 24 and 30 fps rates. The new faster frame rates like 4K/120 fps and 8K/60p should enable sending live high-resolution video of fast-action sporting events in crystal clear, smooth motion resolution with minimal pixelization and blurring.
Samsung TV models in the 8K Q900R series will support 8K video at a HFR of up to 60 fps through HDMI 2.1 connections. Those who bought a Samsung 8K Q900 last year, will be able to get a complimentary upgrade of a board in the set’s One Connect Box (installed professionally) to accommodate 8K HFR over HDMI 2.1, Samsung said.
In 2019, only the 4K Q90 and the 8K Q900R QLED TV series will support High Frame Rate (HFR) 4K Ultra HD video (4K/120 fps). QLED models in the Q60, Q70, Q80, Q90 and Q900 series will support HFR 120 fps at 2K and 2.5K resolution (2K/120 fps, 2.5K/120 fps).
LG OLED TV models in the W9, E9, C9 Series and LG NanoCell LED-LCD TVs in 9500 and 9000 Series will support 4K HFR over both HDMI 2.1 and USB inputs. Models in the NanoCell 8600 Series will support HFR only through USB input. This is to be added via a forthcoming firmware update.
Variable Refresh Rate
Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) is a standardized system for TVs to synchronize refresh rate of the display with a gaming console or PC. Xbox One S and One X were the first devices to support VRR over HDMI. This will eliminate or reduce frame stuttering, tearing and other artifacts.
All Samsung QLED TV series (Q60, Q70, Q80, Q90 and Q900R and the RU8000 Series edge-lit 4K LED-LCD TV Series will support both VRR and AMD’s proprietary FreeSync (a system like VRR that maintains perfect synchronization between the display and a PC or console even as a game’s frame rate fluctuates) at up at up to 120Hz. FreeSync is supported by Xbox One S and One X consoles.
LG’s W9 Series 4K OLED TVs, and LG 8600 Series NanoCell TVs will not support VRR. Among 2019 9000 Series NanoCell TVs, only the 55- and 65-inch screen sizes will support VRR.
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) is an HDMI feature specified in version HDMI 2.1 that allows a gaming console such as the Xbox One S or Xbox One X to automatically control all connected compatible components in an HDMI chain — This includes an AV receiver and TV set–to enter a game mode or low-latency mode without requiring the user to manually go into the TV settings to make the change. The TV will then automatically revert back to a selected movie picture mode when the source is switched to cinematic video.
Samsung supports ALLM through HDMI on all of its mid-level and higher-end 4K Ultra HD television series including all 2019 QLED TVs as well as the RU7 and RU8 Series 4K edge-lit LED-LCD TVs.
LG supports ALLM through HDMI on all of its 2019 4K OLED TV and 2019 4K NanoCell TV Series models.
Dynamic HDR Metadata (SMPTE 2094)
Dynamic HDR Metadata are instructions carried through number of HDR profiles (Dolby Vision, HDR-10+ etc.) transmitted by a source component to a supporting television telling the display how to present brightness, contrast and color levels on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis to produce varying levels of high dynamic range through out the course of movie or program.
All 2019 Samsung QLED TVs and RU8 Series 4K Ultra HDTVs support Dynamic Metadata via HDMI for the HDR10+ profile.
All 2019 LG 4K OLED TVs and 2019 4K NanoCell LED-LCD TVs support Dynamic HDR Metadata via HDMI for the Dolby Vision HDR profile.
Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC)
Technically, eARC capability can be added to some televisions equipped with HDMI 2.0b inputs via a firmware upddate, but in such cases it is up to the original design of the component and the intention of the manufacturer for the included feature package. eARC provides greater bandwidth than the previous HDMI ARC standard. It also avoids the device handshake failures and bottlenecks that forced high resolution sound formats to be transcoded down to formats of lesser quality (like 2-channel stereo).
eARC expands the bandwidth for audio from approx. 1-3 Mbps in standard ARC to 37 Mbps in eARC. That allows sufficient bandwidth to send 7.1-channel surround in lossless HD audio formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio.
eARC also allows connecting a source device directly into the display, which will then pass the audio out to a connected eARC or HDMI 2.1-equipped A/V receiver or sound bar for decoding. This avoids previous problems with upsupported standards blocking video signals as new formats and add-ons emerge for things like HDR metadata and HDCP 2.2 content protection that crippled legacy audio/video HDMI components in the early days of 4K Ultra HDTV.
Samsung will not include eARC support on any of the HDMI in/out connections in its 2019 television line.
According to Samsung spokesman Scott Cohen, eARC is not being supported in the company’s 2019 TVs because: “We are moving to a streaming world and the streaming sites are adding Dolby Atmos–which is a key reason you’d want eARC–through [the lossy] Dolby Digital Plus [format]. So we really feel we can support our customers now” with standard HDMI-ARC.
Cohen continued: “For those who are in a Samsung-only ecosystem with a Samsung Dolby Atmos Sound Bar, where Dolby Atmos would be important, we do offer HDMI pass-throughs on all of those bars to compensate for that.”
However, this doesn’t address the multiple other benefits that are part of the eARC feature, including advanced lip-sync correction/issue elimination, more robust device compatibility/interoperability than HDMI-CEC alone, and the ability to support sound tracks with object-based Dolby Amos and DTS:X embedded in lossless Dolby True HD or DTS-HD Master Audio formats, should streaming services ever decide to move to those formats in the future. This will also preclude connecting a video source output directly into the television and passing the sound on to a connected AVR or surround sound decoder over eARC.
Most 2019 LG 4K OLED (W9, E9, C9) and 2019 4K NanoCell TVs (9500 and 9000) will support eARC on HDMI input 2, with the exception of the 8600 2019 LG NanoCell TV Series, which will omit eARC support.
LG has said its 8K OLED and LED LCD TVs showed at CES 2019 will support HDMI 2.1, but it will give more specifics on feature support closer to shipping. Stay tuned for how Sony, TCL, Hisense and others plan to support HDMI 2.1 as products and testing become available.
By Greg Tarr
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