HDMI is the most popular licensing standard for TVs and monitors. Since it’s so prevalent on old TV receivers, you’d be right to assume that it doesn’t support any modern features. So, does HDMI support 4K, or is it an outdated standard from the era when Full HD took off?
The modern HDMI standard supports 4K. All 4K TVs with an HDMI port support a 4K input via a compatible cable. 4K support was first added with HDMI 1.4, a specification standard released in 2009. Modern HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 cables support 4K at 60Hz and 120Hz respectively.
The rest of this article will explain everything you need to know about HDMI support for 4K. I’ll go over if HDMI is good for your 4K, what types support it, if all cables support 4K at 60Hz, and whether HDMI 2.0 supports 4K.
Also read: Can You Have a 4K TV Without HDR?
Does HDMI Support 4K?
All 1.4 or newer HDMI ports and cables support 4K. However, the refresh rate and exact resolution are somewhat limited with older HDMI standards. HDMI 1.4 supports 4096x2160p at 24Hz or 3840x2160p at 30Hz. HDMI 2.1 supports any 4K resolution at 120Hz.
If you’re not a tech enthusiast, you may not be familiar with the fact that there’s more than one 4K resolution.
Technically speaking, anything close to 4,000 horizontal pixels is considered 4K. Your TV is probably 3840x2160p, which is referred to as 4K UHD in ads and general consumer use.
However, the film industry refers to 4096x2160p as 4K.
So, any TV or HDMI cable released after 2009 (the launch of HDMI 1.4) supports 4K UHD at a refresh rate of up to 30Hz.
The latest HDMI 2.1 and 2.1a standards support up to 8K 120Hz, which is like four 4K screens glued together.
If you have a brand-new 4K TV, you should rest assured knowing that your HDMI port supports 4K. In fact, it may be the only video input port your TV has, and there’s probably more than one.
Is HDMI Good for 4K?
HDMI is good for 4K screens. All 4K TVs and most 4K monitors support all the built-in features like HDR and high refresh rates via an HDMI cable. Additionally, newer HDMI cables and ports support variable refresh rates, low-latency mode, Dolby Vision, eARC, and other valuable features.
You might be worried that HDMI isn’t up to snuff for your brand-new 65 inch (165.1 cm) 4K TV. But you don’t really have to worry about it as long as you’re using a compatible HDMI cable.
If your TV receiver or box, HDMI cable, and TV all support the latest HDMI specs, 4K content will look incredible. That’s especially true if you have an HDMI pass-through port on your receiver.
HDMI only isn’t good enough for 4K if you’re using an outdated cable. If your TV came with an included HDMI cable, use it. Otherwise, check the specs of your TV and buy an HDMI cable accordingly.
If you’re unsure which one to buy, I always recommend going with the newest standard because HDMI is backward compatible.
You can get the Highwings HDMI 2.1 Braided Cable (available on Amazon.com). This cable supports transfer speeds of up to 48 Gbps with support for 8K at 60Hz, HDR, 12-bit color processing, and more.
It’s also worth noting that 4K monitors typically come with DisplayPort (DP). Some monitors prefer DP over HDMI with better compatibility and support for lower latencies and super high refresh rates (240Hz or more).
What Type of HDMI Supports 4K?
HDMI 1.4, 2.0, and 2.1 all support 4K. However, the newer HDMI standards support higher refresh rates, HDR, higher color depths, and other major features. You should get an HDMI 2.0 cable or better for your 4K TV to ensure you have all the latest features.
You don’t have to worry about the HDMI port on your 4K TV because it’s made to support its default resolution. At the same time, it still leaves the cable and TV receiver open for debate.
You must have a 4K receiver and a compatible HDMI cable. Although HDMI 1.4 technically supports 4K, it’s only up to 30Hz. Plus, HDMI 1.4 doesn’t support modern HDR standards, so you should avoid it whenever possible.
Today, HDMI 2.0 is the bare minimum because its transfer rate is high enough to carry a 4K signal at 60Hz. HDMI 2.1 expands the features further with added support for 4K 120Hz.
Do All HDMI Cables Support 4K 60Hz?
Only HDMI 2.0 or newer cables support 4K 60Hz. Although 4K was introduced with HDMI 1.4, it’s only limited to 30Hz. If you want to watch content at 60 FPS, you need a compatible HDMI 2.0 cable, TV, and receiver. 4K 120Hz only works on HDMI 2.1 compatible devices and cables.
4K TVs weren’t all that common before HDMI 2.0 was released in 2013. Additionally, there was very little 4K content, and most of it was movies shot at 24 FPS anyway. More than that, gaming consoles and graphics cards couldn’t run any video games at 4K.
If you found an old HDMI cable in your drawer, you probably shouldn’t use it. It won’t support 4K 60Hz, so you’re better off buying a newer cable that supports the latest standards. Videos and movies shot in 60 FPS feel much more life-like, and animations in video games are significantly smoother.
Does HDMI 2.0 Support 4K?
HDMI 2.0 supports 4K UHD up to 60Hz with a 24bit color depth. You can use an HDMI 2.0 cable and compatible TV receiver to experience the full resolution of your 4K TV. There’s also support for HDR, though HDMI 2.1 has somewhat better support for HDR.
You won’t have any trouble watching 4K content using HDMI 2.0. As a matter of fact, your HDMI 2.1 cable may actually be an HDMI 2.0 cable with a different name on it. The Verge explains: “Devices can no longer be certified for 2.0.”
It seems like the people behind HDMI have made it confusing on purpose.
However, most average consumers don’t have to worry too much about this fiasco. As long as you’re using HDMI 2.0 or newer, you’re getting the full 4K resolution at 60Hz or more.
HDMI 1.4 and the standards that follow it support 4K. However, you’re limited to only 30Hz when using an HDMI 1.4 cable or port.
To ensure your videos and movies run at 4K 60Hz, use an HDMI 2.0 cable, along with a compatible TV and receiver.
- Wikipedia: 4K resolution
- PC Mag: HDMI 1.4
- Sony: How does HDMI pass through feature work?
- Wikipedia: DisplayPort
- Denon: Differences between HDMI versions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3a, 1.4 and 2.0?
- The Verge: Don’t buy a monitor or TV just for HDMI 2.1 — read the fine print or you might get fooled
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.