HDMI spec updated to 1.4, adds unwanted complexity
May 29, 2009
HDMI Licensing has announced that the improved HDMI 1.4 specification has been finalized. The new specification, slated to be published by the end of June, includes a number of additions to the High Definition Multimedia Interface standard that is becoming more commonplace with the proliferation of high-def flat panel TVs, Blu-ray players, and a number of other devices. Unfortunately, the spec comes with no less than five different cable types, and defines an additional "micro" port and an automotive-specific connection system, which joins the standard and "mini" HDMI port variants.
The new 1.4 spec adds an optional Ethernet-compatible data channel to HDMI. This data channel will allow bidirectional data transmission up to 100Mbps. The data transmission capabilities will allow one Internet-connected device to share the connection, as well as enable content sharing among HDMI connected devices.
Furthermore, an audio return channel adds upstream audio transmission capabilities to the HDMI spec. This is in addition to the downstream audio capabilities of the current spec, and should in theory eliminate the need to ever use audio cables for HDMI-connected devices.
The new spec also includes a number of improvements to the video transmission specifications. A standard for 3D formats and resolutions has been added, and includes up to dual-stream 1080p. Support is also added for the 2K and 4K digital cinema resolution standards. And color space support has been expanded to include sYCC601, Adobe RGB, and AdobeYCC601 color spaces—specifically targeting the expanded gamut of digital still photographers.
And the cherry on this spec sundae is a specific automotive connection system designed "to be used as the basis for in-vehicle HD content distribution." I’ve never been one to relish in-car entertainment taken to this level, but I’m sure there are niche enthusiasts as well as legions of soccer moms with minivans full of kids that might welcome this addition. The special cabling and connectors are designed to work around the environmental factors experience in an automobile, "such as heat, vibration and noise." But with the proliferation of portable devices, such as an iPhone or the recently announced Zune HD, we wonder if "in-vehicle HD content distribution" is really necessary.
"The HDMI specification continues to add functionality as the consumer electronics and PC industries build products that enhance the consumer’s HD experience," said Steve Venuti, president of HDMI Licensing, LLC, in a statement. "The 1.4 specification will support some of the most exciting and powerful near-term innovations such as Ethernet connectivity and 3D formats. Additionally we are going to broaden our solution by providing a smaller connector for portable devices and a connection system specified for automobiles, as we see both more and different devices adopting the HDMI technology."
Marketing hyperbole aside, the new specification now includes a total of 5 different cable types: standard, "high-speed"—which handles the higher data rates for 3D and digital cinema resolution, Ethernet-capable versions of both of the previous two, and an automotive-specific variant. Further, as Venuti said, in addition to the standard HDMI port and the already small mini-HDMI port, the spec adds a 19-pin micro-HDMI variant that is compatible with up to 1080p resolutions for portable devices. That means that the one cable to rule all AV equipment will now have 45 potential variations for customers to choose from—let alone the numerous (and often dubious) "quality" levels offered at hard-to-swallow prices.
The video and audio improvements are certainly welcome, though the Ethernet capabilities and special automotive connectors seem to add complexity to a system that was originally designed to greatly reduce the complexity of connecting AV equipment in the first place. The new micro-HDMI connector also seems redundant, though perhaps it will replace the mini-HDMI as the de facto standard for small, portable HD-capable devices. You can expect that devices and cables conforming to the new spec should start trickling out later this year.
This post has been written by Chris Foresman on May 28, 2009 9:35 PM couresy of arstechnica.com.