What is HDMI?

HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. It is a standard that supports high-definition digital video and multi-channel digital audio on a single cable. The HDMI cable connection transmits both video and audio data in a digital format. HDMI connections stand in contrast to analog VGA or DVI connections, which transmit only video data.

Everything about HDMI cables

An HDMI cable is a type of cable that connects a device such as Blu-ray player, game console, or streaming device like a Roku player (and more) to a TV, monitor or projector. It then carries both audio and video signals from the device to the TV. The main difference between an HDMI cable and other cables is that it can carry both uncompressed digital audio and video signals over one cable. There are different versions of HDMI cables, such as HDMI 1.4a, HDMI 2.0a or HDMI 2.1.

HDMI Cables Overview

Most of the confusion about HDMI cables comes from the HDMI standards and their characteristics.
Important: The HDMI licensor prohibits certified HDMI cable manufacturers from using the version number such as 2.0 or 2.1 in the product content. Instead, predefined designations must be used.
The overview below shows versions, designations and basic properties.

Version NumberDesignationYearMax. Resolution and Refresh RateMax. BandwidthHDRAudio Support
1.0n/a20021080p@60Hz4.95 GbpsNo8 Audio Channels
1.1/1.2n/a20051440p@30Hz4.95 GbpsNoDVD-Audio, One-Bit-Audio
1.3/1.4High Speed HDMI / High Speed HDMI with Ethernet20094K@30Hz10.2 GbpsNoARC, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD
2.0Premium High Speed HDMI20134K@60Hz / 5K@30Hz18 GbpsYesHE-AAC, DRA,32 Audio Channels
2.1Ultra High Speed HDMI20174K@120Hz / 8K@60Hz48 GbpsYeseARC

HDMI 1.3

10.2 Gbps

HDM 1.4

10.2 Gbps

HDMI 2.0

18 Gbps

HDMI 2.1

48 Gbps


HDMI Cables Length

A regular (read: passive) HDMI cable should be no longer than 49 ft. (15 m). Note that with this length you have to accept limitations in resolution.

A resolution of 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) is possible up to approx. 24 ft. (7.5 m). Go anywhere beyond that and the maximum resolution is limited to 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels). However, this limitation only applies to passive HDMI cables.

Higher resolutions and more frames per second are also possible over long distances. For this you need an active HDMI cable or an HDMI extender.

HDMI Connector Overview

There are three sizes of HDMI plugs in consumer electronics. Each size also has a type designation: Standard (Type A), Mini (Type C) and Micro (Type D). All three are 19-pin.

Click here to view a detailed overview of all common HDMI connectors.

What is an HDMI adapter?

The HDMI standard defines five different connectors that are based upon a 19-pin layout. To convert between different HDMI connectors, you are going to need an HDMI adapter.

The one thing all HDMI adapters or adapter cables have in common is that there is no signal conversion taking place. The HDMI adapter simply makes sure that the 19 pins of the connectors are connected properly on each end. For example, to connect a GoPro to an HDTV requires a Micro HDMI to Standard HDMI adapter. HDMI adapters are also available as HDMI cables with different connectors on each end.


What is an HDMI converter?

Unlike HDMI adapters which do not convert the signal, HDMI converters are specifically designed to do just that. An HDMI converter is a device that converts an HDMI signal to another format — and vice versa — so it can be displayed on a monitor or TV. For example, if you have a computer with an HDMI output but your monitor only has VGA input, you will need an HDMI to VGA converter to connect the two. Another common scenario is to connect a DisplayPort-equipped laptop or desktop PC to an HDMI display, for which you will need a DisplayPort to HDMI cable or converter. 

These are three common types of HDMI converters: 

  • HDMI to DisplayPort converter – converters the HDMI signal to a DisplayPort signal
  • HDMI to VGA converter – converters digital HDMI to analog VGA
  • HDMI to DVI converter - changes the input signal from HDMI to DVI



What is HDMI Alt Mode?

If your USB-C device supports it, HDMI Alt Mode is a standard that can connect an external monitor from the USB-C port without an additional converter in between. This means you can connect your laptop to an HDMI-enabled TV or display and get a clear, uncompressed video feed. However, the standard has not been widely adopted, with many more devices using the far-more popular DP Alt-Mode (which also supports USB-C to HDMI connections).

Applications for HDMI Alt Mode

Connect a USB-C equipped laptop, smartphone, tablet, or desktop PC to an HDMI display, such as a PC monitor, HDTV or projector. HDMI Alt mode is perfectly suited to display the output from your laptop on a 4K big screen TV for video playback. As far as gaming is concerned, the lack of 4K 60 fps (and HDR) may rule out its use for serious fast-paced 4K gaming. On the other hand, if you are limiting yourself to city builders and the likes, you will get great results with HDMI Alt Mode.

How to use HDMI Alt Mode

First, the USB-C device must support the HDMI Alt Mode. Not all USB-C equipped devices do, so this must be confirmed first. Second, you will need a USB Type-C to HDMI adapter cable that supports the standard. This is not a converter, but a simple adapter, and that means that no signal conversion is taking place.

Features of HDMI Alt Mode

The HDMI Alt mode provides the same functionality as HDMI 1.4b. That means you can transmit 4K@30Hz video with 3D, Consumer Electronic Control (CEC), Audio Return Channel (ARC), HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC) and Dolby 5.1 surround sound audio.

Limitations of HDMI Alt Mode

As the HDMI Alt mode only supports HDMI 1.4b, it lacks features introduced in later HDMI 2.x standards. That includes 4K HDR video, 4k@60Hz and anything higher than that. 


HDMI for Gaming – Considerations

Two aspects are particularly important for demanding gamers:

A high resolution for the best possible graphics and a high frame rate (FPS) for a smooth and lag-free display.

High-performance desktop PCs often have gaming monitors attached that support a higher refresh rate than most living room TVs. Hertz numbers of over 60 or even over 120 Hz are common, provided the hardware can also handle these speeds in high resolutions. Which HDMI cables are suitable for this?

Even for demanding gaming, Premium High Speed HDMI cables (HDMI 2.0) are still suitable in many cases. Especially with full details and ray tracing, 4K resolution pushes even highly equipped PCs to their limits and does not exceed 60 frames per second. At least 144 Hz is possible in the compromise resolution of 1440p (2560 x 1440), which is popular with gamers. HDR is also supported.

However, the successor HDMI 2.1 in the form of Ultra High Speed HDMI cables is already a worthwhile investment for real future proofing the cabling and also for current high-end PCs. This enables 4K gaming at ultra-fast 120 Hz, 1440p even up to 240 Hz. On the console side, there are already a few games on the Microsoft Xbox® Series X that reach 4K@120Hz. Televisions with HDMI 2.1 can also already be found in living rooms, even if they are still a long way from the mass market.


Common HDMI Acronyms

Consumer Electronics Control (CEC)

Control of up to 15 connected HDMI devices by using one of their remote controls. As an example, thanks to CEC, you can use your Roku remote to control the volume of your TV, or your home theater system.

Audio Return Channel (ARC)

ARC allows HDTVs with smart apps such as Netflix to send the audio stream from the TV back to the home theater system by using the same HDMI cable that is already connecting them. Thanks to ARC, you do not need additional audio specific cables like coax or TOSLINK.

HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC)

HDMI Ethernet Channel technology combines audio, data and video streams into a single HDMI cable. HEC enables IP-based applications over HDMI and provides a bidirectional Ethernet communication.

High-dynamic-range (HDR)

High-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging is a technique that captures a greater range of luminosity than a traditional camera, which allows for images with more depth and richer colors. HDR video is a relatively new trend that makes colors more vibrant and realistic. You can see the difference between HDR and normal video by comparing a scene shot in daylight to one shot with an overcast sky. The colors in the daylight scene are brighter and more vivid, while the colors in the overcast scene are duller.

 In PC and console gaming, HDR has become a fixture in recent years with the latest generations of consoles all supporting HDR@4K, including PlayStation 4/5 models, Xbox Series S/X and others. Note that you will need to have an HDR-capable display to take advantage of this technology.

HDR versus Standard


HDMI Standards and Technical Specifications

The HDMI 2.1 standard is the latest update to the HDMI specification, and it offers several significant improvements over its predecessor. The first is that it supports resolutions up to 8K (7680 x 4320 pixels), which is four times the resolution of 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels). This is important for future television technologies that are being developed now. The second improvement is that the new standard can support data rates up to 42.6 Gbps, which means that HDMI 2.1 can transmit 4K video with a 120 Hz refresh rate, or 8K video at 60 Hz. 

HDMI Standards

NameSpecificationYearMax. Resolution @ Refresh RateMax. Transmission RateMax. Data RateHDRAudio Support
Standard HDMI Cable1.020021080p @ 60 Hz4.95 Gb/s3.96 Gb/snoeight audio channels
Standard HDMI Cable
1.1/1.220051440p @ 30 Hz4.95 Gb/s8.16 Gb/snoDVD-Audio, One-Bit Audio
High Speed HDMI Cable1.3/1.420094K @ 30 Hz10.2 Gb/s8.16 Gb/snoARC, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD
Premium High Speed HDMI Cable2.020135K @ 30 Hz18.0 Gb/s14.4 Gb/syesHE-AAC, DRA, 32 audio channels
Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable2.120178K @ 60 Hz48.0 Gb/s42.6 Gb/syeseARC

HDMI Standards

The table below shows the video resolutions and refresh rates of the various HDMI standards. With this information you can quickly know which HDMI standard and, by extension, what kind of HDMI cable you need.

Refresh rate (Hz) Required data rateHDMI 1.3–1.4bHDMI 2.0HDMI 2.1
1080p1920 × 1080301.58 Gbit/ssupportedsupportedsupported
1080p1920 × 1080603.20 Gbit/ssupportedsupportedsupported
1080p1920 × 10801206.59 Gbit/ssupportedsupportedsupported
1080p1920 × 10801448.00 Gbit/ssupportedsupportedsupported
1080p1920 × 108024014.00 Gbit/sonly 4:2:0supportedsupported
1440p2560 × 1440302.78 Gbit/ssupportedsupportedsupported
1440p2560 × 1440605.63 Gbit/ssupportedsupportedsupported
1440p2560 × 1440757.09 Gbit/ssupportedsupportedsupported
1440p2560 × 144012011.59 Gbit/sonly 4:2:0supportedsupported
1440p2560 × 144014414.08 Gbit/sonly 4:2:0supportedsupported
1440p2560 × 144024024.62 Gbit/snoonly 4:2:0supported
4K3840 × 2160306.18 Gbit/ssupportedsupportedsupported
4K3840 × 21606012.54 Gbit/sonly 4:2:0supportedsupported
4K3840 × 21607515.79 Gbit/sonly 4:2:0only 4:2:0supported
4K3840 × 216012025.82 GBit/snoonly 4:2:0supported
4K3840 × 216014431.35 Gbit/snonosupported
4K3840 × 216024054.84 Gbit/snonoonly DSC
5K5120 × 28803010.94 Gbit/sonly 4:2:0supportedsupported
5K5120 × 28806022.18 Gbit/snoonly 4:2:0supported
5K5120 × 288012045.66 Gbit/snonoonly DSC
8K7680 × 43203024.48 Gbit/snoonly 4:2:0supported
8K7680 × 43206049.65 GBit/snonosupported
8K7680 × 4320120102.2 Gbit/snonoonly DSC

HDMI Connectors

There are currently 5 different HDMI connectors: HDMI Type A, B, C, D and E. The most important connectors are the 19-pin HDMI Type A, Mini HDMI Type C and Micro HDMI Type D.

HDMI Type A19RegularDVD/Blu-ray/Ultra HD players, computers, media streaming boxes such as Roku or FireTV,
cable/satellite boxes, and video game consoles
HDMI Type B29RegularObsolete
HDMI Type C19MiniPortable devices such as laptops, tablets or cameras
HDMI Type D19MicroSmall portable devices, incl. smartphones, GoPro type action cameras, small video recording devices and portable media players
HDMI Type E19RegularAutomotive

HDMI Pinouts

While all HDMI connectors have 19 pins, the pinout is not always identical.

HDMI Type A Connector Pinout

By far the most popular HDMI connector, the HDMI Type A connector can be found in most TV sets, media players and streamers, PC graphics cards as well as gaming consoles. 

HDMI Pin NumberSignal
1TMDS Date 2+ 
2TMDS Data 2 shield 
3TMDS Data 2- 
4TMDS Data 1+ 
5TMDS Data 1 shield 
6TMDS Data 1- 
7TMDS Data 0+ 
8TMDS Data 0 shield 
9TMDS Data 0- 
10TMDS Clock+ 
11TMDS Clock shield 
12TMDS Clock- 
14HEC Data- 
15SCL (Serial Clock for DDC)
16SDA (Serial Data Line for DDC)
17DDC / CEC / HEC Ground 
18+5 V Power (50 mA max) 
19Hot Plug Detect (1.3) / HEC Data+ (1.4)

Mini HDMI Type C Connector Pinout

Not nearly as common as the HDMI Type A connector, the Type C connector is still widely adopted in laptops, DSLRs and full-size tablets.

HDMI Pin NumberSignal
1TMDS Data2 Shield
2TMDS Data2+ 
3TMDS Data2-
4TMDS Data1 Shield
5TMDS Data1+
6TMDS Data1-
7TMDS Data0 Shield
8TMDS Data0+
9TMDS Data0-
10TMDS Clock Shield
11TMDS Clock+
12TMDS Clock-
13DDC/CEC Ground
15SCL (DDC lock)
16SDA (DDC data)
18+5 V Power (power EDID/DDC)
19Hot Plug Detect/HEC-
-Shell (Ground)

Mini HDMI Type D Connector Pinout

Bringing up the rear, the HDMI Type D connector is the least popular of the three. It can be found on GoPro action cameras and select smartphones.

HDMI Pin NumberSignal
1Hot Plug Detect/HEAC-
2Utility/HEAC+ (NC on device)
3TMDS Data2+
4TMDS Data2 Shield
5TMDS Data2-
6TMDS Data1+
7TMDS Data1 Shield
8TMDS Data1-
9TMDS Data0+
10TMDS Data0 Shield
11TMDS Data0-
12TMDS Clock+
13TMDS Clock Shield
14TMDS Clock-
15CEC (Control)
17SCL (DDC clock)
18SDA (DDC data)
19+5 V Power (power EDID/DDC)