In an Industry Rapidly Moving Toward the Future of 4K/60, Are Manufacturers Really Offering Best-in-Class Solutions or Just a Workaround?
With the launch of the first 4K/UHD displays and the announcement of the HDMI 2.0 spec
back in 2013, the biggest buzz in the A/V industry was and still is surrounding the future of 4K. As the demand for Ultra HD in the pro-AV space continues to rise, manufacturers have since then developed a multitude of products and solutions to support this advancement – most of which offer “light” 4K support within the HDMI 1.4 specification to accommodate 4K integration with legacy systems.
Now, with terms like “4K ready” and “true 4K,” manufacturers are labeling their products as the industry’s first with complete HDMI 2.0 compliance. Is the hardware truly catching up to 4K technology, and what considerations should be made in a 4K system design?
"Light" UHD vs. Full UHD
As ISE 2016 fast approaches, hardware manufacturers are announcing "first in class" 4K signal distribution solutions supporting the latest standards including HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 copy protection. Consequently, consumers are led to believe that all HDMI 2.0 labeled devices are built to handle every aspect of Ultra HD.
However, it is important to note that the majority of Ultra HD/4K scaling and distribution solutions available on the market today still utilize HDBaseT technology, which does not yet support the full 18Gpbs bandwidth of the HDMI 2.0 standard.
In other words, most devices out there are only passing 4K at 60Hz with compressed color spacing (YCBCR 4:2:0) through an existing HDMI 1.4 interface, supporting only a "light version" of 4K transmission. More in-depth information on color spacing is available here.
Needless to say, producing full color spacing at higher frame rates requires significantly more bandwidth. From a hardware standpoint, an entirely new chipset, not available at the time when HDMI 2.0 was first released, would be required to handle the extra data. In order to forge ahead on the 4K connectivity path, manufacturers need only add a single new feature - like support for 4K/60 at the 4:2:0 color space - to earn the HDMI 2.0 label.