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HDMI 1.4 Specification High-Definition Cabling and Interface

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 8/11/2009

While electronics with full implementations of HDMI have only become widely available within the last year, a new HDMI specification has already been released. What does HDMI 1.4 have to offer?

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    HDMI Specification Introduction

    hdmi-logo HDMI, or High-Definition Multimedia Interface, is an industry standard conceived to help simplify the growing array of cables and connectors used to connect high-definition electronics. The group that develops, publishes and manages the HDMI specification was originally founded by electronics manufacturers Sony, Hitachi, Panasonic, Phillips, Toshiba, Thomson RCA, and Silicon Image.

    The HDMI specification was created in part to stop a growing problem where devices had to have numerous connection types built-in in order to satisfy their customers who preferred different cabling options depending upon what they were connecting together, and what they thought offered the best quality and value. For example, some customers preferred the simplicity of a single S-Video cable, while other customers preferred the higher quality offered by three separate composite video cables.

    Another purpose of the HDMI specification was to give manufacturers more control over the cables and connections between devices. Inferior cabling or poorly constructed connectors could cause consumers to blame poor quality sound or picture on the devices themselves even though the cabling was the problem. The HDMI specification requires that any such cables and connections be certified before using the HDMI name or logo. As a result, manufacturers can ensure a minimum quality level.

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    HDMI 1.4 Specification

    The HDMI 1.4 spec comes close on the heels of the HDMI 1.3 specification. For many electronics consumers, retailers, and manufacturers, the new specification comes too quickly. Many customers are still unfamiliar with HDMI and confusing them with the decision between HDMI 1.3 and HDMI 1.4 before it has been widely embraced is not the preferable route. Unfortunately, for them, the HDMI 1.4 specification was born out of necessity.

    Fearful of falling behind some growing consumer trends, the 1.4 specification was pushed out to avoid losing its oft-touted position as a single cable to handle all connections. Increased use of networks to deliver video and audio meant another cable, as did new technologies and directions in high-fidelity sound. The HDMI 1.4 specification brings these issues under one roof, as well as providing for a few incremental updates.

    The main new feature in HDMI 1.4 is the addition of a networking channel. Under HDMI 1.3, devices requiring to be connected across a network required a separate networking cable and also an additional network port on each device. With HDMI 1.4, the cable also acts as a networking cable, eliminating the need for additional cables or connections.

    The second big feature in HDMI 1.4 is the addition of an “audio return channel”. With version 1.3, a TV that has its own built-in high-definition tuner cannot send that audio stream back to an audio receiver. That means that a separate cable is required in order to take advantage of the surround sound offered by most home theater system that use an A/V receiver or amplifier to connect to the speakers.

    Additional new features include the introduction of a micro-HDMI connector for portable devices, an automotive connector for cabling high-def systems in vehicles, more bandwidth and resolution, and even greater color depth.

    The HDMI 1.4 specification was released in June 2009. Most experts don’t expect devices with the new specification to start appearing for the mainstream customer until the second half of 2010.