HDMI 2.1 has a ton of really cool features, some of which are so important that they're heavily influencing the buying decisions of all gamers and general users alike. But, as excited as you may be to run out and buy a bunch of new HDMI 2.1 gadgets, there's a major caveat that the manufacturers may not even be telling you about. It's similar to each time there's been a new version of USB, lately they've been labeling every new USB product as USB 3.1 and later than USB 3.2. Even if it doesn't support the max speeds of the new version. Pretty dumb. But unfortunately, HDMI looks like it's falling into the same trap.
The problem first came to light when a report uncovered a seemingly misleading list of features on a 240Hz monitor from Xiaomi. Although the spec sheet clearly stated it was HDMI 2.1 capable, it also clearly stated that the maximum resolution of the display was a mere 1080p and the older HDMI 2.0 was already capable of 1080p at 240 frames per second.
Of course, just because the device supports HDMI 2.1, it obviously does not mean it's automatically 10k resolution. That's the highest resolution that HDMI 2.1 supports, otherwise we'd all be stuck paying thousands of dollars for any display we wanted to buy. That's not the case. But the kicker here was that this display that was 1080p didn't support any, any, of the new HDMI 2.1 features at all. So why was it still labeled as HDMI 2.1? Was it just some kind of mistake? Or Xiaomi trying to mess with us?
Actually, that spec sheet was completely in order according to the new stupid rules. Turn out, the actual issue here is that HDMI 2.1 licensing requirements now consider all of the old HDMI 2.0 features to be a subset of HDMI 2.1. In other words, the name HDMI 2.1 is replacing the name HDMI 2.0 and manufacturers, at least for now, have carte blanche to slap HDMI 2.1 on their devices even if they're not offering anything new.
But don't worry, poor buyer that just wants a nice TV to pair with the Xbox you paid scalper level prices for. Because there's also a requirement that if a product supports any of the new HDMI 2.1 features, the manufacturer has to list exactly which ones, to reduce uncertainty. And I guess that's better than nothing. But again, this is the same scheme that USB is using now, and nearly every tech observer on the planet has pointed out that this is a dumb way to indicate your product's capabilities. And it just muddies the waters instead of making them clearer. And even worse, if a company wants to actually look out for its customers and just stick with HDMI 2.0 on the spec sheet, well guess what? Manufacturers can't even get their products certified for HDMI 2.0 anymore. It has to be under the HDMI 2.1 banner now.
While this may be a surprising bit of news, it shouldn't be positively jaw dropping. The focus behind the HDMI standard include a lot of hardware manufacturers, who obviously want their products to sell well. And HDMI 2.1 sounds sexier than HDMI two point none. Especially to those who know about the new features but may not know about the shenanigans going on with the new naming scheme. Maybe one day the industry will relent on this terrible anti-consumer idea. But in the meantime, read that spec sheet carefully before plunking down tons of money on a shiny new TV or monitor, especially if it says HDMI 2.1 on the box you just found next to the Black Friday bargain bin.