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Premium High Speed HDMI Cables Are Entering the Market

7/29/2016

Understanding the new Premium HDMI Cable Certification Program needs to start with a little context. Don’t worry this isn’t a white paper.

The current HDMI specification supports enhanced features such as 4K/UltraHD@60Hz, bandwidth up to 18Gbps, BT.2020 colorimetry, 8/10/12/16 bit color, 4:4:4 sampling and 4:2:2, 4:2:0 subsampling and a long list of advanced capabilities including support for HDR.  Products and content enabled with these features were the highlights of CES 2016, especially products featuring HDR such as 4K/UltraHD displays and UltraHD Blu-ray Players.

Here’s the relevance for HDR, UltraHD Blu-ray, and Bandwidth

There are various standards and guidelines that are associated with HDR and UltraHD Blu-ray. Many refer to the same handful of specs, and whether by themselves or when enabled in combinations they are dependent on higher speed data rates.  They are from organizations such as SMPTE, ITU, CTA, UHD Alliance, and Blu-ray Disc Association. Here are a few quick references that you may be hearing about:

  • Under the CTA definition for HDR-compatible displays, the displays need to support their HDR10 media profile video which uses the BT.2020 color space and a bit depth of 10 (among other things)
  • HDR10 is supported by the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc standard and is also supported by the influential UHD Alliance for their UltraHD Premium designation
  • UltraHD Blu-ray also supports 4K, 60fps, and 4:2:0 (some even have an option for 4:4:4 output)
  • BT.2020 colorimetry is defined by the ITU and includes support for 4K, 8K, 10/12 bit color, 4:4:4 sampling, and 4:2:2 and 4:2:0 chroma sub-sampling

18 Gbps speed is also being driven by 4K PC graphics cards and PC gaming which will utilize 60Hz and 4:4:4.  The confusing part is knowing bandwidth requirements based on the actual implementations of various feature combinations and by product manufacturers. It’s definitely prudent to have some bandwidth headroom available. So you need to be prepared for today’s products as well as future-proof your installations and infrastructures.  

The Story Behind the Premium HDMI Cable Certification Program

Trust the Cable with the Label

When the current HDMI specification was released no updated cable spec or cable test specification was needed because the High Speed HDMI Cables under the previous 1.4b spec are sufficient for the 18Gbps-dependent features. But in 2015 the new Premium HDMI Cable Certification Program was established based on indications that while the current High Speed Cables would be sufficient; HDMI Adopters, manufacturers, retailers, integrators and consumers should have a choice for cables that are tested and certified to ensure ultra-reliability for next-generation 4K/UltraHD features and 18Gbps performance, and which in some cases would result in even better designed and constructed cables. 

Available only to HDMI Adopters who sign up for the Premium HDMI Cable Program, the program includes an updated cable design note, enhanced speed tests, and importantly a new EMI test requirement to reduce interference to Wi-Fi, mobile, and wireless streaming devices (many of which are connected directly to adjacent HDMI ports). Also every length of every product line of cable is tested.  These tests can only be performed by HDMI Authorized Test Centers (ATCs). ATCs are the test facilities that have access to the HDMI specifications, HDMI test specifications, authorized test equipment, and that communicate directly with HDMI Licensing with verified test results and to confirm authorized HDMI Adopters.

Another important aspect is product lifecycle assurance. Cables that are submitted to ATCs are sometimes prototypes and may differ slightly from the mass-production version. Slight variations in materials or production may unintentionally affect performance. Subsequent replenishments may also result in material or construction variations. HDMI is authorized to randomly test products to ensure they still comply with the Premium HDMI Cable Certification Program test requirements.

The authentication and verification component of the program involves the requirement to affix and display a Premium HDMI Cable Authentication Label to packaging. The label has a proprietary QR code plus unique holographic verification fingerprint for each individual model and unit of package. The labels can only be scanned with an HDMI verification smartphone app (available in App Store and Play Store) for use by manufacturers, customs officials, retailers, installers, and consumers to verify the product is authentic, certified, and displaying the correct brand and model number. This guards against non-Adopters, uncertified cables, and even brand counterfeits causing bad installations and returned products. 

For more information on the program including a list of participating Adopters please visit: www.hdmi.org/premiumcable

Source: HDMI Licensing, LLC

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